Friday, April 27, 2007

Mark Knoller Can't Handle The Truth

Updated Below

CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller's response to Bill Moyers' "Buying The War" documentary was lamentable and hilarious in its imperviousness despite its tragic implications.

As a member of the Washington press corps Mr. Knoller is offended by the suggestion that he and his colleagues have done anything wrong, despite mounds of evidence, and the clear portrayal of the press' abdication of its responsibilities laid out by Mr. Moyers. Mr. Knoller clearly believes that as a reporter, especially a Washington based reporter that his word should always be taken as truth and that he and the press corps at large are above reproach and questioning. (Glenn Greenwald has examined this fantastical notion on several occasions)

Mr. Knoller, who called "Buying The War" "unfounded" and "misrepresentative", provides no evidence to support his claims. The best that Mr. Knoller can do is to complain about Mr. Moyers' coverage of the Presidential press conference held on March 6, 2003. Mr. Knoller states:

The broadcast began by focusing on the performance of reporters at President Bush’s news conference on March 6, 2003. We didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be 13 days before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Moyers charges in his opening sentences that the press “largely surrendered its independence and skepticism” and joined with the Bush Administration in marching to war.

Pointing to that news conference, Moyers claims that the White House press corps asked “no hard questions” about the president’s arguments for war.

He shows only a single, brief example of a question – deep in the news conference – in which a reporter asked Mr. Bush to reflect on how he was guided by his faith at that difficult time. Admittedly, it was a softball.

But Moyers did not cite any of the other much more pointed questions put to the President that evening in the East Room.

Richard Keil of Bloomberg News questioned the Administration’s intelligence claims about Saddam Hussein and the doubts of U.S. allies.

Jim Angle of Fox News also challenged the President’s assertions about Saddam.

John King of CNN asked the President to respond to critics who portray his animosity toward Saddam as personal. Further, he asked whether US action would make the world a more dangerous place. King also wanted Mr. Bush to address the risks of going to war and the impact on the American people.

Terry Moran of ABC also pressed the President about the doubts and reservations of U.S. allies to his approach.

My colleague Bill Plante challenged Mr. Bush to present hard evidence to back up his claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

And so on.

Now, I can understand if Moyers didn’t like the President’s answers. Fair enough. But to portray reporters as mindless conduits of White House policies is unfounded.
If Mr. Knoller truly believes that the questions asked were pointed why does he not quote them directly instead of hinting at what was said?

Here is my response to Mr. Knoller in his comments section:
Mr. Knoller,
Your response to Mr. Moyers' well researched,and direct documentary demonstrates precisely the problems currently inhabiting the Washington press corps.

Why do you not quote your colleagues questions from the March 6th press conference? You hint that actual questions were asked and that they were not all 'soft-ball' setups. However the transcript of the press conference does not support your insinuations.

You further omit the fact that President Bush only called on predetermined reporters from a list, a fact that he callously admitted halfway through the press conference. You were called on during that press conference Mr. Knoller, had you submitted the question that you asked of Mr. Bush in advance?

Your summations that you, the Washington press corps, behaved as true journalists is not supported by the facts in evidence as presented by Mr. Moyers, Gary Kayima in, and others.

Mr. Knoller your statements are shallow and false. They are defensive and misleading in the extreme, you sir, should be embarrassed to call yourself a journalist. Even now you fail to pursue the truth and provide it to your audience.

For a more in depth dissection of your complaints as to Mr. Moyers portrayal of the March 6th press conference please visit my blog at:
(post available soon)

I will write again in response to your challenge of this morning.
I thank you for at least engaging your critcs, even if you do so dishonestly.

Posted by hcoppola at 12:46 PM : Apr 27, 2007
As for Mr. Knoller's claims of "much more pointed" questions being asked of Mr. Bush on March 6, 2003, here are Mr. Knoller's words followed by the actual questions. The full transcript of the press conference is available here:

Mr. Knoller - Richard Keil of Bloomberg News questioned the Administration’s intelligence claims about Saddam Hussein and the doubts of U.S. allies.

Mr. Keil's actual question - Mr. President, you have, and your top advisors -- notably, Secretary of State Powell -- have repeatedly said that we have shared with our allies all the current, up-to-date intelligence information that proves the imminence of the threat we face from Saddam Hussein, and that they have been sharing their intelligence with us, as well. If all these nations, all of them our normal allies, have access to the same intelligence information, why is it that they are reluctant to think that the threat is so real, so imminent that we need to move to the brink of war now?

