Archive for July, 2010

Interview with “remorseful” water researcher is a prize catch

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

As a Mother Jones blog headline yesterday put it, “McInnis in hot water.”

You know that’s the case when, as a reporter, you have so much material to investigate, you don’t know where to go first. That’s where things stand this morning.

But among the unwritten articles out there, perhaps one of the biggest is the story of McInnis research assistant, Rolly Fischer, whom McInnis is blaming for the plagiarized water articles.

Here’s what McInnis told 7News yesterday:

“I had staff assistance, I had research, and as you know, the research – that’s where the problem is here,” McInnis said.

 “But who wrote the articles?” Ferrugia asked.

 “Well, I had staff assistance and I edited the articles, they went in under my name,” McInnis said. “Well, I edited them but I didn’t run them through a check to see if they, I mean, from our expert, Rollie, you know he’s an expert in water for three or four decades. So I took what he said at face value.” “I had staff assistance, I had research, and as you know, the research – that’s where the problem is here,” McInnis said.

“But who wrote the articles?” Ferrugia asked.

“Well, I had staff assistance and I edited the articles, they went in under my name,” McInnis said. “Well, I edited them but I didn’t run them through a check to see if they, I mean, from our expert, Rollie, you know he’s an expert in water for three or four decades. So I took what he said at face value.”

Later McInnis told KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman that Fischer was “remorseful” and “sick about this.” McInnis said:

“No I had a research assistant. And he was 29 or 30 years as the head of the Colorado Water Conservation District. He was an expert on water. Great guy. He feels very remorseful about this. He is sick about this.”

Trouble is, both McInnis statements about Fischer, that he’s responsible and remorseful, don’t look to reflect what Fischer himself is thinking.

Yesterday Fischer reportedly told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

“Scott’s responsible for it.”

That doesn’t sound like a guy who’s taking responsibility for something he’s sorry about.

At this point, I think landing the interview with Fischer is the biggest journalistic catch to be made, in a sea of water where there’s plenty of stuff to catch (and we’re not talking catch-and-release here).

Trouble is, landing the interview with Fischer won’t be easy for reporters.

When The Denver Post went to his home yesterday in Glenwood Springs, Fischer told a Post reporter, “I don’t trust the press.” (Coincidentally, McInnis has been awfully hostile to the press himself, refusing to discuss his plagiarism with The Post and, during the campaign, dissing journalism generally.)

So it’s going to take some work to get Fischer to tell his story, which deserves to be told. Maybe a blogger is the right person for the job? Someone who’s not a journalist.

Caplis says same standards apply to candidate as professor; Rosen disagrees

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

It seems like an age has gone by since the Denver media, gamely led by the bygone Rocky Mountain News, was in full-bore media frenzy over a CU professor named Ward Churchill.

And who was leading the frenzy, calling for the firing of Churchill after, and in some cased before, it was determined he committed plagiarism? Denver’s top-rated talk show hosts. Those guys.

KHOW’s duo of Caplis and Silverman was out in front of the pack.

On July 27, 2007, the Rocky Mountain News reported that Dan Caplis cut a vacation short to broadcast the Churchill firing. Caplis told the Rocky at the time: “This is the people’s victory, and talk radio played a part in it. But that’s what we’re here for. We shouldn’t be bragging about it – we just did our job. If we don’t do our job, bad guys like Churchill win.”

Asked today whether he thought McInnis should withdraw from the race, Caplis responded:

“Fair question. The same standard should apply to a candidate for any higher office as applies university professor. Plagiarism is extremely serious. Now we just have to see what the facts are. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to talk to Scott on the show today. Absolutely the same standards should apply to a candidate as a university professor.”

 Caplis is an arch conservative who considered a gubernatorial run himself. For a talk-show host like Caplis, who openly supports McInnis and opposed Churchill, you might say, if you were Ward Churchill, that the chickens have come home to roost.

I asked his co-host, centrist Craig Silverman, if he thought McInnis should withdraw. Silverman first questioned McInnis about what he did for the Hasan Family Foundation after the job was mentioned in the Denver Post, eliciting the response from McInnis that a “series of in-depth articles on water” were written.

Like Caplis, Silverman called for Churchill’s firing, but strictly due to the plagiarism issue, not because of his inflammatory essays.

