Howard Kurtz gets TNR’s Franklin Foer on the line to chat about “Scott Thomas.” Foer, disappointingly, offers snark instead of substantive answers to the many questions swirling around New Republic’s “Baghdad Diarist.”

As the criticism mounts, Foer says he sees an ideological agenda.

“A lot of the questions raised by the conservative blogosphere boil down to, would American soldiers be capable of doing things like the things described in the diarist. The practical jokes are exceptionally mild compared to things that have been documented by the U.S. military. Conservative bloggers make a bit of a living denying any bad news that emanates from Iraq.”

That’s demonstrably not true, Mr. Foer. It is, however, true beyond the shadow of a doubt that liberal pundits and blogs make a handsome living off denying any good news that emanates from Iraq and playing up any bad news that comes from Iraq. Have you heard Jack Murtha acknowledge that he grossly overstated the Haditha case? Have you read the post in which Glenn Greenwald acknowledges the “Anbar awakening?” Didn’t think so. Murtha’s too busy stuffing his face with pork and Greenwald is too busy writing impenetrable posts about his bestseller to bother acknowledging reality.

And it’s true that there are enough holes in “Scott Thomas'” writings to drive a Bradley through. That’s what started the criticism in the first place.

It’s also not true that the criticism boils down to “would American soldiers be capable of doing things like the things described in the diarist”? We all know that humans are capable of great monstrosity and Americans aren’t exempt from that. The criticism in this case boils down to how well do the allegations published by TNR stand up to scrutiny based on verifiable facts. And the allegations don’t hold up too well. It’s still possible that “Scott Thomas” actually experienced everything that he claims; Foer’s two public statements on the matter do absolutely nothing to suggest that he’s seriously looking into the matter and that he is treating the criticism that’s been leveled at “Thomas” fairly. He’s playing defense by going on offense, not by basic fact-finding.

Given Foer’s smear as quoted by Kurtz, he should not be be trusted when he comes out in a few days or weeks and says “It’s all true. I can’t show you any evidence or introduce you to a single corroborating witness, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.” No sale. Foer has done nothing to earn anyone’s trust, and his magazine has a peculiar history that mandates a very careful and thorough investigation and a very honest and complete rendering of a verdict. It doesn’t look like we’ll get that from Foer.

What Foer and TNR will get if they hunker down and keep lashing out at legitimate criticism is some nutroots cred for publishing smears of US troops in combat. Sad to say, that may be the end goal here.

Update (AP): The public affairs office at FOB Falcon is skeptical, to say the least.