And in relation to that, today, the British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, suggested at the U.N. that it might be time to look at amending the resolution, perhaps with an eye towards a timetable like that proposed by the Canadians some two weeks ago, that would set a firm deadline to give Saddam Hussein a little bit of time to come clean. And also, obviously, that would give you a little bit of a chance to build more support within the members of the Security Council. Is that something that the governments should be pursuing at the U.N. right now?

Where does Mr. Keil question the Administration's intelligence claims? Mr. Keil hints at a reluctance among American allies nothing more. It should also be noted that Mr. Keil's question was the first one asked on what Mr. Bush admitted was a scripted list for the press conference. Mr. Bush's response of 450 cleanly and clearly prepared words belies the nature of this soft question.

Mr. Knoller - Jim Angle of Fox News also challenged the President’s assertions about Saddam.

Mr. Angle's actual question - Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, if you haven't already made the choice to go to war, can you tell us what you are waiting to hear or see before you do make that decision? And if I may, during the recent demonstrations, many of the protestors suggested that the U.S. was a threat to peace, which prompted you to wonder out loud why they didn't see Saddam Hussein as a threat to peace. I wonder why you think so many people around the world take a different view of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses than you and your allies.

Mr. Angle does not even begin to challenge Mr. Bush's assertions about Saddam, rather he offers the President an opportunity to further belittle his detractors. Which Mr. Bush quickly and happily does.

Mr. Knoller - John King of CNN asked the President to respond to critics who portray his animosity toward Saddam as personal. Further, he asked whether US action would make the world a more dangerous place. King also wanted Mr. Bush to address the risks of going to war and the impact on the American people.

Mr. King's actual question - Thank you, Mr. President. How would -- sir, how would you answer your critics who say that they think this is somehow personal? As Senator Kennedy put it tonight, he said your fixation with Saddam Hussein is making the world a more dangerous place. And as you prepare the American people for the possibility of military conflict, could you share with us any of the scenarios your advisors have shared with you about worse-case scenarios, in terms of the potential cost of American lives, the potential cost to the American economy, and the potential risks of retaliatory terrorist strikes here at home?

Mr. King does actually ask Mr. to respond to critics who say that his invasion of Iraq would be personal. Mr. King does not ask Mr. Bush if his mission to oust Saddam Hussein is personal, which would be the 'pointed' question in this place. Instead of answering the question Mr. Bush said:
Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American people...He has weapons of mass destruction...He has trained and financed al Qaeda-type organizations before, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
The question may have arguably been a decent one, it is not enough, however to simply pose the question. The story could then have become that Mr. Bush dodged that question and instead offered false claims to scare the American public in a blatant effort at fear-mongering. Unfortunately Mr. King, Mr. Knoller and the rest of the Washington press corps did not, as Mr. Moyers notes, make this the story.

Mr. Knoller - Terry Moran of ABC also pressed the President about the doubts and reservations of U.S. allies to his approach.

Mr. Moran's actual question - Thank you, sir. May I follow up on Jim Angle's question? In the past several weeks, your policy on Iraq has generated opposition from the governments of France, Russia, China, Germany, Turkey, the Arab League and many other countries, opened a rift at NATO and at the U.N., and drawn millions of ordinary citizens around the world into the streets in anti-war protests. May I ask, what went wrong that so many governments and people around the world now not only disagree with you very strongly, but see the U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power?

A surprisingly direct question from Mr. Moran, one that was once again ignored by Mr. Bush who went on to say in his answer that:
I think you'll see when it's all said and done, if we have to use force, a lot of nations will be with us...While they may disagree with how we deal with Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, there's no disagreement when it came time to vote...I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat -- is a threat to the American people... So there's a lot more at stake than just American security, and the security of people close by Saddam Hussein. Freedom is at stake, as well, and I take that very seriously.
Again just asking a question of the President is not enough. Actual reporting must then be done on both what the Administration says and what it does. There would be no mention that Mr. Bush also ducked Mr. Moran's question and there would be no mention of the security experts who disagreed with Mr. Bush either.

Mr. Knoller - My colleague Bill Plante challenged Mr. Bush to present hard evidence to back up his claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Mr. Plante's actual question -
Mr. President, to a lot of people, it seems that war is probably inevitable, because many people doubt -- most people, I would guess -- that Saddam Hussein will ever do what we are demanding that he do, which is disarm. And if war is inevitable, there are a lot of people in this country -- as much as half, by polling standards -- who agree that he should be disarmed, who listen to you say that you have the evidence, but who feel they haven't seen it, and who still wonder why blood has to be shed if he hasn't attacked us.

