Ten years ago today crew members aboard the USS Cole were getting ready for lunch in the destroyer’s galley when a small boat packed with high explosives rammed the ship as it refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen sailors died, 39 more were injured and the stricken Cole, with a 40-by-40-foot hole in her port side, was saved only through the heroism of surviving crew members. Military blogger Susan Katz Keating has a tribute video by the Navy on her site, as well as a link to reflections by the Cole’s commander at the time, Commander Kirk Lippold. The suicide attack on the Cole wasn’t al-Qaida’s first on a still-slumbering United States, but it was one of the boldest — a harbinger of an even bolder, more deadly assault less than a year later. Lest we forget.
It’s a little “inside baseball,” but there’s been an interesting discussion on the blogosphere this week, the crux of which is whether columnist Paul Krugman of The New York Times did a submarine job on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s fairly innovative plan to reform health care and the entitlements, including Social Security and Medicare. Krugman handled Ryan pretty roughly in a recent column, accusing the Wisconsin Republican of fraud because he didn’t have the Congressional Budget Office analyze revenue losses from his plan’s proposed tax cuts, thereby making the plan look better.
But CBO doesn’t analyze or “score” tax repercussions in proposed legislation. That’s the jealously guarded domain of the Joint Committee on Taxation. As a result, Krugman has been catching flak for not appearing to understand the different roles played by CBO and JCT, which might have had a bearing on whether he accused Ryan of hawking snake oil. As it turns out, JCT was too busy to score Ryan’s plan earlier this year and even if it did would only produce a 10-year estimate. Too short a horizon, Ryan says, for a 75-year plan. In a blog post Krugman countered that Ryan “gamed” the revenue loss analysis and could have had one if he really wanted it. <Sigh.>
Hard to know which is stranger: a modern-era White House, with all the technology in the world at its disposal, assenting to (orchestrating, perhaps) the firing of Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod before it knew all the pertinent facts, or the pundits at MSNBC wringing their hands over the ills of 24/7 punditry on stories like Sherrod’s. It’s a jump ball.
For whatever reason the Obama administration swallowed the initial, distorted view of video in which Sherrod, who is black, appeared to be telling an audience about discriminating against a white farmer 24 years ago. Sherrod was summarily cashiered, even as the administration stews over dwindling support from independents and whites. Turns out, the video (initially circulated by a conservative blogger) was badly edited. Sherrod actually told the story from her past to illustrate the need for equal treatment for all. Oops.
So that’s pretty crazy, but maybe not as crazy as a group of political gadflies talking about the risks inherent in round-the-clock gadfly-ery. In the midst of the Sherrod story there was considerable harrumphing from the furrowed brows on Joe Scarborough’s “Morning Joe” show. Which is ironic, since panels like that eat political scandal for breakfast, baked or half-baked. The moral of the story: Everyone should be more careful, especially those who hire and fire, as well as folks who covet ratings off juicy controversy.