Opposition research (often referred to as oppo) is:
- The term used to classify and describe efforts of supporters or paid consultants of a political candidate to legally investigate the biographical, legal or criminal, medical, educational, financial, public and private administrative and or voting records of the opposing candidate, as well as prior media coverage. The research is usually conducted in the time period between announcement of intent to run and the actual election; however political parties maintain long-term databases that can cover several decades. The practice is both a tactical maneuver and a cost-saving measure.
- Opposition research may also refer to illegal or unethical means of gathering potentially damaging information on candidates, such as accessing credit reports, wiretapping, theft of files, hacking computer files, and interviewing ex-spouses.
- "Vulnerability studies" occur in the 'prebuttal' phase of campaign development, when a candidate's political consultants will amass files of potentially damaging information on their own clients, to prepare pre-emptive strategies for rebuttal at a later date.
- Research conducted, at the request of an incumbent office-holder, often by the same staff who conducted campaign research, against political opponents or dissenters. The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits the use of public office for partisan political advocacy, but often the same staff who once researched private information about opponents are placed in positions of proximity to confidential government files.
- Research on the activities of opponents conducted on behalf of advocacy groups, political action committees, churches, labor unions, management of corporations, or sports teams, as well as private individuals. Opposition researchers may work exclusively for one candidate or many, one group, or many groups that share ideologies and financial interests, or the highest bidder. Opposition research has also played a role in confirmation of nominees to the Supreme Court, and other presidential appointments.
- Demographic research into the habits, behavior, and histories of voters likely to cast ballots for opponents, as the means to the end of voter suppression.
Origins and history
- In the 1st century B.C., Cicero is said to have gathered information that was damaging to opponents and using it in attacks against them. He accused one political opponent, Cataline, of murdering one wife to make room for another. He attacked Mark Antony in speeches known as the Philippics, eventually prompting Antony to chop off his head and right hand and display them at the Roman Forum.
- Opposition research also has its origins in military planning, as evident in such ancient texts as The Art of War, published in the 5th century B.C. by Sun Tzu. This manual for warriors describes the necessity for understanding an opponent's weaknesses, for using spies, and for striking in moments of weakness.
- In 18th century England, opposition research took the form of scandalmongering pamphlet wars between the Whig and Tory parties. Writers such as Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and Henry Fielding participated, often writing under assumed names. This tradition of robust attack was replicated later in the American colonies, when writers such as Thomas Paine or Benjamin Franklin conducted opposition research and published their results.
- The first appearance of the phrase "opposition research" in the New York Times occurred on December 17, 1971, in an article that describes the infiltration of the Edmund Muskie presidential campaign by a female Republican volunteer: "...an article appeared in a Washington newspaper describing the 'opposition research' program at Republican headquarters...
- Opposition research became systematized in the 1970s when Ken Khachigian, in the Nixon Administration suggested that the GOP keep files on individuals as insurance against future races, rather than "scramble" in an ad hoc fashion race by race.
Methods in the United States
Opposition research differs immensely depending on the size and funding of a campaign, the ethics of the candidate, and the era in which it is conducted. Information gathering can be classified into three main categories: open-source research enabled by the Freedom of Information Act, covert operations or "tradecraft, " and maintenance of human systems of informants. Increasingly, data-mining of electronic records is used. Information is then stored for future use, and disseminated in a variety of ways. A local election sometimes has a staff member dedicated to reading through all of the opponents' public statements and their voting records; others initiate whisper campaigns that employ techniques of disinformation or "black ops" to deliberately mislead the public by advancing a pre-determined "narrative" that will present the opponent in a negative light. Another technique is to infiltrate the opposition's operations and position a paid informant there. "Gray propaganda" techniques are often used to release damaging information to news media outlets without its source being identified properly, a technique inherited from disinformation tactics employed by intelligence agencies such as the OSS during World War II. Yet another technique is to position information or personnel within media outlets. Often the information is video footage gathered in campaign-funded "tracker programs" wherein videographers use candidates' itineraries to track them and record as many remarks as possible, since anything they say can and will be used against them, as was the cased in former Senator George Allen's "macaca moment. "Far from being detached observers, reporters constantly call oppo staffs looking for tidbits and sometimes trading information," wrote three reporters, Matthew Cooper, Gloria Borger, and Michael Barone, for U.S. News & World Report in 1992.
