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April 20, 2006

The Jerk at the Podium: Scott McClellan Steps Away

"McClellan, Bush, Cheney, and Rove proved there were other ways. Replace news management with press nullification. Drop the persuasion model, in favor of the politics of assent. Choose non-communication to demonstrate that you ought not to be questioned (it only helps our enemies.)"

(New post following news of McClellan’s book, May 29, 2008. See What Happened to Scott McClellan in Longer Perspective: 100 Years of the White House Press.)

Scott McClellan was a different kind of press secretary, sent to do a different job than the one people had done from that podium before. Instead of grouping him with a succession of other White House spokesmen, a line to which he does not belong, we have to take McClellan’s job, call it a piece of the puzzle, and place it alongside other pieces until we recognize the larger political strategy he was a part of.

He’s gone; the policy—strategic non-communication—may still be in place.

First, McClellan was a necessary figure in what I have called Rollback— the attempt to downgrade the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country. It had once been accepted wisdom that by carefully “feeding the beast” an Administration would be rewarded with better coverage in the long run. Rollback, the policy for which McClellan signed on, means not feeding but starving the beast, while reducing its effectiveness as an interlocutor with the President and demonstrating to all that the fourth estate is a joke.

As Nick Madigan of the Baltimore Sun wrote this week, “No matter what the question, the president, his press secretary and other officials usually manage to deliver their position of the day without obstruction.” That’s part of Rollback.

“Back ‘em up, starve ‘em down, and drive up their negatives” is how I summarized it in my post, Rollback (July 16, 2005). “I believe the ultimate goal is to enhance executive power and maximize the president’s freedom of maneuver— not only in policy-making, and warfare, but on the terrain of fact itself.”

And I still believe that. So this is the first thing to understand about McClellan and the job he was given by Bush. He wasn’t put there to brief the White House press, but to frustrate, and belittle it, and provoke journalists into discrediting themselves on TV. The very premise of a White House “communications” office gets in the way of understanding the strategy that prevailed from July 2003, when McClellan took over from Ari Fleischer, until this week, when he announced his resignation.

McClellan’s specialty was non-communication; what’s remarkable about him as a choice for press secretary is that he had no special talent for explaining Bush’s policies to the world. In fact, he usually made things less clear by talking about them. We have to assume that this is the way the President wanted it; and if we do assume that it forces us to ask: why use a bad explainer and a rotten communicator as your spokesman before the entire world? Isn’t that just dumb— and bad politics? Wouldn’t it be suicidal in a media-driven age with its 24-hour news cycle?

You would think so, but if the goal is to skate through unquestioned—because the gaps in your explanations are so large to start with—then to refuse to explain is a demonstration of raw presidential power. (As in “never apologize, never explain.”) So this is another reason McClellan was there. Not to be persuasive, but to refute the assumption that there was anyone the White House needed or wanted to persuade— least of all the press! Politics demands assent, on one hand, and attack on the other. (And those are your choices with Bush and Rove: assent or be attacked.) The very notion of persuasion conceded more to democratic politics than the Bush forces wanted to concede.

The same goes for spin. Anyone who talks about McClellan “spinning” the press has got the wrong idea. The premise of spin is that by artful re-statement the facts can be made to look better for the President. But McClellan’s speaking style is artless in the extreme. He’s terrible at spin but it didn’t detract from the job he was there to do.

While claiming to hate spin, journalists grasp that the very practice of it is an implied credit to their profession; it means they’re important! By sticking someone up there who is inept at it, you downgrade the press to unspun: why bother?

McClellan went through the motions of spin sometimes. But he was far more comfortable with robotic repetition of some empty formula he had decided on in advance, like “We are focused on the priorities that the American people care most about and getting things done…” His favorite word was “again,” as in, “Again, David, the President is focused on…” That isn’t spin. That’s running out the clock.

Spinning is improvisational. It requires you to think on your feet. McClellan was terrible at that too: wooden and unconvincing. He was not a phrase-maker; and he had no natural eloquence. Grace under pressure? No, that would concede that the reporters pressing their questions are legitimate actors. And so under pressure McClellan got more excruciatingly thick-headed and often belligerent, provoking belligerence back.

In what sense are these qualifications for the job of press secretary? Well, McClellan was there to make executive power more illegible, which is the way Bush, Cheney (especially Cheney) and Rove want it. Being inarticulate in public is basic to that goal. Bush himself is that way when he’s not reading from a script. And as Madigan noted, Bush’s “aversion to detailed questions is palpable.”

Michael Wolff, in an effective profile of McClellan for Vanity Fair, noticed this. “Because Scott couldn’t talk, he wouldn’t be able to say anything for himself,” Wolff writes. “His lack of verbal acumen, his lack of dexterity with a subordinate clause, becomes another part of the way to control the White House message in a White House obsessed with such control.”

As Wolff notes, “He wouldn’t be able to cozy up to the press. That requires a serving-two-masters deftness. A special tonal range. A wink. A nod. An emphasis. A surgical use of modifiers, so that I say what I have to say in such a way that we all understand what I mean to say. A little Kabukiness.” There has been none of that “tonal range” under McClellan. The results are ugly, but the public ugliness is a clue.

McClellan himself, as though having some terrible social disability, has, standing miserably in the press briefing room every day, become a kick-me archetype. He’s Piggy in Lord of the Flies: a living victim, whose reason for being is, apparently, to shoulder public ridicule and pain (or, come to think of it, he’s Squealer from Animal Farm). He’s the person nobody would ever choose to be.

Right, the jerk at the podium. Ari Fleischer could stonewall with ease, but he wasn’t willing to be that jerk. (Plus, he had a twinkle in his eye when in a tough spot: no good.) And so the full development of Rollback and the illegible White House had to wait for McClellan, the true blue Texan and total Bush loyalist— considered “family” according to Time’s Mike Allen.

Now all this is humiliating for the press to have to endure but here the architects of rollback made a shrewd bet. This is how I explained it to John Harris, political editor of the Washington Post, in our aborted interview on these subjects: “In my view, the White House withdrew from a consensus understanding of how the executive branch had to deal with journalists. It correctly guessed that if it changed the game on you, you wouldn’t develop a new game of your own, or be able to react.”

And of course they didn’t.

The era of news management lasted 40 years— from 1963, when the networks first began their 30-minute nightly broadcasts, to 2003, when McClellan, Bush, Cheney, and Rove proved there were other ways. Replace news management with press nullification. Drop the persuasion model, in favor of the politics of assent. Choose non-communication to demonstrate that you ought not to be questioned (it only helps our enemies.)

Bush made no secret of his preference for government-by-assent. That’s why he created the Bush Bubble, a remarkable practice in which the White House routinely prevented non-believers from attending the President’s speeches and asking questions of him in public. (It’s now being relaxed somewhat.)

Other parts of the Bush presidency that fit in the puzzle with McClellan’s hapless style:

  • The fixing of facts around the policy in the run-up to the war in Iraq; the cherry-picking and manipulation of intelligence;
  • The expansion of executive secrecy and the conversion of public knowledge back into classified data;
  • The routine refusal to provide Congress with information required for meaningful oversight, which is itself a casualty of this White House;
  • The criminalization of reporting practices in the prosecution of journalists for unauthorized leaks;
  • Dick Cheney’s conviction that executive power had been encroached upon after Vietnam and Watergate, and needed to be re-claimed: from Congress, from the press, from the pressure of public opinion itself;
  • The new “stealth” model for the vice presidency that Cheney and Bush created, in which the VP’s schedule is secret and the press often doesn’t know where he is.

Put it all together and what do we have? In calling recently for Watergate-style Senate Hearings on the Bush Presidency, Carl Bernstein (also in Vanity Fair) wrote as follows:

“The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides… is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy—- used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed.”

It’s a good question. But I don’t think its fundamental enough. McClellan was a cog in a machine for making the executive power more opaque, and the presidency itself less dialogic. (Fewer questions, no answers unless under subpoena.) We have to understand how this system works, and why it’s appeared now.

Bush and his staff did something new, I would even say visionary when they decided to “manage” the news by shutting down those portions of the presidency where the President can be asked the difficult but necessary questions he loathes so much. Scott McClellan, I believe, was sent into the briefing room to shut off that tap even while he stood there and took the beatings.

The intended result: a presidency that is less questioned in the eyes of the world. That’s not news management; it’s a new balance of power between them and us.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Dick Polman, until recently chief political writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, adds his testimony to Rollback. “McClellan’s mission was not to merely evade or spin information in the traditional sense. His core purpose was to be the point man for an assertive, even revolutionary, White House effort to delegitimize the mainstream conveyers of the news.” The key to assessing McClellan: “His job was to contest or deny the ‘terrain of fact,’ the empirical evidence, as traditionally defined.” Polman gives some examples of just that.

Now this is interesting. Mark Hamilton says that there are signs that Rollback is being tried by the new Canadian prime minister, conservative Stephen Harper. (A CBC radio journalist told me the same thing during an interview this week.) Here’s a run-down of developments that suggest something’s up. More on this from Fine Young Journalist and Salmon Arm up north.

The Soundtrack: Got this note from Brendan Greeley, blogger-in-chief and sound wiz for Open Source Radio, Chris Lydon’s show. (Now on WNYC.)

Jay - Read your post on strategic non-communication, and I thought I’d buttress your claim with some sound files.Two years ago I became obsessed with Scott McClellan and started

editing his briefings down to just the sound bites, the One Right

Thing that he repeats fifteen-twenty times a briefing. The

administration’s recognition, in effect, that you don’t even have to

look like you’re trying to answer the questions, you just have to get through twenty-seven minutes without getting caught on tape saying

the wrong thing.

So here are five McClellan briefings from early 2004, all edited down to just the talking points he repeats verbatim.

Fantastic, what a document. Thanks, Brendan.

Over at MetaFilter, the poster digaman (who is Wired writer Steve Silberman) says another piece belongs in my rollback puzzle. “Donald Rumsfeld’s bold, frequent, and rarely-challenged assertions that the American press is being expertly ‘manipulated’ by Al Qaeda ‘media committees’ in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He has in mind statements like this from Rumsfeld on the radio with Neil Boortz:

SEC. RUMSFELD: …The only way we can lose this is if we lack political will to see it through. The terrorists, the violent terrorists, the enemies of the Iraqi people and the legitimate Iraqi government and the new Iraqi constitution, they know that. They know precisely that their battle is not in Iraq. Their battle is here in the United States. They have media committees, they calculate how they can have the greatest impact on the media in the world, and they are very skillful at it and we’re not.

Crooks and Liars has Keith Olbermann’s video tribute to Scott McClellan.

CNN’s John Roberts thinks Scott McClellan is a “truthteller,” and he thinks he will get in trouble with liberal blogs for saying it. (via Media Matters)

Recommended: A Tomdispatch Interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation. The description of what her day is like is fascinating in itself. In it she says PressThink is part of her daily routine, which is nice to know.

Kurtz: “He was painful to watch at times, gamely repeating the same stock phrases under a barrage of hostile media fire, grasping for new ways to deliver the same non-answers…” Also: “McClellan did not wink, nod or freelance, sticking closely to the day’s script.” Aye.

Dana Milbank tells us that when McClellan announced his departure most of the White House press corps was 30,000 feet in the air, on a charter flight to Tuskegee, Alabama, scheduled to land at 10:05 a.m. for a Bush speech later in the day. Graceful, huh? McClellan’s job was “made particularly challenging by Bush himself, who undermined his press secretary by arming him with little information to share with the public.”

Blogometer by National Journal has a good sampling of McClellan commentary from bloggers.

Stephen Spruiell at National Review’s Media Blog: “It’s not that Scott McClellan was a bad press secretary. It’s that he is not the right press secretary right now. A White House press corps this hostile and guileful calls for a press secretary who’s equally tough.”

Gerard Baker, Times of London: “At his daily press conference Mr McClellan conveyed a terror of speaking off the narrow line of his talking points that left the powerful impression of a man incapable of the most elementary of independent thought.” Which is the way Bush wanted it.

Ankush Khardori at Huff Post: Feel Bad for Scott McClellan. “Yes, he was routinely sent to the briefing room with half-truths and lies, but McClellan’s tragic earnestness revealed that, on most occasions, he actually bought the spin that the White House was putting out. Flawed and inept as McClellan was, his obliviousness was ultimately his most consistent feature.”

His post has this observation from Christopher Hitchens during a radio interview: “I’m not the only person in Washington who wonders every day how that guy got that job. I mean, it’s an insult to the intelligence of everyone who has to listen to him.” Well, yeah, Hitch. That’s how he got the job! Bush decided to insult anyone who came looking for answers to questions.

Elizabeth Bumiller in the New York Times reports: “Mr. Bolten, who has been given a free hand by Mr. Bush to make changes, has told associates he wants to change the White House communications operation and is interested in press officers who have longtime contacts and ties with reporters in Washington.”

Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the Baltimore Sun:

Since he came to office more than five years ago, Bush has placed a premium on secrecy.His team had, until recently, excelled at promoting a carefully honed message with a united voice. That often forced McClellan to go before reporters armed with talking points that bore little relation to reporters’ questions and sometimes to provide answers that turned out to be inaccurate.

Those talking points that “bore little relation to reporters’ questions?” That’s what I called non-communication. She has some other choice quotes. Like Ron Nessen, press secretary under Gerald Ford: “Part of this administration’s problem is it’s not been able to explain its policies and actions very well.” Nice try, but no. Not explaining very well isn’t a management foible. It was a strategic choice for the White House, part and parcel with the inexplicable actions themselves.

Recovered Comments

I don’t know if this falls under “running out the clock” or something else, but another common McClellan tactic has been to insist that uncomfortable questions have already been answered. (Almost invariably they have not, of course.) My frequent perusal of gaggle and briefing transcripts suggests that the press calls him on this tactic about … well, pretty much never, actually.

Posted by: Lex at April 20, 2006 10:31 AM | Permalink

One of the more interesting tipoffs to how McClellan has been managed has been the revelation of talking points from Scooter Libby, in the form of verse, with line breaks and enjambment.

In other words, even the caesuras may have been scripted.

From the NYSun:

“People have made too much of the difference in

How I described Karl and Libby

I’ve talked to Libby.

I said it was ridiculous about Karl

And it is ridiculous about Libby.

Libby was not the source of the Novak story.

And he did not leak classified information.”

It is exactly in McClellan’s diction.

The question is, is it McClellan’s diction, or is it a short-lined, sound-bite verse form that was proscribed.

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at April 20, 2006 11:41 AM | Permalink

I’ve been wondering how on earth you’d follow Scott’s act. What self-respecting journalist would take it? What kind of career move is this for a PR professional?

In other words, will a qualified candidate come in and say to the chief of staff/president, etc.: “You tried this rollback strategy, but I don’t think it has been successful and I can’t take the job if that’s what you’re going to expect from me.” The WH seems to be willing to loosen up a bit more recently (the president has been less scripted), but are they willing to change their tactics?

I think that might be a good move on their part, but I have a hard time imagining that they’d see it that way. If they “stay the course” on rollback, things could get very ugly.

As Olbermann said last night about the Tony Snow rumors: “If he gets the job, will Snow ask for back pay?”

Posted by: Daniel Conover at April 20, 2006 11:54 AM | Permalink

This is an excellent analysis of the deliberate demotion of the press by this administration.

The one thing it leaves out is the press’ complicity in it. The White House could not practice “press nullification” by itself. It requires the press to participate. And the press does so willingly. They are more concerned with access and appearances than with news.

The media is not a victim in this. It is a partner.

Posted by: Mark Howard at April 20, 2006 12:37 PM | Permalink

I don’t know that Tony Snow is inarticulate enough to fit the job description.

But I suppose he could learn …

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 20, 2006 12:57 PM | Permalink

How can not giving information NOT be ‘news management’? It is also called giving someone just enough rope to hang themselves.

President has gotten away with dissing the press, though the installation of a non-communcative press secretary. It has created a new balance of power between the president and the press,

However, maybe the power change was not a reaction to the president’s change in policy or personnel, but reflective of the change in power.

Posted by: Tim at April 20, 2006 01:06 PM | Permalink

The WH Press Corps didn’t change to counter the new treatment from this malAdministration. I’d love to see a few ideas from someone on what to do now that the game is uncovered.