Again Mr. Knoller has drastically misrepresented the nature of the question posed by his colleague. Mr. Plante never issued a challenge to Mr. Bush never even mentioned WMD. In fact Mr. Plante did Mr. Bush a favor by prompting one of Mr. Bush's favorite talking points that "we're not going to wait until he does attack."

None of the questions to which Mr. Knoller alludes could in reality be called "pointed" especially given the answers to them and the subsequent failure in the reporting on the press conference.

Mr. Knoller does not mention the scripted nature of the press conference, which is central to Mr. Moyers' report, or his own presence and question at on March 6th.

Mr. Knoller provided the prompting for Mr. Bush to talk about the UN Security Council and its possible authorization of force:

Mark Knoller.

Q Mr. President, are you worried that the United States might be viewed as defiant of the United Nations if you went ahead with military action without specific and explicit authorization from the U.N.?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not worried about that. As a matter of fact, it's hard to say the United States is defiant about the United Nations, when I was the person that took the issue to the United Nations, September the 12th, 2002. We've been working with the United Nations. We've been working through the United Nations.

Secondly, I'm confident the American people understand that when it comes to our security, if we need to act, we will act, and we really don't need United Nations approval to do so. I want to work -- I want the United Nations to be effective. It's important for it to be a robust, capable body. It's important for it's words to mean what they say, and as we head into the 21st century, Mark, when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.

A softball? You be the judge. I put it again to Mr. Knoller; did you submit your question ahead of time for prior approval? Did you understand the true nature of your question and the way that it would be manipulated? Were you not aware of how your question was abused, and did you not feel a responsibility to report on the nature of the President's answers?

Mr. Knoller has responded to the comments he has received after his initial response to Mr. Moyers' documentary. Mr. Knoller claims to have been surprised at the "nature, depth and fury" of the comments His surprise is an all too clear indication of the fact that the Washington press corps has no idea how far they have fallen. Mr. Knoller and his colleagues clearly believe that they have done nothing wrong and that they remain above reproach. In reality the Washington press corps is broken and bankrupt, admitting their culpability in the situation in Iraq is the first in a long series of steps that will have to be taken before the public can once again trust the national media.

Mr. Knoller continues in his defensive posturing, by issuing a challenge to his critics:
YOU be the reporter!

It’s March 6, 2003. Pres Bush is moving closer to ordering an attack on Iraq.

You’re in the East Room for his primetime news conference – and he calls on you.

What do you ask?

What finely-crafted question do you pose that both serves the public interest and will get a meaningul response?

I assure you my colleagues and I will read what you write.
Before issuing his challenge Mr. Knoller continues to claim that he and his colleagues were not "duped" and that "concerns and reservations" were published as well. The problem is that Mr. Knoller's claims are not supportable by any facts in the historical record. Just because Mr Knoller says he reported honestly does not mean that he actually did, Mr. Knoller should provide actual evidence or he should cease to claim his innocence in the face of ever mounting evidence incriminating the Washington press corps for their collective failure.

In his challenge Mr. Knoller manages to miss the point completely. It was not solely the nature of the questions posed at the March 6th press conference but the manner in which the entire charade was conducted. Mr. Bush called on an admittedly scripted list of reporters who provided him with a chance to answer previewed questions. All the while the rest of the press corps played along, raising their hands as though Mr. Bush might call on them and thus perpetrating the hoax that it was an actual engagement of the press by Mr. Bush. As Matt Taibbi put it "The White House Press Corps politely grabs its ankles."

Mr. Knoller should know that the questions were not the real problem, they were but a symptom of the disease that has crippled the Washington press corps.

The only way that Mr. Knoller and his colleagues will wise up is if they are repeatedly called out when they provide such flimsy excuses and wrap themselves in such blatant falsehoods.

Visit Mr. Knoller's website, take his challenge and express your disgust.

Bill Moyers has a response to Mr. Knoller and other members of the Washington press corps who have complained about their portrayal here.