“I have lots of thoughts on the subject,” he told me. “I’m going to formulate them and let them spill forth on my radio show [KHOW, 630 AM] between 3 p.m. and 6. We are going to be talking about it big time, as Dick Cheney would say.”

Silverman added: “I definitely made the Ward Churchill connection before you brought it up.  So I’ll talk about it.”

KOA talk show host Mike Rosen was also on the Churchill war path, saying over and over and over that the case against Churchill had nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with plagiarism, an act of unforgivable academic misconduct.

In an Aug. 3, 2007 column in the Rocky, Rosen wrote: ” The party line of Churchill apologists is that he was really fired for expressing his beliefs and that the findings of CU faculty panels that investigated his serial academic fraud were merely a ruse. Nonsense. Churchill is a proven liar and cheat.”

Via email, I asked Rosen if he thought, in light of his previous criticism of Churchill, that McInnis should step aside. “No,” he answered. “Not comparable.  Churchill’s behavior was far more serious.”

You might think that KHOW talk-show host Peter Boyles, who polluted the air with the Jon Bonet Ramsey case, would have been one of the anti-Churchill leaders, but he was more restrained at the time.

Today, when I asked him if McInnis should go the way of Churchill, he told me, “That’s a great question. You know, I read Crummy’s piece, and I’m not trying to dodge ya, I don’t know enough about it other than what I read in Crummy’s piece. Nobody’s better than Crummy.”

He went on to say, “The worst campaign I ever saw was Bruce Benson, until I saw Pet Coors, until I saw Bob Beauprez, and this one is the icing on the cake.”

Reporters should call McInnis’ lapse what it apparently is: plagiarism

Monday, July 12th, 2010

UPDATE: Today’s Denver Post quotes an expert saying McInnis committed plagiarism, but the body of The Post story still does not describe McInnis’ lapse as plagiarism. The Post reported today: “A Clemson University expert who reviewed McInnis’ work next to Hobbs’ essay called it a clear case of plagiarism of both words and ideas.”  Particularly because the McInnis campaign has said that passages of the water articles should have been attributed, reporters can fairly and accurately characterize McInnis’ as having plagiarized the work of Justice Gregory Hobbs. McInnis may say it wasn’t intentional, but it’s still plagiarism.

If you read Westword, you might think that Scott McInnis had an utterly uniqe writing style on display in his 150 pages of water articles for the Hasan Family Foundation.

If so, you were wrong, because the writing wasn’t unique to McInnis. Some of it was penned by now Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, according to a Spot Blog post in The Denver Post.

The Spot post reports that sentences and paragraphs in McInnis’ Hasan writings are identical to Hobbs’ work.

According to the Spot, The Post will publish more details, including samples of the identical writings, in the newspaper tomorrow.

Strangely, however, The Post did not use the word “plagiarism” to describe the identical writings.

Neither did The Post use the word “plagiarism” in a blog post earlier this year when Jane Norton lifted a quote, almost exactly, from Gerry Ford. She used it in the announcement of her U.S. Senate bid.

I blogged at the time that The Post should have used the word “plagiarism” to describe Norton’s lapse–and that reporters should have demanded an explanation from Norton, even though the plagiarism looked relatively minor to many people.

Norton said, “I believe a government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government that’s big enough to take everything you have.”

Ford said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

This may look like simple sloganeering, but for writers and people in public life, this is serious stuff.

One of the most respected ethicists in the journalism world, Prof. Robert Steele, who is the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at The Poynter Institute and the Director of the Jane Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, agreed with me about the Norton quote. Here’s what he wrote me regarding Norton:

If one uses a common understanding of plagiarism …- using the specific words or nearly exact thoughts of someone else and claiming them as your original writing or thoughts …- then Norton’s use of this quote falls into that category.

My guess is that many politicians have used a variation of this phrase over the years to capture an ideological position about the role of government in our society. If Norton had just taken the broad concept and stated it in her own words, she might have been OK. For instance, if she said something like, “A government that gives can take. We should be wary of big government that promises too much and makes us pay back all we receive,” she would have made her point (albeit with a less resounding quote) and avoided the plagiarism trap.

Given her use of the exact wording, Norton should have attributed the phrase to Ford (assuming he was the originator of the phrase and didn’t borrow it himself from someone else). 

If a journalist used this same exact phrase without attribution, I would want to know how it happened. I would ask the journalist how and why she/he used that phrase and why it wasn’t attributed. I would also check other work produced by that journalist to see if there are other problems with attribution. I would discipline the journalist based on the extent and reason for the failure in this case and whether the journalist has a history of plagiarism. That discipline could range from a serious reprimand to a suspension to dismissal.

