Comments, BoxscoresThursday 1 January 2004
PARTISAN PUNDITRY 2003: In the 2002 partisanship rankings, Paul Krugman easily lapped the field of fellow columnists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. After the addition of a large group of syndicated columnists to the roster this year, Mr. Krugman has some company at the top of the charts.
With a controversial Republican administration and Republican control of both houses of Congress, it seems likely that Democratic partisans would be energized by opportunities for criticism, systematically increasing their partisanship scores. Despite that expectation, Republican pundit Ann Coulter has maintained the lead in the 2003 Lying in Ponds partisanship rankings through a series of rants which attempt to convince the reader that the political world is very simple to understand -- all liberals are bad, all Democrats are bad, and all Republicans are good. None of Ms. Coulter's 50 columns this year came close to contradicting that formula. The simple methods used here cannot quantify the nastiness of some of Ms. Coulter's attacks -- in one August column she wished that Al Gore and Gray Davis had been killed in Vietnam: "Both were veterans, after a fashion, of Vietnam, which would make a Gore-Davis presidential ticket the only compelling argument yet in favor of friendly fire." For more on Ms. Coulter's problems, see the Spinsanity topics page, where there is a section devoted to documentation of her manipulative rhetoric and inaccuracies.
Paul Krugman's partisanship score was slightly lower than last year, but the extreme partisanship of his columns was essentially unchanged. Mr. Krugman has written two columns each week for The New York Times for four full years, including the final year of the Clinton administration, covering topics from elections in France to the space program. In response to readers' comments, I've tediously gone through all 382 of Mr. Krugman's Times columns, looking for "harsh criticisms . . directed against Democrats", but have been simply unable to find a column which consists mainly of substantive and unambiguous criticism directed at Bill Clinton or Al Gore or Terry McAuliffe or Tom Daschle or Al Sharpton or Howard Dean or Gray Davis or any other Democrat. That distinguishes Mr. Krugman from fellow left-leaning pundits such as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, Michael Kinsley, Thomas Oliphant, Mary McGrory, Helen Thomas, and even Robert Scheer and Molly Ivins, all of whom have found occasions to substantively criticize their own party in only the last couple of years. How many "crossover columns" would an ideologically strident but truly independent columnist write out of 382 opportunities? I don't know, but certainly far more than zero. Mr. Krugman is clearly a gifted economist and writer, but for whatever reason, his columns have scrupulously observed party boundaries, finding unlimited time to discuss Thomas White and Trent Lott but no time at all for Marc Rich or Al Sharpton.
Just behind Mr. Krugman in the rankings were two fairly similar columnists, Robert Scheer and Molly Ivins. Neither pundit wrote a substantive crossover column in 2003, although Mr. Scheer came close with some vigorous praise of the Reagans and criticism of California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Both columnists share with Ann Coulter the infamy of their own section on Spinsanity topics page.
A little further back are a cluster of moderately partisan columnists -- Daniel Henninger, Mona Charen, Michael Kinsley, the late Robert Bartley, Maureen Dowd and Cal Thomas. Each of these columnists demonstrated an ability to occasionally write an entire column devoted to criticism of their own party or praise for the other.
Last year's final rankings had WSJ OpinionJournal columnist Collin Levey second in partisanship only to Paul Krugman. After going that entire year without a single positive Democratic reference, her columns this year (they stopped in August) were very different -- only a single Democratic reference, and it was positive. Clearly I made the charge of partisanship against Ms. Levey last year on the basis of insufficient data, and I sincerely apologize for that. Ms. Levey writes mostly about cultural issues; I've since taken the approach that Lying in Ponds will attempt to evaluate only pundits who focus on politics rather than local, international or cultural issues. Last year's third place columnist, Claudia Rosett, writes mostly about international affairs, so she was not evaluated this year.
I'm looking forward to another year of exploring the issue of partisanship, with some roster changes and the presidential election sure to keep things interesting. Upon which political enemies will Ann Coulter wish death and destruction this year? Will Paul Krugman be able to write another 100 columns without a single contrary note? Will editors at The New York Times and The Washington Post begin to insist that their columnists disclose potential conflicts-of-interest (George Will) and honestly acknowledge blatant manipulation of quotes (Charles Krauthammer and Maureen Dowd)? Stay tuned . .
