Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Unqualified Failure



Why would Mark Hyman spend a large chunk of one of his commentaries excoriating a relatively unknown government official for supposedly padding his resume, particularly when the alleged padding was trivial by any standard?

Interesting question with an even more interesting answer. More on that later.

Hyman’s nominal topic in his most recent commentary is resume padding. After citing a couple of non-political examples, Hyman goes to where we would expect him to go: attacking perceived political enemies.

First up is Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico and possible presidential candidate in 2008. Hyman says that “Richardson recently admitted that his longtime boast that he was drafted to play professional baseball was not true.”

The first question I had was, “Who cares?” The next question I had was, “Does Hyman actually believe Richardson has been claiming to be drafted in order to further his political career?” But then I realized that this question implied that Hyman only attacked people when he felt his attacks were relevant. I, of all people, certainly know that’s not the case.

So Hyman is trying to portray Richardson as a liar, even though the lie in question is trivial. So, I decided to check whether Richardson had lied.

In fact, it seems that he did not. Richardson was apparently a standout ball player in his youth and was scouted by pro teams. Having seen his name in a program that listed him as having been drafted by the Kansas City A’s, Richardson assumed it was true and had repeated this as fact. Apparently, whatever program Richardson saw was in error, because a recent investigation by the
Albuquerque Journal revealed that the A’s had not actually drafted him (and who said hard nosed journalism was dead?). Richardson has granted that he was mistaken.

Is there any evidence that Richardson intentionally misled people about his baseball prowess? No. Is there any evidence that this bit of biographical trivia has helped his career in public service? No. Is there any possible reason to make hay out of this other than to embarrass Richardson by implying that he is not truthful? No.

But that attempt at character assassination is only a preamble to the main event, Hyman’s attack on C. Richard D’Amato. Who is D’Amato? Currently, he’s the chairman of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Given this fairly innocuous position, it’s surprising that Hyman goes after him with the viciousness he does. Hyman says that:

Richard D'Amato was caught three years ago claiming he had three
Bronze Star medals -- normally given for combat valor -- from his Navy service.
He didn't have any. The chair of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review
Commission now claims he was an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
School officials have said this is untrue - he was an unpaid volunteer who
guest-lectured.


With the assistant professor thing, it’s not clear what Hyman is referring to. According to D’Amato’s biography on the
U.S. Trade Deficit Reduction Commission website (and don’t tell me you don’t already have that one bookmarked!), D’Amato served as an assistant professor of government after returning from naval duty in Vietnam, teaching government and coaching basketball and sailing.

More recently, D’Amato has said that he has served as an adjunct assistant professor of political science at the naval academy (this according to
a biography posted on former members of the Maryland state legislature—hint, hint!).

Is Hyman’s characterization of D’Amato’s position at odds with this bio? No. As someone who has served as an adjunct assistant professor, I can say with some authority that “adjunct assistant” is a title given to someone who has the qualifications to serve as an assistant professor but who does not teach fulltime, get paid as a fulltime employee, or is in a tenure track position. D’Amato is not a fulltime faculty member and apparently works for free when he teaches at Annapolis. Thus, adjunct assistant professor is the proper term for someone with his qualifications who teaches but only on a part time basis.

But again, does this really matter? Of course not. D’Amato’s biography (including his earlier stint as a teacher at Annapolis, his military service, his admission to the Maryland bar, and his political career) is not diminished a whit by removal of his voluntary teaching service at the Naval Academy. His qualifications for his current job are not questioned, even by Hyman. It’s simply an attack on D’Amato’s character, and an inaccurate one at that.

Now, the Bronze Stars: as mentioned earlier, D’Amato served as in the Maryland State legislature as a Democrat. In 2002, he was narrowly defeated by his Republican challenger—the margin of victory was less than 300 votes.

Only days before the election, a commentator on a Baltimore television station lashed out in an editorial that attacked a detail of D’Amato’s campaign literature that said he had earned “Bronze Stars” during his service in Vietnam. This commentator also actively lobbied the local newspapers, the Baltimore Sun and the Annapolis Capital, to cover the story.

Guess who that commentator was?

Yes, the “Stolen Honor” fiasco was simply a sequel to a smaller scale version of exactly the same technique Hyman developed in going after a Democrat running for office in Sinclair’s backyard near Baltimore.

Why is Hyman still after D’Amato (who, after all, is a fellow captain in the naval reserves)? Hard to say. Perhaps it’s because
D’Amato recently criticized the Bush administration’s China policy. Maybe it’s because D’Amato has actively imposed the legalization of slot machines in Maryland (a pet project of current governor, bosom buddy of Sinclair, and Hyman’s former boss, Bob Ehrlich). Or maybe it’s because after Hyman attacked him the first time around, D’Amato publicly discussed the dangers of media consolidation, noting that “If Sinclair had owned The Sun and The Capital, political operatives, like Mr. Hyman, would have purposely promulgated across different media outlets malicious and false stories.”

