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Saturday, May 01, 2004

Last but not least, Thursday:

Q Do you think we increased terrorism by invading Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, terrorists have no regard for innocent life. They will carry out their attacks without discretion. They want to harm innocent men, women, and children, and spread fear and chaos. And I think that if you go back to what David Kay said in one of his reports -- or after one of his reports, he said that Iraq was potentially even more dangerous than we thought prior to September 11th.


When it's a Helen Thomas question, the non-responsive answers get even more blatant since Scottie knows no one else will care. Poor Helen.

Q Can you discuss what you think is different about the President and Vice President's meeting, as opposed to former President Clinton and Gore? Because in those interviews with the 9/11 Commission, they were recorded. Why didn't President Bush and the Vice President allow their meeting to be recorded?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think this is consistent with many important meetings that we have at the White House, and certainly meetings that the President has in the Oval Office. There are many important meetings, whether they are meetings with world leaders, or National Security Council meetings, or policy briefings on high priorities, where notes are taken. I think --

Q But arguably, none of those rise to the level of importance of determining what went wrong on September 11th.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's see, the NSC meeting that the President had when he decided to launch war and go into Afghanistan, notes were taken from that meeting. It wasn't recorded. So I think that I would disagree with that somewhat. But there were detailed notes taken in this meeting.


Bing! The White House successfully maneuvered 'testifying before the commission' down to 'just another meeting in the Oval Office.' Smoothly done.

Q Scott, we're coming up on the year anniversary of when the President landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that major combat operations were over under the "mission accomplished" banner. Is there now, in retrospect, a feeling that the President was overly optimistic and maybe had misled Americans, and now leading to a certain amount of buyer's remorse in some of these polls and that this is going to be more of political headache than an asset for him --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Ben, I think the President was honored to go and thank our troops onboard the USS Lincoln for all that they had done in our efforts in Iraq. He was pleased to go to the USS Lincoln and thank the sailors on board the ship and thank the pilots on board the ship and thank other men and women in the military who were on board the ship. They had completed their mission and were returning back to America, and it was a nice thing for the President of the United States to do on behalf of the nation.


Genius! The 'Mission Accomplished' banner wasn't referring to the war in general; it was just referring to the USS Lincoln's activities.

You'd think someone would have thought to clear that up back when it was a hot-button issue that was making the president look like a jackass...
And now, without further ado, Wednesday with Scottie Mac:

Q If the Vice President is complaining about the cuts to the military that John Kerry proposed over his years in the Senate and his first run for the Senate, why is the Vice President not equally as critical of the President's father, who proposed similar cuts in his final year of the presidency?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, this election is a clear choice between two different visions when it comes to strengthening our efforts to win the war on terrorism and strengthening the economy.


Can someone get Scottie a copy of the talking points, or at least Mickey Kaus' latest ramble? Kerry doesn't have a clear vision! He's a flip-flopper!
I've missed Scottie Mac while I was away from blogging. I wonder if he missed me? (No, not wonder, what's the phrase... oh yeah, "highly doubt".)

Here are the high(low)lights of Scottie's week.

Tuesday:

Q Just quickly, the Italian Vice Premiere was at the stakeout and he said -- who did he meet with, first of all? And he said that he came to say that the Italian government will keep the troops in Iraq, but within a new U.N. resolution. Are they threatening to pull out if there is no new U.N. resolution?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, the statements I've heard from many countries in the coalition is one of reaffirming their resolve to finish the important work in Iraq, to help the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.


We weren't talking about 'many countries', Scottie. We were talking about Italy. And the answer to the question was 'yes'. You would have been better off mocking the guy's English.

Incidentally, the Italian position is essentially the same as the British one.

Q Scott, following up to what Elisabeth said, somewhat. Before Dr. Rice testified publicly, President Bush said it was important for the American public to know about the events leading up to 9/11. If that is the case, why not have the President testify publicly, even with a transcript? And why not under oath?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President is already under oath as the President of the United States. But let me go back to when the President signed the legislation creating this commission.

Q He's under oath 24 hours a day? (Laughter.)


...

Q Can you just clarify. You said he was going to be -- the President is always under oath. I mean, he -- as we understand the procedure and the protocol before the 9/11 --

MR. McCLELLAN: When he came into office --

Q That I understand. But in terms of the Q&A session, he will not be under oath.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's what I -- but he will tell it exactly how it happened.


I don't think even Scottie knew where he was going with that one.