File-sharing between operatives of political parties is quite common. In the 2008 presidential election, a dossier of opposition research against Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin was posted in its entirety on a political blog site, Politico.com. The file was compiled by the staff of her opponent in the 2006 Alaska gubernatorial race, Tony Knowles.
"Oppo dumps" are used by political campaigns to systemtatically supply files of damaging information to press outlets, including matters of the public record, video footage from party archives and private collections, as well as private intelligence gathered by operatives. Many prime time television and radio news commentaries rely on this supply of party-generated material because it is free, and therefore more cost-effective than paying investigative reporters.
Congressional and presidential opposition research is often conducted by or funded by a political party, lobbying group, political action committee (PAC), or a 527 group that coalesces around a certain issue. In the U.S., both the Republican and Democratic parties employ full-time "Directors of Research" and maintain databases on opponents. In recent years the task of opposition research has been privatized in many areas. Full time companies with permanent staff specializing in media productions or "grassroots" operations have replaced volunteers and campaign officials. Political media consultants may also opt for astroturfing techniques, which simulate wide popular appeal for a candidate's platform.
Candidates and incumbents who employ opposition research often choose to remain uninformed about operations and tactics, to insure plausible deniability should criminal charges be brought against researchers.
In U.S. presidential elections
- Opponents of Andrew Jackson in the 1824 and 1828 presidential elections unearthed his marriage records to imply that he was an "adulterer" for marrying Rachel Robards before she was legally divorced from her first husband. Jackson had married her in 1791 on the strength of a statement from her husband that he had divorced her; Jackson had two wedding ceremonies, the not-recognizable one of 1791 and the legally corrective one of 1794. His political opponents used this information decades later against him, and he fought many duels over his wife's "honor." Rachel Robards died before Jackson took office in his first term; he maintained that the stress of the opposition had killed her.
- In 1858, William Herndon, the law partner of Abraham Lincoln, did research in the Illinois State Library to collect "all the ammunition Mr. Lincoln saw fit to gather" to prepare for the run against Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 presidential race.
- In preparation for Ronald Reagan’s debate with President Jimmy Carter in the presidential race 1980, Reagan’s campaign staff acquired under mysterious circumstances a 200-page briefing book, including information on Carter’s strategy, which staffers David Stockman and David Gergen had used to prepare Reagan. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department investigated to see how the information had been obtained by the Reagan camp. Two law professors filed suit in federal district court in Washington to request a special investigation, based on the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. Carter’s staff believed the book to have been stolen from the White House, but the inquiry did not uncover any credible evidence that any law had been violated. The House of Representatives conducted its own investigation, and concluded in a 2,314 page report that the Reagan staff had two copies of the book, one from Reagan’s campaign director William J. Casey, future head of the Central Intelligence Agency. James A. Baker III attributed the acquisition of the documents to Casey, who claimed to know nothing about them, and an analysis of Carter campaign documents found in the “Afghanistan” files of Reagan aide David Gergen indicated they came from three White House offices: the National Security Council, Vice President Walter Mondale and Domestic Adviser Stuart Eizenstat. Many years afterward, Carter himself stated in a PBS interview that the book had been taken by columnist George Will, but Will denied it, calling Carter "a recidivist liar.
- Lee Atwater is considered to be the "father" of modern aggressive "oppo" techniques. Atwater, who honed his style working for the South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, worked for the Republican National Committee in the 1988 presidential campaign, for which dozens of volunteers staffed three shifts around the clock to feed the then-burgeoning 24-hour news cycle. On Atwater's watch, the now-infamous “Willie Horton” ads crafted by Floyd Brown turned voters away from Michael Dukakis and towards George H. W. Bush, although Atwater and Bush were protected by plausible deniability in the incident. Academic research into the Bush archives decades later revealed that a Bush staffer, Candice Strother, had released a dossier of information on Willie Horton to Elizabeth Fediay, of the non-profit group that contracted for the ad. Willie Horton was an African-American convicted felon released on a weekend furlough during Governor Dukakis’s tenure, and went on a killing rampage. Atwater is also credited with originating "push polls" and "whisper campaigns" that use disinformation strategies to alienate voters from opponents. A biography of Atwater, quotes him as saying in an interview toward the end of his life that he regretted some of his less ethical techniques
- In the 1992 presidential campaign, Republicans reported that they spent $6 million on a "state of the art (opposition research) war machine" to investigate Bill Clinton, who was running against George H. W. Bush. In the same election, the Clinton campaign paid more than $100,000 to a private investigator to look into allegations about Clinton's womanizing, investigating more than two dozen women.