Or maybe Hyman is just vindictive.

In any case, charges Hyman attempts to resuscitate in this latest editorial were done away with some time ago. Neither the Sun or Capital decided the story was newsworthy. The Navy didn’t bother with an investigation into whether D’Amato had falsely worn unearned medals. This is in part because D’Amato *had* earned Bronze Stars for service in a combat zone, but had not won the Bronze Star for valor in combat (which is the medal most people think of when they hear “Bronze Star”). D’Amato admitted that this was unfairly confusing and clarified the difference.

So Hyman, the guy who takes up airtime on your airwaves on a nightly basis (yet lacks an iota of journalistic experience and
hems and haws when asked directly about his much touted service for the C.I.A.), wastes time that could be used to discuss truly local issues by people in your community by making personal, unsubstantiated, and trivial attacks on people he doesn’t like because of their politics.

Given this, it’s difficult to imagine anyone, regardless of their political affiliation, thinking that Hyman is anything but an unqualified failure as a public voice.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.07

P.S. A partial copy of the Baltimore Sun piece on D’Amato and Hyman’s attack on him can be found in the
Baltimore Sun archives (this is the article that is the source of the D’Amato quotation about media consolidation). To see the whole thing, you’ll either need to pay or hop on Lexis/Nexus.

6 Comments:

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Bradley said...

The elephant in the room here, of course, is that Hyman doesn't talk about the reason most of us have resume padding on our minds these days: Brownie.

As TIME reported months ago, former FEMA director Mike Brown lied about his city management experience, his community and professional services, and his academic credentials (unlike D'Amato, Brown actually did claim to be a professor when he was, in fact, an adjunct). As one former employer put it, "There was a feeling that he was not serious and somewhat shallow."

The entire article can be read here:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1103003,00.html

 
At 12:01 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Exactly right. I was going to launch into a bit about not only Brownie, but the president's own scant resume for leading the free world and the gaping holes in his own service record, but the post was already getting unwieldy (even by my verbose standards!). Thanks for making this important point (and for the link) Bradley!

tjr

 
At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Bradley said...

For anyone interested in Mike Brown, FEMA, and the destructive cronyism that exists in the Bush Administration, I would highly recommend checking out the latest issue of ROLLING STONE (the one with King Kong on the cover). There's an article in there that explores how Bush's appointments to Homeland Security and FEMA have made the agency completely ineffective. They also have a really interesting comparison between FEMA's response to the hurricanes of Florida (a swing state) in 2004 (an election year) and the Gulf Coast in 2005. Apparently, Mike Brown can do a competent, thorough job-- when he feels it's important. Utterly chilling stuff, there.

 
At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just finishing up "The Assassin's Gate" and recommend it.

It provides several glimpses into life in Iraq after "Mission Accomplished" and how the Bush administration chronically underplanned and underprovided for the CPA and the troops. The author is quite sympathetic to the mid- and lower-level military officers....the ones doing the heavy lifting, while pointing out the big disconnect between Washington and the CPA and the CPA and life on the street.

Funny how the Bush crowd like to bandy about the word "patriotism" when you read about how they systematically neglected the troops on the ground. That really bothers me: we ask some to sacrifice a lot while pulling all sorts of stupid stunts ("Mission Accomplished", "Bring em on", etc.) that demonstrate the worst degree of insensitivity to the guys in the field.

More incompentence. Deadly incompetence.

 
At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Bradley said...

This article from today's NEW YORK TIMES seems like it might be relevant to this conversation. A study by the NewTithing Group that analyzed IRS data from 2003 shows that the richest of the rich-- those who make more than $10 million a year-- are a lot stingier (more Scrooge-like, if you will) that most of us when it comes to charitable giving.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/19/national/19give.html?th=&adxnnl=1&emc=th&adxnnlx=1135006805-QRwDvzWRV2+vRBRocYk79g

Here are some highlights from the article:

"Working-age Americans who make $50,000 to $100,000 a year are two to six times more generous in the share of their investment assets that they give to charity than those Americans who make more than $10 million, a pioneering study of federal tax data shows.

"The least generous of all working-age Americans in 2003, the latest year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available, were among the young and prosperous - the 285 taxpayers age 35 and under who made more than $10 million - and the 18,600 taxpayers making $500,000 to $1 million. The top group had on average $101 million of investment assets while the other group had on average $2.4 million of investment assets."

 
At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Bradley said...

Sorry. I posted that last comment in the wrong place.

 

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