Posted by: mommybrain at April 20, 2006 01:28 PM | Permalink

Sidney Blumenthal on Scotty

McClellan is a flea on the windshield of history. On the podium, he performed his duty as a slow-flying object swatted by a frustrated and flustered press corps. Inexpressive, occasionally inarticulate and displaying a limited vocabulary, his virtue was his unwavering discipline in sticking to his uninformative talking points, fending off pesky reporters, and defending the president and all the president’s men to the last full measure of his devotion. Inside the Bush White House, he was a non-player, a factotum, the instrument of Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political strategist and deputy chief of staff. McClellan played no part in the inner councils of state. He was the blank wall erected in front of the press to obstruct them from seeing what was on the other side. McClellan’s stoic façade was unmatched by a stoic interior. He was a vessel for his masters, did whatever he was told, put out disinformation without objection, and was willing to defend any travesty. He is the ultimate dispensable man.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 20, 2006 01:33 PM | Permalink

This piece is now live at Salon, too.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 20, 2006 01:50 PM | Permalink

This is rehashing old territory I’m sure, but - re what countermoves the press could make, in response to this shift -

Mark said

> “It requires the press to participate. And the press does so willingly.

mommybrain said

> “I’d love to see a few ideas from someone on what to do now that the game is uncovered.

Who would have such ideas?

(a historian? given that “history is all the data that we have so far” (Paul Graham) this can’t be the first time in human history that this situation has come up; how has it been handled before, and with what success?)

And what would the ideas be?

(“not attending” is one, but voting with one set of feet doesn’t seem like a particularly effective way to change a situation; and “unionizing” (voting with many feet, or any other group strategy) isn’t likely to hold up…)

Some comments bearing on this, from Jay’s Rollback post:

“The press, even functioning at its “best,” simply isn’t configured to be a catch-all balance for all branches of government. It’s legal to lie to us, and reporters cannot force anyone to present their evidence.

I think we could improve our performance as journalists and this basic equation still would not change…”


“Perhaps the news media are like the military: the generals fight the new wars with the old tactics. Until they learn better.

I’m not sure the media are learning.”


(I think possible strategies were mentioned in some other past PressThink comment threads, but can’t recall where.)

“Don’t attend, since it’s useless; instead, get your info from informative sources” was the best strategy mentioned, as I recall.

But would there be a way to attend, and still make it into something of value?

(Greeley’s “McClellan sound bites” collection that Jay links to is one answer; are there others?)

Posted by: Anna Haynes at April 20, 2006 02:31 PM | Permalink

Excellent summation as usual, Jay. Like Tim upthread, I latched onto the word power, and it appears like others are picking up the theme. In your Bush Thesis post, you called it “muscle.”

Could you be bit more explicit on how the press could and whether it should flex its muscle and push back?

Posted by: Sven at April 20, 2006 02:52 PM | Permalink

“… Rollback— the attempt to downgrade the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country.”

Never before has a White House been so closely scrutinized by the press, and never before has a White House been so busy getting its message out through the press. The Bush White House hasn’t “rolled back” the press — but it has rolled back its willingness to communicate its messages solely through limited (or “elite”) press outlets. The Bush Administration gets the word out though conduits demonstrating a less antagonistic view the Administration’s policies and players.

“In my view, the White House withdrew from a consensus understanding of how the executive branch had to deal with journalists.”

Do tell, whose consensus was it? I suspect a good amount of the public would disagree that the old arrangement was in the Administration’s interest — or the public interest.

Posted by: Adam White at April 20, 2006 02:57 PM | Permalink

The consensus in Republican and Democratic White Houses during the age of news management, 1963 to 2003.

Sven and Tim: No time to answer now, but there was a PressThink post on it: To Liberate From the White House the White House Press.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 20, 2006 03:05 PM | Permalink

“… starving the beast, while reducing [the press’] effectiveness as an interlocutor with the President …”

I’d turn that around, or at least rewrite it to say “while further reducing”.

The role of interlocutor implies a conduit. The ineffectiveness of the press conduit to the people belongs to the press. It’s that ineffectiveness that makes “starving the beast” not only possible, but effective.

Posted by: Sisyphus at April 20, 2006 03:10 PM | Permalink

Rollback worked as long as public opinion was on Bush’s side, or closely split. But now that he is nearing Nixon terriroty in the polls, and now that Republicans are jumping ship in large numbers, it is no longer viable, at least as blatantly as Scotty played it. And I think that’s why the WH saw that Scotty had to go because he was no longer a tactic that worked. (It also sounds like Rove could be indicited real soon, further rendering Scotty a liability.)

Check out the new Fox poll numbers:

President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).

Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush’s presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush’s job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 20, 2006 03:45 PM | Permalink

“The consensus in Republican and Democratic White Houses during the age of news management, 1963 to 2003.”

The major press, from 2001-current, has been startlingly antagonistic toward this Administration. Do you really expect the White House to not break from a (vaguely-stated) pre-existing “consensus” when there’s no such consistency on the other side of the table?

There are plenty of reasons to criticize in the White House message machine, but the failure to play nice with David Gregory, Dan Rather, and those similarly-situated is not one of those reasons.

Posted by: Adam White at April 20, 2006 03:49 PM | Permalink

The president didn’t disgrace or dis the press—the press has done that for itself. Very few people in America take the press seriously any more, and McClellan was an intentional thumb in your self-obsessed noses.

Stop trying to be the story and simply report it, and you might get some small modicum of respect back.

Nah! Too Late….

Posted by: DamnWalker at April 20, 2006 04:10 PM | Permalink

… and McClellan was an intentional thumb in your self-obsessed noses. — Posted by: DamnWalker


Mr. Walker:

I think that was exactly Mr. Rosen’s point.

Posted by: Ann Kolson at April 20, 2006 04:33 PM | Permalink

“When I hear people complain about the elite, I always ask them if they’d like to apply their principle to sports…”

- Samuel G. Freedman, from here

Posted by: Anna Haynes at April 20, 2006 04:40 PM | Permalink

Fried Green Al-Qaidas mashes up McClellan and E.T..

Brendan at Radio Open Source has funny McClellan clips.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at April 20, 2006 04:51 PM | Permalink

Let’s not forget that this move was preceded by Bush’s off-the-record outreach to journalists.

Mirroring the greater White House shakeup, this could very well be an actual shift in how this Administration does business (which would be good for the country), or it could be an illusion … which would fit the previous pattern, and which would therefore be not good for the country.

It certainly seems that a newly-energized White House Press Corps could take the opportunity — this briefing room power vacuum — to try to influence the direction of the Administration’s communications policy.

(BTW, Adam White said: The major press, from 2001-current, has been startlingly antagonistic toward this Administration. Maybe from August 31, 2005 or thereabouts — but this Administration enjoyed a pretty free pass between 9/11/01 and “Mission Accomplished”. You might want to go back and actually read some news reporting from that period, especially the runup to the Iraq War. A few newspapers have apologized to their readers for NOT having been critical enough in that period.)

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at April 20, 2006 05:14 PM | Permalink

… but this Administration enjoyed a pretty free pass between 9/11/01 and “Mission Accomplished”. You might want to go back and actually read some news reporting from that period, especially the runup to the Iraq War.

— Richard B. Simon

You are too kind, Richard. “A pretty free pass” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

With a very few exceptions, watch dogs became lap dogs.

“Gee, isnt it exciting ?!? We’re going to war

It’s an embarrassment that most of the Washington press corps will spend a lifetime living down.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 20, 2006 07:11 PM | Permalink

Do we even need a White House Press Corps anymore?

As each administration gets more adept at rollback, the value, not to mention the ‘prestige’ of a press gaggle assigned exclusively to the White House appears less useful. Each spokesman using more words to say less - or in McClellan’s case, say nothing at all.

When was the last significant news report that came out of that captive market of the Press Corps? Other DC-based or national reporters seem more capable of digging through the piles of information and by-stepping the gate guards.

Mind you, I’m still a little woozy from post-surgical pain meds, but I can’t really remember the last news break from the White House gang.


Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 20, 2006 08:24 PM | Permalink

It will be interesting, though, to see who the replacment will be.

— Rove — who crafted Rollback in the first place — has been demoted.

— McClellan has been sent packing.

— And Bolten, who seems really in charge, has, as Jay noted, ” told associates he wants to change the White House communications operation and is interested in press officers who have longtime contacts and ties with reporters in Washington.”

Suddenly, it looks less like rollback and more like faux engagement. The question remains: Is there any difference ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 20, 2006 09:00 PM | Permalink

The role of interlocutor implies a conduit. The ineffectiveness of the press conduit to the people belongs to the press. It’s that ineffectiveness that makes “starving the beast” not only possible, but effective.

I agree; The press has itself to blame. They did not really need to be at the white house (or at the Pentagon) to do their jobs. They are attracted to power and cannot seem to wean themselves away from the addiction. For example, Jason informs us that Mr. Rumsfeld gets the reception of a rockstar when he visits troops in the field because he treats the Pentagon reporters as “drooling morons”, and the troops apparently like this because they hate the reporters so much. Combine this with the fact that nothing useful (that could not have been covered by a single pool reporter) ever comes out of these get togethers other than face time with the powerful, and it is hard to escape the conclusion that most press organizations do not respect themselves or their mission. So for the most part, they deserve the scorn that they get.

For all the talk about rollback, the near absence of a cohesive response from the press is very telling, and ultimately more interesting ….

Posted by: village idiot at April 20, 2006 09:05 PM | Permalink

turd blossom, you don’t have policy anymore, just politics? what the diff?

McLemore, the WH beat is a strange prize. I can’t think of the last major story broken by a WH reporter. Don’t know if it’s possible from that beat.

Having cameras in the briefing room is a mistake. Being observed changes any situation, the people in fishbowl. Do we really want full transparency?

From a review of Russell Baker’s book, which I’ve linked to before:

Offered the job of White House correspondent, Mr. Baker accepted. He had been in London only a year, and he was not yet 30 years old. But his eyes were on larger things, and nothing was larger than the White House beat, Happy Valley on journalism’s long march. He discovered at once that the White House was barren, a place where you sat around listening to people breathe.

And covering Congress?

If I could get close to Russell Baker, I would know what was going on and I would not embarrass myself and the mighty news magazine I worked for … I did not know that Russell Baker of The New York Times, ornament of the reporter’s trade, 36 years old in 1961, wanted to bail out - tired “of sitting on marble floors, waiting for somebody to come out and lie to me.”

It takes drive and talent to become a DC journalist. But they need something else to stay around. I think McClellan and Rollback are/were a Bush, Rove isolated event. We will never see it again. No other WH will be so displined and not leak. It goes against human nature.

Posted by: bush’s jaw at April 20, 2006 09:47 PM | Permalink

Never before has a White House been so closely scrutinized by the press….

How true. Bob Woodward, Judy Miller, Adam Nagourney, Nedra Pickler, Fred Haitt, etc., they all tore Bush to shreds. Clinton, meanwhile, got the kid glove treatment.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 20, 2006 10:17 PM | Permalink

For example, Jason informs us that Mr. Rumsfeld gets the reception of a rockstar when he visits troops in the field because he treats the Pentagon reporters as “drooling morons”, and the troops apparently like this because they hate the reporters so much. — village idiot.

Village, don’t get sucked in by Jason’s fantasy world. The troops in Iraq may hate the straw man of obtuse Pentagon reporters that Rumsfeld erects, but they welcome those reporters who actually venture into Iraq — especially now that so many news outlets have cut back on their presence in Iraq.

I sent a very good reporter, Paul McLeary, to Iraq for the month of January, and wherever he went — and he went to some pretty scary places — McLeary was welcomed by beleaguered soldiers eager to have someone tell their story.

Which, God bless him, he did.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 20, 2006 10:58 PM | Permalink

George Orwell on Scotty:

Though you could not actually hear what the man was saying, you could not be in any doubt about its general nature. He might be denouncing Goldstein and demanding sterner measures against thought criminals [the press] and saboteurs, he might be fulminating against the atrocities of the Eurasian army, he might be praising Big Brother or the heroes on the Malabar front — it made no difference. Whatever it was, you could be certain that every word of it was pure orthodoxy, pure Ingsoc … The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck.

Thanks to Billmon

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 20, 2006 10:59 PM | Permalink


He’s obviously comfortable as just a cog in the greater machine. After all, the briefing he presides over is, as much as anything, a ritual (you can more easily explain how it got to be here than why it continues to exist) and a sideshow. (“One thing that the live briefings did,” McClellan says about the introduction of live broadcasts during the Clinton administration, “was attract a lot of colorful characters,” by which he means, without particular rancor, flaky people and media hounds.) In this and in other recent ad-ministrations, the high-end White House media and communication functions have been moved out of the traditional press office into a larger political sphere (Karl Rove is the real press secretary—or media general). What’s more, the Bush administration has taken a further step to downgrade the operation: it’s practically Bush policy to see the press corps as irrelevant and out of step with the American people.

The diminished role and stature of the place can’t be missed: the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room is gross—there’s the smell of disinfectant or long-lingering chlorine, broken seats, grungy carpets, harsh lighting, buckled acoustic tiling, shabby draperies (“Somebody fix the curtain—stage right, a white spot,” an exasperated cameraman kept yelling, at nobody in particular, on one of the recent days when I was in the room).

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 21, 2006 08:30 AM | Permalink

I think one important and devastatingly effective tactic for responding to the willfull, robotic, anti-democratic noncommunication of rollback has already been worked out—the videotape montage.

This is one of the keys to the Daily Show and has been used increasingly by Keith Olbermann. The samples of core talking points Jay refers to above are an audio version of this strategy. When you put together the clips of six different administration officials repeating “before the smoking gun becomes a mushroom cloud” it is exposed as the transparent, ludicrous script that it is. The speakers discredit themselves as robotic, focus-grouped mouthpieces.

Similarly with video clips juxtaposing on-the-record statements with later blatant lies about these same statements. It doesn’t take all that much commentary past letting liars hang themselves with their own lies. It’s usually right there on the tape. It would be a cinch to get five to ten minutes of Bush administration bald-faced lies juxtaposed with their previous statements to the contrary on the news ALMOST EVERY NIGHT. Why don’t we see it more than a couple of times a year, maybe in the week before an election? The broadcast media have been effectively censoring this stuff for five years. They are worse than partners in this dance of willfull deception and disinformation—they continue to enable fantastically distorted caricature to pass as foreign policy gravitas, most recently with the memory hole in which the media and the press have continued to leave the Bush administration refusal of Iranian diplomacy that has nearly demanded Iranian belligerence.

All a lot of this takes is the will to step out of the media/press deference to the king’s prerogatives and tell the truth. It’s not that hard to tell the truth.

What’s hard is to get the corporate courtiers running the media conglomerates to allow the truth to be told on the front page or in prime time. Spitting in the face of the king generally leads to a lower position in the oligarchy if not downright banishment. It is particularly unhelpful for receiving congressional earmarks and selective deregulation (what were the Indian bribes to Abramoff for if not selective regulation/deregulation?) in favor of your own particular interest. Selective deregulation has been the GOP’s ace in the corporate hole. In other words, telling the truth cuts media corporations out of the K Street auction of special interest legislation the 21st century Republican Party has built itself around. Rather than a marketplace of ideas, we have a marketplace AGAINST ideas.

What we need are press editors and broadcast media producers and ownership who don’t identify with the king and don’t take the approval of authority as the last word in news legitimacy regardless of whether the powers-that-be routinely lie or not. Producers and ownership who occasionally put the survival of the nation and the security of their families ahead of rigged competition and quarterly earnings. All they really have to do is stop pretending.

Bush is not Tinkerbell. All the media have to do take on rollback is just. stop. clapping.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at April 21, 2006 09:52 AM | Permalink

A few comments on what is generally a very interesting, insightful post by Prof Rosen.

First, Vanity Fair is not exactly what I’d cite for a creditable source on matters political. Fashion, yes. Celebrity gossip? Maybe (if I cared). But, citing VF on politics really diminishes one’s credibility.

Next, none of these stories are even remotely civil. There was a time in this country one could disagree without name calling (“jerk”). The question isn’t “who started it” (I neither know nor care) but whether we’ll take the responsibility for restoring a sober, rational tone to political dialogue. If a journalism professor is incapable of that, I’m afraid we’re in even worse shape than I thought.

Posted by: adr at April 21, 2006 10:17 AM | Permalink

Bush radicalized me, adr. And yes, we are in much worse shape than you thought.

I received this by e-mail and got permission to post it from the author. It’s one of the best notes I have gotten from a reader in three years of doing PressThink.

Dear Jay Rosen,

I really liked your post on Rollback, because it made me feel like you assembled nonsensical actions I have observed many times into a coherent, and convincing, story. It made me want to shout and say “Thank goodness somebody sees what’s happening!”

