Pass the American Jobs Act Already!
Nouriel Roubini Calls the Double Dip

Jacob Weisberg on Ron Suskind: We Source Nothing! Nothing!!

Jacob Weisberg annoys Robert Waldmann. Jacob Weisberg must have really annoyed Robert because Robert goes on the attack--even though Jacob is attacking Ron Suskind, who was unfairly mean and misleading in his book Confidence Men about our friend, teacher, and co-author Lawrence Summers (and others as well).

But does Robert ignore Jacob and let Ron Suskind twist slowly, slowly in the wind? No:

Robert's Stochastic Thoughts: Compare:

"W.H. details errors in Suskind book": Ben White in Politico 9/19/11: An administration official sent along a partial list under the headline "The Suskind Book Game: 'Too Big to Fact Check?'" From the list of alleged errors: "1.) Suskind wrote that Larry Summers needed Senate confirmation to lead the National Economic Council. 2.) Suskind wrote that Secretary Geithner served as 'Chairman' of the New York Fed. 3.) Suskind wrote that Gene Sperling served as 'an assistant Treasury Secretary.' 4.) Suskind wrote that Geithner had 'never been an undersecretary' at Treasury. 5.) Suskind wrote that the acronym for the Bank for International Settlements is 'BASEL.' 6.) Suskind wrote that Gene Sperling played tennis at the University of Michigan.


"Don't Believe Ron Suskind": Jacob Weisberg Slate 9/22/11: Suskind has now turned his egregious writing and dubious technique on the Obama administration in his new book, Confidence Men. Once again, his work is strewn with small but telling errors. Here are a few: The Federal Reserve is a board, not a bureau (Page 7); Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was previously president, not "chairman," of the New York Fed (Page 56); he was, however, an undersecretary of the treasury, which Suskind makes a point out of saying he wasn't (Page 172); Horatio Alger was an author, not a character (Page 54); Gene Sperling didn't play tennis for the University of Michigan, because he went to the University of Minnesota (Page 215); the gothic spires of Yale Law School, built in 1931, are not "centuries old" (Page 250); Franklin D. Roosevelt did not say of his opponents, "I welcome their hate" (Page 235). What FDR said at Madison Square Garden in 1936, was "I welcome their hatred." That nuance wouldn't matter if it weren't such a famous line, but getting it wrong is the political equivalent of an English professor misquoting Hamlet's soliloquy.

That is an entire paragraph. There is no citation of anything--no hint that Weisberg had any help from anyone in finding those errors, some of which were described in public 3 days before his article was published. And with attribution, by the White House. It's easy to look good if you present someone else's work as your own.

To an academic, Weisberg's failure to drop a citation--failed to write "Here are a few errors compiled by the White House and sent to Ben White of Politico", and wrote instead "Here are a few"--is a big red warning flag that there is something very wrong with Weisberg. In academia, if you pick up somebody else's point and run with it, you drop a citation. Indeed, even with things I have thought of all by myself I have then gone and searched through the literature looking to see if there is a precursor I can cite--both because I don't want to be thought of as either the kind of person who steals others' ideas without attribution or the kind of person too lazy to read the literature, and because pointing out that somebody else agrees with me adds heft to the argument. Webloggers are much the same.

For journalists--or some journalists, or some powerful journalists--it seems to be different. Passing off the work of others as if it were your own in the omniscient third person seems to be a fairly common rhetorical mode.

That doesn't make it right. And that doesn't make those low down in the journalistic pecking order whose work is appropriated without a credit happy…

UPDATED: My guess is that Ron Suskind's book is riddled--no, contains an unusually large number of--errors because Ron (1) is not a subject-matter expert here, and (2) did not send his galleys to his sources (or, indeed, to anybody else knowledgeable who wanted to make him look good) for correction. Why not? My guess is that Suskind did not do so--in spite of promises--because he knew that he was in the process of burning his sources: taking the stories that they had told him and attaching different endings to the stories than his sources had related.