Coverage of Buying The War

Bill Moyers' new PBS documentary "Buying The War" has received mixed reviews or none at all depending largely on ones opinion of the subject matter; the collapse and failure of the Washington press corps in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

The Washington Post carried a preview by its television columnist, Tom Shales. Mr. Shales titled his piece "A Media Role in Selling the War? No Question" and sums up the program as such:

Even if this Moyers report tells you some things you already knew, it puts the whole story of the media's role in the war into one convenient package -- a story of historical value that is also frighteningly rife with portents for the future and for what will pass as journalism in months and years to come.
Mr. Shales also points out the litany of reporters and supposed experts who refused to comment or appear on the documentary; the list includes Judith Miller, Charles Krauthammer, and Bill Kristol among others,and provides a general overview of the program.

The L.A. Times also assigned coverage to their TV reviewer, Paul Brownfield. The LAT review spends more time mentioning Mr. Moyers return to PBS than covering the actual documentary. Mr. Brownfield also mentions media figures who refused to appear on the program; naming Thomas Friedman, William Safire, and Roger Ailes. Mr. Brownfield sums up his review by mentioning the lack of a conservative perspective, although in a not altogether negative way:
There is no one representing the conservative argument here, nor the deeper ideological reasons for believing in the Iraq invasion. But that's partly Moyers' position: In the run-up to war, point-counterpoint emerged as a devastating sham.
As for The N.Y. Times; it failed to cover "Buying The War" at all, mustering only a paltry one and a half lines in the "Whats on Tonight" section. Is 'the paper of record' so ashamed of its role in the gross negligence and misinformation portrayed as journalism prior to the invasion of Iraq that it will go out of its way to avoid any discussion of the pre-war reporting?

Online Glenn Greenwald at as an in depth post on "Buying The War" as well as the coverage it is receiving positive and negative. Some of that negative coverage has come from CBS reporter Mark Knoller who has blasted Bill Moyers, refering to the documentary as "unfounded" and "misrepresentative." (More to come On Mr. Knoller soon)

Mr. Moyers has put together a clear, well researched, and direct piece of journalism. Regardless of your view point it should be watched.

Bill Moyers - Buying The War

Mr. Moyers return to PBS is not to be missed. The 90 minute documentary recounts in detail just how badly the Washington press corps dropped the ball in the coverage of the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

By now many people have realized that they were hoodwinked by the Administration and the national media who consistently reported what President Bush and his supporters had to say as fact regardless of how wildly unlikely or untrue it might be.

Mr. Moyers documentary makes very clear that the information to question the Bush Administration's arguments was readily available. In fact it was put to use by the Knight-Ridder (now McClatchy) news service. The rest of the media failed to follow suit and instead lined up behind the administration and unquestioningly reported their claims as fact.

Perhaps the most devastating line is delivered late in the show by Norm Solomon:

I think these executives were terrified of being called soft on terrorism. They absolutely knew that the winds were blowing at hurricane force politically and socially in the United States. And rather than stand up for journalism, they just blew with the wind.

And-- Dan Rather, and others who say, yeah, you know. I was carried away back then. Well, sure. That's when it matters. When it matters most is when you can make a difference as a journalist.

The information was available, a very few made use of it but all too many let it go. Instead of making a difference and relentlessly pursuing the truth the Washington press corps abdicated its responsibility to its readers, the American public, and abandoned the very foundations of journalism.

Watch, Listen, or Read Buying The War

Thursday, April 26, 2007

David Broder Can't Handle The Truth

When David Broder, the Washington Post's nationally syndicated columnist, attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this Monday on Bob Edwards' XM radio show it was the latest example of just how far out of touch with reality and the nation at large the Washington press corps has become.

Mr. Broder, who has been referred to as the dean of the Washington press corps, called Mr. Reid an embarrassment to the Democrats and further alleged that the Senator had a pattern of being forced to apologize for his remarks.

EDWARDS: White House and congressional Republicans really blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for saying the war in Iraq is lost. Do Republicans believe it can still be won?

BRODER: Uh, Republicans, some of them believe that, and Democrats, by and large, wish that Harry Reid would learn to engage mind before mouth opens. This has become kind of a pattern for him, and, uh, I think at some point down the road the Democrats are gonna have to have a little caucus and decide how much further they want to carry Harry Reid. They’ve got able people on the Senate side, and they don’t have to put up with this kind of bumbling performance forever.

EDWARDS: You think Harry Reid is an embarrassment to the Democrats?