In this case, I would ask Norton some questions. How did this happen? Did you write this speech? If so, where did you get that line? If not, who wrote the speech and/or that line? Perhaps one of her speech writers did this. Norton, as the person who used the words is still primarily responsible, of course. I would also do some plagiarism checking of her other speeches to see if this is a recurring problem.

I made certain that Steele saw that Norton’s words weren’t exactly the same as Ford’s.

“Norton’s words are very, very close to the exact wording of the Ford quote and her expression of this thought is almost verbatim to Ford’s expression,” he wrote back.  “Norton should have attributed the statement to Ford. By not doing so, she claimed it as her original thought. That’s wrong.”

If that’s what Steele had to say about Norton’s plagiarism, you can only imagine what he’d say about McInnis’, which amounts to numerous sentences and paragraphs, according to The Spot.

Norton’s plagiarism is likely tiny potatoes compared to what everyone expects to see from McInnis in tomorrow’s Denver Post.

If that’s true, then journalists should definitely call it plagiarism, and all the questions suggested by Steele are in order.

Interestingly, Post reporters did use the P word at least once this year. When Vice President Joe Biden came to Denver in April, GOP chair Dick Wadhams joked to a Post reporter about Joe Biden’s past plagiarism problems. In a piece quoting Wadhams, The Spot reported that Vice President Joe Biden was “accused of plagiarism.”

I emailed a Post editor and reporter asking why the word “plagiarism” wasn’t used to describe McInnis’ lapse, but I did not get an immediate response.

Statesman interview transcipts illuminate candidates

Monday, July 12th, 2010

If you’re not loving the interviews with Colorado Senate candidaets in the Colorado Statesman, you’re not a news junkie.

They remind me, to some degree, of a transcribed talk-radio interview with a candidate. But talk-radio interviews, unlike the Statesman pieces, are conducted mostly by hosts who agree with the candidate or who aren’t very informed. (Local talk-radio interviews between conservatives and Craig Silverman are one partial exception, and there will be others, like, I hope, candidate interviews on Colorado Matters.)

The recent Statesman interviews mix chatty questions with arcane and tough ones. And the answers are kept short. Here’s an example from the Statesman’s interview with Jane Norton, regarding former McCain advisor and GOP heavyweight Charlie Black:

Statesman: What has been the role of Charlie Black in your campaign?

Norton: He’s been my brother in law (laughs).

Statesman: Right, and in terms of the campaign. What has been his involvement?

Norton: Oh I called him from time to time and asked for advice.

Statesman: Does he still provide ongoing advice to you?

Norton: Sure.

That’s the kind of questioning that makes for interesting reading for the news junkie, yes? Readers might have wanted to know what kind of advice Black gives Norton, but you can argue that would have been too much to ask. Other questioning revealed that Norton worked for the AARP and doesn’t exclude anyone from her events.

Contrast the Statesman’s questioning about Black to the lack of follow-up in The Denver Post’s exchange gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, printed in this weekend’s Perspective section:

Denver Post: Would you have accepted the federal stimulus money? 

McInnis: You’ve got to look at what the strings attached are. Now we’ve got a lot of federal funds for this state …- our military bases, our highway things, and stuff like that. So you have to look at every one of those . . . . You [had] better read the fine print.

McInnis never answered the question, even though he’s on record as supporting Obama’s stimulus, but The Post let him go.

I’m not saying that the Post’s long interviews with McInnis and Dan Maes were a waste, by any stretch. Most of the questions were fairly tough and the answers clear. And it’s great more long interviews are planned for print. The transcriptions, allowing you to study the responses or lack thereof, are a window on the candidates that you don’t get anywhere else, even from long TV or radio exchanges.

And you have to give The Post credit for running them, given the shrinking news hole.

I asked Post opinion writer Chuck Plunkett, who called the Statesman interviews “great work,” why we don’t see more such transcripts online or in print:

“They [transcriptions] are hard to read, because of the non sequiturs and whatnot. The reality is that there are a few key moments that are the most useful, a few key distillations of thought that it took the other rambling to bring out. Normally, we don’t want to waste reader’s time. Our entire goal as journalists is to cut to the chase. But you are correct that for junkies and bloggers and folks who really care about the details, the long-form transcriptions can offer all kinds of riches.”