Wednesday 31 December 2003
THANK YOU 2003: I had a great time working on this website in 2003, and many people deserve thanks. Lying in Ponds was mentioned in The Atlantic, National Review Online and The Economist. After a kind suggestion by Andrew Cline at Rhetorica, I moved web hosting to ICD Soft, which has been excellent. Blogging colleagues like Andrew Cline, Dean Esmay, Henry Hanks, Susanna Cornett, Robert Musil and Brendan Nyhan have been wonderful. Readers like Michael Kurtz, John Salmon, Douglas Eichelberger, Andrew Douglass, Bob English, Tom Woolsey, Richard Eriksson, Dan Schaeffer, Beau Barnett, Joel Garcia, Kevin McDonald and Jeff Cetola keep things lively and have often made outstanding suggestions. Finally, thank you to my endlessly patient wife and kids, and of course to Silas the One-Eyed Wonder Dog, who loyally remains close by, even through all of this blogging nonsense.
Tuesday 30 December 2003
WEEKEND UPDATE ON TAPPED: I keep forgetting to link to Matthew Yglesias' "Weekend Update" feature on Tapped. He offers quick, witty takes on weekend columns by regular pundits and then recommends one Op-Ed column. Here was yesterday's entry:
Monday 29 December 2003
IVINS INTO THIRD: After a succession of almost perfectly partisan columns in recent weeks, Molly Ivins has edged past Robert Scheer into third place in the partisanship rankings. Mr. Scheer's recent columns included one which lavishly praised Nancy Reagan.
NOONAN ALMOST THERE: With today's column, Peggy Noonan has 23 for the year, still one short of the 24 (two per month) necessary to qualify for the final Lying in Ponds Top Ten list. Mary McGrory is in the same boat, having written 22 columns before illness prevented her from continuing.
Sunday 28 December 2003
Saturday 27 December 2003
Friday 26 December 2003
GEORGE WILL IN BLACK TIE AFFAIR: George Will has come under fire, accused of a conflict of interest (link via Romanesko) in an article in The New York Times by Jacques Steinberg and Geraldine Fabrikant:
Mr. Brzezinski's personal records show that he collected almost $170,000 for attending eight such meetings in the 1990's, according to an aide. Mr. Buckley estimated that he had earned perhaps $200,000 or more. Mr. Will could not recall how many meetings he attended; an aide later confirmed that the per diem for each meeting was $25,000.
Thursday 25 December 2003
Wednesday 24 December 2003
CLEAR CHOICES: The results from last week's poll are satisfyingly clear -- readers want to see both New York Times unsigned editorials and Bill O'Reilly added to Lying in Ponds. So I'll do that, and I need to decide on more changes in the next few days. I'll try to figure out how to add a Wall Street Journal editorial as well. Brendan Nyhan suggests that evaluating the "On the Editorial Page" feature from the OpinionJournal "could easily generate selection bias since the WSJ editorials OJ leads with are often the most partisan." He also suggests that I could try to raise the cost of the subscription fee for the online WSJ from readers. Hmm. If $79 in contributions come in through PayPal or Amazon, I'll be happy to subscribe (and add Al Hunt!).
Tuesday 23 December 2003
CLASS-RIDDEN SOCIETY: In an article in The Nation, Paul Krugman writes "Goodbye, Horatio Alger. And goodbye, American Dream." (link via Tapped):
The other day I found myself reading a leftist rag that made outrageous claims about America. It said that we are becoming a society in which the poor tend to stay poor, no matter how hard they work; in which sons are much more likely to inherit the socioeconomic status of their father than they were a generation ago.
Monday 22 December 2003
HOOD ON PARTISANSHIP: John Hood is the president of a conservative think tank based here in Raleigh, the John Locke Foundation, which focuses mostly on issues of state and local government. Mr. Hood's column occasionally appears in the weekly newspaper in my town, The Cary News. In a column a few weeks ago, he had some interesting things to say about partisanship:
The institutions of free, representative government and those of political partisanship have been intertwined -- and at odds -- since the founding of the American Republic. As with so many other disputes in the public sphere, the primary problem lies in failing to draw bright lines and to keep each category of political activity within its proper confines.
Sunday 21 December 2003
Saturday 20 December 2003
Friday 19 December 2003
COULTER DEFENDED: Last week I cited criticism of Ann Coulter from Outside the Beltway, and wondered why I never hear from Ms. Coulter's defenders. Reader John Salmon responds:
Okay, I'll pick up her tattered banner and defend Ann Coulter on her abortion article...
FINAL 2003 Lying in Ponds Top Ten
Ranked by Combined Partisanship Index, minimum of two columns per month. Partisanship Indices range from 0 to 100, with higher numbers indicating more partisanship. Democratic biases are in blue, Republican in red. For details, see the Methodology page.