- In the 2000 presidential election, longtime opposition researcher and Nixon loyalist Roger Stone was recruited by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III to oversee the recount of the disputed Presidential election in Miami-Dade County in 2000. Stone is credited with organizing the street demonstrations and eventual shut-down of the recount in that pivotal county.
- In the 2004 presidential race, Chris Lehane, a Democratic opposition researcher attracted notoriety and built a reputation not for deploying his skills against Republican opponents, but for using them against other Democrats in the primary races. Working for retired Army general Wesley Clark, Lehane sought to establish a media "narrative" that Howard Dean was hypocritical and dishonest, based on surveys of his administrative archive as governor of Vermont.
- A protege of Atwater's, Karl Rove, is considered to be the "architect" of George W. Bush's election to the governor's office in Texas, and to the presidency in 2000 and 2004. In the 2000 race, Rove is credited with masterminding the push poll that initiated the "John McCain has a black love child" whisper campaign in South Carolina. Anonymous telephone pollsters, upon determining that a voter was pro-McCain, asked the question, "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered a black child out of wedlock?" The question was not overt slander, but it prompted the president of Bob Jones University to launch his own internet campaign against McCain, and succeeded in crippling the trust of voters McCain had attracted. The Bush camp knew, as the general public did not, that in reality, John McCain is the adoptive father of a dark-skinned Bangladeshi refugee who was rescued by his wife Cindi.
Opposition research conducted from the White House
- Franklin Roosevelt Administration: In 1940, the White House accidentally taped a conversation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt instructing a lower level aide to disseminate a rumor about his opponent Wendell Willkie having an extramarital affair: "We can't have any of our principal speakers refer to it, but the people down the line can get it out.
- Johnson Administration: In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent 30 FBI agents to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., to avert assassination attempts, and to monitor his political rival Robert Kennedy and civil rights activists. Johnson later also placed his Republican challenger, Barry Goldwater, under FBI surveillance, with a federal wiretap.
- Nixon Administration: During the Richard Nixon administration, White House staffers compiled lists of names of political opponents, journalists who had criticized Nixon, and artists and actors (such as Jane Fonda and Paul Newman) who had dissented with Nixon policy, especially on the subject of Vietnam, with the intent of prompting Internal Revenue Service investigations. The full extent of Nixon's surveillance of private citizens solely on the basis of their dissent was not known until years after Nixon was forced to resign, as former staff members such as Charles Colson and John Dean began to disclose details. Nixon's Enemies List is the informal name of what started as a list of President Richard Nixon’s major political opponents compiled by Charles Colson, written by George T. Bell  (assistant to Colson, special counsel to the White House) and sent in memorandum form to John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list was part of a campaign officially known as “Opponents List” and “Political Enemies Project.” The official purpose, as described by the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the IRS, and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.”
- Ford Administration: During the Gerald Ford presidency, Deputy Assistant Dick Cheney suggested in a now infamous memo to Donald Rumsfeld that the White House use the United States Justice Department to conduct opposition research and retaliate against political opponents and critical journalists such as Seymour Hersh and the New York Times, arguing that the executive branch had the power to prosecute journalists as they saw fit, under the provisions of the Espionage Act of 1917.