I also really liked Gwen Ifill’s question about AIDS to the vice-presidential candidates in the 2004 debate. It made me jump up and yell at my television because I was so happy that a moderator actually asked a personal, pointed question. (Too bad they didn’t answer it.)

So when I had the opportunity hear Gwen Ifill speak at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church (near Philadelphia, PA) tonight, I decided to ask her about the issues you have identified.

My question was written on a cue card and was actually one of the two dozen or so chosen to be answered. I wrote: “[In your speech tonight], you said ‘The media is born to be adversarial.’ But the current administration responds to adversarial questions by deflecting them. The media has been trying the same strategy for 5+ years. What responsibility does the Washington media have to try a NEW strategy?”

I wrote down her answer, but I did not capture it verbatim… I don’t mind if you want to quote what I say, but please don’t quote her since I don’t have 100% accuracy in my notes.

She said (paraphrasing Gwen Ifill)

I covered Bill Clinton, and HE spent a lot of time deflecting questions. What the meaning of ‘is’ is. [laughter] Let’s go back to LBJ, to Nixon and his enemies list…. There is such a history of this that saying this administration is worse than any other is not true.


On live TV, they can spin out the answer [until time runs out] and you [just end up] saying “But Secretary Rice, you didn’t answer my question.” In print journalism, you can try to come at the question in several different ways [and sometimes get a better answer].


There has been a breakdown in agreement between journalists and the people they cover, where we know it’s their job to answer our questions, and they don’t.


What I found maddening about her answer was the initial total denial that anything about the playing field has changed. The “everybody evades” answer, is probably partly my fault because I did use the word “deflect” in my question but I was writing quickly and couldn’t think of a better word.

As she went on, she addressed the common (real) problem of how to get a professional politician off the track they want to go down. Which is fine, it’s a perfectly legitimate problem for journalists, but it wasn’t my question.

And then at the very end, she started to touch on what you have articulated so well. The administration does not accept the rules of journalism as (unconsciously) shared by the full-time, high-profile journalists working in Washington today. And the few journalists that recognize this seem just to be whining that “They’re not playing by the RUUUUULLLES”.

OK! They’re not. Meantime, decisions are being made that imprison people without trial, subject them to torture and death, and otherwise reshape the river channel that’s been guiding the progress of our republic for the last 225+ years.

Am I crazy to be so angry at journalists for this? I don’t watch television but I read widely and voraciously and I give money to the League of Women Voters and I write letters to the editor and I always, always vote.

I know journalists face pressure to be commercially appealing and pressure in a lot of other directions too, but — who was it that said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? It feels like that’s what the journalists who have the most visible daily access to the federal government are doing. Why aren’t they trying something different? And if they won’t or can’t, why can’t I fire the White House press corps and send in some people who will?

Sorry for ranting at you when you are just the person who has most successfully framed the problem. I did think you might want to know that there is a nonpartisan, non-journalist reader of your blog who loves what you have to say and is trying to take it out into the world.

-Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

That sentiment from Ifill—“We know it’s their job to answer our questions, and they don’t”—says it all. As I told Harris: They changed the game on you, and they knew you wouldn’t react.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 21, 2006 11:03 AM | Permalink

From Canada, evidence that Rollback is being tried by the new government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper, Press Gallery row intensifies.

Canadian J-professor Mark Hamilton comments:

Canadian Conservatives are not, on the whole, the equivalent of that part of the American Republican Party that is currently wielding power. But the parties do share a deep distrust of the “liberal” media. And evidence is mounting that suggests control of message is a priority for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As the situation in the states appears to be showing, nullifying the press works as well as — or perhaps better than — spinning it.

It’s not “control of message.” Every government wants that. It’s control by nullifying the press. Not every government has tried that.

Fine Young Journalist has more on the Canadian connection.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 21, 2006 11:30 AM | Permalink

So the administration is rolling you guys back? Or at least the WH press corps.

So? Your job is to find out stuff and present it fairly and objectively. Complaining that it’s harder to do in the WH press room than it used to be is juvenile.

I don’t talk to many people about the traditional news, but I will say that nobody has ever started a conversation with, “Did you see at the WH briefing….?” except for one guy who did, referring to that jerk Gregory.

Whether it’s McClellan or somebody else, the WH press secretary’s job is to give the WH press corps what the administration wants the WH press corps to know. That’s not new and it’s not a secret. They may as well hand out sheets of paper with the information on it. The hope of the journos there, apparently, is to spook the press secretary into saying something he’d rather not have said. The secretary’s job is to not do that.

What a barren, sterile, impotent and useless exercise.

To consider this a plum job is breathtaking. It ought to be considered demeaning. Tell me. If there were no cameras there, would we have anybody who had the clout to be assigned to, say, Omsk and Tomsk instead, allowing himself to be stuck in that room?

Get over this and do some reporting.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say that the rollback

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 20, 2006 9:36 AM   Print


My apologies to readers and comment thread participants. Turns out that when I was trying to delete an offensive comment that was nothing but a nasty personal attack I accidentallly clicked "delete entry" instead. I thought there was a way to recover the post but it didn't work. Comments from the old post were saved as html and tacked on to the new version as if part of the post.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 26, 2006 9:59 AM | Permalink

Not that it will affect your thoughts on the media, Richard, but certainly you grasp the general concept of public representation by the press.

Do you attend every trial, every City Hall session or commissioners court? Do you know any one who does?

The press is the public proxy in such moments. It's through the media that you know what goes on in Congress, school boards, stockholder meetings, as well as police actions highway construction planning.

Would you prefer that reporters 'get a grip' and decide it's none of their business?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 26, 2006 11:06 AM | Permalink

Although it may seem a little out of context after the 5-day hiatus, please indulge this extended quote from Robert D. Kaplan's piece, entitled "The Media and Medievalism."
I believe it is quite apposite to the discussion here:

The medieval age was tyrannized by a demand for spiritual perfectionism, making it hard to accomplish anything practical... Today the global media make demands on generals and civilian policymakers that require a category of perfectionism with which medieval authorities would have been familiar...

The principal weapon of the global media, as of any media, is exposure. After all, there will be always be something reproachable to expose in even the best-functioning governments and bureaucracies, as such organizations are by nature supremely imperfect. Of course, too much exposure can immobilize government, but if you don’t have a concrete stake in any particular place, that shouldn’t matter. The very fact of exposure — and the moral satisfaction that derives from it — is, pace Canetti, pleasurable.

Exposure is the particular terrain of the investigative journalist. It is the investigative journalist who has inherited the mantle of the old left, whatever the ideological proclivities of individual practitioners of the trade. The investigative journalist is never interested in the 90 per cent of activities that are going right, nor especially in the 10 per cent that are going wrong, but only in the 1 per cent that are morally reprehensible. Because he always seems to define even the most heroic institutions by their worst iniquities, his target is authority itself. Disclaimers notwithstanding, he is the soul of the left incarnate.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at April 26, 2006 11:31 AM | Permalink

I wrote about that Kaplan piece here.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 26, 2006 12:20 PM | Permalink

Dave M.: Gregory was claiming to "represent" us. Not to be a conduit for reporting.
The context was in Bush ignoring HIM, or by extension THEM and their ideas, as if those ideas are a distillation of our ideas. The media do not, of course, represent us in this sense, the sense that Gregory was using it.

Gregory was implying that if Bush didn't listen to him or them, Bush wouldn't know what we thought.

Conduits do not represent.

But, it seems reasonable to presume, no entire human being wants to be seen as a professional conduit, so the journos might want to think better of themselves than that. Okay by me, as long as I'm not expected to believe whatever they come up with to make themselves feel better.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 12:53 PM | Permalink

Here's another component of rollback practiced by this administration that Murray Waas focuses on in his latest article: Good leaks and Bad leaks and what happens to the leakers of each type of leak.

In a response to questions for this article, Times Editor Bill Keller said in an e-mail that he believed the Bush White House is on a campaign to intimidate the press. "I'm not sure journalists fully appreciate the threat confronting us," Keller wrote. "The Times in the eavesdropping case, the Post for its CIA prison stories, and everyone else who has tried to look behind the war on terror."

Keller asserted that "there's sometimes a vindictive tone in the way [administration officials] talk about dragging reporters before grand juries and in the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors." He warned that journalists possibly are "suffering a bit of subpoena fatigue. Maybe some people are a little intimidated by the way the White House plays the soft-on-terror card. Whatever the reason, I worry that we're not as worried as we should be."

On the issue of leak investigations, one former senior intelligence official said that the Bush administration has targeted "leaks and leakers they don't like, while turning a blind eye to those they do like, or [leaks] they do themselves." Should this continue, the former official said, it would set a "dangerous precedent in that any president will be able to control the flow of information regarding any policy dispute.... When historians examine this, they will see that is how we got into war with Iraq."

Later in the same letter, Rockefeller said: "Given the Administration's continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical. Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest level of the Administration ceases to disclose classified information on a classified basis for political purposes."

Exhibit A for Rockefeller was a book by Washington Post Managing Editor Bob Woodward about the run-up to the war with Iraq.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 26, 2006 2:06 PM | Permalink

Steve. You really want to use Rocky in this context?
Recall the memo from him about how to politicize this?
Or did you take the immediate tack of complaining about how it came out in order to obfuscate its clear meaning.
He's tainted, not to mention a possible leaker--see his comment about a visit to Syria.

Anyway, what does everybody think of Snow?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 2:25 PM | Permalink

I was using Rocky as a conduit for his use of Woodward as Exhibit A. It ties in with Jay's last post.

You seemed to have missed the central point regarding this apsect of rollback:

On the issue of leak investigations, one former senior intelligence official said that the Bush administration has targeted "leaks and leakers they don't like, while turning a blind eye to those they do like, or [leaks] they do themselves." Should this continue, the former official said, it would set a "dangerous precedent in that any president will be able to control the flow of information regarding any policy dispute.... When historians examine this, they will see that is how we got into war with Iraq."

It seems to boil down to a simple formula: Print only what the administration leaks or risk going to jail. And as we know, the administration leaks misinformation while keeping accurate information classified. And Scotty goes up there and quacks and quacks and quacks the misinformation over and over again, refusing to address questions that require him to go beyond his talking points.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 26, 2006 2:53 PM | Permalink

I don't recall any other administration failing to try to control the flow of information.

The Plame case--such as it is--is being prosecuted on the orders of the administration. No blind eye there. Not the administration's, anyway.
Neat thing about it is you all hoped for so much from Plame that you've been ignoring other stuff as months go by and it becomes clearer--nothing's there. But you keep hoping and trying. How's that for controlling the flow? Throw them a bone and they won't notice the other stuff. Boy, they had you guys figured. You did their work for them.

Anyway, as the man said, the pres gets to declassify stuff. And then it's not classfied.
Leaking stuff that is not and never has been classified is a completely different issue and, I hope, is not being hauled in to this one in order to punch up the numbers.

What does everybody think of Snow?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 3:02 PM | Permalink

On Snow, here's partly what Froomkin wrote:

But it's still entirely possibly that, in the long run, Snow will simply represent a more charming, energetic, engaged and plugged-in way of continuing to tell the press nothing. ...

But will Snow change the job, or will the job change Snow?
Allen writes: "In a series of on-air appearances since news leaked that he was being considered for the job, Snow made it clear he was contemplating the job, and even hinted that he would take it. Asked about it one day on his show, he said with a laugh, 'I'm being deliberately coy. If nothing else, it's good practice.' "

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 26, 2006 3:07 PM | Permalink

Good practice. McClellan would never have said that.

The WH press secretary's job is to get the administration's side out. It's the journalists' job to find out other stuff. If he's better than you, admit it and go elsewhere to do your investigating.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 3:17 PM | Permalink

No, let's not change the subject to Snow. Jay is doing a separate post on him. What about Keller's point and the former administration official's point about the way the administration handles leaks, where this is the result:

Should this continue, the former official said, it would set a "dangerous precedent in that any president will be able to control the flow of information regarding any policy dispute.... When historians examine this, they will see that is how we got into war with Iraq."

I take it you would find this a good thing, Richard?

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 26, 2006 3:17 PM | Permalink

Oh, and Richard, should Rove be indicited as expected in the coming days, will you issue a retraction?

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 26, 2006 3:26 PM | Permalink

The WH press secretary's job is to get the administration's side out. It's the journalists' job to find out other stuff. If he's better than you, admit it and go elsewhere to do your investigating.

I've finally agree to Aubrey. One thing though Richard, people ask why the press continue to show up to McClellan briefings. You can't not show up. If you start skipping them, then the press secretary might disclose news. Reporters still have to appear at daily briefings and go elsewhere to investigate.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 26, 2006 3:26 PM | Permalink

Ron Nessen, Ford's press secretary, answers my Q:

Atlanta, Ga.: Thanks for taking these questions. I'm a former reporter, no longer in the busines or even PR, I worked briefly writing for a company internal Web site.

Did you find it hard to switch sides, to be a spokesman and having to answer questions, instead of asking them?

What about questions you have answers to and can't answer?

Ron Nessen: My attitude when I took the press secretary's job was that I was still a reporter...I was a reporter on the INSIDE...I'd see what was going on in the White House every day and then come out at my briefing and report to the other reporters what I had seen and heard. In reality, that turned out to be a bit naive.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 26, 2006 3:33 PM | Permalink

I don't see where this hasn't continued since the inventing of the printing press, or the accesssion of George Washington, anyway.
What, besides the fact that it's Bush doing it, is unprecedented and unprecedentedly dangerous?

If Rove is indicted as expected--you slaveringly hope--what would I be retracting?

I am not a journalist, fortunately, so I don't take Keller's word for what's going on with this subject, or for where the sun can be expected to rise, either.
First, he has to explain that this is how we got into a war with Iraq. And do that without triggering Jay's threat to delete people who garbage up this thread with that subject.

We know, for example, that the recently-employed Mary McCarthy thought the aspirin factory bombing was on thin grounds, until later when she thought it was just dan and finedy. Who was controlling that information? This is not new. Few people will fall for the breathless alarm by which the old or the unimportant is made IMPORTANT, ALARMING, HORRIBLE!!!

I personally think the administration is derelict on the info thing by leaving the zillions of documents from Iraq in the basement someplace and only recently letting them out. A few of them have been translated. Those of you who are taking the CW that the whole war was a put-up job ought to be looking into hiring an arsonist. The stuff coming out in bits and pieces is interesting. Most interesting.
IMO, this is the flow you ought to be worried about.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 3:42 PM | Permalink

Aubrey, so what do you think about Drumheller?

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 26, 2006 3:54 PM | Permalink

Richard Aubrey,
Have you registered with the Cherrypicker's local in your area?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at April 26, 2006 4:08 PM | Permalink

Ok, Richard. I can see you are a total waste of time. In fact, you are just a troll. You are not interested in debate or discussion, you are interested in stifiling discussion and muddying up debate with unsupported non-specific nonesense.

Don't feed the trolls!

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 26, 2006 4:08 PM | Permalink

I don't know about Drumheller. The CBS report--keeping in mind that it was CBS which attempted to throw an election by means of forged documents--misrepresented the issue.
What Drumheller said and what CBS added as context is too mixed to separate.
But the Niger issue is one in which they are screwing the pooch in the same old way.
Wilson told the CIA that there were contacts with Niger. The no-contacts stuff was an op-ed.
Subsequent intel discovered the same thing.
The presumption was--and presumption is all there can be--is that Iraq was not looking at commercial deals regarding Niger's other exports, but was talking about uranium. Nothing else makes sense, and that's the kind of thing intelligence does.

Drumheller refers to some reports that WMD did not exist, and either he or CBS makes it sound as if that was the only report going up the chain, which is untrue. The WH was in the positon of choosing which intel sounded most likely.

The Iraqis did, actually, have a bunch of yellowcake, which we know because in other times the libs have pilloried the admin for not guarding it when the invasion got that far. That they had it seems more important than arguments about where it came from.
What do you think?

Now, we also know, although you hope we don't, that uranium comes from other places in Africa, which is what Bush was referring to during the famous sixteen words. He did not mention "Niger", but "Africa".
This one's worn out, guys. Forget it.

Too, there are continuing reports that, alternatively, SH was trying to fool both the UN (don't gots'em) and his neighbors (I be bad with WMD), and ended up fooling the WH, too. What a tangled web....
Or that his scientists had both him and his security services fooled that they had the stuff. This seems unlikely, considering the apparent ubiquity of the security services and the penalties for annoying them, but if true, we can hardly be surprised that the rest of the world was fooled, too.

