Monday, March 29, 2004

A few days I trashed Romesh Ratnesar of Time, but now they're back at it again.

How this for spin?

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—who saw al-Qaeda expand under his watch, attack U.S. interests abroad and produce the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history—knew he couldn't pin the blame on his bosses if he didn't start by apologizing himself. So he prepared his words carefully. At 3 a.m. on the day of his testimony, "I got up and went down to my study and actually typed the words out so I wouldn't forget," he told TIME.

Yes, clearly saying in public, under oath, "I failed" is an attempt to pass the buck. But wait, it gets better. After describing Clarke's statement as "...language that struck some people as melodramatic," Time resorts to outright lying a couple of paragraphs later.

If Clarke's assault was effective, it was partly because he used the tools of an old warrior, surprise and preparation. First he produced a closely guarded book more than a year in the making, Against All Enemies, whose revelations he unveiled on 60 Minutes three days before his testimony, broadcast live on the cable networks.

Aside from the fact that the timeline is wrong (Clarke resigned in January 2003, and the book was in the White House's hands by October) who, precisely, was the contents of the book 'closely guarded' from? He had a legal obligation to supply the White House with a copy prior to publication, for pity's sake!

Later in the piece they print Frist's perjury accusation without mentioning that he backed off it immediately afterwards, instead supplying "A number of Democrats who had heard Clarke's 2002 testimony came to his defense, saying they heard nothing then that was at odds with what he is saying now," -- a subtle way of further painting Clarke with a partisan brush (i.e. only Democrats defend him against the perjury charge).

Only after all that crap do they bother examining Clarke's actual contentions, and conclude that he is correct when he says the Bush administration wasn't terribly worried about al Qaeda, or terrorism in general, prior to 9/11.

In a very slight defense of Time the organization I will say that the article has three bylines, and looks to have been cobbled together from different pieces. But leading with the Clarke smears sends a very clear signal, even if they do get around to admitting Clarke knows what he's talking about at the bottom of the page.

To say I'm repulsed would be an understatement.

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