The PunditsBoston Globe
Jeff Jacoby | Thomas Oliphant |
Linda Chavez | Mona Charen | Molly Ivins | Robert Scheer | Thomas Sowell | Walter E. Williams |
Clarence Page |
Anne Applebaum | Bob Herbert | Colbert I. King | Claudia Rosett | David Ignatius | Dorothy Rabinowitz | Fred Hiatt | Jackson Diehl | John Fund | Jim Hoagland | Kimberley A. Strassel | Nicholas D. Kristof | Robert Kagan | Thomas L. Friedman | Tunku Varadarajan |
New York Times
Bill Keller | David Brooks | Frank Rich | Maureen Dowd | Lead Editorial | Paul Krugman | William Safire |
Tribune Media Services
Cal Thomas |
Universal Press Syndicate
Ann Coulter |
Charles Krauthammer | David S. Broder | E. J. Dionne Jr. | George F. Will | Michael Kelly | Michael Kinsley | Mary McGrory | Richard Cohen | Robert J. Samuelson | Lead Editorial | William Raspberry |
Brendan Miniter | Collin Levey | Daniel Henninger | Pete du Pont | Peggy Noonan | Robert L. Bartley |
Punditry and Political ResourcesSpinsanity has been doing a brilliant job exposing "manipulative political rhetoric" from all parts of the political spectrum. Notice that partisanship is usually the motivation for the "deception and irrationality" of their targets. The three Spinsanity guys freely disclose their Democratic party affiliations, but pledge to be "non-partisan, fair and civic-minded". Lying in Ponds couldn't agree more with their mission statement.
Some of the sharpest political commentary on the web can be found at Mickey Kaus' kausfiles.com.
Eric Alterman's book Sound and Fury : The Making of the Punditocracy, has an excellent history of the development of political punditry in this country. Alterman discusses his interesting and provocative ideas about how to elevate the level of pundit discourse. It is a valuable book despite the distracting ideological baggage. Mr. Alterman now has his own blog, Altercation, which is lively and has the added advantage of referring to one of my very favorite Python sketches, "The Argument Clinic".
The American Prospect has a great weblog called Tapped.
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz "keeps a watchful eye on the national media."
According to Dr. Andrew R. Cline: "The Rhetorica Network, including my Rhetorica: Press-Politics Journal web log, is my attempt to explain the persuasive tactics of politics and the press." His discussion of media bias is very good.
Daniel W. Drezner covers "politics, economics, academia, globalization... all from an untenured perspective". ".
The National Public Radio's On the Media program has lots of interesting stuff.
Economics professor Brad DeLong publishes his "thoughts of the moment on economics, and on other topics as well" in his Semi-Daily Journal.
Susanna Cornett publishes Cut on the Bias: "keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life."
"Got my mind on the media, and the media on my mind", Media Minded is written by an anonymous "copy editor at one of America's largest daily newspapers."
Dean Esmay is "Defending the liberal tradition in history, politics, science and philosophy" on his blog, Dean's World.
Punditwatch is Will Vehrs' "weekly review of the pundits".
One of my favorite old TV shows was Fernwood Tonight, which starred Martin Mull as a sarcastic talk show host. I remember him telling guests that they were "so close to being interesting." That's the way I feel about Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler. He sporadically posts articles skewering (usually justifiably) members of the press for "howlers", which he defines as "stupid and ridiculous logical blunders". It would be so much better if Somerby were able to overcome his obvious partisan bias. He received a lot of attention during the 2000 campaign by defending Al Gore (his former Harvard roommate) from unfair criticism.
Life Outside the Punditocracy
James Lilek's Daily Bleat is an outstanding, ecclectic weblog. It's all great, even the baby pictures, dog pictures and frequently-changing page designs.
On its FAQ page, the prolific InstaPundit writing team, pretending to be a single Tennessee law professor named Glenn Reynolds, responds to the question "Aren't you biased to the left? Aren't you biased to the right? Aren't you a jingoistic, libertarian, cultural imperialist?", with "Yes."
My friend Paul's poetry site, haiku in low places.
For a list of North Carolina bloggers, go to North State Blogs
Raleigh blogger Don McArthur dispenses blather at the Misanthropyst.
Blogger Lee Ann Morawski (formerly of Chapel Hill) dishes out "opinion, insight, commentary, sarcasm, scathing polemic, and wit" at Spinsters.