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Saturday, February 07, 2004

Google News can be so much fun sometimes.

Look at some of these leads on the Iraq intelligence commission story:

Chicago Tribune -- Responding to bipartisan criticism of the intelligence that helped spur the United States to attack...

See, it's the intelligence that's been the target of bipartisan attacks.

Nobody on the White House's team has attacked their use of the intelligence. Nothing dishonest here. Keep it moving, nothing to see...

This next one might be my favorite.

Detroit Free Press -- President George W. Bush answered the calls Friday, naming an independent and bipartisan commission to review the way this country collects and analyzes...

Wow, how much spin can you pack into one sentence fragment?

Brr-ring. Brr-ring. "Hello?" "Dubya, this is destiny calling, son. This is your moment now. You've got to save this country from the CIA. They've strayed from the path your daddy set for 'em." "Johnny Cash? Is that you? Dick told me you were dead." "I am, son, I am." "Whoa."

I also love that 'the way this country' construction. Li'l Bushie is just trying to heal our pain!

They also forgot 'toothless' when describing the 'independent and bipartisan' committee.

Oh yeah, and the headline? "Intelligence, Truth". Is that supposed to describe the commission, or Bush himself?

Looks like the Senile Old Lady took her pills this morning.

New York Times -- It will be more than a year before the country hears the conclusions of the commission that...

That's under the headline "Administration's Message on Iraq Now Strikes Discordant Notes" which at least tosses the focus back to the administration, not the intelligence community.

Of course the international coverage is a bit, shall we say, different.

London Free Press -- Facing election-year criticism and doubts about US credibility, President George W. Bush named seven people yesterday to investigate Iraq...

That's London, Ontario, Canada of course, not London Engu-lund.

NEWS.com.au -- US President George Bush has insured himself against political fallout by ordering the independent commission into flawed weapons of mass destruction claims to...

The Aussies have the right idea about Bush's motives, anyway. Oh yeah, the headline? "Bush's ploy on WMD inquiry" Where's that instinctive cynicism on this side of the big pond?

BBC News -- By appointing an independent commission to exam the intelligence on Iraq, President Bush hopes to neutralise the issue in this year's election...

The Beeb takes the same angle as the Aussies. It's the election, stupid!

Friday, February 06, 2004

JMM wonders why no major media outlets are running with the UPI story on evidence against Libby and Hannah in l'affaire Plame. He isn't the only one.
Excerpt from a letter to Altercation:

Anyway, brother Boehlert in Salon yesterday got me thinking about my Dad and Richard Nixon.

After a scary couple of years in the North Atlantic at the beginning of WWII, my father got transferred to a ship bound for the forward areas of the Pacific. Once there, he told me he met at least three guys who claimed to have lost money playing poker with the young Lt. Nixon, who was one of the most notorious cardsharps in the Pacific Theater. (One of Bravo's True Tales Of The West Wing concerns the youthful Dick's way with a deck on deck.) Further, he also met about 10 guys who claimed to know guys who got similarly fleeced.

My point is this. The forward areas of the Pacific were, I think we can all agree, a slightly more chaotic and random duty station than was, say, Air National Guard billet in Alabama in the early 1970s. Yet, by his own reckoning, my father met at least 13 guys claiming at least a secondhand acquaintance with a future president of the United States. By contrast, the Republicans can't find one single person who remembers encountering the young C-Plus Augustus in peaceful Alabama as the age of Aquarius faded.

Not...one...single...person.

They apparently can't even find anyone who saw him in the Piggly Wiggly, let alone in the cockpit of a jet fighter.

They apparently can't even find one barracks braggart to come out and lie about it.

They apparently can't even find anyone who'll do it just for the reward money.

That is the ground on which I call bulls**t on every bit of Republican spin on this story. You lied. You're still lying.


This is a ball someone needs to pick up and run with.

Big Left Al's post on the White House's decision to cancel online voting for overseas GIs is a must-read.

I'm starting to wonder if Bush will even win Texas. Everybody could be against him six months from now.
Geneva Overholser is suddenly all over the news.