Q ...Why is it important for these two men to testify -- or to appear -- to appear together, particularly with Democrats saying it raises the appearance that they have to get their stories straight, that there might be something to hide?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the argument could be made if they were appearing separately for that same -- that same line of argument could be made even to a greater extent. So I just reject that outright.


See, because if Bush and Cheney had appeared separately and given different answers to the same questions, that would really have given the appearance they had something to hide.

Whaddaya mean that isn't what Scottie meant? How else can you parse that pseudo-response?

Q May I have one more question on Brahimi. Many groups accuse Brahimi of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. Does the White House have a response to that?


Those groups being Chalabi for President, the Ahmed Chalabi Fan Club, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ahmed Chalabi. Who let Judith Miller in here?
One other thing I want to catch up on: the increasingly strident and reality-free rhetoric coming from the Bush campaign.

The President implies that America is a white country (or at least that his constituency is.) Karen Hughes implies that anyone pro-choice is, at heart, no different than a terrorist. (Or at least a teacher.)

This isn't just more examples of the usual Bushie crap. This is above and beyond. This is putting your base through a crucible to find the True Believers, and campaigning directly and only to them.

I don't care how polarized the country is supposed to be. This can't be anyone sane's idea of a winning election strategy, can it?
Second, the Nightline/Sinclair story. What is there to say, really, one day later? The program should never have been a political issue, but since it now is, I'll just point out that one way to judge the progress of a political campaign is to watch and see how desperate one side's supporters are getting. And the Sinclair Group's decision not to show the program certainly stinks of desperation.

And Sinclair is, most definitely, in the Bush camp.
Given that today is Loyalty Day, a day where all good Americans should redouble their efforts to thwart the vile traitor Emmanuel Goldstein, I suppose I should crawl off my sickbed and post some things.

First, the Abu Ghraib story. Remember that battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis? We lost. This isn't just going to feed the resistance in Iraq. Every day -- every hour -- that passes without decisive and public justice being meted out takes us one hour closer to the US having no role in Iraq going forward whatsoever. Which I'm not saying is a bad thing, in the long run, but this was not the way it should have happened. Of course, you could say about the whole war.

Meanwhile, the dominos in the Middle East are starting to teeter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Mickey Kaus had an interesting post yesterday morning:

The Times' message machine, in which all letters are pro-Kerry, sure isn't sputtering. ... P.P.S.: Which is creepier--the possibility that the Times prints only pro-Kerry letters, or the possibility that it receives only pro-Kerry letters? ... [Thanks to readers S.K and A.E.]


Of course his focus is way too narrow. It's not just that the Times mostly only prints pro-Kerry letters; they mostly only print left-leaning letters. When they print letters commenting on a David Brooks column, the letters drip with derision. If it's a Krugman column, however, the letters are all solidly on board.

That does beg the same question Kaus asks, though -- with some obvious exaggeration, is this all they get, or is this all they print?

Given the state of the Times today, neither makes sense. Whether it's door #1 or #2, if their readership is that overwhelmingly liberal (or liberal is the target demo they're trying to hit), then why does their news and op-ed coverage offer so much fodder for Bob Somerby? But that just speaks to the incompetence of their management in this, the twilight of the Senile Old Lady.

UPDATE: Actually, I can think of a rationale behind part of it, although it verges on tinfoil hat territory. If the Times editors are aiming for an urban liberal demo, they'll want the op-ed pages to pay lip service to 'objectivity' without actually presenting any coherent right-wing arguments. Hence the likes of Brooks have jobs. When it comes to the letters section though, the community voice they want to project will reflect exactly the readership they want. Hence educated lefties dominate the letters pages.

Monday, April 26, 2004

And now it's time for... Mondays with Scottie Mac!:

And then on the conversation with King Abdullah, the President said he looked forward to seeing King Abdullah next week in Washington. And that was a brief conversation.


I'll bet it was, Scottie.

Here's a question: why does everything with this bunch have to be about scaring the public?

The President will, as you have in your book, the President today will talk about making sure America's economy continues to be the most flexible, innovative and productive in the world. He will talk about how our economy is strong and growing stronger, but in order to have lasting prosperity, America must remain the technological leader of the world.


Seriously -- if you're going to lie about how strong the economy is, why not something like, "Maintaining our place as the world's technological leader is an important part of the President's plan to continue our current economic growth" or some such? Why does it have to be, "Follow our plan or your kids will be working for the Japs?"

