Nick Kristof has made a career out of not being as bad as Paul Krugman, but his reputation as one of the less pathetic New York Times columnists is starting to wear thin.
Consider his latest offering, in which he accuses the Bush administration of being “deluded,” seduced by “wishful thinking,” guilty of “reckless overconfidence” and “cockiness.” Kristof concludes: “[T]he scary thing is, Mr. Bush and his aides may not be lying when they look at Iraq and boast of a cheering population that a Western press sourly refuses to acknowledge.”
Put aside for a moment the sour refusal of the American press to acknowledge progress in Iraq. Kristof drips with condescension for the yahoos in the White House. Normally one would assume that some one who deploys such heavy rhetorical artillery would have the goods in the form of some kind of empirical evidence. (Well, we might not assume that if the writer is a Times columnist.) So what evidence does Kristof have? Here it is:
“Mr. Cheney has cited a Zogby International poll to back his claim that there is ‘very positive news’ in Iraq. But the pollster, John Zogby, told me, ‘I was floored to see the spin that was put on it; some of the numbers were not my numbers at all.’
“Mr. Cheney claimed that Iraqis chose the U.S. as their model for democracy ‘hands down,’ and he and other officials say that a majority want American troops to stay at least another year. In fact, Mr. Zogby said, only 23 percent favor the U.S. democratic model, and 65 percent want the U.S. to leave in a year or less.
“‘I am not willing to say they lied,’ Mr. Zogby said. ‘But they used a very tight process of selective screening, and when they didn’t get what they wanted they were willing to manufacture some results. . . . There was almost nothing in that poll to give them comfort.'”
Now, anything who knows anything about polling knows that Zogby is a competent pollster. But he is also an Arab-American whose brother James is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, and he is notorious for trying to spin poll results that relate in any way to Middle Eastern conflict. So what did the Zogby poll, done in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute, actually show?
The complete poll results can be accessed here. (Bloggers, unlike New York Times columnists, actually provide access to the data they cite so you can judge for yourself.) The poll results referred to by Kristof are as follows.
On the question of what governmental model Iraqis favor, it is true that “only” 23% chose the American model. But, as Cheney said, this was the largest percentage by a considerable margin. “None” and “other” scored 22% and 15% respectively, and the second-place country was Saudi Arabia with 17%.
Even worse is Kristof’s suggestion that there is something wrong with Cheney’s statement that most Iraqis want the Americans to stay for a year or longer. Here are the numbers:
–32% want the U.S. to stay another six months.
–34% want the U.S. to stay another year.
–25% want the U.S. to stay another two years or longer.
So what Cheney said was exactly right: 59% want the U.S. to stay in Iraq for at least another year. As the above figures show, this is entirely consistent with Zogby’s statement that 65% want American troops out in a year or less. As, of course, does President Bush and probably 99% of Americans. So where, exactly, is the “manufacturing of results” that Zogby refers to, without citing a single iota of evidence? Where is the “delusion” that Kristof so arrogantly describes?
As is always the case, Kristof’s hysterical anti-administration raving can’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. It is sad to think that some people actually rely on the New York Times and columnists like Kristof and Krugman for information.
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