First, she resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation over their decision to give Brit Hume the Taishoff Award for Broadcaster of the Year.

Then today, she has an op-ed piece in the Senile Old Lady that -- gasp! -- suggests that maybe Robert Novak should come clean about his sources in l'affaire Plame, even going so far as to draw the obvious parallel to the Hanssen case:

Yes, it is in the public interest to protect journalists from being required to name their sources in the courtroom. But it is also in the public interest for journalists to speak out against ethical lapses in their craft. Far from undermining the principle of confidentiality, our acknowledgment that protecting sources can be used for ill as well as for good can bolster it, reassuring a public that often wonders who is watching the watchdog.

In this case, then, journalists should call upon Mr. Novak to acknowledge his abuse of confidentiality and reveal his sources himself — thereby keeping the control of confidentiality in journalistic hands rather than in those of the legal system. Mr. Novak has in the past shown a willingness to identify sources who turn out to be lawbreakers: three years ago he revealed that he had taken information from Robert Hanssen, the Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who spied for the Soviet Union. He needed to divulge his connection to Mr. Hanssen, he wrote, "in order to be honest to my readers."

The same ethic holds true in this case. And any journalists who step out of line to call for such an accounting in the Novak-Wilson affair would be protecting both the principle of confidentiality and the practice of journalism in the public interest.


So who is Geneva Overholser? Oh, nobody much, just the former ombudsperson of the Washington Post (back when that meant something) and current professor at the U of Missouri's journalism school.

Over the last four years the one staunch ally who stood by the Bush administration was the press corps. No tough question went unignored; no important issue went unmassaged; no White House talking point went unparroted. But that extraordinary situation wasn't due to politics, it was due to expediency. Bush was popular and the storylines his people presented made journo's jobs easier, so they rolled with it.

Now the situation is different. Bush's approval ratings drops seemingly daily, and the administration's lies have piled up so high that they're threatening to topple like a stack of wrecks at a junkyard. And no reporter with an instinct for self-preservation wants to be crushed under the weight when it comes down.

The culture of journalism still has to change, but at least a way towards change actually looks to be possible. Compared to 2000, that's not just a ray of sunshine, it's a week at Cancun.

And Geneva Overholser might just represent the first break in the clouds.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Daily Howler (Bob Somerby's blog) is on my short list of links for a reason. But today's column -- from his summing up of the mass confusion reigning in Big Media over the facts and issues at play in the National Guard story, to Big Media's treatment of Scott Ritter -- is an absolute must-read.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Thank you Phil Carter (via JMM)!

So if I were a reporter sitting in the White House press room, asking questions of Scott McClellan, I'd start asking about his pay records, retirement records, and tax records from 1972. Even if the attendance records are gone -- there are still plenty of ways to document the President's service. It's entirely possible that these records exist, and that they will document the President's honorable service in the National Guard. But only the records can show that conclusively.

You'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath waiting for any of those to turn up.

And so the assault on Kerry begins.

A couple of things:

First, what was the consequence of those Senate hearings? Was legislation proposed to close the insurance loophole? How did Kerry vote on that legislation? The article is strangely silent... just as it's silent on where AP "obtained" those documents. (As though anyone needs to be told, really).

The record is here. May 4, 2000, Senate Hearing 106-1110 -- Oversight Hearing on the Boston Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Given that it's over 100 pages long it's going to take me a while to sort through it for the relevant passages, but feel free to give it a whirl yourself. Certainly nobody at AP is about to do it!

Second, paragraph two screams "...the insurer, American International Group, paid Kerry's way on a trip to Vermont". Paragraph 22 mentions that the trip cost the staggering sum of $540.

I'm not saying there's no quid pro quo, but a $540 lecture expense? Why even bother mentioning it, other than as a smear?

This is the first shot across the bow of course, but it's a pretty weak one. The real question is, how deftly will Kerry be able to deal with it?
Revenge of the Infighting Dems meme!

