November 25, 2007
A Stooge Figure Speaks
"McClellan's specialty was not lying, or the traditional art of spin, but what I have called 'strategic non-communication.' Lying we understand; spin we have to come to grasp. Non-communication we still do not appreciate. Its purpose is to make executive power less legible."
“I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity…. One of these days he and I are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days and his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, “Job well done.” —George W. Bush, April 19, 2006.
Scott McClellan deserves to be remembered, not as the greatest but as one of the most effective stooge figures in the Bush Administration. (The greatest: Alberto Gonzalez.) Last week’s news from his publisher—that the stooge says he had unknowingly passed along false information provided to him by Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Andrew Card, “and the president himself”—would seem to suggest that McClellan may be waking up a bit to what his actual role was during the three years he served as White House press secretary.
But I wouldn’t count on this awareness reaching very far. In fact, by seizing on a case where an outright falsehood was passed along to the press, we may overlook the meaning of McClellan’s tenure as the jerk at the podium, which is what I called him in my April, 2006 retrospective. You can read that post for the full interpretation; here’s the gist of what I want you to appreciate about McClellan, because it’s worse than lying.
Athough he stood at the podium and managed the briefings, McClellan was not there to brief the press. He was there to frustrate and belittle it, and to provoke journalists into discrediting themselves on television. Choosing McClellan to be the president’s spokesman was a brazen act because it contradicted at least 40 years of received wisdom on how to manage White House communications. ((For more on this part, see the interview that PBS’s Frontline did with me.)
From the the time of John Kennedy until Bush the younger, it was assumed that the President’s powers were not only the formal ones granted by the Constitution but the far greater powers granted by the modern media: the power to dominate the news agenda, to persuade the nation when Congress won’t go along, to influence world opinion from stages like the White House briefing room, and to present an image of a man in charge when others have to act through clumsy and faceless institutions.
Power like that is actually kind of frightening because it obeys no Constitutional logic. To make it less scary—and to add legitimacy to the imbalance in media power that favors the executive over other actors in the system—we came to assume that the president, who clearly dominates the political stage, should occasionally have interlocutors on that stage. And so instead of just declaiming like a dictator, “this is the way it is,” the White House makes announcements, and then officials speaking for the president answer questions— or the man himself does. The briefing room is thus a stage for both projecting presidential power and making it appear more reasoned, more legitimate, more subject to an essentially democratic back-and-forth. (Academics have a word for it: dialogic.)
Okay, now consider: Al Qaeda makes announcements, and like the president’s they instantly travel around the world. But Al Qaeda doesn’t have to answer questions. That gives Osama and company an edge. You have to start with something like that in understanding Scott McClellan because that is where Cheney started, and he influenced Bush in a direction Bush wanted to go anyway to conceal his own weaknesses.
Cheney and company had a different view of presidential power. They equated it not with the outsized political presence the president gains with his command of the cameras and the public stage, but with the “absence of constraint,” as former insider Jack Goldsmith wrote in his book, The Terror Presidency. One of the constraints that Cheney and Bush wanted to obliterate was the interlocutor. To put it another way: they wanted to make presidential power less dialogic.
Thus we got rollback. The whole idea that the executive ought to be questioned—by Congress, by the press, by allies, by members of his own cabinet, by the American people—was a premise they dared to question.
They had a different idea, a truly radical one, which Goldsmith grasped only after David Addington, Cheney’s chief-of-staff, explained it to him. “We’re going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop.” Under this theory the president when elected has all the legitimacy he will ever need. His powers rightly overawe everyone’s unless the White House errs and grants legitimacy to those who would “check” and question him or seek elucidation.
McClellan’s specialty was not lying, or the traditional art of spin, but what I have called “strategic non-communication.” Lying we understand; spin we have to come to grasp. Non-communication we still do not appreciate. Its purpose is to make executive power less legible. Only a stooge figure would be willing to suffer the very public humiliations that such a policy requires of the man in the briefing room.
What I mean by a stooge figure was explained well by John Dickerson, Slate’s White House correspondent, after McClellan announced his resignation in April 2006:
When Scott McClellan went to Karl Rove and Scooter Libby and asked them about their roles in the Valerie Plame leak, they denied any involvement. McClellan dutifully took up their defense with reporters and lied for them. Because neither Libby nor Rove nor anyone else stepped forward to rescue McClellan or provide a plausible explanation for his release of inaccurate information, his credibility was shot. Even reporters who wanted to think the best of him could no longer trust what McClellan said because they didn’t know if he was being given more bad dope. The episode also sent a signal to reporters about McClellan’s status in the administration. Rove and Libby could mislead McClellan and know that neither McClellan nor the president would make them pay.
