Paul Gallis stopped by Sublime Bloviations today to weigh in on a past dressing down of PolitiFact. Gallis was the author of a CRS report that served as a key source for the PolitiFact entry authored in turn by Robert Farley.
Here's what Gallis had to say:
Wrong. I cite Defense Secretary Gates as the source in a public press conference after a security meeting in Munich in February 2008. It is a member therefore of the Bush Administration itself that makes the analysis that the Iraq war is adversely affecting support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Read my report on Afghanistan. The German Marshall Fund poll merely substantiates Sec. Gates' view.While I've already offered a reply to Gallis via Haloscan commentary, his personal two cents makes the whole story a mite more interesting and helps, if I may borrow a term from Gallis, substantiate my intended implication that the CRS reports are not necessarily worthy of the awe they receive from journalists. Gallis' attempt to critique my post illustrates the point.
... and you didn't note that I have also contributed to the campaigns of a number of Republican candidates. This is sloppy journalism at its worst.
(Paul Gallis, via Haloscan)
Gates and the German Marshall Fund poll
First, note that after stating that I am wrong, Gallis tries to support his claim by stating that he used Defense Secretary Robert Gates as his source. Unfortunately for Gallis' argument, I never said otherwise. I simply pointed out that PolitiFact's Robert Farley, in relaying the supposedly relevant portion of the report, stated that the conclusion came from a poll referenced in the report rather than from the report itself.
Later, the report cites a "highly respected" German Marshall Fund poll that found a sharp decline in European public opinion toward U.S. leadership due to the U.S. policy in the Iraq war.Farley gives the impression that the "highly respected" GMF poll found that the cause of the decline in public opinion was primarily the Iraq War. That is the worst type of journalism. And that is what I criticized:
The German Marshall Fund poll found a decrease in public opinion toward U.S. leadership, but it was the CRS report by Paul Gallis that attached the cause to the Iraq War ("the principal cause").Gallis appears to think if he sourced the claim in the report to Robert Gates then it somehow undermines my critique of PolitiFact. That thought is a feat of logical teleportation.
Note the text of the report authored by Gallis:
A highly respected German Marshall Fund poll has found a sharp decline in Europea public opinion towards U.S. leadership since 2002. In key European countries, the desirability of U.S. leadership in the world fell from 64% in 2002 to 36% in June 2007; the approval rating of President Bush in these same countries fell from 38% in 2002 to 17% in 2007. U.S. policy in the Iraq war is the principal cause of this decline.2 This decline is complicating the effort of allied governments to sustain support for the ISAF mission. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave credence to the political ramifications of the Iraq war when he said in February 2008, “I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused.... Many of them...have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan.”3Gallis suggests that I read his Afghanistan report. Could there have been any doubt that I had already read it and done a better job of it than Farley?
(NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance, red highlights added to citation superscripts)
In my criticism I quoted from the report the phrase "the principal cause," which occurs in the report just prior to the second citation. That citation consists of the GMF poll, and I noted that the phrase may have misled Farley into thinking that "the principal cause" conclusion came from the poll:
Perhaps Farley was fooled by the footnote following Gallis' judgment of the root cause, supposing that Gallis' statement had to have come from the listed source. In any event, the German Marshall Fund poll does not draw the conclusion that Gallis derives. Not on pages 5-7 nor anywhere else.Perhaps Gallis somehow believed that I suggested that he drew his conclusion about "the principal cause" based on the GMF poll because of my statement that the GMF poll "does not draw the conclusion that Gallis derives." But that's just more logical hopscotch by Gallis if that is what he thought, as the context makes perfectly clear. Note that in the first sentence I muse that Farley might have thought that the judgment came from GMF poll, and I note that Farley would have been "fooled" if he came to that conclusion. In contrast, I did not make any guess as to whether Gallis drew the conclusion based on the GMF poll. I simply noted that he had derived the conclusion. If Gallis did not accept that view then we would expect him to offer some caution or contrary opinion, but he does not do that. If Gallis had doubts about Iraq being "the principal cause" then he was remiss in not mentioning that fact in his report. It is thus perfectly fair to say that Gallis derived that conclusion.
It is the third citation that leads to the Gates quotation. If the Gates citation had occurred in the company of Gallis' "principal cause" judgment then perhaps Farley would have reported more accurately.
Though I might have added a criticism of Gallis for basing the conclusion on nothing more than Gates' statement plus the GMF poll, I charitably assumed that Gallis may have had additional reason to believe it.
Gallis' political giving
Also note that Gallis criticizes me for failing to report on his giving to Republican candidates. As I noted in my original reply, only Gallis' giving to John F. Kerry graces the FEC records unless he gave under a different name to Republicans. But it doesn't really matter if Gallis gave to Republicans or not unless the pattern of giving gives us reason to believe that Gallis has no bias respecting his foreign policy philosophy.
And that was my point in tweaking PolitiFact for omitting mention of Gallis' support for Kerry. PolitiFact conveyed the impression of the CRS as an unimpeachable source and de-emphasized that the report came from an individual.
My criticism of Gallis amounted to a degree of doubt as to his objectivity. His message to me gives rise to a new set of doubts.
7-28-08: Edited to remove a redundancy