Cherrypicking? Me? Like I'm alone in this?
If you're referring to the aspirin factory, then forget that one, too. You can always accuse somebody of cherrypicking when he provides some examples. The alternative, of course, is to list all four million cases of whatever, a technique few actually follow.

Info flow has been done for years. You're losing bigtime if you try to convince anybody this is new and different.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 4:49 PM | Permalink

What does everybody think of Snow?
-- Richard Aubrey

Apparently there's a separate post coming about Snow.

But the quick answer to Richard's disingenuous question is, keep your eye on Josh Bolten.

He's the guy who decided to replace a robotic automaton (Scott) with a bombastic provocateur (Tony) -- and he's also the guy who just sent Karl Rove packing ignomiously to the sub-basement of the West Wing.

Interesting strategy, for sure -- even daring, one might say -- take out Scotty and Bush's Brain with one fell swoop.

But it remains to be seen if it's just rollback-with -a-little- sugar-to-make-the-medicine-go-down, or if it's an actual attempt to engage the press by showing them a glimpse of the inner sanctum.

Shouldn't take long to find out. But so far Bolten impresses.

Meantime, today Fitzgerald hauled Rove in for his fifth appearance before his grand jury.

Keep your eye on the men behind the curtain. That would be Mr. Bolten and Mr. Fitzgerald. Everyone else is a bit player.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 26, 2006 7:49 PM | Permalink

... what Steve said.

Oh, and Jay -- thanks for moving to block an hysterical personal attack. Even if it did take down your site for five days.

You are a class act.

Posted by: Ann Kolson at April 26, 2006 7:56 PM | Permalink

Anyway, what does everybody think of Snow?

although I'll wait for Jay's post about Tony Snow's appointment to comment, I would like to make one suggestion....

please block any comment that contains the phrase "Snow job" purely on the assumption that whatever the commenter has to say will be hackneyed. ;)

Posted by: plukasiak at April 26, 2006 8:03 PM | Permalink

plukasiak, what are your thoughts about Hiltzik, (especially with ami) and pseudonyms?

I've read comments about how the deception was an attempt to generate more traffic at his blog. or that he could be more snarky. but he was already snarky.

Commenting and agreeing with his pseudonym are odd, but maybe he doesn't want to seem obsessed and comment to often?

There was some shock here with ami, but ami's URL was the awol project.

Kilgore has reappeared here, and if I used another pseudo, most people will be able to detect my bad grammar and typos.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 26, 2006 8:50 PM | Permalink

What do you think?
I think you are full of it and that all you do is babble ridiculous garbage that spouts from your brain like sewage from a pipe. You don't even believe the garbage you write. You never provide support for any of it because there is none. Why Jay tolerates it is beyond me.

I have researched your posts on other blogs and it's always the same thing. And always the other people on the comments get pissed that you disrupt the discussion with your nonesense. You are the worst kind of troll, the most destructive kind. Your goal is to make meaningful discussion and debate impossible.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 26, 2006 10:27 PM | Permalink

If this reasonable couple of paragraphs is directed at me, thanks for the good words.

I do get people angry, from time to time, because I post on boards where people would likely have the opposite view.

And, of course, hearing inconvenient facts is going to get some people angry.

I don't often provide support, if you mean in the form of links, because I generally refer to facts generally known.

For example, we all know that there are more places to get uranium in Africa than in Niger, and we all know the president didn't say "Niger", so I don't need to provide a link. I just remind people of the facts they already know and that others know them, too.

That can certainly annoy some people, but it's hardly illegitimate.

Considering all this, I don't know why Jay puts up with it, either. It kind of disharmonizes the chorus. Shame.

Perhaps he thinks it's good training.

BTW. How do you know I don't believe what I write?

Long ago, I came to the conclusion that people who were involved in mostly one-way communication, which meant politicians, journalists, writers, clergy, weren't aware of the number of people who weren't in a position to make clear they, the speakers or writers, were not believed.
I know about hearing from readers, or constituents, or whatever, but I rarely heard anybody say the input had any merit whatsoever. Any argument is by definition false. Therefore, all argument is illegitimate, and therefore the writer/politician/cleric/journalist is not wrong, or not found out, anyway.

Really finding out what the targets of your communication have been thinking all these years is no doubt disconcerting. Possibly even disorienting.

That's progress. No pain, no gain. Your turn, now.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 26, 2006 11:23 PM | Permalink

Any argument is by definition false. Therefore, all argument is illegitimate, and therefore the writer/politician/cleric/journalist is not wrong, or not found out, anyway. - Aubrey's Law.

I won't even begin to try to follow that logic trail.

I don't think you're anyone's target of communication, Richard.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 26, 2006 11:46 PM | Permalink

As for Snow, I find it telling that during the White House press conference announcing his appointment, the President and Snow made brief statements. And then left the room without answering questions.

What has changed?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 26, 2006 11:48 PM | Permalink

The reason you get people angry is not because they might disagree with you, it's because you argue 'spin' or talking points (often long discredited) instead of facts that are generally accepted as true or are verifiable.

And when you are challenged, you typically dodge the challenge and fail to back up your claims, which at times are ridiculous and often thick with smears. This is not debate or discussion, it is a maddening game of obfuscation, distortion and distraction peppered with petty insults.

Despite all of that, you seem like a nice nough guy. I would not have commented at all if your comments were harmless to the discussion, or if you were just not very well informed, but doing your best to make an honest point. But that's not the case here. And I retract the query about why Jay tolerates it; it's not relevant or any of my business.

Any way, you asked us what we thought, so there's my answer to your question. I have nothing more to add except that it would probably be better to be discussing the topic of the post than this. And if Rove is indicited soon, then at least the timing of Scotty's resignation would seem to be a consequence of that.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 27, 2006 12:20 AM | Permalink

I've had a comment stored for a bit...

Before I got a chance to post it, the thread wandered into general politics. Oh well. I am another who is on the "other side" from the main stream media group-think echo chamber, and in fact have a very low opinion of the product of what we call "journalism" these days - a "discipline" where even the concept of "objectivity" is no longer a paramount goal, with social justice accepted as a reasonable motive for biased reporting, and "balance" being an artifice (as so well pointed out by Dr. Rosen in the past). None of this is to demean any particular journalist (with a few notable exceptions), but rather the low, biased and these days, sometimes downright anti-american state of the US MSM.

Tony Snow looks like a good pick. He understands the news business, politics, how the White House operates (from his Reagan speechwriter experience) and has been a conservative talk radio host for quite a while - which should leave him well prepared to deal with the remarkable and surprisingly personal animus which the left.... err, main stream media holds against George Bush.
As talk show hosts go, Tony appears to be quite a gentleman - which will put him in strong contrast to the savages in the White House press corps. And who knows, he might care enough about getting the message out that he will kiss journo butt if that's what is required.

On another blog, someone posted a sign of a good press secretary: recognizing a certain well known questioner by saying "Helen, you slut..." I like the idea, but Tony's too much of a gentleman for that.

........and now to my prepared remarks :-).....

It is hard to find sympathy for journalists who are so dependent upon the White House press secretary, and yet so angry when the press secretary does his job. The press secretary’s isn’t there to tell anyone every detail and rumor about the Administration. Nor to feed journalists what they want to hear… more on that later.

The complaint that somehow this administration is unusual in its lack of transparency is overblown. All engage in news management and spin, and the press often goes along. FDR, for example, did not allow himself to be photographed with his wheel chair visible. The press corps complied. JFK had numerous scandalous sexual activities, some with potential national security implications. Again, a compliant press corps concealed that. Perhaps "coverage" was ironically a better term to use in those days.

That the Bush administration has been unusually good at preventing leaks is hardly a crime - it just makes a reporter’s job harder. Too bad - if they are being spoon fed, they may be comfortable but they are hardly likely to write the whole story - as if anyone in the MSM cares about accuracy these days.

The Bush Administration has done a terrible job of helping itself with its communications policy. A major factor appears to be its inability to adequately deal with the media. This White House hasn’t had a good strategy for handling a predictably and implacably hostile media.

The press secretary’s job is to get the President "better" press, in a political sense, and in a leadership sense. That job includes "spin" and other methods of *managing* the press. It does not include, as is implied, being "frank" with "the American people" ( read: slavering press corps ). Our government is political, the President has political responsibilities, and to complain about the political nature of press interactions is to be dishonestly naïve.

If the press secretary is a jerk to reporters, maybe they deserve it. In any case, whining about it is pathetic.

Those who are upset about the press secretary’s product seem insulted - the administration doesn't recognize their personal importance!. And lets not forget the absurd significance attached to one White House staffer's comment about "reality based," etc.

Bush needs to communicate a whole lot more. Almost everyone seems to agree on that. But not because he is "dissing" journalists. He needs to get his message out from behind the iron curtain of the MSM. The administration needs to recognize that the current war (not to mention the Democrat plans to win the Senate and completely hobble the administration via investigations) involves a large measure of political action domestically and psychological warfare internationally.

As others have pointed out, the White House press corps is not really that important. They are an anachronism in the age of modern communications and information flow. But they are a very powerful and self-important anachronism, and when their pride is deflated, they strike back viciously. The White House should have coddled them - "felt their pain" and generally stroked this silly but powerful group.

Then they should have figured out how to get their real message to the people - whether through the flattered narcissists of the press corps or some other channel.

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 12:29 AM | Permalink

Okay, Dave, let me break it into smaller pieces:

Journalist says something.

Reader objects.

Journalist presumes the reader is a nutcase. Who else would object?

After ten times of hearing objections, always presuming the objectors are nutcases, the journalist comes to the conclusion that only nutcases object.

That being the case, anybody who objects is a nutcase.

Only nutcases object.

What is there to learn from nutcases? Nothing.

Therefore, there is nothing, and will never be anything, to learn from people who object, since they are all nutcases.

The feedback has no effect. You don't know what the public thinks since the only people who object are nutcases and nutcases don't reflect the public.

It's a matter of definitions. Objectors are, by definition, nutcases.

If I am in the public, I am the target of communication from anybody who writes expecting the result will be out in the public.
He or she will be trying to persuade me of something, if only the chances of rain tomorrow.

If you don't think what you write applies to me, then you must think it applies to others, or what are you getting paid for?

They are targets of your communication. I submit you don't know, haven't known, what the targets think of you. They're not as happy with you as you think.

From time to time, there will be a survey of people on the following question: If the media report on something about which you know a good deal, were in the middle of, is your job, witnessed clearly, is your passion and hobby, how often do they get it right. The best I've heard is that the surveyed folks think you get it right about twenty percent of the time, when they're in a position to know, themselves. I first ran into that in 1971. Some years ago in SPJ, somebody wrote a brief piece about talking to a bunch of news consumers at some kind of forum. His result was zero times the media get it right.

The logical conclusion, which, lucky for you, few folks seem to have reached is, if they can't get it right when I know what happened, how can I take their word for it when I don't know what happened.

I'd like to see you guys get it right more often.
'way more often.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 12:30 AM | Permalink

Wow... I just flunked writing 101 with my first exceedingly long sentence.

Sorry 'bout that.

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 12:30 AM | Permalink

Steve. Don't think I'm a nice guy. Think of me as being civilized, temporarily. It's an option.

If you followed me to TalkLeft--which I gave up some time ago as those guys were certifiable--you would see anger directed at me personally and at my views, and not as a matter of my being uninformed.

I was a racist, because a racist is anybody who makes a point a liberal can't handle. I was lots of awful stuff, none of which had anything to do with the facts of the case(s).

I've watched their lax coverage recently, and commented. Reading their other stuff reminds me why I don't bother.

Is the issue about uranium in Africa instead of Niger and all the rest of it a discredited talking point? Is the president's use of the word "Africa" a discredited talking point?

Anyway, if you disagree, show me a fact that discredits what I say.

I have been around lefties since the Sixties and I know a good bit of how they operate and argue. The usual stuff doesn't work. And that's annoying.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 12:43 AM | Permalink

Richard's problem, as I have told him before, is press hate. He has no view other than the press knows nothing, listens to no one, and intends harm except when it is too stupid to even know what it's doing. That's his theory, those are his facts. That's the conclusion, that's the evidence. His view never changes, and he comes here to spread his press hate, hoping to find actual press people to fling it at. You can try arguing, but it always comes out the same way. The topics shift a little. The conclusion never varies. Trolls are a little different; they don't care about the conclusion; they just want to disrupt in a way that pulls the conversation toward them.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 27, 2006 12:44 AM | Permalink

Jay. Try taking my ammo away. We'd both benefit.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 1:17 AM | Permalink

The NYT recently had a correction about how things were going in Houston with the Katrina folks.
The reporter got the number of students wrong by a factor of, as I recall, about six. And she was about 90% low on the amount of federal aid.

I'd like to see the correction go a bit further.

"The reporter was told that the Houston consolidated district has about 5700 Katrina kids but she reported 30,000 because.... The reporter was told that federal aid was $220 million but she reported $22 million because...."

Or, "the Houston district told our reporter they had 30,000 Katrina kids and with further research we discovered they were wrong. The administration would not comment on the error. The feds said they were providing $22 million in aid which seemed kind of scanty so, after the first edition was run, we did some more checking and found.... No explanation from DOEd was forthcoming."

"And the reason these mistakes generally seem to make Bush look bad is just coincidence."

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 1:33 AM | Permalink

plukasiak, what are your thoughts about Hiltzik, (especially with ami) and pseudonyms?

I think Hiltzik is an idiot. If he can't answer criticism under his own name, then his arguments suck. And if he doesn't have enough people reading his blog that someone will come to his defense when he is attacked, its pretty obvious that nobody is reading his blog, and nothing he, or his attackers, wrote is making any difference.

(btw, "ami" was created as a "dishonest" version of "plukasiak" --- but the "dishonesty" involved the creation of a persona (ami) that is far more "amiable" and less confrontational/trollish than I am when I write under my own name -- "ami" may make a reappearance if/when someone pisses me off so much that I can't express my true feelings, and have to "engage in civil discourse")

Posted by: plukasiak at April 27, 2006 2:01 AM | Permalink

If you go to Patterico's, Hiltzik wasn't just using pseudonyms in the comments of his own blog. (That I get is wrong, and that is not the main issue.) Hiltzik was caught because he argued with conservatives and Patterico about the LATimes' editorials and other issues at Patterico's comment section.

Some of the arguments/debates devolved in the definition of the word "branded," and subsets of definitions at I didn't follow every turn and link, but what I saw was quite fascinating and tedious. Like most comment section debates?

Once Patterico suspected that Hiltzik was Mikekoshi, Patterico googled the two names and found Hiltzik signing an e-mail back in 1996 as Mikekoshi in a sumo wrestling forum or user group. Kurtz had written that they tracked his comments from IP address, but I don't think that was true. Basically Patterico saw the similar language, phrases. Unless Kurtz meant the LATimes.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 3:04 AM | Permalink

That's why I brought up Ami and the awol project URL. Hiltzik was sorta hiding in plain site.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 3:06 AM | Permalink

John Moore, I agree with a lot of your points and criticisms, and with most of your conclusion on how the WH should have handled the press. However, arrogance is one of their hallmarks. They often choose the more arrogant less efficacous route as a matter of 'principle.'

But I think you miss the larger context and Jay's focus with rollback. No one is saying the WH press corps is innocent or even all that good at what they do. The issue is whether this WH's strategy is to go beyond getting their message out, and also includes the objective of rendering the press impotent and cripiling its ability to play its institutional role in a democracy.

And the reason they want to do that is so they can have more unfettered power to do things that they would not be able to find sufficient political support for based on the merits, and in order to hide failure and blunders and corruption, and to perpetuate their power.

In emasculating the press and pushing it aside, the white house seeks to do more than manage it. They want to control the flow of information to the point where the press is their mouthpiece and an arm of their PR machine. Putting Scotty out there as press secretary was just one aspect of it, a tactic.

Your theory overlooks the reality that the WH has abused its vast powers in pursuit of this strategy. It has given itself the power to criminalize the truth. It has also disregarded the law in punishing those who attempt to tell the truth. And it has done so in order to conceal the truth and the political consequences that would come with it.

The "good leaks" to Judy Miller or bob woodward contrasted with the "bad leaks" about domestic spying or secret prisons or torture are an example of this. The outing of Plame is also an example. So is the swift-boating of people who attempt to report the truth by calling them traitors. And so is Michelle Malkin's Rope. Tree. Journalist. campaign in the wingnutosphere.