- Reagan Administration: In 1984, during the Ronald Reagan presidency, the Republican National Committee formed The Opposition Research Group, with its own budget of $1.1 million. These staff amassed information on eight Democratic presidential candidates based on data from voting records, Congressional Record speeches, media clippings and transcripts, campaign materials, all of which was stored on a computer for easy access. In this way Reagan was able to track inconsistencies and attack them. This original data base evolved into a network that linked information gleaned by Republicans in all 50 states, creating a master data base accessible to high-ranking Republican staff, even aboard Air Force One.
- Clinton Administration: During the Bill Clinton administration, the "Filegate" scandal erupted when White House staffers said to be acting on the directions of First Lady Hillary Clinton improperly accessed 500 FBI files compiled for security checks of Reagan and Bush staffers in previous administrations. Craig Livingstone, said to be hired by Mrs. Clinton with dubious credentials, resigned amid public outcry. In testimony under oath during the Kenneth Starr special prosecutor's investigation, Mrs. Clinton stated that she had neither hired Livingstone nor improperly perused the files.
- George W. Bush Administration: Two former opposition researchers for the RNC appointed to Justice Department posts, Timothy Griffin and Monica Goodling, were implicated in efforts to use data collected on Democratic-appointed federal attorneys as ground for dismissal. See Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy. See also Karl Rove.
Opposition research and the U.S. Supreme Court
- In 1916, after President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis for the Supreme Court, "concerned" citizens sought to block his confirmation offered information that Brandeis was a "radical Zionist" even though he was not a practicing Jew. Brandeis aggressively outmaneuvered his detractors by mounting his own opposition research efforts, including a carefully constructed chart that exposed the social and financial connections of the group, mostly from Boston's Back Bay, and including Harvard president Lawrence Lowell, as well as a group headed by former President William Howard Taft and a host of American Bar Association past presidents. Brandeis sent the chart to Walter Lippman at the New Republic who penned an editorial condemning "the most homogeneous, self-centered, and self-complacent community in the United States." Brandeis was confirmed after four months of hearings, in a Senate vote of 47-22.
- On July 7, 2005, soon after the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Democratic National Committee gathered and ciruclated information on the "anti-civil rights" and "anti-immigrant" rulings of Samuel A. Alito, Jr., by then nominated by President George W. Bush to replace her. Upon inspection, the documents were revealed to have been amended by Devorah Adler, research director for the DNC. Alito's "record" had been pointedly altered to present him in a negative light. While the incident was not unusual, it received publicity in prominent places because it drew attention to the "meta-data" that is often unwittingly stored in documents that are altered and forwarded electronically.
Opposition research conducted by U.S. states
See Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.
In State Elections
During Lamar Alexander's 2002 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Alexander's campaign staff received an anonymous mailing of a photograph of opponent Bill Clement obviously serving as a board member of a failed bank whose owners had been imprisoned for bank fraud. When the Alexander campaign raised the issue of Clement's financial ties with the convicted felons, Clement denied any connection. When the Alexander campaign produced the photograph as evidence, Clement claimed his role was only an informal advisory one.
Opposition Research and Mass media ethics
- In 1992, Floyd Brown headed up the Presidential Victory Committee, which backed the candidacy of George H. W. Bush. CBS Evening News reported that Floyd Brown was observed to be in the company of NBC news producer Ira Silverman as they stalked the family of Susan Coleman, a former law student of Bush's opponent Bill Clinton. Coleman had committed suicide, and Brown was attempting to disseminate a rumor that she had had an affair with Clinton. Brown and associate David Bossie reportedly stalked the family of a suicide victim. In April 1992, 30 news organizations received "an anonymous and untraceable letter" by fax "claiming Clinton had had an affair with a former law student who committed suicide 15 years ago." Floyd Brown attempted to link Clinton to the 1977 suicide of this, "emotionally distraught young woman, seven-months pregnant," Susan Coleman. The Bush-Quayle campaign eventually filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Brown, seeking to distance itself from his tactics. The group had filed its intent to air the ad with the Republican Party, and Bush's campaign director James A. Baker III, who waited 25 days before responding to the letter, after the ad had been airing continuously. Brown has said of the incident, "If they were really interested in stopping this, do you think they would have waited that long to send us a letter? The practice of using tips from sources such as Brown was examined in 1994 by Howard Kurtz, media analyst for the Washington Post. Kurtz surveyed the major networks, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and other influential media outlets, and found varying levels of "use" of Brown's "information" on David Hale as a witness in the Whitewater controversy. At this time, Brown confirmed that he had been the source of four mainstream media "stories" that had received attention from the Columbia Journalism Review because they bore striking resemblance to the opposition research being disseminated by Citizens United. In 2008, Floyd unveiled a new attack ad against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, on the Fox News network, while also appearing as a "real estate investor" commenting on the mortgage fraud crisis.
