TPMmuckraker, The Left, and Me
Long story made short: my 18 December post on the stories I'd heard and events I'd seen surrounding Senator Kerry's visit got picked up by NRO's "The Corner" and Instapundit. Justin Rood of the respectable Left-of-Center blog http://tpmmuckraker.com/ seized upon this and questioned the authenticity of the photos. His commenters went one step further, calling me a Bush-Administration plant in the military and a Right Wing Nut. (At least those are the appellations I can reprint).
Two points are pertinent here: Given that it took me about six months to figure out how to insert links into this blog, anybody who knows me knows I'm not technologically savvy enough to photoshop a picture like that. Second, in the actual post itself, I gave Kerry credit for being a good sport, and NEVER claimed there wasn't a single soldier anywhere in Iraq who was willing to shake his hand. I was merely pointing out that he'd received a far more subdued reception than:
- Bill O'Reilly, who on the same weekend had several hundred soldiers wait in line for the chance to meet him; or
- Senator John McCain, who in the same mess hall was mobbed by soldiers wanting a picture or to shake his hand.
To his credit, Justin emailed me to get my side of the story. My response was as follows:
Justin,Justin reprinted part of my explanation, but also apparently did a background check of me (I should have stayed anonymous . . . darn those Iraqi schoolchildren!) and stated that I was once a "Staff Assistant" to former Undersecretaryary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. (This is only partially true. Whereas I was brought into OSD Policy by Mr. Feith, and I have great respect for him, in reality I worked in an office several layers of bureaucracy beneath him).
Thank you for your interest and for taking the time to contact me regarding the photos. I certainly did not intend to kick up such a firestorm by posting them on my web log. (Another friend here sent a separate photo and account to radio host Scott Hennen, who subsequently publicized the incident). In the name of fairness, I'm copying the other bloggers you mentioned in your post so that everybody has equal access to this story.
To answer your questions, yes, the photos are authentic. Although I did not personally take the pictures, I saw the person who did immediately after they took them and asked for a copy.
The explanation for the date/time stamp falls under the category of Occam's Razor: the person whose camera was used had just arrived in Baghdad, hadn't taken any pictures with it yet, and hadn't set their date/time stamp yet. (Believe it or not, not all servicemen here are technological wizards. As my wife could tell you, I wasnÂt able to figure out our DVR while home on leave). This, as you observed, also explains the seeming discrepancy between the date/time stamp and the commercial availability of the camera model.
To hopefully put this matter to rest, (but given the current state of our political discourse and related conspiracy theories, not likely) I'm attaching two photos taken this morning with the same camera from roughly the same angle. Note the same Christmas and wall decorations (although one poinsettia has been added since December 17), the same flags in the background, and a copy of today's (12/29) European Stars and Stripes as "proof of life." (Incidentally, I commend to your readers Megan McCloskey's article on the Marine Engineering Battalion that has adopted an Iraqi school).
The date/time stamp, for those interested, is exactly twelve days after the original time stamp. Apparently, the owner still hasn't gotten around to setting it.
As to why the Portuguese flag is still flying in the Dining Facility . . . well, okay, you got me there. My guess is that the contractors who run the DFAC either:
a) Have no idea whose flag it is and whether they are still in country or not;
b) DonÂt care about the political implications of hanging that flag; or
c) DonÂt have anything else to fill the empty wall space.
Either way, I will bring it to the manager's attention at lunch today.
Again, thank you for your interest in this matter. Have a Happy New Year.
TPM's commenters were less generous, again, calling me a Bush shill and discounting the possibility that anything I say could possibly be true because I worked for the Administration. (Are those really pictures of my son, or some cuter infant I use to gain sympathy? I'll never tell).
As Jonathan Swift once said, "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into."
Seriously, though, maybe I'm just horribly naive to believe in the possibility of using the blogosphere as a means of elevating political discourse between Right and Left. It is disappointing how quickly people who clearly hadn't read my blog at all were to resort to personal attacks on me and my integrity without ever engaging on the substance.
It is really a sad statement on our nation's politics (both Left and Right) that people could get this hysterical over what was essentially just a mass email to my friends and family. But it has increased my appreciation for what bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds, the Powerline trio, Ed Morrissey, David Adesnik, and others go through every day.