Let's ignore the fact that Dean has NOT won a majority of first-time voters so far according to the exit polls, a trend that goes all the way back to Iowa. Nope, clearly "all the devoted legions of activists that Dean brought into the Democratic fold" are just Naderesque nutjobs who might go all Woodstock '99 at the convention if they don't get their way.

I also like the bit about Dean supporters having to sacrifice their principles to vote out Bush, as though the two were completely incompatible.
Here's what I learned tonight: Wolf Blitzer is not a football fan.

There was a borderline surreal moment just after 8 EST on CNN when Paul Begala was very nearly giggling at how a late endorsement from Barry Switzer of all people was fueling Edwards' surge in Oklahoma. He wrapped up, and they cut back to Wolf in the studio. The emotions playing across his face were incredible; he neither knew nor cared who Barry Switzer was, which made him take what Begala was saying completely at face value, and he wasn't even bothering to hide his disdain and scorn at the thought of a mere football coach meddling in politics. The result?

BLITZER: Barry Switzer... a very... influential... person in Oklahoma. Coming up next...

I'm going to remember that moment every time somebody talks about Kerry being an elitist who's out of touch with common Americans.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

At this hour (before the polls have closed), on cnn.com: "Democrats face make-or-break vote today."

Because there is no conceivable scenario by which the campaign for the nomination could continue to be a contest. Nope, this is it boys, this is the big one! North Dakota or bust! February 3, a date that will live in infamy!

They just can't wait to narrow that field, can they?
Here it is in a nutshell. Colin Powell says that "it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world." He said the "absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus; it changes the answer you get."

But, inherently, that's a ridiculous standard. You cannot prove a negative. If the only thing that could have convinced the administration not to go to war was definitive proof that Saddam did not have stockpiles left, then nothing could have convinced them.

The only intelligence failure here is in the heads of any media saps who swallow this garbage.
Some interesting numbers from that Zogby fine print Tuesday morning...

- Arizona seems like a Kerry lock. He's got a 14 point bulge on Clark with only 10% undecided.

- on the other hand, Oklahoma is going to be a nail-biter. 24% undecided according to Zogby, with just 5% separating Kerry, Clark and Edwards.

- South Carolina, however, is also a dogfight. 20% undecided, with Edwards holding just a four point lead on Kerry. This is the state that could cause Kerry to rue his decision to pick up stakes and campaign in Washington this afternoon.

How the media portrays the candidates, and the races, today could be huge. If Kerry supporters out west get complacent I can see the Sooner State falling to Edwards, who of the three is showing the biggest surge (up seven points since the weekend, with Clark up three and Kerry up two).

In fact that's my call -- Edwards takes both OK and SC, with Kerry netting the other five. Which could mean that not only does the nomination get decided today, but the VP slot as well...
Kevin Drum notes that the Miami Herald refuses to be Bush's bee-yotch on the budget estimates.

Let's hope that's the first raindrop, and not just somebody spitting off their balcony.

Monday, February 02, 2004

I sometimes feel like I could devote a whole blog to Mickey Kaus' convoluted thought processes. This one is an impressive enough bit of psycho-contortion to warrant a post though:

There's a palpable will to self-deceive among Democrats eager to rationalize away Kerry's flaws. (Jon Alter, this means you, but not only you.) This understandable impulse--"denial" may be the technical term-is highly dangerous at this point in the presidential race, when it's not too late to nominate an alternative. It's similar to the will to rationalize away Gennifer Flowers' story as "tabloid" trash in 1992--a bit of willful self-deception that came back to haunt the Democrats six years later.

"Came back to haunt the Dems"? What, you mean after Clinton won two elections? Oh, the horror, the horror! If Kerry's character flaws ("Kerry's botox doctor revealed! Film at 11!") similarly come back to "haunt" the Dems in 2010, that's a trade-off an awful lot of people would be happy to make.