- In the spring of 2008, Karl Rove became a paid employee of the Fox News channel, and within weeks, that network began running looped video footage of excerpted sermons presidential hopeful Barack Obama's Chicago minister, in an effort to cripple the trust of Obama supporters. At the same time in his commentary, Rove praised John McCain for adopting Bridget, as if he were introducing the subject to the public for the first time, without reference to Rove's role in the "whisper campaign" he conducted for the George W. Bush campaign in the 2000 presidential race, in the form of a push poll that made reference to John McCain's "black child" without explaining the adoption.
Opposition research and public opinion in the United States
The most common, populist understanding of "opposition research" is information gathered about the opposition candidate or group that's then used to create attack ads and other forms of negative campaigning or dirty tricks. And this is indeed one common use of opposition research. Much of the "opposition research" that's used for negative ads isn't legitimate research at all, but merely rumor and unverified allegations, "whisper" campaigns often used "virally" via the internet.
Opposition research earned a bad reputation in political and popular circles in recent times, and much of this reputation is deserved. Like anything, opposition research can be – and often is – misused. But in the majority of cases (the infamous "Swift Boat" incident from the 2004 campaign being one of the most famous) what's termed "opposition research" appears to be undergoing a change in connotation, from positive to negative.
The Atwater-Rove style drew sharp scrutiny and criticism, and opened a new venue for study of executive management style, as scholars sought to examine to what extent incumbent politicians who used "black ops" to gain power would also deploy the same staff and techniques to maintain power and control once they are elected. The public now weighs a candidate's viability by how they conduct their campaigns, and to many voters, a negative campaign means that if elected, that candidate will possibly transfer "oppo" research into retaliatory operations against dissenters. Polls conducted by Pew in the days after the 2004 presidential election indicated that 72% of voters perceived a dramatic increase in negative campaign tactics, and that only about 30% felt they were justified. In the race for the 2008 presidency, opinion polls seem to indicate that negative campaigns based on opposition research-based disinformation tends to backfire as it causes voters to "tune out" of election media coverage. Poll results from the Pew Charitable Trust in April 2008 show that 50% of voters thought presidential campaigning is "too negative," up from 28% in February of 2008.
- In the 2006 election cycle, a Virginia senator, George Allen, was unseated because of videotape of the senator calling a videographer/opposition researcher as "macaca" or monkey. The name was considered to be an ethnic slur, and Allen's own opposition researcher and media consultant, Scott Howell, could not overcome the damage when the incident was broadcast widely in mainstream media and on the internet.
Political infighting and Opposition Research
- In the spring of 2007, Roger Stone, a political consultant in the employ of New York state senator Joseph Bruno, was forced to resign after leaving threatening phone messages on the answering machine of the 85-year-old father of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, alleging that Spitzer's campaign finances were conducted improperly. In November of that same year, Stone sent a letter to the FBI detailing Spitzer's sexual preferences with prostitutes and sexual props, right down to his black calf-length socks. Stone was considered to be an authoritative source because he frequented the same prostitutes as a client himself. A subsequent Justice Department investigation produced evidence that ultimately led to Spitzer's resignation as governor. Joseph Bruno, Stone's client, has been a longtime political enemy of Eliot Spitzer.
