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April 26, 2005

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zip

Say TJ, I read that she admitted that she was "a staunch Bush basher." Care to comment on her objectivity?

Torrid

I'm not sure she is objective. That doesn't mean she's lying--another person has corroborated her story, as I understand it. And of course her story is consistent with so many others like it.

bw

What does it mean if you "confess" to committing plagiarism 22 years ago, but lie about the particulars of the plagiarism? That's the case here.

Zap

I'm going to assume everyone reading this has told a lie before. I think it's also safe to assume anyone reading this has told the truth at some point on some topic after telling a lie. Right?

The point is, it's become pretty acceptable to discount people with flaws in their past when we all have flaws in our past.

If Melody doesn't have substantial corroboration for her account of the scary treatment, she's going to be met with her word against his and others, and the Congress is going to have to decide who to believe.

It looks to me like Bolton is going to make it through this, and Melody's testimony; juxtaposed with her dishonest past, counter testimony, clear partisanship; may be the thing to convince a few undecided Republicans, that this is just an ugly example of the Democrats mudslinging, thus deciding for confirmation.

I wish they weren't "using" her.

Torridjoe

bw, I'm unaware of what you're referring to, and as yet I'm unable to find any google reference to there being a problem with her story about plagiarism. Can you be specific on what you're talking about?

Zap, maybe I'm reading you wrong, but it sounds as if you're assuming that this all turns on little Melody Townsel. She is but a single piece, thrown in with people like Ford and Vreeland and Powell (or at least his spokespeople in public, him in private), who share quite similar stories in terms of temperament. Additionally, it's a mistake to accept the righty blogosphere's framing of the objection as one solely focused on whether he has a hot temper. If you watch last week's hearing (it really is fairly interesting), Biden, Dodd and Kerry (especially Kerry) are pretty explicit about their concerns for his veracity--having apparently fudged the truth to the committee in his deposition--and his manipulation of data to the detriment of national security. There are multiple instances where the correct diagnosis from the field did not square with what Bolton intended to conclude, and the issue is not Bolton's reaction to the field staff, but his poor approach to synthesizing intelligence and accepting the reports he gets.

Given that another 2 dozen witnesses are scheduled for interviews over the next couple of weeks, and that the media will be all over the story as it happens, I think a "Bolton will survive" perspective is awfully premature. I actually think it's less than 50% overall; Charlie Cook gives it even money. There are four wavering GOP Members; it only takes one to sink him.

By the way, there IS multiple corroboration for Townsel's story; they are confidential, however. See the TIME article for more info.

bw

Torridjoe: This is what Melody Townsel wrote, in part, in her pre-emptive "confessional:" Months later, while working for another college newspaper, I wrote a review for a local play that tracked closely in format to another writer's review -- and, although it was not plagiarized, it made my editors, who had become aware of my recent past, very uncomfortable, and we mutually agreed that I would no longer submit stories to them."

The "other college newspaper" she refers to is "The Shorthorn" at the University of Texas at Arlington. It was not a review for a local play that got her dismissed from The Shorthorn. It was a two-page (broadsheet) commentary on world hunger -- 90 percent of which was plagiarized word for word from Newsweek and Time. And to say "we mutually agreed that I would no longer submit stories to them" makes it sounds as if she was occasionally submitting stories. She was, however, the editorial page editor of the paper.

As so many others have said in other blogs, what she did 22 years ago is not all that important in the larger scheme of things, although doing it twice at two different college newspapers is rather remarkable. But what troubles those who know the facts of this is that she would so baldly lie in a confession about her plagiarism. That seems to speak to a deep-seated inability to deal truthfully with things in her past, and that, unfortunately, casts doubt on her credibility.

Lastly, I refer you to The Shorthorn article on this subject, posted yesterday: http://www.theshorthorn.com/archive/2005/spring/05-apr-27/n042705-01.html

Torridjoe

BW, I think you jump to some conclusions. First, you claim 90% plagiarism; the Shorthorn article references a quote from the editor of 80%. You also conclude she is lying, which isn't necessarily supported by the article. It seems odd that one would make up an entirely different article, and deny it was plagiarized, if the material were in reference to something else, and the evidence was overwhelming that plagiarism was afoot.

I agree there are discrepancies between the two accounts, but the Shorthorn account appears incomplete, or at least does not attempt to deal with any of the discrepancies. Does the editor have any recollection of a "theater piece?" Without disciplinary measures revealed, it's hard to say what happened, and I don't think it's clear that there were two substantiated allegations of copying--just the one.

bw

Torridjoe: My apologies for a mix-up on the percentages.

I can assure you that there was no "theater" piece. The article that led to Melody Townsel's dismissal from the paper at the University of Texas at Arlington was the two-page commentary she wrote as the editorial page editor that was plagiarized from Time and Newsweek.