BRODER: I think so. I mean, he has been a pretty effective leader but he is verbally just a real loose cannon and it seems to me, Bob, that about every six weeks or so there’s another episode where he has to apologize for the way in which he has bungled the Democratic case. (audio)

Mr. Broder and Mr. Edwards are both guilty of discussing Mr. Reid's comments less than fully. Media Matters has covered the reporting on Mr. Reid's statement and most news organizations reported only that he said "the war is lost" and failed to mention that he later said "the war, at this stage, can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically." According to Media Matters only Agence France-Presse and Reuters services managed to include all of Mr. Reid's comments in their stories.

Once again right wing pundits and the Washington media elite began to hound a Democrat and have insisted that Mr. Reid is wrong on this issue and a danger to the Democratic party; much as these groups warned that the American public didn't want hearings about the US Attorney scandal and that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would suffer for her trip to Syria. Polling has shown that it is not the Democrats who are out of touch but the beltway elites on both sides of the isle who continue to get it wrong when they report on Washington.

As Think Progress has repeatedly pointed out Mr. Reid is hardly alone in having said that the war has no military solution. Many military and defense leaders as well as much of the American Public have joined him in reaching this conclusion, including retired General William Odom, head of Army intelligence and director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Joined as Mr. Reid is by this illustrious company, without a single Democrat to be found complaining about his statements, and an approval rating of 46% (more than 10 points higher than President Bush who Mr. Broder has yet to label an embarrassment); Mr. Broder would seem to be awfully far off the mark.

Mr. Broder further suggests that Mr. Reid fails to think before he opens his mouth and as such has had to repeated apologize for his remarks on a nearly monthly basis. In reality Mr. Reid has not apologized for any comments he has made in the four months since he officially became Majority Leader. Once again the question must be asked is it really to much to expect that journalists check their facts, especially before baselessly smearing an elected official?

The reality of the situation is that Mr. Reid's statements have not been detrimental to himself or the Democratic party, they have largely been embraced. The 'bumbling' and 'embarrassment' are only to be seen in the eyes of the war supporters and their apologists, the Washington press corps. After having tragically failed to behave as journalists in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq Washington based reporters continue to hide behind attacks on the war's detractors in an effort to ignore their culpability in the disaster that our nation now finds itself. In doing so the main stream media continues to move further and farther out of touch with the American public in general as well as with a fact based reality.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Hypocriscy Of Gun Rights

In the wake of the tragic killings at Virginia Tech gun control and the 'right to bear arms' have once again reared their heads. Gun control advocates have soberly pointed out that with increased regulation and legislation of firearms the ability of an individual to perpetrate such a massacre would be drastically reduced. 'Gun rights' proponents have ludicrously claimed that if there were less restrictions on carrying concealed weapons on campuses that someone could have killed the shooter before he had murdered so many innocents.

Supporters of 'gun rights' rely on the Second Amendment as the base to their argument. Advocates of gun control hold that the Second Amendment is less straightforward and does not necessarily codify a notion of 'gun rights.'

Right-wing pundits and politicians are quick to advocate laxer gun laws and point to the Second Amendment. With the other hand they point to the attacks of September 11th and citing terrorism they insist that curtailing our rights under the Patriot Act and via unilateral and lawless actions of the President, are necessary for our national security and protection in today's world. These advocates who hold the Second Amendment sacrosanct as a piece of our Constitution so quickly dismiss the other rights codified more explicitly in the Bill of Rights. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments have been cast aside and barely a peep has been uttered by the national media or the public at large. The same politicians who wave the Constitution when defending their guns, rend it to pieces and trample upon the people's rights indiscriminately when it comes to empowering President Bush and his Administration.

Those who argue that some rights must be lost or foreshortened in exchange for greater security may not also argue that gun control unjustly curtails their rights. It is hypocritical in the extreme and disgusting to the conscience.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

They Won't Follow Us Home

As President Bush desperately grabs at straws in an attempt to bolster support for his promised veto of forthcoming emergency funding bills for the military in Iraq, he has returned with greater regularity to a sad and disillusioned bit of fear-mongering that has long been a hallmark of Iraq war supporters.

In a speech on Monday Mr. Bush repeatedly claimed that if the American military did not continue to fight insurgents in Iraq, the insurgents would come to America and bring violence with them. Among his other outrageous contentions Mr. Bush said:

  • fight the extremists and radicals where they live, so we don't have to face them where we live.
  • The consequences of failure in Iraq would be death and destruction in the Middle East and here in America.
  • enemies that could just as easily come here to kill us.
  • If we do not defeat the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they won't leave us alone -- they will follow us to the United States of America.
This was not the first time that Mr. Bush has levied these ridiculous threats in his attempts to berate the American Public into supporting his misguided invasion of Iraq. As Dan Froomkin pointed out Mr. Bush has relied on this fear-mongering construction since the earliest days of the war and continues to use it regularly.