I asked Ernest Luning, who conducted the Statesman interviews along with Jody Hope Strogoff, how long the interviews take to produce. He replied via email:

“We have an actual transcriptionist who prepares a rough draft, then Jody and I spend some time making sure it’s an accurate transcript. The most painstaking editing involves punctuation — making sure sentences and so forth are reflected accurately, which can be difficult given how conversational the interviews are. Hard to say how long it takes, though I’d estimate maybe a dozen hours total to produce an hour-long transcript.”

Luning wrote that none of the candidates in the U.S. Senate race, the current focus of the “InnerView” series, resisted the Statesman’s interview request.

“Some of them have been difficult to schedule,” Luning emailed me. “But the candidates have been eager to sit down with us. They’re assured we’ll run the entire transcript, which makes sure everything is in accurate context, and they’re free to discuss a range of topics in as much detail and at as much length as they want.”

I asked Plunkett if candidates are generally willing to agree to open interviews. Here’s his reply:

The bigger the race, the less willing candidates are to sit down with reporters. Here’s an example from my time as a reporter — not an opinion writer — during the run-up to the 2008 presidential primaries.

 On the GOP side. Mitt Romney agreed to meet with me in person, but I had to fly Montana to meet him at the GOP state convention, and the understanding was I had only 20 minutes. (Possible translation, they must have bet I wouldn’t be able to fly out. But if that’s true, they were wrong. We had a good hook we really wanted to pursue.) Romney gave me better access once I got there. We went on for half an hour. With McCain, he agreed to talk with me by phone for 12 minutes shortly before an appearance in Denver. (McCain also met with our full board for an hour in the general. I joined the board shortly after the 2008 GOP Convention.) Huckabee’s camp never even returned my calls and messages. I didn’t reach out to the others.

 On the Democratic side. I got to talk, by phone, with Obama for six minutes. Can you imagine asking questions when you know up from the clock is running and you only have six minutes? If you ask a good question, the politician can just ramble out the clock. Never connected with Hillary.

 In none of the above cases did we publish the full interview, though I tried to make use of as many good quotes as possible. Newsprint is expensive. Our news hole, the space available for stories, has gotten much tighter over the years. Could I have published the transcription online? Sure, but a lot of the time the full interview isn’t that interesting. Politicians are difficult to pin down. They say a lot of things that don’t really mean anything. The tighter the race or the more delicate the issue, they do everything they can to avoid a clear answer.

Plunkett later added: “Though I said often that the interviews include a lot of painful filibustering, that’s not always the case, of course. The McCain interview impressed everyone at the table. Though we didn’t endorse him as a board, we remarked to ourselves that the John McCain we met was much better, more like the old McCain, than his handlers let him be on the trail and in debates. So looking back, that’s an interview we could’ve published, at least online.”

I’m hoping The Post posts videos of all its so-called endorsement interviews online, where partial video transcripts have been placed in the past.

For more Statesman interviews, which have appeared in recent couple years, (e.g. Dick Wadhams, Pat Waak, Dean Singleton, Josh Penry, Hank Brown, Bob Beauprez and Federico Peña) click here.

If Norton says she cut Health Dept. budget, reporters should say it increased

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Last week, I was all set to rag on The Denver Post for paraphrasing a statement by gubernatorial candidate Jane Norton but neglecting to inform us that she had her facts wrong.

As a reporter, you don’t want to offer up false or misleading information from a candidate without setting the record straight. In this case, last week, The Post reported:

Norton touted her record heading the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment under Gov. Bill Owens, saying she cut her own budget there.

But I never got around to pointing out that, in fact, during the four years she headed the CDPHE, Norton did not cut her Department’s budget. It actually increased.

And then this week rolls around, and The Post got Norton’s CDPHE budget history right in an article Wednesday, though The Post left out some important information, which lucky for you I will provide in this blog post.

The Post reported that when Norton offers CDPHE “budget cuts as proof of her fiscal conservatism, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.”

Wednesday’s Post story states that Norton’s CDPHE budget increased during her first three years at the Dartment, and then:

Only in her last year was the general fund budget cut …- from about $32 million to $16.2 million.

That year, state lawmakers wrestled with a small shortfall sparked by a recession right after 9/11, and it was the first time state revenues fell short of previous years since 1981.