Of course maybe he's trying to say that since any half-decent Dem candidate should be able to beat Bush handily in the upcomin', the party should make sure and pick the best one (Actually he has, more or less: Unlike many fellow Democrats, I don't worry so much that a blatantly flawed figure like Kerry will lose to President Bush. I worry more he won't lose...) But using Gennifer Flowers as an example of a nomination pitfall is just ridiculous, unless you don't think Clinton's inability to keep it in his pants was a reasonable 'price' to pay for what ended up being eight years of pretty damn good governing.

Kaus has a story -- "Kerry is worse than Bush!" -- and he's sticking to it, come hell or high water. The sillier he gets trying to prove his point though, the less plausible it seems.
Sully's a Deaniac! Sully's a Deaniac!
This is cute. According to Kat Seelye over at the Senile Old Lady (who's own record on covering the Bush National Guard story isn't exactly Pulitzer-worthy) DNC chairperson Terry McAuliffe may have raised the issue again, post-Jennings, as "a diversionary tactic" due to his "dismay as the Democratic candidates deliver increasingly harsh blows at one another." The punch line of course: "If that was the case, it failed."

Funny, wasn't it just last week that the pundits were mewling about how nice the Dems were being to each other? I guess they're getting tired of waiting for the kid gloves to come off. They've learned the lesson well from the White House. When reality doesn't co-operate with your policy goals (and in this case, Big Media's policy goal is clearly to 'sex up' the campaign with internicide squabbling), just make crap up instead.

UPDATE: More from today's Times. Paragraph three is the lynchpin:

The gloves have not exactly come off in the Democratic nominating contests. Yet it is safe to say that they are, at least, being unlaced, as campaign strategists calculate the risks of engaging in a real fight while taking tentative jabs.

Right. So it's not a "real fight" until the candidates go negative. I'm sure the people of Iowa and New Hampshire will be surprised to learn that their selection processes were just sparring sessions in preparation for the real thing.

No wonder they want the campaign pared down to two candidates. It makes the boxing metaphors less awkward.
This makes it pretty clear. Li'l Bushie's commission will be focused solely on the gathering of intelligence, and not the politicization of it:

The panel also will be charged with exploring the quality of intelligence gathering relating to the challenges of weapons proliferation and "outlaw regimes" that preside over closed societies, sources said.

Of course some key stuff is buried a little further down:

In the National Intelligence Estimate, which was declassified in October 2002, the U.S. State Department said it could not find a compelling case that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons. But the administration never cited that report in making the public case to go to war.

"There are caveats that clearly dropped out, dissenting opinions that clearly dropped out, as you moved higher up and people read the headline summaries," Kay said. "I think this is something that needs to be investigated and looked at.


But according to David Kay, it's not the White House's fault that they ignored dissenting opinion and just read the "headline summaries". Anybody else see a disconnect there?
JMM's post on Jim Hoagland's about-face on Iraqi intelligence problems is a must-read.

There will be a lot more of this coming from White House mouthpieces in the press. Who watches the Watchmen, indeed?
So I've been trying to figure out exactly why Brokaw's performance at the South Carolina debate stuck in my craw the way it did. Koppel and Jennings went way over the top in their hypocricies, but for some reason my reaction to Brokaw was just as strong.

It took me diving into the debate transcript to get to the bottom of it:

BROKAW: I don't want to dwell on this, but there's no question about the fact...

BROKAW: And the United States, at the moment, is losing the war for hearts and minds. Everyone agrees on that, whatever their political position happens to be.

BROKAW: You don't have to be a math wiz to know that that will break this country and break the spirit of the generation coming along.

Leave aside Brokaw's constant mischaracterizations -- the Nation of Islam idiocy, his statement that Joe Trippi was fired etc. etc. He essentially spent the whole debate pretending to be omniscient. He knows the facts, he knows what you think and believe, he knows the future, and really you'd have to be an utter imbecile to disagree with anything he says. He's Joe Friday, Santa Claus, and Jeane Dixon all rolled into one. Bow! Bow down before the Great and Powerful Brokaw!

No wonder most of the pundits are so chummy-chummy with the Bush cabal. They all have the same inflated ego and blind arrogance.

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