Saying the press are a bunch of wimps and incompetent does not address these larger issues regarding the administration's abuse of its powers and its effect on the ability of the press to fulfill its institutional obligations, which are essential to a democracy.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 27, 2006 9:39 AM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady, you said, “if it's an actual attempt to engage the press” and earlier in this topic you used the terms “faux engagement.” (I can't seem to link to that post now even though I see it on my screen.)

What specifically would be different in the coverage of WH briefings to me, as a reader and a news watcher, that would reflect a difference to you between McClellan and Snow? Something, for example, that would cause you to say “Oh…this is good….it’s not “faux” engagement, it’s real engagement.”

One reason I’m asking is I was listening to Hardball last night while I was painting in the next room. The sub-host, who I think must have been David Gregory but I didn’t actually see him so I’m not sure… anyway… he was interviewing Dee-Dee Myers and Ben Ginsberg, and getting their “reactions” on Snow’s appointment (like, who cares, but oh well), and he kept coming back to the same repeated line of questioning, which was…

“but even if he describes the president’s policies better, they're still the same old policies so won’t he have to change his positions if he wants Americans like him more?”

(transcripts aren’t up so I can’t link to the show yet)

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 9:48 AM | Permalink


What's with "swiftboating"?

The actual Swift Boat guys said things which were, at the very worst, different interpretations. Nothing of note they claimed has been discredited.

Kerry did arrange the Winter Soldier circus which, among other things, used fake soldiers to tell fake stories about how horrible US soldiers were. To recount that is not false.

Just for starters.

To use the term "swiftboat" as if it's just so obviously and clearly true that the Swift Boat campaign has been thoroughly discredited is to imply falsehood.

If you dislike the administration's treatment of critics--unlike how nobody but the victims seemed to mind the nuts&sluts treatment of an earlier administration--go for it. But don't make yourself look bad by saying stuff that, one is false, and, two, that everybody knows is false.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 10:14 AM | Permalink

“but even if he describes the president’s policies better, they're still the same old policies so won’t he have to change his positions if he wants Americans like him more?”

Given that, when Bush was still popular, poll after poll showed that the American people disagreed with Bush's approach to most domestic policies, this is a perfectly valid question. 9-11 "saved" the Bush presidency --- his poll numbers were already beginning to tank before the attacks based on the policies he was pursuing. Had it not been for 9-11, Bush would have either had to change directions/policies, or been a one term President.

Thus, simply doing a better job of "explaining" Bush's policies is not likely to significantly improve Bush's ratings. (this is especially true now that people's perception of Bush's character has taken a steep dive as well.... Clinton survived because people liked his policies despite not liking his "character", but you can't run a government with unpopular policies if people don't like you.)

Posted by: plukasiak at April 27, 2006 10:17 AM | Permalink

Richard, Look it up in the dioctionary

1. swiftboated

To be unfairly and inaccurately attacked relentlessly in the media

They swiftboated the Gold Star mom on the news by questioning her credibility when she refused to back off with her antiwar protest in the presidents back yard.

by Mike Levy Venice, CA Aug 9, 2005 email it

2. swiftboated

to be smeared by the president or his administration in a tastless and slanderous way.

They're gonna totally swiftboat this soldier's mom the way they did kerry.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 27, 2006 10:27 AM | Permalink


I think I got it. By sufficient repetition of a lie, the usage becomes as you explain it.

Why does this not make me feel better?

Posted by: RIchard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 10:52 AM | Permalink

What specifically would be different in the coverage of WH briefings to me, as a reader and a news watcher, that would reflect a difference to you between McClellan and Snow? Something, for example, that would cause you to say “Oh…this is good….it’s not “faux” engagement, it’s real engagement.” -- Kristen

Kristen, I'll give you a hypothetical, since it's not fair to grade Snow before he even begins. But let's start with this: McClellan was notoriously out of the loop, which was part of Rollback. If the White House press secretary is ignorant of what went on in the inner circle, then there's no danger that he will ever explain what went on in the inner circle.

Snow says he has been promised access to that circle. If that is true -- and it's a big "if" -- it's the difference between "Let's explain ourselves" on the one hand and "Explain nothing" on the other hand.

"Explain nothing" works okay as long as the fruits of your policies are pleasing to the public. Once the fruit rots, "Explain nothing" no longer cuts it.

And that, ostensibly, is what the Snow appointment is all about. It shouldn't take any of us very long to observe if the engagement to come is faux or not.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 11:02 AM | Permalink

Journalist says something. Reader objects.
Journalist presumes the reader is a nutcase. Who else would object?

Simply not true, Richard. You've built your argument on false ground.

When you say, "By sufficient repetition of a lie, the usage becomes as you explain it," you define your own bad self.

Fundamentally, you don't really have much to say at all.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 11:45 AM | Permalink

Aubrey's mention of the Clinton glory days campaign of sluts & nuts, made me remember a reason why a WH press secretary might WANT to be out of the loop---fear of indictment or other legal problems.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 11:46 AM | Permalink

If Fleischer is correct, the first day McCurry allowed cameras in the briefing room, the Lewinski story broke.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 11:54 AM | Permalink

So, Dave. When you hear from readers objecting to a story or some part, what percentage of the time do you think they have a legitimate point and you may have screwed up?
And how often does that affect your practice?

Just as an example, some time ago we were going around on the NYT's story about a recruiter in which the reporter threw in the falsehood that people were going from boot camp to combat. This would have been HUGE, if true, since it hadn't happened since, if then, the worst days of Infantry combat 1944-45.

It wasn't true and when I objected, the treatment I got from the journos assembled is that I was nuts to be worried about such a thing. Something wrong with me.


It took another journalist to point out that "garden-variety errors" which, I should point out, are obvious to non-journos even if the journos themselves are clueless, do a great deal of damage to the press' credibility.
Which made absolutely no difference in the discussion.

From which I gather that objecting to that howler didn't make much of an impression on anybody here. That being so, it's unlikely it will cause anybody here to modify their practice.

This was real-world case where objecting to a substantive error was seen as zooey, and briskly dismissed.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 11:55 AM | Permalink

It was a mistake, and the Times issued a correction.

Find someone else to discuss it with you.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 12:16 PM | Permalink

Dave. I was not referring to the mistake, although how a supposedly educated person could make that mistake should be explained.

I was referring as you know to the tenor of the discussion here. In the context of whether objections are dismissed, the objectors considered nutcases, and thus no reason to consider the objection a reason to examine or modify practice.

It was an example, as you know.

It's claimed I don't support my points. So I did.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 12:25 PM | Permalink

Steve, you’re not really getting to the point of what I am trying to express, and having difficulty with (and expressing, too).

Plukasiak/ami/whatever is saying that we can’t really use subsequent polling data on the president to see if people "like Bush more" because Americans never really liked his policies anyway, which he/she says is demonstrated by lots of polls prior to Bush being “saved” by 9-11 (strange logic considering he was elected twice). I do agree with polling data unreliably (and am consistent even when polls show support for positions I take). Polls offer little to me, as a “truth discerner,” other than “kind-of-a-general-sort-of “feeling” approach” to gaining feedback from a non-random group of Americans.

So you would want to hear…..what?

You say, he’ll explain what goes on in the inner circle… (paraphrase) So you would believe that it’s not faux engagement if Snow says…..

“The president was told by Karl Rove that he’s losing his base so he has to take a bit tougher stance on immigration and he respects Mr. Rove so he’s going to follow that advice.....”….

“The president wants to (blah blah blah) Iran b/c (insert name here) in his inner circle says….”. …

I’m asking this seriously. Walk me through an example on an issue you pick—something simple. I’m trying to decide how Snow could explain something that would make The Press say “You know, we may not agree with this president on his policies, but we can definitely see how he arrives at them now but before we never understood…”

Or does The Press simply want him to change his policies? Is it one and the same, in your mind?

(To anyone, not just Steve…)

If this presidency is totally different than any other and you believe in “Rollback” as a master strategy to, as Jay says, “to enhance executive power and maximize the president’s freedom of maneuver— not only in policy-making, and warfare, but on the terrain of fact itself,” doesn’t it follow that nothing Snow or others do will contradict it?

And, therefore, if they do something that contradicts the theory, doesn’t that make the theory weak?

(BTW, I actually think that it’s much more likely that Bush picked Tony Snow, someone who has been very vocal in his opposition and disappointment in the president at times, as further evidence that he may be one of those “productive narcissists,” like Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Trump, Oprah, with both stengths and weaknesses, that really has to be forced to make course corrections. )

It sounds like The Press is too ready to believe Bush just picked Snow as even more proof that Bush is so diabolical that he’d give us just enough to “feed the beast,” but not too much. That’s intellectually dishonest to me.

Interesting quote from 2003—

"President Clinton's press secretary Mike McCurry said, “The Democrats mistakenly think the press is on their side, and they get burned as a result," he said. (Now why would he think that?) The Republicans never have that delusion, and treat you as the caged beef that you are. They feed you once a day and tell you to go away.

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 12:49 PM | Permalink

John Moore:

Good work, but I hate to think of you as so naive.

You presume the journos on this board and elsewhere don't know this stuff and so you need to inform them.

They know it damn' well.

They think it's funny to see you wasting time and effort providing them with facts as if facts are ever an issue.

The only reason to do as you have done, and I have done to an embarrassingly minor extent compared to your effort, is to remind them that we know the same stuff, despite their efforts.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 2:08 PM | Permalink

You're entitled to your opinion, John.

I just wish it was shorter.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 2:13 PM | Permalink

Kristen writes, "So you would believe that it’s not faux engagement if Snow says…..

“The president was told by Karl Rove that he’s losing his base so he has to take a bit tougher stance on immigration and he respects Mr. Rove so he’s going to follow that advice.....”….

Yes, I would believe that it's not faux engagement if Snow said something like that ...

... or even if he said something like ...

"Mr. Rove was demoted because he has his hands full doing his homework for grand jury appearances The president sympathizes with the fact that Karl is distracted, but he needs somone who can devote 100% of his effort to the task at hand. "

... though I doubt if it will ever be expressed in a manner quite that unvarnished.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 2:17 PM | Permalink

Mr. Moore's opus.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 2:28 PM | Permalink

Furthermore, it is crystal clear to me that this particular leak was highly damaging to US war efforts and hence the citizens of this country.

Right. It was a real shocker to al Qaeda to learn that phones are tapped.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 2:33 PM | Permalink

Steve. How do you know al Q knew this?

Had you been convinced they did not, would your opinion have been different?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 3:04 PM | Permalink

Throwing hammers Lovelady? I also like the pretzel logic in the European prisons leak as damaging. We can't render those enemy combatants to Gitmo, and countries like Egypt? Why do we need these tactics now? Didn't we face a larger threat with mutual nuclear destruction with the Soviets?

During the 5-day PressThink black out, I never tried to comment. I just thought hum, did Jay kill the conversation with the deletion threat? Or what the hysterical comment the killer? Apparently, there are paranoid folks out there. What's the opposite of the liberal bias?

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 3:08 PM | Permalink

John. The facts you present are "opinions". Right.

It would be interesting to see them discredit these "opinions".

But, by calling them opinions, they figure they don't have to engage them. Skated. Bailed.

Making lame and obvious excuses to avoid the facts is not much of a victory. Especially when you consider that 'most everybody knows this stuff. The "opinion" excuse seems to me to represent an uneasy feeling on the part of the journalists that it might actually be true that people actually know these facts.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 3:10 PM | Permalink

Dave, I wish it was too, but I didn't want to dribble it out in pieces (and controversy would have led to that) and drive everyone nuts. Besides, Dr. Rosen's original posts aren't exactly Haiku.

And don't forget, Dave, that my opinions are also bolstered by a lot of facts, which one can choose to interpret my way or others, or just ignore them. A number of those facts were ignored by the MSM, which itself is an interesting fact. Here's one more just for amusement. Note the date.

Steve, one thing you learn about intelligence work and police work: the bad guys are not all Mensa members. Furthermore, knowing and suspecting are critically different things. Knowing means knowledge of capabilities that may enable further estimates by the enemy to be more accurate. Finally, the leaks were likely intended to cause the practice to end. If so, then Al Qaeda could use the phones more, adding efficiency to their operation. Also, don't forget that the all knowing Al Qaeda did in fact use phones a lot.

Real security involves many layers - some of which may seem trivial, but all of which (if done right) combine to make the enemy's efforts harder. We are not talking about mathematical systems here - we are talking about humans in conflict, and ultimately the relative "costs" of each side's efforts. Driving up "costs" in one area reduces capabilities in others, as it's a resource allocation issue - whether you are Al Qaeda or the US.

But by far the most damaging leaks were about the CIA remote holding centers. Even if all involved knew about it, releasing it to the public is damaging diplomatically and hence to the war effort, as it may cause countries to not provide that capability to us, and help our leaky CIA even less.

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 3:13 PM | Permalink

Bush's Jaw...

" I also like the pretzel logic in the European prisons leak as damaging. We can't render those enemy combatants to Gitmo, and countries like Egypt?"

Remarkable the ignorance one can find on the net. I will leave it an exercise for you to find out why the inclusion of "Gitmo" with "render" betrays astounding lack of knowledge.

Second, do you think the CIA was doing this just for giggles. You might want to consider that even the CIA may have requirements that even you don't know. Just because you can ask the question doesn't mean you know the answer - even though you apparently imagine you do.

"Why do we need these tactics now? Didn't we face a larger threat with mutual nuclear destruction with the Soviets?"

The ultimate threat (large scale nuclear war) was larger, but these tactics wouldn't have much to do with that, eh? And what makes you think that we didn't use such tactics against lower level threats from Russian imperialism?

Now... back to talking about the press instead of debating the press's ideological position.

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 3:21 PM | Permalink

Yes, Moore, remarkable tedium and pomposity too.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 3:27 PM | Permalink

One thing that always astounds me is that so many think rendition began with George Bush, and that history began in 2001.

Bill Clinton initiated rendition when he was Prez because he (rightly) recognized that prosecuting terrorists through our court system would be a disaster.

In my view, Clinton was correct here----why won't leftwingers give him his due? Why the revisionism?

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 3:31 PM | Permalink

And now a view from the other side, Dana Priest herself, responding on to a reader asking about Bill Bennett's assertion that she should be arrested for her story on the secret prisons.

Dana Priest: Well, first, Bennett either doesn't understand the law or is purposefully distorting it. He keeps saying that it is illegal to publish secrets. It is not. There is a category of secrets that is illegal to publish -- names of covert operatives, certain signal intelligence and nuclear secrets -- but even with these, prosecution is possible only under certain circumstances. Beyond that though, he seems to be of the camp that the government and only the government should decide what the public should know in the area of national security. In this sense, his views run contrary to the framers of the Constitution who believed a free press was essential to maintaining not just a democracy, but a strong, vibrant democracy in which major policy questions are debated in the open.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 3:51 PM | Permalink

if the West Wing did a show about rendition a few years ago, then it's not a big secret. i think the argument is the scale of it now versus Clinton.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 3:53 PM | Permalink

No, John, your arguments are bolstered by lots of interpretations of facts. Interpretations that reshape and assemble facts into neat forms that fit your particular biases. I don't think either of us has a lock on exact Truth. The difference is that I don't pretend to.

As for your linked allusion to the atrocities of North Vietnamese treatment of US POWs: What's your point?

Are you suggesting that mainstream news reports have made some relative connection between prisoner treatment in N. Vietnam and Iraq? If so, give some examples.

Or that mistreatment of US soldiers in Vietnam was ignored or mischaracterized by the media?

Or that because N. Vietnamese treated Americans inhumanely, we shouldn't emulate that in Iraq?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 3:58 PM | Permalink

John, sorry, but I don't recall any administration since nixon going to the extremes in controlling info that this one does, including threatening journalists with jail and brutally swiftboating critics who dare report facts in conflict with their PR, whether they be generals, moms, reporters or former administration officials.

And we're at war? There has been a declaration of war by congress? No, there has not been. The president's authority is therefore lmilited to what congress granted in the four corners of the authorization to use force in Irag. He was not authorized to engage in widespread domestic spying and even Arlen Spector agrees that the program is illegal. That means "against the law." It is criminal conduct.

I understand that in the old days, a king could waive his hand and thereby make whatever he wanted to legal and the law of the land. Now we are told that the president can waive his hand and legally and selectively leak misleading and inaccurate classified information in order to mislead the public, while jailing anyone who dares leak the rest of the info which dispels the dishonesty and deception implicit in the president's selective leaking. I think the proposition is absurd on its face; it relies on bootstraping logic and absurd word play. Because the president waives his hand, all is well. But if anyone else dares open their mouth about the same thing, off to jail with them.

