So the Seattle Times political department spent yesterday doing two things. The first part of the day involved smirking about a story 'journalist' Emily Heffter was about to publish making false claims about Burner's Harvard degree. The attitude was probably something along the lines of Boo-ya! This was Heffter's Watergate, she busted that Darcy doin' lots of exagerrating. The editors probably said something like, nice job, Emily, you sure showed that you're no liberal media. Do more of that and you may get a raise, and by that we mean your buyout package might be larger when we lay you off.
The second part involved walking that story back out of sheer embarrassment, changing the headline, and acting defensively towards the various academic, ex-students and ex-faculty who pointed out how obviously this journalist and the Seattle Times editors had been punked by Reichert. And indeed, we found out today that's what happened, from Melissa Santos of the Tacoma News Tribune (a somewhat conservative paper) in a post titled 'Reichert camp "shocked" about Burner education claim ... or are they?'
Reichert spokeswoman Amanda Halligan, who posted on this blog (hi Amanda), was revealed as an obvious liar.
Halligan said the campaign has been stretching the truth about Burner's degree to say the ex-Microsoft manager is more qualified than Reichert to deal with the economic problems plaguing America. Voters should now know that's not the case, Halligan said.
She added that the Reichert campaign was "completely shocked" by the revelation in today's Seattle Times.
But Reichert questioned the legitimacy of Burner's claims in a phone interview with me Oct. 10, more than two weeks ago.
He was criticizing Burner for proposing her own plans to fix the economy and withdraw from Iraq, areas he said are outside her realm of expertise.
"She's not only a computer science major from Harvard, she's now an economics major," Reichert said. "And she's also a general."
So Reichert himself was pushing the story two weeks ago to various journalists, Heffter meekly served her role as stenographer, and then Reichert's campaign professed to have learned of it today. Ok then. No one could have predicted that uncritically reporting Republican opposition research on an obviously falsifiable hit job would backfire.
Meanwhile, ex-Dean Harry Lewis points out that Darcy didn't just study economics, she studied non-wussy economics.
I'm the professor and ex-dean who was quoted in the story, and as it happens, also the guy who wrote the CS degree requirements. At the time Darcy was at Harvard, she would have needed, as part of her CS degree requirements, several courses in a technical specialization area related to CS. She fulfilled that CS degree requirement by specializing in Economics (which meant, by the way, that she couldn't have taken just the easy, non-mathematical Ec courses). So it's not exactly a minor (which we didn't have then, though we do now), and it's also not anything that the registrar would be able to certify (because it's an internal requirement of the computer science faculty). But it's something everyone getting a degree in CS had to do (though other students would have other specialties). The way Darcy is describing herself is accurate.
And Matt Yglesias, who went to Harvard as well, chimed in.
Harvard, as you know, is old and fancy. Consequently, it has a lot of old and fancy terminology and procedures that differ somewhat from the American norm. They don't, for example, have "teaching assistants" (TAs) instead they have "teaching fellows" (TFs). You don't live in a "dorm" you live in a "house." Instead of "RAs" there are "proctors" and "tutors." And instead of "majors" there are "concentrations." If I want to communicate some fact about my college experience in a normal way, however, I'll say that "when I was in college I majored in philosophy, Walid Hussein TAed two of my classes, and my dorm was near Noch's." By the same token, there are no minors at Harvard. What Burner did is the Harvard equivalent of doing a joint degree in computer science and economics, though it's not technically called that and the process (which would involve taking an adequate number of economics courses and then writing a thesis that bridges both subjects) is probably somewhat different from what you might find elsewhere. That she chose not to give a tediously detailed description of the academic procedures of her undergraduate institution is just common sense.