Corporate/industrial opposition research
In the U.S., many private "security" firms also provide "black ops" services to clientele who may be interested in the affairs of activists to seek to hold the corporations accountable for their environmental practices or lawbreaking. For example, from the late 1990s until 2000, a group of former Secret Service agents and policemen ran Beckett Brown International, later named S21, which provided "intelligence collection" for corporate entities such as Allied Waste
, The Carlyle Group
, the National Rifle Association
, the Gallo Wine Company, Louis Dreyfus, Wal-mart
, and Monsanto
. They also worked for public relations firms engaged in assisting businesses combat negative public images, such as Dow Chemical
and Kraft Foods
. One of their clients, Condea Vista, a chemical company, had leaked millions of pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected carcinogen, into a river in Louisiana. They targeted such activist groups as Greenpeace, and listed as possible targets the National Environmental Trust
, the Center for Food Safety
, Environmental Media Services
, the Environmental Working Group
, and others.
- The Atlantic- Playing Dirty
- Sample candidate dossier
- Digging the Dirt, BBC documentary about 2000 presidential race and Hillary Clinton senatorial race
- Do-It-Yourself site for Opposition Research
- American Association of Political Consultants Code of Ethics
- Campaigns & Elections, political research journal
- opposition researcher's blog that discusses Sun Tzu's Art of War
- Youtube footage of Karl Rove and the "state of the art" opposition research data storage system in the 1972 Nixon re-election campaign
- sample of opposition research released by the Obama 2008 campaign
- Willie Horton ad, 1988.
- opposition researcher's professional blog
-  "Dirty Politics," a 4-part series originally podcast by Center for Public Integrity; includes profile of an opposition research operative
- "When they do surveys on the most reviled professions, lawyers, HMO managers, advertisers, members of Congress, used car salesmen and Barry Bonds’ nutritionist top the list. It’s always been my opinion, though, that the only reason opposition researchers aren’t on that list is that few people know we exist." Jason Stanford, December 4, 2007
- "Opposition research, if it's true, is probably 5 or 10 times more effective than paid media." James Pinkerton quoted in Center for Public Integrity's "Dirty Politics,"
- "Research is a fundamental point. We think of ourselves as the creators of the ammunition in a war. Research digs up the ammunition. We make the bullets... It's an amazing thing when you have topline producers and reporters calling you and saying 'we trust you...we need your stuff.'" (Tim Griffin, in Digging the Dirt, BBC documentary on opposition research, 2000.)
- "When oppo goes transparent, it might shrivel." (Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, November 13, 2007)
- "Being a nerd helps; if you hunger to work with people, look elsewhere." (Gary Maloney, Campaigns & Elections, 2006)
- "What's garbage today is gold years later... the trick is to catalog it, retrieve it, and connect the dots." (Director of Intelligence Project, Southern Poverty Law Center, U.S. News & World Report, September 6, 1999.)
- "Candidates will be in a fund raising frenzy to try and raise enough cash to cover the television outlets in multiple population centers of all those states. They will be spending a great deal of time in studios preparing positive life story spots with appeal to each such population center. They will be spending more time in studios with attack ads on the other candidates based on the findings of continuing "opposition research." Who got drunk? Who used drugs? Who had an affair? Who has been married multiple times and what do their exes have to say about them? Who has made a bunch of money in some quick turnaround deal that can be made to look fishy? Who has had an illegal alien mow their lawn or watch their kids, or clean their house, etc. No candidate will have enough time to present themselves to those population centers as a "real" human being with "real" ideas and a "real" set of core beliefs and principles that resonate with those voters. Some, probably most, will come across as opportunistic attack dogs who simply want the power of the presidency by persuading voters to simply deny the prize to everyone else." Jerry Fox, "The Primary Symptom is Insanity," Townhall.com, February 14, 2007.
- "[Y]ou have to plant a lot of seeds in the spring and the summer so you can capitalize on it. If you have a story that's going to hit in the middle of September, middle of October, what you really want to do is build several things that come off of the story so that it's not just a one-day hit. If the story runs on the front page of a major paper, you also want to set it up so that it hits some of the television morning shows, and from there you want to have surrogates out the next day, so that you get a second hit. On the third day, ideally, you have some additional information you've been holding back that you can feed into it, another round of stories. On the fourth or fifth day you try to hold your candidate back from saying anything, so that eventually, when he does say something about the issue, you get another round of stories. If you do it all effectively, you can basically wipe out a guy's entire week. He'll spend the entire week responding to a story that showed up on a Monday." Chris Lehane, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, June 2004.