And please tell your swift boat pals thanks for the addition to the lexicon. It's a useful term.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 27, 2006 4:04 PM | Permalink

I always love this defense..."Well, sure, everybody did it before Bush, but Bush did it more". Hilarious! Like saying, well sure mass-murderer X killed a trillion people, but mass-murderer Y killed a bazillion.

Pathetic, but typical.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 4:14 PM | Permalink

URL, if a someone goes nuts and shoots his boss, is that the same as going in and shooting the entire company of 20 people?

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 4:31 PM | Permalink

That seems to be your thinking b-jaw---it's OK to kill one person---just don't kill more than one.


Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 4:36 PM | Permalink

i didn't say it was ok to kill anyone. you were arguing that degrees didn't matter, a trillion versus bazillion.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 4:38 PM | Permalink

we are finding out now that Clinton also did rendition. did we know in the 90s about rendition and let it pass. we didn't let a BJ pass.

i didn't say that rendition ok or not. your point was people act like it started with Bush.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 4:42 PM | Permalink

I believe I may have said this before somewhere hereabouts:

The reason for pointing out that Clinton started rendition and nobody on the left complains is not to suggest that two wrongs make a right, or two rights make a right, or ..... something like that.

It's to make the point that principle is not involved.
If you are complaining about rendition these days and claiming it's a matter of principle, then you should be able to point to your complaints about Clinton doing it, too.
Principle will compel you to complain about both.

If you do not complain about both, your claim of principle is bogus. You are hiding partisan hackery behind a transparent and false claim to be appealing to principle. And discovering this is the reason behind pointing out that the other guy did it(whatever it was), too, and you didn't complain.

As to scale: Anybody know exactly what the numbers are?

One CIA guy said rendition started in 1995 and ended on 9-11 because, whatever the benefits of rendition, the changed circumstances caused the administration to want the perps close to hand.
It's entirely possible, if this guy is right, that there is no rendition and hasn't been in four and a half years.
Wouldn't that be a kick?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 4:47 PM | Permalink

Steve. Who's in jail?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 4:48 PM | Permalink

Here ya go, URL. Just so you won't have to let facts get in the way of calling people pathetic.

According to Media Matters:

"[T]he Journal's suggestion that the Clinton administration's alleged use of rendition is comparable to Bush's ignores substantial evidence to the contrary, as Media Matters for America has noted. The New York Times reported on March 6 that the Clinton administration enforced much greater oversight and tighter restrictions on renditions and generally used the practice to send suspects to a country where they would face criminal prosecutions, rather than solely to undergo interrogation, as the Bush administration has reportedly authorized. (Emphasis added.)

Criminal prosecution vs. interrogation. Yeah, they're equivalent.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 4:49 PM | Permalink

What CIA guy would that be, Richard?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 4:51 PM | Permalink

Steve. How do you know al Q knew this? -- Richard Aubrey.

Richard, I'll let John Moore explain it for you:

For those who have fallen for it, "domestic spying" is actually selective phone taps on international* calls. This is both legal and normal in time of war. Furthermore, anyone who places an international phone call should expect it to be listened to - even in time of peace, because most other countries do it.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 5:05 PM | Permalink

Well, lord knows, that if the non-partisan Media Matters says it's so----I believe it! (Snort!Snicker!Guffaw!) I can't believe you'd use Media Matters as a source unless you were commenting at Kos or DU! Hey, let's ask Brett Bozell what he thinks! Har!Har!

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 5:09 PM | Permalink

Many of my arguments are interpretations, of course.

But I supplied quite a set of facts which contradict prevailing narratives or were selectively reported or totally ignored by the MSM. Do you dispute them?

As you know, I won’t argue (again) about the Kerry facts, but I will answer your question. The link shows how an undemocratic country justified their brutal actions using Kerry’s very much under-reported behavior. They conflated that with the media’s very much over-hyped story about one non-systemic, properly punished instance of atrocious behavior by a small group of US soldiers. They did so during the campaign year, and it was not reported by the MSM. You obviously didn’t read the whole article.

About the president’s authority, take it up with the FISA court of appeals, which ruled against your interpretation. As for declaration of war, countries don’t do that any more, and the US has conducted most of its wars without such a declaration - including many actions by FDR, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. But congressional authorization for war against the terrorists was passed by Congress in 2001, and most certainly authorized the president to conduct a war - no geographical limits specified.

Conducting a war does not mean doing it in handcuffs, it means taking appropriate action. When your enemy has already conducted a grievous surprise attack on your homeland, don’t you think that maybe, possibly, just perhaps it might be a good idea to tune in on his communications? The idea, part of Bush Derangement Syndrome, that W is somehow acting like a dictator is preposterous. Why don’t you look at history (did you actually study it?) and see what wartime presidents have done. Monitoring phone calls that cross our borders is, well, justified in peacetime. In wartime, presidents have done much more. Republican Abe Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. Democrat FDR sent Japanese to prison camps. Kennedy intervened overseas in brushfire wars and tried to kill Fidel. Furthermore, this terrible, egregious action of listening in on the international conversations of suspected terrorists would never have even been an issue just 40 years ago. Until the around Nixon era, wiretaps, domestic and international, were routine and often with no judicial or statutory support - and they were upheld by courts.

But we have become a decadent nation. We have too many people who imagine that the threats to us are internal, when the reality is, and has been for a long time, that they are primarily external. That our democracy has survived as long as it has, and that we have more civil liberties now than at any other time in our history (due to 20th century re-interpretations and statutes) should perhaps suggest that we have been, in a broader perspective, spoiled. We have gotten to the point where common sense measures (roving wiretaps, for example) are seen as more threatening than the very real prospect of the conjunction of suicidal Salafist terrorists with WMDs. Bush may not be that great on other issues, and conservatives criticize him a lot, but he certainly understands the threat - and the biggest threat is WMD + terrorist - primarily nuclear explosive WMD or contagious biological WMD. Don’t you think we perhaps should try pretty hard to prevent that inevitable conjunction as much as possible.

Argh… but now we have totally drifted from journalism.

The reason to bring up history, for those who say it is pathetic to do so, is, as was pointed out, to show the lack of principle and the selective memory or conscience of those who attack Bush for the same things others have done without MSM complaint.

As for threatening journos with jail… what should happen if a duly constituted court orders them to reveal facts and they refuse to do so? Do you believe in the rule of law, or have journalists inherited the throne and purple robe? Do you really think it is Bush who is making the threats? It sounds to me like the only threats are from the courts, unless you think Bush can somehow order a member of a hidden Illuminati cabal to take journalists and put them in some castle dungeon!

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 5:22 PM | Permalink

URL, click on the link. It's alright, you won't get any disease or start finding Hillary interesting. Just click on the link. You'll find it wasn't Media Matters saying these things. It was the New York Times and the New Yorker.

Now, try arguing the facts, not your biases.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 5:26 PM | Permalink

John, you're certainly right that it's not a matter for President Bush or for any given editor to decide; it's a matter for the courts to decide.

And if the courts decide against the journalist, then the journalist either coughs up his files, or does not and goes to jail.

I have seen honorable men follow each course of action.

But so far the only principle indicted is not a journalist; he's Scooter Libby, who leaked to journalists, and whose defense is, Cheney made me do it, and I can prove it.

And it's not reporters that Patrick Fitzgerald is hauling before his grand jury anymore; it's members of the president's inner circle.

And that's where the "law" of the matter gets interesting.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 5:39 PM | Permalink

Well, allllriiiiity, then, if the NYTimes and the New Yorker say it's true, I'm convinced. No need to click on the links, I know what the 411 is.

NYTimes(and New Yorker) is just Fox News for liberals---I can't believe you didn't know that McLemore. You should get out (of your bubble) more.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 5:42 PM | Permalink

just for sh_ts and giggles URL, what do you consider as reliable news sources? if not the liberal media or Fox.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 5:46 PM | Permalink

Sorry, b-jaw, but I ain't falling into that trap. There is no one source of "reliable news." People who want to be informed need to have news sources that span the ideological spectrum. That spectrum goes beyond The New Yorker, NYTimes and Media Matters.

Nice try, though.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 5:56 PM | Permalink

I'm not asking you to endorse the Times or the New Yorker, URL. Just look at the facts presented and say what you agree/disagree with.

But if you don't like facts, then, OK, how about an informational source or two for your contention that Clinton's sins of rendition are as serious and offensive as Bush's.

Or did this come as divine relevation?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 6:09 PM | Permalink

i'm not asking for one, i'm asking you for what news source(s) you trust. because all you are doing is selectively bashing the media. are there any news stories that you trust?

oh, i forgot, we don't know the truth until 50 years from now.

what is the point of a teetotaler going to a bar and arguing with bartenders and some patrons?
URL & Aubrey, Press Hating Associates.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 6:11 PM | Permalink

I understand the desire of McLemore and b-jaw to know when I stopped beating my wife/husband/partner/farm animals/etc.

But when McLemore demands "sources" to prove that : "...Clinton's sins of rendition are as serious and offensive as Bush's." I know that I'm dealing with the sort of person who thinks their mass-murderer is better than the others mass-murderer. If rendition is a sin, why does it matter who is doing the rendition? Ooops, forgot! When Democrats do rendition, their intentions are good, and there is no evil intention, just protecting the nation.

So pathetic, but so typical.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 6:33 PM | Permalink

when I stopped beating my wife/husband/partner/farm animals/etc.
asking you about news source(s) you trust = that?
nevermind, that statement gives me a clue into your world view, especially the Dems comment, as if the media were easy on Bubba. thanks for nothing, URL, Beecher, Trout. pathetic back at you.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 6:43 PM | Permalink

You don't want to talk, Kilgore, er, URL, you don't have to. No one is 'demanding' anything you, except maybe a little intellectual honesty.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 6:48 PM | Permalink

Dear "My Name Is URL" (still my favorite psuedonym):

"Pathetic" is not an argument.

It's name-calling, which is the refuge of one with no argument.

Posted by: Ann Kolson at April 27, 2006 6:50 PM | Permalink


You diverge from the point and get the facts wrong anyway. Scooter Libby was not indicted for outing Plame. He was indicted for perjury, which has absolutely nothing to do with his supposed excuse - he didn't need an excuse for leaking to journalists because what the leaking was legal, as stated by the Fitzgerald himself.

BJ... I, for one, do not consider the NYT a reliable source of news. They are a reliable source of leftish spin (note: Clinton did not preside as a leftist after 1994). The NYT is a useful resource because it does more in-depth reporting than many other sources, and lets me know what the MSM is focused on. But one has to understand its biases and agendas - it is no less biased than, lets say, the Weekly Standard or Commentary. It just has pretentions to objectivity that they do not.

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 6:56 PM | Permalink

Steve, your response illustrates why it’s hard to take these Press Think discussions all that seriously, at least from the standpoint that they can have any actual, tangible result in the next day’s news stories or a change in the way journalists are being trained across the US. But human nature being what it is, we’ll keep on trying!

You don’t really have a specific “measurement,” a benchmark, let’s say, for what would constitute a challenge to this whole “Rollback” theory. Correct? Does anyone? Or is it more a "I'll know it when I see it" kind of thing. Can anyone tell me what Tony Snow could do or say that would cause you to believe that the President is “changing course” and is actually trying to get his “message” out more effectively now? That Snow isn’t just a pseudo-non-explainer…

It sounds to me like despite anything he does or says, you would only “trust” his message if it was one that you yourself actually endorsed. Is that, or should that be, an honest goal of the Press? The best you can do?

And, if you can’t think of anything besides the silly remark I put out, or the one where you added “Mr. Rove was demoted because he has his hands full doing his homework for grand jury appearances” … Are we not exactly in the place that Richard described in his post?

When the public (not the press) “noise” gets loud enough, this president usually adjusts course, albeit ineffectively sometimes (witness Harriet Myers, Katrina, current gas crunch, etc.). That’s his weakness, I believe. His “range” of leading behavior, as opposed to following, reacting, is more narrow than I’d like, that’s for sure.

I wonder if it's the fact that he’s been fairly successful at pushing his agenda (e.g., War on Terror, supreme court picks, tax cuts), not only without the Press, but in spite of it, that is particularly galling.

I also want to tell Neuro-conservative that I always enjoy his thoughts and links.

And I also want to say that John Moore goes to the heart of a lot of issues. Many people, and certainly many Democrats, and people posting here on this forum, don’t really believe that we’re in a “war.” I mean really believe it; believe it in the way that Americans believed it after Pearl Harbor, or the English believed it when London was being bombed by Germany. "Fight back with all your might or be killed, believe it."

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 7:01 PM | Permalink

“And it's not reporters that Patrick Fitzgerald is hauling before his grand jury anymore; it's members of the president's inner circle.” --Steve

And I’m sure I’m not the only one waiting with baited breath for Libby’s trial this summer when those journalists do get to take the stand. Oooooooooooowwweeeeeeeee Now that’s reality TV! I can hear the billing now…. Will it be, “He who laughed last, laughed best.”

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 7:02 PM | Permalink

“…Clinton's sins of rendition are as serious and offensive as Bush's.” --Dave McLemore

Someone please tell me again, because I forgot, who made rendition a sin anyway?

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 7:03 PM | Permalink

Sorry Toots, but when someone demands "proof" that Bush's rendition is worse than Clinton's rendition, I just gotta laff.

Possibly the more "nuanced" here will be able to discern the difference, but I prefer to call bullsh*t, bullsh*t.

So, Toots, if you want to join the "rendition was OK when Clinton did it" crowd, I won't be terribly shocked.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 7:04 PM | Permalink

jay, can I start talking about the Killian memos, and comparing Bush to Hitler, since this thread no longer has anything to do with its stated topic? ;)


for those of you waiting for Jay's read on the Snow appointment, in the interim you might enjoy Froomkin's snarkfest... (scroll down past the Rove stuff)

Posted by: plukasiak at April 27, 2006 7:05 PM | Permalink

The fourth estate has become a fifth column - for the left. -- John Moore.

Leaving aside the unfortunate fact that there hasn't been a "left" worth the name in this country since George McGovern, I have to admit that I'm starting to rethink my position on this "Evil leftist agents infiltrate, dominate American press" trope.

Truth be told, for me it's a lot more glamorous, sexy and alluring an identity than "managing editor of a niche website that is read mainly by journalists."

Me, I'm off to bone up on James Bond, Tom Clancy and John Le Carre !

Meantime, Achtung! (oops, wrong language, make that Zoot Alors!): Agents Rosen, McLemore and Conover -- we meet tonight beneath the old oak tree in Layfayette Park. Bring flashlights -- but, for God's sake, not cellphones !

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 7:06 PM | Permalink


You like neither your own hypotheticals nor mine.

So why don't we just wait and let Tony Snow show us himself ?

As I've said, it won't take long -- a few days at best.

So be patient. I have every faith the man will send a signal.

I just don't know what it will be. And neither do you. And (perhaps) neither does George Bush.

But with approval ratings at 32%, I think we all have to agree: the stakes are high, and getting higher.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 7:15 PM | Permalink

Moore, I get your view on the NYTimes. It's fair to accuse of the paper of the liberal bias, but to argue you don't trust anything in the MSM is ____, I'm not sure what that is.
I bet the Times sees itself as centrist, but some on the Right see it as left leaning, while increasing many on the Left see it as WH stenography. That sums up my silly pseudonym. Everyone brings his/her own ideological bias.

Paul, what is there to say about Scotty while we wait for Snow?

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 7:16 PM | Permalink

Sorry McLemore, just because you say I lack "intellectual honesty" doesn't make it so. I know this is difficult for a journalist to digest.

b-jaw, I already told you I'm not falling into the trap of "who do you think is a trusted news source". As I've said many times here with many different monikers, there needs to be more diversity in the press, not less----that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 7:16 PM | Permalink

That's because we're not really in a war. If we were, there'd be a draft and tax increases and sacrafice at home, a defined enemy and a defined objective and mission.

We are surely not at war in the nostalgic sense you glorify. The administration tries to wrap itself in that flag, to use it as a cloak to justify rank war profiterering, law-breaking, disasterous policy decisions, etc. But most Americans don't buy it any longer after having giveng the president their trust and support for years.

No, we are an occupying force stuck in the middle of a civil war four years into an unnecessary pre-emptive invasion on a soverign country based on a pretext security threat that has been proven false. And while the invasion went well thanks to our military (like smashing a gnat with a sledgehammer), nearly everything after that has been a disaster, and the WH called all the shots during that time.