Not only are the fear mongering tactics of Mr. Bush and his allies crass and manipulative, they are at least deceitful and according to experts most likely to be patently untrue. That Mr. Bush should be so far removed from the truth of the situation in Iraq and the Middle East at large should, by this point, come as no surprise. For four years Mr. Bush has failed to accurately depict the situation in Iraq or predict the course that the war would follow, he is wrong again.

Experts agree that Mr. Bush's claims of Iraqi insurgents following American soldiers from Iraq to the streets of the United States are extremely unlikely to come true.
  • In an interview on NPR Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University, cited the increasingly lower numbers of foreign fighters among the insurgency in general and within al Qeada in Iraq in particular.
  • In a report for McClatchy Newspapers William Douglas quotes both conservative and liberal experts who dispute Mr. Bush's claims:
    • “The president is using a primitive, inarticulate argument that leaves him open to criticism and caricature,” said James Jay Carafano, a homeland security and counterterrorism expert for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy organization. “It’s a poor choice of words that doesn’t convey the essence of the problem - that walking away from a problem doesn’t solve anything.”
    • Daniel Benjamin, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at The Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, agreed.

      “There are very few foreign fighters who are going to be leaving the area because they don’t have the skills or languages that would give them access to the United States,” said Benjamin, who served as the National Security Council’s director for transnational threats from 1998 to 1999. “I’m not saying events in Iraq aren’t going to embolden jihadists. But I think the president’s formulations call for a leap of faith.”

    Mr. Douglas's report also mentions the low percentage of foreign fighters in the Iraqi insurgency:
    Foreign-born jihadists are present in Iraq, but they're believed to number only between 4 percent and 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgent fighters - 1,200 to 3,000 terrorists - according to the Defense Intelligence Agency and a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center.
    Mr. Douglas further quotes an anonymous American Intelligence official who says:
    The war in Iraq isn't preventing terrorist attacks on America,If anything, that - along with the way we've been treating terrorist suspects - may be inspiring more Muslims to think of us as the enemy.
  • Writing for the Washington Post Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung refer to a multitude of terrorism experts both within and without the Bush Administration who say that Mr. Bush is incorrect in asserting that Iraqi insurgents will "follow us home."
    Attacking the United States clearly remains on bin Laden's agenda. But the likelihood that such an attack would be launched from Iraq, many experts contend, has sharply diminished over the past year as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has undergone dramatic changes. Once believed to include thousands of "foreign fighters," it is now an overwhelmingly Iraqi organization whose aims are likely to remain focused on the struggle against the Shiite majority in Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials said.
    Mr. Pincus and Ms. DeYoung also quote Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell who when asked during congressional testimony if "al-Qaeda-type elements" might pursue American Soldiers as they withdrew from Iraq responded simply; "Unlikely."
Despite the fact that his major talking point fails to have a basis in fact let alone reality Mr. Bush has announced his intention to continue threating Americans with his dire, yet false, claims that pulling out of Iraq (and thereby reducing American casualties) will result in terrorists following soldiers to their homes in the United States. Thankfully the American public appears to no longer be interested in what Mr. Bush has to say.

It is important to remember that prior to the American invasion of Iraq there were no terrorists operating there and the conditions for an Afghanistan type safe-haven for terrorists did not exist. Mr. Bush and his war supporters created the situation in Iraq they did so disingenuously and via a reliance on falsified information.

Now, with the continued aiding and abetting of a complicit national media Mr. Bush is attempting to prolong his mistake by once again lying to the American public to their great detriment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Howard Kurtz Can't Handle The Truth

So-called Washington Post 'media critic' Howard Kurtz once again demonstrated his disregard for factual reporting and intellectual honesty as he belittled and bypassed a poignant and reasonable question during his "Critiquing The Press" chat session on Monday. Mr. Kurtz's apologies for and cheerleading of skewed erroneous reporting for and from the right have been documented already and this recent exchange is but a new and disturbing example of what passes for 'media criticism' at on of the nation's largest and most respected papers.