In an impressive bit of reporting, The Post quotes former state Sen. Dave Owen, a Republican who sat on the Joint Budget Committee when Norton headed CDPHE, as saying that Norton didn’t cut the general-fund budget at the time. He says Gov. Bill Owens or the budget committee forced the cut on Norton.

But The Post rightfully points out that this hasn’t stopped Norton from claiming, repeatedly, that she cut the general-fund  budget, quoting Norton as saying, “When I was head of the CDPHE, I cut my budget by 28 percent.” 

But even if you, as a reporter, think budget-maven Owen got it wrong, and you accept that Norton actually cut her general-fund budget during one of the four years she headed CDPHE, you still have deal with the fact that, under Norton, the overall CDPHE budget rose.

In Wednesday’s article, The Post should have stated more clearly, like reporters at 9News  and Fox 31 did previously, that in addition to the general-fund part of the CDPHE budget, there are also two other portions: federal allocations and cash funds.

The Post reported, correctly, that “federal allocations during [Norton’s] tenure from 1999 to 2002 increased from $147 million to $162 million.” So it’s clear from The Post piece that Norton did not cut the “federal allocations” portion of her budget at all.

But The Post did not report that the “cash funds” portion of the CDPHE budget, which includes fees and fines, also rose under Norton from $56 million to $86 million.

So, overall, if you count all three portions of the CDPHE budget (general fund, federal allocations, and cash funds), you find the overall CDPHE budget actually grew under Norton, as Fox 31 reported,  starting at $226.5 million when Norton took over and finishing at $269.5 when she left.

It’s the overall CDPHE budget numbers, which rose by over $40 million under Norton, that reporters should use to assess Norton’s claim that she cut the CDPHE budget when she headed the agency.

Norton has argued that she only had control of the general-fund portion of the CDPHE budget. But reporters shouldn’t allow Norton to point to the general-fund portion  of the CDPHE budget, which Owen told The Post Norton didn’t want to cut at the time anyway, and claim she has a record of budget cutting at CDPHE.

Norton had four years to find a way to cut the other parts of the CDPHE  too, the”cash” and “federal” portions. She didn’t do it. She claims that she had no power to do this, but before believing her, a reporter, like a Tea Party activist, would want to see proof that she tried…-and failed…-to  reject federal funds, for example, or to find mechanisms that would reduce revenue from fees and fines, revenue that she did not complain about spending, as Department head.

I mean, no one recalls Norton complaining, like some governors have done regarding stimulus funding, that she was forced to spend the cash her department got from the feds.  Ditto with the fines and fees. She didn’t object to spending the money, as far as we know.

Clearly, you can look at the facts about the CDPHE budget in different ways, but in the end, the fairest way to cut through the clutter is to look at the bottom line.

If Norton continues to claim that she trimmed the Colorado Department of Health’s budget, or its general fund, reporters should inform us, simply, that under Norton the Colorado Department of Health’s budget actually increased.

We need Pols and Post

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Here’s an exchange on Colorado Pols about The Denver Post’s decision to threaten legal action against Pols:

Jason Salzman:  free content

You can understand why The Post would want to try to protect its news content, even if it’s being offered for free.

It’s one thing to read a article from Westword for free. It’s another to put it on your website and generate ad revenue from people who go to  your website because they know they’ll get to read good stuff from Westword.

I’m not saying Pols is making a killing at the expense of the Denver Post, but theoretically opinion blogs could make money doing this–while fewer people would subscribe to the journalistic outfits like The Post or even click through to their websites.

So if you own The Post, you’re not likely going to want to stand around and watch others give away your content for free, even if you’re giving it away for free yourself on your website. You’re going to want to draw people to your website somehow, by asking others to respect “fair use” of your content. The Post went beyond this in its letter, of course, trying to ban Pols from all quotation, but you can understand the Post’s motivation.

Colorado Pols: But that is an incorrect theory
As we wrote above, our success (or failure) is entirely unrelated to whether or not we cite material from a particular news outlet. That’s not just our opinion, either. We haven’t linked to the Post for six weeks now, and our traffic hasn’t decreased.The idea that blogs succeed on the backs of traditional news outlets is a canard. It makes for a perfectly reasonable theory, but it doesn’t prove accurate in application.
Jason Salzman: I think you’re right that you can succeed at this point [after years of relying more on outlets like The Post] without traditional news outlets.