Dream on, dream on. There's no glory in this war. And there'll be no "victory." The only open question is how bad a disaster it will turn out to be.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 27, 2006 7:17 PM | Permalink

Kristen --

With my apologies to Rosen, because my response to you is way off topic for this thread...but we seem to have lost the topic anyway during the five-day hiatus, so I do not feel like the first transgressor.

If anything, I think you understate the situation when you say "many people..don't really believe we're in a 'war'." I venture to argue that, Karl Rove's claims about pre-9/11 and post-9/11 thinking notwithstanding, the majority of people treat the War on Terrorism as using "war" as a metaphor like Bush senior's War on Drugs or LBJ's War on Poverty or Nixon's War on Cancer.

As Bob Kerrey pointed out when on the 9/11 Commissions, nations fight wars against nations not abstractions.

If this is a war, why is Zacarias Moussaoui being prosecuted as a conspirator rather than being held as a Prisoner of War?

If this is a war, why are al-Qaeda adherents at Guantanamo Bay not in a Prisoner of War camp but instead incarcerated enemy combatants?

If this is a war, the workers in the World Trade Center would by treated as civilian casualties. That is not how I, for one, think of them. I think they were murdered by criminals; not collaterally killed by warriors. I would dare say the vast majority of my fellow New Yorkers agree.

Those hijackers were not soldiers fighting a war, they were terrorists committing murder. Using concepts from the Geneva Protocols is just inappropriate.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at April 27, 2006 7:19 PM | Permalink

This is so true: "Using concepts from the Geneva Protocols is inappropriate."

A new day has dawned, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 7:30 PM | Permalink

Paul, what is there to say about Scotty while we wait for Snow?

nothing, apparently :) but maybe we could at least talk about Woodward (shameless plug...)

Posted by: plukasiak at April 27, 2006 7:42 PM | Permalink

As I've said many times here with many different monikers, there needs to be more diversity in the press, not less----that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Posted by: My Name Is URL

Cute, Kilgore, but I gotta tell you, the monikers are deteriorating. Me, "Abigail Beecher" was my favorite. Come on, man, crank up your imagination -- you can do better than "My Name Is URL," or "Kristen" or "Neuroconservative" and you know it.

How about "Frederick Nietsche ?" "Albert Speers ?" "Rudolph Hess?" "Whitaker Chambers?" "Pat Buchanan?" "Grover Norquist?" "Octopussy?" (Oops -- I don't know how that last one got in there.)

Whatever. The point is, the options are infinite. So go for it.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2006 7:47 PM | Permalink

Steve wrote, "I have to admit that I'm starting to rethink my position on this 'Evil leftist agents infiltrate, dominate American press' trope. Truth be told, for me it's a lot more glamorous, sexy and alluring an identity than 'managing editor of a niche website that is read mainly by journalists.'

I'm sure it is. Dream on, big boy, dream on.


Posted by: Ann Kolson at April 27, 2006 7:53 PM | Permalink

i dunno Lovelady, Kristen and NeuroCon seem to have different voices than AbbyNormal (typical, pathetic ;-0). then again, the comments who accuse this site of being an echo chamber do have their own mini echo chamber in the comments.

commenters comment on reporters and blogger writing about reporters. technology is great.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 8:10 PM | Permalink

This was pretty rich coming from Toots: " calling, which is the refuge of one with no argument."

Yeah, coming from one who needed Jay to bail her out of a jam----I'm impressed Toots---by your hubris.

It's easy to attack others when you're not running with the big dogs, just sitting on the porch, innit Toots?

Posted by: My Name Is URL at April 27, 2006 8:11 PM | Permalink

Well, boy, URL/kilgore, you're too sharp for us. I told them you were wiley. There we were, trying to trap you into backing up an assertion with, you know, facts and stuff. But you saw right through it. Laser-sharp, you are.

An Miss Ann, tricking that guy into a personal attack, so Jay could 'accidently' shut down the board. That was a trap too.

It's a tough ol' world out there, so who needs laws or ethics or morals. Who needs Codes of Conduct or Conventions de Geneve? Not us. No room for that. There just traps, anyway.

You're too quick for us, URL of the Many Names. Especially now that Lovelady has given away the meeting place and agenda of the International Media Cooperative For World Domination and Dominos Club.

BTW, Steve, is it my turn to bring cookies?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 8:38 PM | Permalink

BJ - you are putting words into my mouth.


I think Bush made a mistake by not taking the steps you talk about (except the draft). But make no mistake... just because we haven't done some of the traditional things of past wars doesn't mean we are not in a war. We are simply in a 21st century war. Beyond that, your post is not even worth responding to.

Andrew, I think the majority of the blue-staters treat the term "war" as a metaphor. A whole lot of the rest us certainly do not. We, understand that war doesn't mean an action like World War II any more than World War II resembled the Punic wars. Notice the targets: a major commercial center, the headquarters of our military, and the White House (flight 93). That’s a decapitation attack and an economic attack, not mere criminality! Likewise the first WTC attack, the massive bombings of our embassies, and the targeting of the USS Cole were warfare. Criminals go for money or notoriety. Warriors have political motives, often ideologiical.

War has literally been declared on us. Acts of war have been made against us, with one notorious success that was more deadly than Pearl Harbor. The war was poorly named (I said Bush wasn't good at that side of thing). We are at war with people who subscribe to a particular ideology/theology, which includes most definitely their view of being in a state of war with us, as some of stated. That includes the current regime in Iran. A theatre which right now resembles the "phoney war" before the outbreak of fighting on the western front in WW-II.

Also, the WTC was ordered by agents who were allied with and served as special forces (and enforcers) for a state - the Taliban regime of Afghanistan. It was, as its perpetrators and planners understood well, an act of war with state backing.

But the crucial thing to understand about this current war is that it is global and highly asymmetrical. It is largely carried out in the shadows (as Bush said) - for example, we are at war across the width of Africa in the Sahel. We are at war in the Philippines. The Salafists are waging war at almost every border of Islam. Sudan, Nigeria, Israel, the Phillipines, Indonesia, and Thailand, to name a few areas.

As one who has watched these trends from an international warfare perspective, I was not surprised by 9-11. Sure, the date was a surprise, and the specific targets. But the attempt by Al Qaeda to cause a major mass casualty event, by Islamofascists, was expected. I just thought it would probably involve a contagious biological weapon.

I am sure it is comforting to view Al Qaeda’s efforts as merely criminal. Then we can forget this war nonsense and tend to our domestic affairs, leaving the problem to the cops. Pull our troops home. Get rid of all the obnoxious security. Stop our work on bio-defense and other WMD defense. Stop running around with radiation detectors. After all, criminals have no reason to blow us up, poison us, irradiate us or kill zillions of civilians. Those are political acts - acts of war.

You ask about Moussaui's status. If this were WW-II, he would already be worm food, having been executed as a failed saboteur. The other detainees are also all violators of the Geneva Convention. It is appropriate to treat such violators harshly, unless we just don’t care about international agreements. War does not imply POWs, because POW status, per international law, requires certain behavior, such as wearing identifying uniforms or symbols such as consistently colored arm bands. Those who wage war while violating this (and other) rules are to be punished, to encourage the behavior required under that law.

Per Thomas">">Thomas Sowell:

"During the Battle of the Bulge, near the end of World War II, some specially trained German soldiers who spoke English put on American uniforms and infiltrated the American lines to disrupt and confuse U.S. military operations. When caught, they were lined up in front of a firing squad and shot. The protections of the Geneva Convention's rules of war are for those who play by those rules"

In other words, the warriors were not POWs, just as the detainees in this war are not. They are entitled to neither that protection nor that of our constitution.

By the way, it is no doubt news to New Yorkers, but there are a whole lot of who do not wait breathlessly for the wisdom from the big city..

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 8:41 PM | Permalink

Like much in life, Kristin, renditions are a sin only if you're doing it right.

The case in point, as you likely know, was Kilgore/Abigail/URL's view that rendition/schmendition, they're all the same and if we're going to get upset at Bush's rendition, why aren't we upset at Clinton's.

I pointed to reports that Clinton's renditions were few in number, tightly controlled and usually dealt with sending away for criminal prosecutions in lands that are, shall we say, less fastidious about protecting due process. Bush's renditions are more numerous and involve sending folks to places where 'interrogation' often involves something more akin to 'torture.'

Kilgore/etc. saw this as equivalent. I don't.

So, out of curiousity, which do you think is more effective?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 8:50 PM | Permalink

If we're war, then why did we essentially put the military effort to hunt down and destroy the al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan on the backburner and shift troop strength and money to start a war in Iraq which has demonstrated, at best, a tangential relationship with bin Laden and al Qaeda early on?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 27, 2006 8:55 PM | Permalink


I had developed a hopeless crush on ami!

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at April 27, 2006 8:55 PM | Permalink

Moore, I get your view on the NYTimes. It's fair to accuse of the paper of the liberal bias, but to argue you don't trust anything in the MSM is ____, I'm not sure what that is.

Moore you inferred incorrectly. The first sentence was directed at you. The second was for URL. By putting those two sentence together, I didn't imply both of those were your words. (Maybe it's sloppy writing on my part.)

You did it to Lovelady with Libby.

Lovelady wrote:

But so far the only principle indicted is not a journalist; he's Scooter Libby, who leaked to journalists, and whose defense is, Cheney made me do it, and I can prove it.

That sentence didn't imply Libby was indicted for leaking. It's newspaper style to not be so wordy (a space saving technique) as to say Libby was indicted for obstruction, making false statements .... though it makes people infer.

Even Lovelady's reporter inferred incorrectly, methinks.

Looking at the initial reports, it's easy to see how the press cemented the idea that McCarthy was Priest's source without saying it outright. Saturday's story in the Washington Post -- Priest's own paper -- is typical. It starts off referring to the CIA's statement, which makes absolutely no reference to McCarthy having leaked a specific story, then not-so-subtly jumps to conclusions: "The CIA's statement did not name the reporters it believes were involved, but several intelligence officials said the Post's Dana Priest was among them. This week, Priest won the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting for articles about the agency, including one that revealed the existence of secret, CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere."

I think the reporter jumped to conclusions, not the paper. Maybe newswriting needs to be more wordy to be more clear.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 9:47 PM | Permalink

“Neuro-conservative,” you can’t leave me in suspense. Please tell me you’re not a fake. I mean, I know you’re not me, ‘cause I’m the only Me here, and no one had better steal my identity! I really do like your thoughts, though, so I’ll forgive you if you’re really some other poster (whose posts, chances are, I also like :)).

Continuing this OT thread….I’m currently reading The DaVinci Code and if there’s one thing Dan Brown has right, it’s that the world is way too heavy on the testosterone if these obsessions with fake personas are any indication. We need some “sacred feminine” wife and mother to stand up and say, “I know boys will be boys, but enough carousing, Be Serious, and Get The Damn Job Done!

As far as the rendition question, Dave, to satisfy your curiosity, I’m actually not 100% sure where I sit on that. I know that that Clinton’s version must have been so tightly controlled, and used so infrequently that, really, did it have much effect other than making him feel like he was doing something, anything? All through his presidency AQ grew exponentially and American targets were hit repeatedly without a response enough to deter. Then we had Sept 11th here at home.

I certainly don’t want to have “numerous” innocent people tortured. Has there been a lot of that due to Bush’s alleged rendition program?

Andrew, I’m not sure I follow how I understated the point. Defining whether we’re truly at war or not, really is the absolute heart of the matter, no? Wouldn’t much of the contentious partisanship that’s really behind most of these debates dissolve if we could agree that we are truly At War?

And Steve Schwenk…. “… in the nostalgic sense you glorify….?” The way you interpret people’s comments is strange sometimes. I know I’m certainly not the best writer here by any stretch, but glorify, nostalgic? Weird.

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 9:59 PM | Permalink

Oh, and Steve Lovelady.... absolutely on the agreement that the stakes are high, and I don't mean for Bush per se, but for the country. And I also agree that Josh Bolton will be very interesting to watch.

Posted by: Kristen at April 27, 2006 10:01 PM | Permalink

"Yeah, coming from one who needed Jay to bail her out of a jam----I'm impressed Toots---by your hubris."
Posted by: My Name Is URL

You call that a "jam," Kilgore ? Please. An attack by Udolpho is hardly a jam. More like a badge of honor.

(See ? I did my homework!)

Posted by: Ann Kolson at April 27, 2006 10:06 PM | Permalink

By the way, it is no doubt news to New Yorkers, but there are a whole lot of who do not wait breathlessly for the wisdom from the big city.
Posted by: John Moore

John, you are a big improvement from all the Anonymice that Press Think attracts -- but until you have breathed the dust from 9/11, save your breath telling those of us who did about the wisdom accumulated by those outside "the big city."

Posted by: Ann Kolson at April 27, 2006 10:26 PM | Permalink

"What CIA guy"?

Don't know. Read it in passing. He claimed to have been involved in setting up rendition in 1995. That was widely known, although, in some circles, widely ignored.

That it stopped on 9-11 is interesting. I figured I'd put it away and see if it matured with additional information. So far, none.

It would be interesting if it turned out to be true and a bunch of the usual suspects have been rending their lapels over a non-event. In fact, it would be bundles of fun. We can but hope.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 10:33 PM | Permalink

Dave. Why.. back burner...etc.

You know this. But, as usual, I have to go to the trouble of reminding you that so does everybody else, even if, like you, they pretend to believe differently.

The fighting in Astan is not "back burnered". It is being fought by forces structured in a way that seems to command to be appropriate. That means, for one thing, no armored forces, or very little. Tanks don't do mountains. The al Q leadership has been reported to be down by two-thirds of their pre-9-11 personnel, although, as in any organization, there have been replacements.
Historical sidelight which may bear on this: It is said that the Nazi intelligence faked Stalin into purging his officer corps. If not, and he did it all by himself, same result. The replacements were jumped up several grades, several selection processes, and several years of experience shy of where they should have been. Which is one reason the Soviet army didn't fare so well early in the war. al Q's leadership seems to have the same trouble. The latest from obl calls for the boys to meet in Sudan where US soldiers aren't.

Anyway, there is little evidence that what we're doing in Astan is handicapped by the resources used in Iraq.

I hate to tell you this as if you don't know it but, you being a journalist and all, you might be under the impression the rest of us don't know it.

Posted by: RIchard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 10:44 PM | Permalink

Ann Kolson,

"but until you have breathed the dust from 9/11, save your breath telling those of us who did about the wisdom accumulated by those outside "the big city."

If I was talking about how New Yorkers felt, you would be right.

But I'm talking about whether we are at war or not, and whether the 9-11 attack was an act of war, and now must point out that New Yorkers have not a speck of additional insight on that question. Typical New Yorker, you forgot that other parts of the country were affected. My wife was trapped for days 2500 miles from home because of 9-11 air travel bans. The Pentagon crash also killed people, including the wife of the US Solicitor General. Don't give me that nonsense, because my observations have *nothing* to do with how New Yorkers felt or were personally impacted by 9-11.

However, I must admit that I use my unique personal experiences in arguments too. For example, get into the torture narrative and I'm going to ask if you have been trained in enduring tortue, and been tortured, because I have been. The first involves general knowledge of the subject and is applicable to the discussion. The second, as it turns out, gives me a small amount of insight about the very minor torture a high ranking Al Qaeda experienced (and cracked under), but otherwise it's just a bragging point involving personal feelings - sorta like breathing the dust of 9-11.

Likewise, when I see folks pontificating about Kerry's Naval experience, I can tell that most reporters and editorialists have never served. I served in the Navy and Vietnam at one of the same places as Kerry, a few months before he did.

Woo hoo! I must be a Vietnam War expert.

Nope, but I do know enough about military and especially Naval culture and procedures to ferret out some BS when I hear it, and to recognize those who don't have a clue.

Posted by: John Moore at April 27, 2006 10:53 PM | Permalink

Mr. Moore, nice website. And you'd be surprised how many reporters have served in the military. Lovelady, McLemore (I think I've read it here) and myself, a former reporter.
My unit guarded the German border in the late 80s, (hardly the same as VN), but some of us do understand the military and military culture.

We can agree to disagree on politics and this war.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 27, 2006 11:32 PM | Permalink

Sorry, Kristen, maybe that comes from reading to much of Jesus' General.

I seem to have misread that portion of your post, though. I thought that you were nostalgic for one of those old wars that everyone believed in and that effected everyone's life on a daily basis.

But in re-reading your post, it seems you were just wondering why people don't feel that way about "the Long War." That's what Rummy tried to rename it, isn't it?. And then for a while they tired calling it 'the global effort against terrorism' or something like that, taking out the "war" word. Then they brought in the 'Victory' word. The President would fight in Iraq till we achieved "Total Victory." He forgot to tell us who who the enemy was, though.