Monday's question and answer:

Boston: In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman writes of the GOP's "Little Lies" strategy. That is, the idea of using little lies about an opponent to try to create a negative impression of said opponent. We all remember the countless fake Clinton scandals from pricey haircuts to missing keyboard Ws. The press reported on each with glee, and then a few weeks/months/years later had to acknowledge there was no "there" there. Today we see the same nonsense with Pelosi. These attacks had no effect on Clinton's public approval, and from last week's polls the same can be said for Pelosi, but the reporting of this nonsense does seem to have a negative impact on one key group: the press. So why do your colleagues (especially the chatty-show ones) let themselves be used like this?

Howard Kurtz: You seem to think that these "little" scandals are aimed only at Democrats. Sometimes the controversies are silly and overblown (the missing Ws, which was true); sometimes they're silly and inaccurate (the idea that air traffic was delayed while Clinton got a haircut on Air Force One). It seems to me the substantive debate over a House speaker going to Syria against the administration's wishes is a discussion worth having (though not the idiotic argument about whether she should have worn a head scarf). But it's also incumbent on us to point out that Dennis Hastert once did the same thing during the Clinton administration. And remember the famous Daily News cover of crybaby Newt being miffed because he had to get off Air Force One through a rear exit? That was arguably a silly story, but it resonated because it seemed telling about Gingrich. So to me it's a question of the volume and tone when reporting these little controversies.

Mr. Kurtz's response is plagued by inaccuracies and dismissals as well as a clear disregard for the role of truth in journalism.

Mr. Kurtz begins by suggesting that the reader is wrong and that his or her complaints are based on a partisan perspective when he says "You seem to think that these "little" scandals are aimed only at Democrats." The reader is inquiring about the use of 'little lies' to target prominent Democrats and offers several examples, including the current attacks on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Kurtz fails to offer any comparable attacks on prominent Republicans; the best he can come up with is former Speaker Newt Gingrich complaining that he had to use a rear exit on Air Force One. Mr. Gingrich did petulantly complain vocally to the media which resulted in the coverage of his tantrum. He then subsequently cited this perceived slight as a reason for shutting down the government during his budget struggle with President Clinton. Mr. Gingrich also expressed regret for his public complaints in his 1998 book, Lessons Learned the Hard Way. This hardly rises to the same level as the fraudulent and trumped up accusations often brought against Mr. Clinton.

The two cases which Mr. Kurtz cites involving Mr. Clinton were the completely fabricated tale of his delaying air traffic to receive a haircut on the run way and the alleged vandalism of the west wing as Mr. Clinton left office. While the haircut lie continues to circulate among right wing pundits it has been thoroughly debunked and there is no excuse for repeating it at this point. While Mr. Kurtz is correct in reporting that there were some missing w's from west wing keyboards and that the outgoing Clinton staff did leave 'pranks' for the incoming Bush staffers it should be noted that the Bush Administration and their allies spent more then $200,000 dollars investigating the alleged vandalism that cost a questionably tallied amount of roughly $9,000, an excellent use of the taxpayer's money.

Mr. Kurtz goes on to say "It seems to me the substantive debate over a House speaker going to Syria against the administration's wishes is a discussion worth having." The problem with this statement is that it flasely indicates that a 'substantive debate' is ongoing. Unfortunately for Mr. Kurtz and the right wing talking points and reporting that he is defending this is not true. Ms. Pelosi is being falsely accused of misrepresenting an Israeli message to Syria and singled out for attack despite the fact that her trip to Syria was a bipartisan one and that there was also a separate, entirely Republican delegation in Syria at the same time.

Mr. Kurtz's reference to former Speaker Dennis Hastert's trip to Colombia during the Clinton Presidency seems to be included in an attempt to indicate that the situation is more balanced because a Republican Speaker once made a similar trip. Mr. Hastert's trip serves to underline the hypocrisy inherent in the Republican complaints about Ms. Pelosi's visit to Syria and as such drastically undercuts any premise of a 'substantive debate' on the issue. It should also be noted that Mr. Hastert's trip was very different than Ms. Pelosi's. According to all available sources who were there, Ms. Pelosi did not contradict current US policy towards Syria or directly encourage the undermining of the Bush Administration. Mr. Hastert traveled to Colombia and repeatedly encouraged the government there to “bypass the U.S. executive branch and communicate directly with Congress.” Despite his specific attempts to usurp foreign policy powers that are designed to be shared by the Executive and Legislative branches of the government, Mr. Hastert was not subjected to excited and baseless attacks as Ms. Pelosi has been.