But still, your readers and everyone else are better off if both Pols and The Denver Post exist and thrive because The Post does reporting/journalism that benefits society, is often not found elsewhere, and makes the content on Pols more informed and stronger.

And the freewheeling debate/discussion/gossip (and some reporting) on Pols makes our feeble political culture stronger–and The Post healthier too in the end.

So what we need is both Pols and The Denver Post. But instead we have a battle between Pols and The Denver Post.

I’m not blaming Pols for being pissed. Like I said, it’s a shame the Post apparently sent in the lawyers without more effort at reconciliation–and took the hostile no-quotation-at-all stance. Makes it look like The Post is desperate, which is probably the case.

Hit with legal threat, Colorado Pols will stop quoting and linking to Post

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Dear Denver Post

Don’t mess with us, because you’re irrelevant, and getting more so by the day.

So you can take your bizarre threat to sue us if we quote any Denver Post article and wrap a dead editor in it.

We won’t quote your articles. We won’t link to your articles. And it won’t matter, as far as we’re concerned. There’s plenty of other news out there for us to discuss, much of it duplicating what The Post reports. We’ll continue to get our 617,661 page views each month without you.

But, please understand that by attacking us like you’ve done you’re actually digging your own grave–and we’ll help push you there by never linking to your little articles–even though you’re happy to let us link to you, you hypocrite.

Thanks, and good luck.

Colorado Pols

That’s a summary of a letter from Colorado Pols, the great Colorado political blog, to a letter from The Denver Post and other media companies asking Pols to stop quoting news articles or face a lawsuit. The Post letter claimed that any unauthorized quotation by Pols amounted to theft.

In its response, Pols claims that The Post never really tried to work things out–before dropping the legal bomb. That’s a shame for The Post, which needs web traffic and buzz from Pols, and for Pols’ readers, who won’t have the convenience of a quick click to a Post article. That’s an inconvenience that could add up because The Post is still the biggest journalism game in the state by far, reporting lots of political news that’s not found anywhere else.

How great would it have been if somehow, some way The Post (old media) and Pols (new media) could have announced today a deal to support each other. And maybe this could have served as a national model. Maybe such a deal could have been struck.

But instead, the battle lines are drawn, despite the “respect” that Pols rightfully has for “print newsrooms,” as acknoledged in its letter. As it is, Pols’ response could serve as a national model for how blogs will battle cranky old media, like The Post.

The Pols letter is a must-read for journalism observers. It’s funny and spot-on for the most part, but like a good blog, it goes over the top as well.

Anyway, it’s a sad day for journalism in Denver, but it probably won’t matter in one, two, three years from now, when the political reporting at The Post will probably be much much weaker than it is today, if it exists at all.

Asked about budget cuts, Norton discusses budget transfer

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

On KVOR radio in Colorado Springs June 19, talk show host Jeff Crank tossed this question at GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton:

“You know, people get frustrated because politicians run and say well, yeah, I don’t know about the Department of Education and things like that. I don’t know if we can kill it. It’s like, nobody’s bold enough to want to make the tough decisions and do it. Where are some cuts that you would make in spending to get us to a balanced budget?”

It’s a fair question from a right-wing host, and here’s Norton’s response:

“Jeff, I have talked about looking at Departments like Education, block granting the money to the states, rather than this huge bureaucracy of 5,000 people.”

Crank’s been around long enough to know that transferring money from the Department of Education to block grants for the states doesn’t save the feds any money. Yet, Crank didn’t ask Norton to explain how you balance the federal budget by moving money form one corner of the budget to another.

To be fair, in response to Crank’s question, Norton recited some other money-saving ideas, like stopping earmarks. But transferring money out of the Education Department was among her biggest money-saving notions, even though this wouldn’t save any money.

You’d think Crank’s ears would have also tuned into Norton’s statement that she’s “looking” at the Education Department, not pledging to cut it, which is a different position than she’s expressed in the past, and it may put her in the category of waffling politicians whom Crank says he’s frustrated with. If Crank were to visit Norton’s website to seek assurance that she won’t leave him frustrated about the Education Department in the future, he won’t find solice there. I couldn’t find any mention of cutting the Department of Education on Norton’s web site.

Instead of calling Norton on this, all Crank could say to Norton was, “Thanks for all you do and good luck on the campaign trail.”

Maybe other frustrated right-wing talk show hosts on the campaign trail will pursue the question further with Norton and give us some clarity.