Maybe more people would feel that we really are "at war" and that the Iraq occupation is a "real war" like they did during those good old fashioned wars if there was a law requiring people to get out there and polish their yellow ribbon 'Support our Troops" magnets every week. Then people would know for sure that we really and truly are at war.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 27, 2006 11:35 PM | Permalink

McLemore was in the service?

Holy toot!

That means the crap he peddles can't possibly be the result of ignorance.

But I figured that already.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 27, 2006 11:56 PM | Permalink

BJ - yes, we can. Most of the BS I was referring to was with regard to the service of Kerry and Bush. Either almost all of the reporters had never served, or they submerged their knowledge during the various narratives that came out, including: Kerry's military record; the importance of Kerry's crew vs. his fellow commanders (anyone check out those links I gave?); the significance of Abu Ghraib (hint: zero if it hadn't been publicized); the motives and credentials of the Swift Boat vets; the blatant lies Kerry told about his fellow servicemen after he returned...

Yada, yada, yada

SS... regarding people feelings about whether we were at war... In my opinion, Bush should have taken some measures to cause people to sacrifice as a nation - whether it was gas rationing, much more intense security, or whatever. The purpose: reinforce emotionally the fact that we are indeed at war. As much as you mock such things, they work. Perhaps if he had, you might have gotten the message, but I doubt it. Maybe the MSM would have started looking at reality instead of merely puffing up its self-image as "reality based."

As for Iraq, it's merely one theatre and experiment in what will prove to be a long war, and one far more destructive than you can imagine today.

For all of your mocking, I suspect that when the first terrorist carried nuke goes off in a US city, you are going to discover fear. Think about the ramifications (other than the immediate loss of life and destruction) - citizens of big cities would start feeling like helpless targets; the economy would tank; vigilanteism would appear; real estate near downtown would become worthless, while small towns would suddenly become very popular. And, of course, all hell would be visited on any part of the world that might even representg a small threat of helping repeat the incident. France has already twice threatened to use nukes on sponsors of *conventional* terrorism, if France gets hit. Can you imagine what Americans would do if we got nuked?

So whistle past the graveyard, dude, while you still can.

Posted by: John Moore at April 28, 2006 12:03 AM | Permalink

Aubrey, I thought I read that here. Don't hold me to it.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 28, 2006 12:04 AM | Permalink

One of the best things about my short-term in the service (2-year enlistment between colleges) was seeing how the Germans approached military service. Back then, maybe still, all Germans (at least males) had mandatory service for two years. If we had that, our national debate/view of 9/11 and Iraq would be very different. Unless you know someone in our volunteer military, most of us don't feel we are at war, nor the sacrifice.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 28, 2006 12:21 AM | Permalink

Richard, if I cared what you think of me, things would be different. But I don't.

I was in the Army, '69-'71 and came out an E-5.
I don't claim any expert credentials. But I remember the times. And I also realize that today's Army has as much to do with the one I served in as it does to great-grandpa's 17th Texas Inf. CSA.

More importantly, I live in a military town and have spent much of the past 30 years talking and learning from military people. I've likely talked to more soldiers who have been and returned from Iraq - and their families than you have. And I've attended more GI funerals and spent more time in the BAMC burn ward than you.

So please, spare me the Mr. Military stance. I'm not impressed.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 28, 2006 12:36 AM | Permalink

Somewhere out there, Jay is shaking his head sadly and going, "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 28, 2006 12:43 AM | Permalink

Kristen -- Thank you very much for your kind words. I can assure you that I am indeed myself, and not URL, Jason, Richard Aubrey, or even Kristen! I have also appreciated your substantive comments here, as well as John Moore's admirable service both on this thread and elsewhere. Richard and Jason, too.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many leftists are so closed-minded -- they cannot accept the possibility that multiple individuals actually believe as we do (and we're not even on Karl Rove's payroll!). This is part of why they conjure conspiracy theories about stolen elections, Jewish cabals, Halliburton, etc.

People like Steve Lovelady and Ann Kolson like to attack the anonymity of commenters, in lieu of actually making substantive arguments. The two must have a happy marriage, because their "seen it all" posturing is so similar. Maybe they are the same person? Nah ... can't be ... they use different denigrating nicknames for their opponents. Steve calls people "Ace", whereas Ann calls people "Laddie."

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at April 28, 2006 12:54 AM | Permalink

Maybe it's time that we all step back from the personal attacks. Nothing good is going to come from this.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 28, 2006 1:16 AM | Permalink

Moore, I've reread some of your comments. You make some cogent points about Al Qaeda and 9/11 as war. Most people could agree with that, and the whole world was behind us.

But you didn't answer McLemore here about Iraq. (Did I miss it?) Shouldn't we have focused on Afghanistan or finished the job there. Invading Iraq was not a smart tactical move, misuse of our military. Stealth and spies, instead of shock and awe.

Shorter posts as Dave has mentioned. Seems like I'm always here, but I'm generally multi-tasking and long posts, big blocks of type are often skipped.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 28, 2006 1:41 AM | Permalink

Dave -- I couldn't agree more. I would be more than happy if we all just responded to substantive points, rather than engaging in snark about people's monikers or foibles. I tried to do that at the beginning of this (resuscitated) thread, but nobody wanted to take that one up (except Kristen).

For the same reason, I couldn't disagree more with B-jaw about long posts. In general, there is an inverse correlation between comment length and snark/bile. John Moore's magnum opus was only 1800 words -- how long should that take? Just cut Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman out of your daily diet, and you're there.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at April 28, 2006 1:59 AM | Permalink

right, and you assume we wait breathlessly for Dowd and Krugman. back to snark.

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 28, 2006 2:16 AM | Permalink

My service was about the same time. Infantry, got out as 1LT. I was on orders, OCS, jump school, hearts&minds, language, when my brother was killed.
So I got off orders. I don't know about my accumulated funeral time, but I did a couple after my brother's as notification and survivor assistance, and some around here.

Point is, about your service, that it means the excuse I've been imputing to you--invincible and convenient ignorance--doesn't actually hold.

After all, Kerry served, and ought to know a bunch of stuff, but he came home and orchestrated the giant lie of Winter Soldier. He wasn't ignorant. He was/is a liar.

As to applicability, I had dinner with an Abrams gunner a year ago and quit tank talk after the first question. He started talking about intervehicle satellite commo or something. I tried to explain to him that when I was in, the Airborne company anti-tank weapon was the 106 on a mechanical mule, a sort of large, motorized coffee table. We did not connect.

But then my father's point comes to me. He knew everything there was to know about WW II in an area three hundred yards wide and three hundred miles long. Occasionally he'd get a letter from one of a diminishing number of friends in other theaters, but he really knew little of the war until he got home and started studying it.

Which is to say, if you keep up as a civilian, which I have attempted to do, what you know will apply here. If you have any interest in applying it honestly.

Which, as I hope I have made clear, the MSM shows no interest in doing.

Your "back burner" remark about A-stan is a recent example.

However, speaking of McClellan, the rollback, and, as somebody mentioned, the Killian memos.
Recall the WH's response. Deer-in-the-headlights? Oblivious? Gobsmacked? Confused? Whatever it was, they did not haul out the big shooters at St. Louis or wherever the records were to straighten the thing out immediately. Which they probably could have done.
It would have left you guys with ample room to mutter about whitewash and suborning the DOD personnel personnel and falsifying federal documents and so forth. Not that any of that would have been true, of course, if any journos cared.
Instead, the WH let you braid the rope, build the scaffold, send out invitations, stand on the trap door, and, with trumpets, pull the lever. And have not a single administration fingerprint on the entire process.

Was this a deliberate and canny tactic? Or was it an inadvertent result of incompetence? Are you sure?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 28, 2006 7:18 AM | Permalink

If any thread ever needed a mercy killing it's this one. Fortunately the end is near.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 28, 2006 8:01 AM | Permalink

For all of your mocking, I suspect that when the first terrorist carried nuke goes off in a US city, you are going to discover fear.

That will happen after Bush gets weekly warnings that "Ossama determined to nuke US" and does nothing about them. And once the nuke goes off, he will attack the wrong country. Lots of us already have fear because of the proven failures who are running things now. Everything is more dangerous and less stable than it was the day after 9/11. And we are less able to defend ourselves on top of it.

Posted by: steve schwenk at April 28, 2006 8:28 AM | Permalink

Kristen, you said --

"Andrew, I’m not sure I follow how I understated the point. Defining whether we’re truly at war or not, really is the absolute heart of the matter, no? Wouldn’t much of the contentious partisanship that’s really behind most of these debates dissolve if we could agree that we are truly At War?"

I merely pointed out that when you said "many" people do not believe we are at war, that "many" was an understatement. "Most" is probably more like it.

Accordingly, one can state your question the other way round: "Isn't that fact that we cannot agree that we are really at war the cause of the contentious partisanship that is really behind most of these debates?"

At a minimum, it seems, if a Commander in Chief were to lead us into a real war, it would be his job to communicate to us why, and against whom and to what end. For John Moore to dismiss this incumbent's failure with these words: it "was poorly named (I said Bush wasn't good at that side of things)" seems lenient in the extreme.

I argue that Bush's use of language actively supported the view that he sees "war" as a metaphorical usage not a literal one. And having his Justice Department prosecute Moussaoui for criminal conspiracy (not following Moore's preference of summary execution for wartime sabotage) seems to indicate that the Bush Administration as a whole, does not treat this War on Terrorism as a literal war.

I understand Moore's arguments explaining his view that war is what it is. I merely argue that there is no evidence that it is the majority view, or even that of the current administration.

Which, I suppose, in a convoluted fashion, returns us to the supposed topic here. As our leader Professor Rosen has so wisely pointed out, the Rollback communications strategy of this Commander in Chief has been to lead by Assent rather than Persuasion. So he has never seen it as appropriate to explain to us, via the press or any other means, what precisely he understands himself to be doing.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at April 28, 2006 9:28 AM | Permalink

To say that Iraq diminishes the effort in Afghanistan requires some proof.

We could start by seeing what the objective in Afghanistan is. Capturing obl would be nice, but it wouldn't solve the problem. The problem is assisting the government to be able exert its writ over the entire country. The opposition is small units, very small units, many of which spend some time in Pakistan. The terrain forbids use of the major types of forces that work so well in Iraq. It requires special ops types, airmobile and light Infantry, air support immediately available--although if you follow the reports the air support frequently consists of two missiles and a bomb. If you follow the reports, it appears that we've had bomb-laden aircraft stooging around the Afghan skies 24-7 since autumn of 2001. Reports on the employment of air support indicate far too little time between request and arrival of ordnance to have called the a/c off carriers or from a base in the 'stans, or, heaven help us, from Diego Garcia.

It doesn't take a military genius to figure out after a bit of looking that Iraq has between little and zilch to do with the force level and the progress in Afghanistan.
The assertion does give the prospect of fooling the uninitiated, which is no doubt why it is so often used. As I keep saying, there are fewer uninitiated than you journos would like.

Why Iraq? As I hear the administration, and the between-the-lines remarks, they have a remarkably long-sighted and intelligent policy.

The wackjobs of the Muslim world are reputed to come mostly from the Salafist and Wahabist strains of Islam, which is about 10% of the total population of Muslims, call it 110 million.
Presume we have nothing to worry about with the rest.
We cannot, many think, stand to deal with, year after year, world without end, the number of nutcases generated by 110 million wackjobs each year. How many do they need to generate to give us serious trouble, considering the technology available? Twenty? A thousand, including cells around the world and the logisitical guys? Think 110 million folks could provide that many who want to kill us wholesale each year?

It's an impossible prospect. The administration seems to want to change the world. If it can be changed so that the number of nutcases is reduced, we're safer. It's big, it's ambitious, and it's the least dangerous of the two. Not that it's not dangerous, but it has at least the possibility of an eventual end.

Changing the Islamic world can't be done by fiat. That's why we have people working, one way or another, in at least eighty countries.
The primary fuel for anti-western homicidal mania is the results of corrupt, inefficient, repressive, and misogynist regimes. Unless you're in with the in-crowd, you're screwed. And you can't even think about it, because if you do, and something slips past your teeth, one of your neighbors may rat you to the secret police. Repressing this can't be permanent. Governments lead their people to vent the anger on Israel and the West.
Men are unable to get jobs, are unable to find a woman for whom he can grow up and become a man instead of an angry adolescent. There is a report that an early bunch of Arafat's guys was disbanded and efforts were made to find them wives, that being Arafat's idea of the best way to settle them down.
Angry, unfulfilled men lashed by the hatemongering imams are not what we need.
Governments need to change, economies need to change, attitudes toward women need to change. We can't do it, but we may be able to remove some obstacles to the process so that the people can do it.

The alternative is to wait behind walls--which a good many don't think ought to be built either literally or figuratively--for the next bunch of nutcases.

In that context, our efforts in Iraq fit.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 28, 2006 9:39 AM | Permalink

Yet another example of unpatriotic, anti-military reporting of the liberal press! When will they learn to make the distinction between rape and R&R? This piece of crap reporting would never have happened if we had more reporters with military experience ....

Posted by: village idiot at April 28, 2006 10:23 AM | Permalink

The alternative is to wait behind walls--which a good many don't think ought to be built either literally or figuratively--for the next bunch of nutcases.

No Richard, the altenative is 'to not covet thy neighbor's oil'.

Posted by: village idiot at April 28, 2006 11:44 AM | Permalink

Village. That horse died.
If oil problems occur, we will be well-placed, relatively speaking, to endure.
How about all those other countries whose per-cap GDP doesn't extend to Starbucks on every corner and nail salons for pre-pubescents and designer sweats? They don't have much room for doubled energy prices.
The instability will be bad for all of us.

Now, of course, that presumes this is all about oil, which, of course, it isn't.
We could just buy the stuff. It would be cheaper than anything else. After all, you guys keep pretending to worry about the costs of the war and all of a sudden there's no cost to the war, it's all profit. Do you think the people who listen to you are idiots?

I'm not trying to change anybody's mind here, except on one thing. The people who you are trying to fool know better. That's the one thing I'm trying to get across. Not having much luck, either.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 28, 2006 11:58 AM | Permalink

I'm not trying to change anybody's mind here, except on one thing. The people who you are trying to fool know better. That's the one thing I'm trying to get across. Not having much luck, either.

Oh, no; don't feel too bad. Apparently, even Mr. Bush, with all the mighty organs of a jackbooted state at his disposal, is not being too successful in that task. Less and less believe what he says, if we go by the polls. So, keep at it; one day you will overcome ....

PS: is it time yet to start swiftboating the pollsters?

Posted by: village idiot at April 28, 2006 12:13 PM | Permalink

While it may be true that catching bin Laden isn't going to change much now - and I'm agnostic on that view - the point remains that we had the chance to roll Osama and his al Qaeda leadership up for good in Afghanistan. And decided to invade Iraq instead.

Imagine if we'd focused our human and techological assets to finish the job in Afghanistan. What a forceful - and meaningful - message to terrorists everywhere if we'd kept up the pressure after rolling back the Taliban and continued tightening the noose around al Qaeda. Attack the US and we will hunt you down and kill you. Instead, we attacked Iraq.

Former CIA director George Tenet testified in the 9-11 hearings that in the wake of the military reduction in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has 'regnerated and evolved,' becoming more decentralized and widespread. By not pressing on and destroying the man and his subordinates who led the attacks on 9-11, we let him get away while simultaneously opening the Pandora's Box to spread more effectively across the globe.

Rumsfeld has ordered US troops deployed to Afghanistan limited to 5,000. Now we see the Taliban in resurgence, al Qaeda operating in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the fledgling Afghan government assailed by homegrown terrorists and the war lords. There is some stability in Kabul. The rest of the country is up for grabs.

If you see this as a sound and workable plan to fight terrorism, maybe there's a place for you amnog the planners at the Pentagon.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at April 28, 2006 12:15 PM | Permalink

Catching Osama would be closure for 9/11. We can debate endlessly on whether or not it will change Al Qaeda now.

Can you imagine if Saddam is out there hiding and sending out videos to Aljazeera? Would the decider say, I don't think about Saddam, my focus is the insurgents, the killers, why do you hate freedom?

How would that go over?

Posted by: bush's jaw at April 28, 2006 12:34 PM | Permalink

New post: Snow at the Podium, Rollback on the Rocks.

See you there. This post and this discussion is closed.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 28, 2006 12:56 PM | Permalink

From the Intro