Mr. Kurtz finishes his answer by saying "to me it's a question of the volume and tone when reporting these little controversies." This sentence cuts straight to the hart of the issue; Mr. Kurtz, the 'media critic', believes that "volume and tone" are important in reporting, but does not believe in the importance of the truth.

If Mr. Kurtz is the 'media critic' then he should be critical of the media, especially when they abdicate their responsibility to zealously pursue the truth for the benefit of their audience. Mr. Kurtz's job should not be to defend shoddy journalism and the apathetic repetition of right wing talking points as news, nor to belittle and dismiss legitimate criticisms leveled against the media.

The truth is out there, sadly Mr. Kurtz and the media that he is busily apologizing for and defending are not interested in seeking it out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Blame Game

President Bush and his administration have ramped up the rhetoric this week as they seek to redirect the debate on the war in Iraq. In an attempt to get on the offensive and have the last word as both Congress and the President headed home for an Easter break Mr. Bush reeled off a litany of obfuscations, distortions, and falsities on Tuesday. All of which reveal Mr. Bush and his Administration as increasingly cut off from reality.

Mr. Bush continues to claim, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that his so-called surge of soldiers in Iraq is "making a difference." While attacks in Baghdad have decreased recently, there has been a corresponding and devastating increase in violence elsewhere in Iraq. The massive truck bombings and subsequent revenge killings in the northern city of Tal Afar last week are but one disturbing example. As the Washington Post reported yesterday, the second three weeks of the 'surge' have not shown a decrease in the violence throughout Iraq:

Just because the President says it is so does not make it true. Independent verification of such statements is necessary and important and should always be made. Further, false or misleading statements should not be repeated with out noting the true nature of the claims.

Mr. Bush proceeded to complain that Congress is taking too long to pass the emergency spending that the Administration has requested to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically Mr. Bush pointed out that 57 days had passed since he first requested the emergency funds. 57 days may seem like quite a long time, however it is significantly less time than it took the Republican controlled 109th Congress in either 2005 or 2006 to approve similar emergency spending bills. In 2005 86 days passed before Congress approved funds and in 2006 Mr. Bush met a 119 day delay with praise. Less than half of that time has now passed and Mr. Bush intimates that the delay is hurting American soldiers and their families.

Mr. Bush also alleged that money supporting soldiers in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. The independent Congressional Research Service has reported that this is not the case. In fact the military has significant funding available to last until at least the end of May and could free up enough funds for additional one to two months if needed.

If Mr. Bush and his administration were genuinely concerned with making sure that the war in Iraq remains fully funded they could have included funding for it in the federal budget, instead of attempting to disguise the wars true price by funding it piecemeal through emergency spending legislation.

Mr. Bush and his supporters have also taken to complaining about the attachment of unrelated domestic spending, aka 'pork', to the war funding legislation. Several times on Tuesday alone Mr. Bush demanded that Congress send him a "clean bill." This belies the fact that the past several bills funding the wars have also included large amounts of 'pork', much of it added by Republicans and Mr. Bush himself.

Another current complaint popular among war supporters is that Congress should not mettle with battlefield decisions best left to commanders on the ground. This complaint forgets and obscures the fact that Mr. Bush changed the commanders on the ground in order to place supporters of his 'surge' plan in command.

On Tuesday Mr. Bush asserted, as war supporters continue to do, that the American public does not support a time-line for withdrawal from Iraq. At this point, given current polling results, it is difficult to make a more patently false statement. A strong majority of Americans favor a plan to withdrawal all soldiers from Iraq by the end of this year, let alone 2008 as currently proposed by Congress.

Mr. Bush's favorite talking point is that the Democrats in Congress are failing to 'support the troops' by passing supplemental funding for the war that sets a time-line for withdrawal. Mr. Bush claims that if Congress does not send him a bill he can sign the soldiers in Iraq will be endangered. Mr. Bush said on Tuesday:
Congress's most basic responsibility is to give our troops the equipment and training they need to fight our enemies and protect our nation. They're now failing in that responsibility, and if they do not change course in the coming weeks, the price of that failure will be paid by our troops and their loved ones.

When Congress and Mr. Bush return from their spring recesses next week Congress will send a bill to the White House that fully funds and supports the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Mr. Bush vetoes this bill, as he has promised to do, it will be Mr. Bush who has denied funding to the American soldiers that he has sent into harm's way and cut off funding for the war. In his own rhetoric Mr. Bush will have failed to 'support the troops.'