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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Friday, March 6

Congressional silliness

In all of the silliness of the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand's former seat in the 20th congressional district, nothing has been quite as silly as this press release that I received from the National Republican Congressional Committee a few weeks ago.

Apparently, the NRCC wants to hold Scott Murphy for an "anti-Eisenhower" article that he wrote as student at Harvard University. As someone who had lots of silly thoughts while in college, I think this is one sin that should be forgiven:

Murphy Penned Article Slandering General Eisenhower
More Disturbing “Perspective” on Scott Murphy’s “Hopeful Liberal/Leftist World View”

Washington- During Scott Murphy’s days as President of Harvard’s Perspective, the journal sponsored a lecture by an author named James Bacque, who alleged that General Dwight Eisenhower and Charles De Gaulle were responsible for the mistreatment and deaths of hundreds of thousands of German POWs following World War II. After attending the lecture by Bacque, Murphy penned an article in Perspective subscribing to Bacque’s disproven claims that Eisenhower “repeatedly reduced the prisoners’ rations” in US camps (“Perspective Update,” Perspective, June 1991).

In Scott Murphy’s own words:

“I grew up in Missouri, a state whose skepticism is typified by its much-maligned state slogan, ‘The show me state.’ I absorbed much of this attitude while growing up, but since coming to Harvard, this skepticism has been subsumed by my hopeful liberal/leftist world view. While many of my friends accept on faith that discrimination is pervasive, that neoclassical economics are ridiculous, and that powerful people abuse their power, I don’t. This last assumption is a particular sore spot of mine – I want to believe that Watergate and the Iran/Contra affair are anomalies. But three recent events have shaken my faith.”

“Two weeks later I went to hear James Bacque speak about his new book, Other Losses, a recounting of the treatment of disarmed German personnel in US camps after WWII. Eisenhower ordered that German prisoners not be declared official ‘prisoners of war.’ As a result, the US did not have to follow the Geneva Accords, and Switzerland was not allowed to check on camp conditions. Eisenhower also repeatedly reduced the prisoners’ rations. Bacque claims that between April and September of 1945 more than 500,000 prisoners died in US camps in France and Germany, primarily from deprivation of food, shelter, water, and medicine. In fact, more Germans died in the camps than died on the Western front between June 1941 and April 1945.” (Scott Murphy, “Abuse of Power,” Perspective, June 1991)

What’s almost as disturbing as the idea that Eisenhower starved German prisoners, is that Murphy agreed to host this lector even after the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose of the Eisenhower Institute had reviewed Bacque’s book in the New York Times and concluded that Bacque was wrong on every major charge and nearly all his minor ones:

“Our second conclusion was that when scholars do the necessary research, they will find Mr. Bacque's work to be worse than worthless. It is seriously -- nay, spectacularly -- flawed in its most fundamental aspects. Mr. Bacque misuses documents; he misreads documents; he ignores contrary evidence; his statistical methodology is hopelessly compromised; he makes no attempt to see the evidence he has gathered in its relationship to the broader situation; he makes no attempt to look at comparative contexts; he puts words into the mouth of his principal source; he ignores a readily available and absolutely critical source that decisively deals with his central accusation; and, as a consequence of these and other shortcomings, he reaches conclusions and makes charges that are demonstrably absurd.”

In short, Mr. Bacque is wrong on every major charge and nearly all his minor ones. Eisenhower was not a Hitler, he did not run death camps, German prisoners did not die by the hundreds of thousands, there was a severe food shortage in 1945, there was nothing sinister or secret about the ‘disarmed enemy forces’ designation or about the column ‘other losses.’ Mr. Bacque's ‘missing million’ were old men and young boys in the militia.” (Stephen E. Ambrose Column, “Ike and the Disappearing Atrocities,” New York Times, February 24, 1991)

“A true leader should demonstrate sound judgment and the ability to decipher fact from fiction. Scott Murphy’s blind following of a discredited author, in order to smear the good name and reputation of one of our country’s greatest patriots and finest presidents, shows a lack of judgment for a man who hopes to represent thousands of military veterans in the United States Congress,” said NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain. “Once again, Scott Murphy will have to explain his actions and his ‘liberal/leftist world view’ to upstate New Yorkers.”



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your liberial bias towards mr murphy is distribing,your objectivity is gone,as a cub reporter you should at least try to contain your prejudical veiws.

March 7, 2009 at 5:58 AM 
Blogger Andrew J. Bernstein said...

Well, I have to live up to the label of "liberal media elite," right?

In all seriousness, myself and everyone in the office (and yes, we do have a politically-balanced newsroom) found that press release absurd. This isn't a prejudicial view, I would have made the same comments if the Democratic Congressional Committee had released a similar statement about Mr. Tedisco.

I'd also note that I have done everything I can do to bring balanced reporting on the congressional race to the paper. (and I will continue to do so in the race's remaining weeks). If you have any specific complaints, I'd urge you to call me at 583-8729 x219 or email so that we can discuss your concerns.

Furthermore, I have repeatedly said on this blog that it is disingenuous for me to pretend to be completely objective. Objectivity is an unattainable goal for anyone (see "That Noble Dream" by Peter Novick). I do, however, claim to be balanced in my reporting. By owning my own views, I am better able to evaluate whether or not I am being truly balanced.

For any example, please see my post form earlier in the week in which I criticized Mr. Murphy more harshly than his opponent for a lack of substance that I've observed in his campaign.

March 7, 2009 at 5:18 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're liberal media far as being elite..please.THIS sCOTT mURPHY IS NOTHING MORE THAN A political opportunist,what 1000 jobs has he created here in the upstate???Maybe if he's elected he can create jobs by way using gov't money and maybe filter it through his venture capitalist business,if not that maybe one of his friends businesses,with the miss fortunes on wall street I bet the reason he's running is because he's business is no more...he's like appeaser.Your newspaper will endrose murphy because he's like you instead of confronting the enemy you blow kisses at them.I want somebody tired and true,Jimmie Tesdisco has earned the priviledge to serve the 20th district and hopefully he will ...maybe if your penny newspaper is still here you'll see it too! No offense,but I'M sick and tired of these johnnie come latelys who come in here and try to tell me why this place should be like the place they just left.

March 8, 2009 at 8:22 AM 
Anonymous Laura DiBetta said...

Well said, Andrew.

March 10, 2009 at 9:22 PM 

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