There is no end to the stupid

I particularly enjoy the excruciating stupidity of the American media when it strikes its “deep expertise” pose. I’ve been reading up on astronomy, they say, and I wonder how, as president, you’d deal with the way the sun orbits around the earth.

For instance, here’s Charlie Gibson, moderating the recent Democratic debate in New Hampshire:

CHARLIE GIBSON: I want to go to another question. And it really is the central one in my mind in nuclear terrorism. The next president of the United States may have to deal with a nuclear attack on an American city. I’ve read a lot about this in recent days. The best nuclear experts in the world say there’s a 30 percent chance in the next 10 years.

One thing Gibson didn’t do when he “read a lot about this” was TO READ ANYTHING. If you feel like reading the study he’s referring to yourself (pdf), you’ll find that:

1. The question wasn’t whether there would be nuclear terrorism in a U.S. city. Rather, it was “In your opinion, what is the probability (expressed as a percentage) of an attack involving a nuclear explosion occurring somewhere in the world in the next 10 years?” I.e., they were asked about the use of nuclear weapons anywhere by anyone, including by governments or outside the US or both.

2. The mean response was 29.2%. However, the median was lower, at 20%.

3. Among the 85 “best nuclear experts in the world” surveyed was Robert Joseph, a notorious hardliner who was on the National Security Council for four years before replacing John Bolton as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Joseph supervised the section on Iraq’s WMD in the 2003 State of the Union, and was responsible for the uranium-from-Africa claim.

Others inhabit the Bush administration’s Dr. Strangelove-flavored penumbra. There’s Richard Allen, who’s on the Defense Advisory Board; Frank Carlucci, of the Carlyle Group and Project for a New American Century; and James Woolsey, Patrick Clawson, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Fred Ikle, all well-known for their role with PNAC and similar places.

GIBSON: Really, the central question in my mind is feet. I’ve been reading a lot about feet in recent days. And the best experts in the world say people each have nine feet. What would you do about this as president?

AND: On the same general subject, Sam Husseini makes a much more important point.