My only point is that she is speaking untruthfully about the very thing she's "confessing" to. She admits to plagiarizing columms (from the Dallas Morning News) when she was at Abilene Christian University, and then fabricates a lie about what she did at the University of Texas at Arlington months later. What does that tell you?

Now I have no axe to grind here, nor do I have any animosity toward Melody -- personally or regarding her political beliefs. If anything, there is disappointment and a measure of sadness that any of this had to come out in the first place. But as was the case 22 years ago, she brought this on herself.

Does it mean that what transpired between her and Mr. Bolton did or did not happen? I have no idea. But I'm troubled by the lie in the confession. And it's not a small lie, either.

I have followed this chain of events with great interest since it was first brought to my attention several days ago. I know Melody or, more precisely, I worked with Melody when we were students together at the University of Texas at Arlington and working together on the student publication, The Shorthorn. I am painfully aware of the facts in this case, and so reading Melody's "confession" was not a pleasant ride down memory lane -- nor do I imagine it was for her, although I sincerely wish she had been more truthful about an event that hurt so many people.

bw

Torridjoe

I suppose I'll have to take your word for it, bw. Not to be snide (honestly), but at this stage I don't have any more corroboration that you're correct than she is. On the other hand, assuming for the moment that your representation of yourself and the facts in the case is accurate, you provide welcome information. May I ask if you've shared your obviously pertinent insight on the case elsewhere? As you might imagine, your allegations would be of wide interest, to the blogosphere in general if not the Senate itself.

bw

Torridjoe: I certainly understand and empathize with your feeling of having to take my word for it without corroboration. As a former journalist, I worked by the creed, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." I still believe that.

I know that my representation of the facts is correct because I'm the sad fellow that discovered Melody's plagiarism in The Shorthorn at the University of Texas at Arlington. I can assure you that it was one of the bleakest moments of my career as I took a red pen and underlined line after line after line after line of plagiarized copy in one of the longest articles The Shorthorn had ever published. As our adviser said at the time, and later, she was too good a writer to have committed such an offense, and yet she did.

I became aware of Melody's involvement in the Bolton confirmation hearings when someone sent me an e-mail pointing me to the day's news stories. When I saw that Sen. Joe Biden was reading her infamous letter to the committee, I cringed -- making the immediate association with Melody's plagiarism and Biden's own history of it that short-circuited his presidential bid. I called the senator's office to caution him about this because I didn't want to see the Democrats embarrassed by revelations that a key witness had committed plagiarism in the past -- a fact that was certain to raise doubts about her story. I confess that I was conflicted because having read about John Bolton, he didn't strike me as a sterling choice for the U.N. position. I had the sense that my call to Biden's office was just blown off; no doubt they thought it was some partisan attempt to discredit Melody. So I followed up with an e-mail, expressing my concern.

Two days later, Melody's associate posted Melody's "confession." It my understanding that the letter was prompted by a story that was about to be published in "the Optimist," the student publication of Abilene Christian University, where Melody had plagiarized some opinion columns. As I started to read Melody's letter, I thought, "Well good for you, Melody ... get it out of the way." Then I read her version of what happened at UTA, and I could only shake my head, trying my bewildered best to understand.

Hours after reading that letter, I received a call from a reporter at The Shorthorn, asking me about what transpired in 1985 at UTA. I answered all his questions. After speaking with him, I wrote to Melody -- my first contact with her in 22 years -- and let her know that no good could possibly come from her putting out a version of the 1985 events that had so little bearing on the truth, and that I had already been asked about it.

I don't know that my story is of any interest to anyone. Ultimately, it just makes me sad that someone as talented as Melody -- and someone who understands more than most that perception is reality -- would risk so much once more.

What prompted me to write was that I was seeing so many responses to Melody's "confession" by people who said that what happened 22 years ago didn't matter. After all, they said, look at President Bush. Point well taken, I say. However, the lie in Melody's confession bothered me. That's what mattered, I thought.

Well ... I apologize for blathering on. You were considerate enough to reply in an intelligent manner, so I thought I respect that and try to resolve some of the questions you might have with regard to corroboration.

So thanks for listening.

Theo

Torridjoe

Theo (my cousin's name!), thanks very much for the thorough reply. On the contrary to your fears, I appreciate the full description. At this point I'd like to leave the question of your own believability alone, and proceed under the assumption that you have the facts straight. And if you're interested in taking this offline, let me know at alsoalso.also@gmail, and I'd be happy to discuss it with you there.

So who did you present your review to, and what caused you to undertake it? You say you discovered it...on your own suspicion, or that of someone else? Did you ever confront Melody about it? From your comment, it appears that the advisor was of the opinion that it was indeed a case of plagiarism. Is that correct?