Although if you want something really scary...

When it comes to the health information technology, the President today will be announcing the ambitious goal of assuring that most Americans have personal electronic health records within the next 10 years.


Given this administration's track record on hoovering up available information and respecting the privacy of individuals, you'll forgive me for not doing cartwheels about this announcement. Think they've got the Patriot Act amendment to get access to these puppies already written?

Q Is the President trying to get other world leaders, Security Council members on board the new U.N. --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, certainly we welcome a new U.N. Security Council resolution to encourage more countries to participate in helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.


I'm guessing that's a 'no'. I just can't figure out why it would be a 'no', unless Bush is now so reviled at the U.N. that the only way he can get a resolution he supports passed is to not publicly campaign for it.

Q The call to King Abdullah, did the President initiate that call, or did --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was -- well, it was mutual. I think it was more just a brief conversation to say they look forward to seeing each other next week when he comes to Washington for the meeting.

Q Who initiated the Abdullah call?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I just told -- Dick just asked that. I think it was more mutually agreed to.


AAAAGH! For the love of God, Scottie, who placed the damn call???

Mind you, the answer (Bush) is completely obvious from Scottie's non-answer. But a competent press secretary would at least have come up with a different non-answer for the second question.

Speaking of competent...

Q So that's full sovereignty transferred, though.

MR. McCLELLAN: I would describe it as, sovereignty will be transferred to the Iraqi people.


See, Scott, when you simply re-state what someone asks you, but leave out one word, you draw attention to that word. In this case, 'full'. So now you've made clear to everyone that we will not be turning over full sovereignty to anyone on June 30. This is Obfuscation 101 stuff here, Scottie.

Q Scott, over the weekend and earlier last week there were some coordinated attacks on oil installations in Iraq and offshore. Is the President concerned that the terrorists may be escalating this, to really go after the lifeline of the Iraqi people in their rebuilding efforts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the terrorists and thugs and Saddam loyalists will not prevail...


...although they will be able to make a decent living. (Stupid Blogger... scroll down to Friday the 23rd's "Wait a minute, Scottie Mac" post to read what the heck I'm talking about.)
Lots of good stuff to play catch-up on:

Kevin Drum nails Fox on, in very nearly in his own words, a race-bait-and-switch...

...but then doesn't comprehend how the New York Times can be one of the better examples of modern journalism, and still suck. (Hint for Kevin: it has to do with the state of journalism today.)

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall also catches ABC News in their own little headline dance.

I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing in the upcoming months. The Jedi mind tricks Karl Rove has been using on the press are finally wearing off, but the rank-and-file reporters will get their wills back before their editors.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

This WaPo article offers an interesting perspective on how badly Bush got played by Sharon:

But who's going to take over that responsibility? Not the tattered Palestinian Authority. Not cautious Egypt, which once ruled Gaza. Instead, de facto responsibility for what happens in Gaza once Israel withdraws will fall to the United States.

...

Ideally, a responsible Palestinian government would emerge in Gaza with an effective security force that would take control of the settlements, disarm the terrorist organizations and armed gangs, and police the borders and entry points. But the moon is closer to the earth than the Palestinians in Gaza are to achieving that state.

There is one answer to all of these challenges that Bush will have to contemplate -- an American-led international force that could take over the settlements, police the corridor and control the sea and airspace around Gaza. This is not a large-scale endeavor and, unlike in Iraq, there would be plenty of countries ready to share the burden of helping to promote order in the first installment of a Palestinian state. But is George Bush ready to take on this responsibility as well? Given his feelings about multilateralism, it won't come naturally.


Unasked is the question of whether Bush would even be able to put together an American-led coalition after the events of the last couple of years. Or, if the Israeli pull-out happens any time soon, where we would even get our own troops from, since the one's we've got are kinda busy. Or if a Bush administration which has shown itself to be utterly incapable of learning a damn thing from its mistakes would do a better job of nation-building in Palestine than it's doing in Iraq.
Testify, Brother Pitts!

It's been nearly four months since the scandal broke. Four months since Jack Kelley, former star foreign correspondent for USA Today, was found to have lied his way through his professional life for the last 13 years.

He lied about where he had been, what he had seen, who he had talked to, what they had said. He lied so much I'm only half convinced "Jack Kelley" is his real name.

Yet you, my colleagues, have not asked the most important question:

What does this mean for the future of white journalism?

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