I have to say, something still just doesn't make sense: why would Melody invent a different scenario with essentially the same result? Even with what you deem to be a hedge on her part about how things fell out, she could have easily used the same hedge when referring to the famine editorial. I don't get (and I don't expect you to, really) why she would change that part of the story. She essentially is denying the 2nd charge of plagiarism, so it wouldn't matter what it was that she was accused of plagiarizing. The upshot is still that she was accused of it at two different schools. Alternatively, she could have left out the piece's subject entirely. Is it possible there is a THIRD school or journalism engagement that she had, that tracks with her version--and she's omitted the shorthorn episode completely?

bw

Torridjoe ... I was the editor of The Shorthorn at UTA in the fall and spring semesters of 1984 and 1985. In September 1985, when the plagiarism occurred, I was taking classes in the morning and working at the Dallas Times Herald (now defunct) in the afternoon. My usual routine was to pick up The Shorthorn and read it during my lunch hour at the Times Herald.

I only had to read two paragraphs of Melody's opinion piece to know that I'd read it before and that I was looking at something really serious. It didn't take too long to find the sources, which turned out to be lengthy articles in Time and Newsweek. I then undertook the arduous task of underlining every plagiarized line in red -- every non-plagiarized line in blue. It was not a pretty sight to look at that sea of red across two broadsheet-sized pages. As a former editor of the paper, it was heartbreaking. I reported it to the director of publications and the paper's adviser, and presented them with the evidence and the underlined pages that night. Needless to say, all of us were very upset by the scale of Melody's plagiarism. Speechless, might be a better description.

As The Shorthorn reported in its April 27 story, Melody was confronted by the director of publications, the advisor, the editor-in-chief and myself. I'm sure I insisted on being present out of some sense of vanity. In reality, I was no longer on the staff of the paper, so my part in this drama was over.

You ask questions about Melody's current intentions regarding her version of the plagiarism at UTA that I can't answer. Why she would turn the opinion piece into the fiction of a "review" is beyond me. Why she would turn her senior position on the paper as the editorial page editor into the fiction of "submitting articles" as if she was a sporadic contributor is beyond me. Given the magnifying glass that her accusations about Bolton put her under, I can't even begin to fathom why she would lie about an incident of plagiarism to which she was confessing.

And who knows? Maybe you're right. Maybe the "review" was a plagiarism incident at a third college, and she completely left out the incident at UTA. If that's so, then I completely misunderstood her letter, although I'd then have to ask why her confession would omit her most egregious exercise in plagiarism. And if there was a third incident of plagiarism at a third college, doesn't that call her credibility even further into question? I'm not sure I'd even want to hazard a guess as to what that says about her character. I don't know the answers to any of these questions because after her dismissal from the paper, I never heard anything further about Melody until the other day when her charges against Bolton became public.

It turns out that my attempts to caution Sen. Biden were in vain. I could only cringe when Melody's plagiarism "confession" was read on the air by Rush Limbaugh, who then added, "No wonder Joe Biden loves this gal," or something to that effect.

For Melody's sake -- and the sake of her career and her daughter -- I hope the old adage is true, that there's no such thing as bad publicity. But given that she runs a public relations shop in Dallas, I find it hard to believe that this kind of publicity will further her dreams.

Well ... thank you for the exchange and your willingness to listen. This marks the first time I've ever written on a weblog. I wish the subject had been a bit happier.

Theo

bw

Torridjoe ... I just reread Melody's "confession" to see if your question about a third incident could be true. It's not. She she stated that her second incident of plagiarism occurred "several months" after she was dismissed from the paper at Abilene Christian University. That would have been at UTA, because she transferred there from ACU.

Theo

Zap

Theo,

That's compelling insight on a fairly hot breaking story. Our little corner of the blogosphere is not very high on the food chain, but I won't be surprised if your revelations go nationwide from here in the next 24 hours. I googled around to see if any other sites had similar information. No luck.

Torrid, I've said many times what Theo said above, perception is reality in the current milieu. Of course, I'm aware that Bolton's inadequacy runs deeper than his personality. Most of these White House insiders involved with foreign policy are tainted with pushing the intelligence envelope beyond reason in pursuit of an agenda that necessary intelligence doesn't support. But that issue is subject to perception, and the accusation of lying which Republicans will not consider. The house of cards tumbles down on that one. They hold to the perception of grand intelligence failures in order to cover the manipulation and deception so obvious to any reasonable observer. They desperately need that perception to remain reality.

Barbara Boxer made it clear today that "many" new revelations about Bolton would soon be on the table. I hope they have more than Melody, because she will backfire. Her story is a set up for another shrill example of the desperate and dishonest Democrats willing to use any extremist quack to discredit Republicans. It's perception that GOPers use to gain more power by discrediting the left.

Zap

Vreeland is getting raked over the right wing coals too.

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