Actually it was worse than that. The way I read this note written by Dick Cheney, he was saying: Hey, if McClellan can be used to lie to the press for Bush’s boy Rove, then he’s also going to be used to lie for my guy, Libby. Fair is fair.
And the stooge went out there to clear Libby too.
McClellan was often described as “robotic” because he would mindlessly repeat some empty formula he had concocted in anticipation of reporters’ questions. The point here was to underline how pointless it was even to ask questions of the Bush White House. And reporters got that point, though they missed the larger picture I am describing. Many times they wondered what they were doing there.
I will tell you: they were a constraint being made gradually more absent with every exchange they had with the thick-headed and graceless McClellan. The agenda was not to get the White House message out; it was not to explain the president’s policies. At both of these common sense tasks McClellan was awful, his performance a non-starter. No, he was part of something larger and far more disturbing; and it would have been disturbing even to loyal Republicans if they had bothered to understand it.
The goal was to make the American presidency more opaque, so that no one could see in. No self-respecting man would take that job aware of what he was going to be asked to do. McClellan, I think, was unaware. And he remains so.
Originally published at the Huffington Post in a slightly different, shorter version: A World Made More Opaque: Why Scott McClellan Had His Job. (Nov. 23, 2007)
Posted by Jay Rosen at November 25, 2007 1:20 AM
I loved your article on Scott McClellan -- very well written and so right on the mark. BRAVO!
When Scott was on the podium stooging away, I wrote him a note and sent him a copy of "On Bullshit," a real book. Here's my note to him in case you're interested. (I don't know how the formatting will come out sending it this way.)
I look forward to reading more of your stuff!
Enclosed is a small tome that I thought you would truly appreciate, and could put to good use in your oh-so-critical mission as White House spokesman. It's called On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt, and delineates the difference between outright lying and the circumloquacious drivel America hears almost daily at your press conferences. You are such a master of both that I sometimes wonder if you were a silent consultant on this work.
Whenever you decide to retire from being a spokesman, or the self-righteous, self-serving, numbingly arrogant administration you aid and abet is run out of office, you should seriously consider a teaching position in journalism, perhaps for a Master of Glibness degree. Suggested courses you might personally spearhead (dare I say "trailblaze"?) would include:
Stonewalling 101, 201, and Advanced General Mendacity: White Lies to Deep Deceit
Advanced Mendacity: Deceiving the Whole World
Covering for a Lying Boss: Pitfalls and Risks
Evasion at the Podium: Skirting Irksome Questions
Dealing with the Press: Mastering Aloofness & Disdain
Cover Your Ass: The Art of the Euphemism
Lying to a Nation: Defending Needless Deaths
Transparent Bullshit: When Obvious Lies Fail
Assuming you have a decent education and are of reasonable intelligence (i.e., above WalMart or Post Office hiring requirements), don't you ever question what you're doing? In the wee hours of the night do you ever stop to think of the outrages you're defending? Did your parents ever teach you the difference between right and wrong?
You're the point man of an insidious administration pathologically bent on deceiving the American public and exploiting it at all costs for its true constituency: Big Business. What a sorry career, fronting for even sorrier hypocrites. I only hope that someday you'll see the egregiousness of your actions and somehow make amends -- but I doubt that will ever happen.
In the meantime, enjoy On Bullshit and maybe glean something from it.
Careful to not choke on your own bullshit, Scott!
I think your comparison of McClellan and Gonzales is extremely helpful in trying to understand the radical nature of what Bush and Cheney have been trying to achieve.
I think you're suggesting, and I agree, that whether or not McClellan and Gonzales knew they were lying about any particular issue is really beside the point. In the case of McClellan and Gonzales in particular, even the substance of whatever statement they were making was not particularly important; what was important was their essential role in delegitimizing any questioning of the Executive's actions. To take their statements at all seriously undermines the questions being asked and indeed the questioners themselves.
We have never previously elected a self-consciously Jacobin government in this country. The only possibly relevant prior example would be Lincoln, but it's reasonably clear that his Jacobins were only one of many other groups with which he had to contend, and he had one-third of the country at war with the other two-thirds, to say nothing of the phenomena of the United States Army streaming back into the streets of our capital twice after major defeats thirty miles from the White House.
It is no accident that our modern Jacobins are so fond of referring to the President as "Commander-in-Chief", for their view of the Presidency is that of an elective dictatorship, memorably referred to Mr Bush as his "accountability moment" in November 2004. Congress and the Judiciary are expected to rubber-stamp whatever the Executive deems necessary to carry out its policies, and not to interfere if the Executive determines that even rubber-stamping is not required. The press should dutifully disseminate the "information" the Executive wishes to be transmitted to the public. Any independent inquiries made by the press should be quashed, and the reporters bullied into submission through manipulation of the publishers and broadcasters. The White House press corps has been "embedded" in the same way that the press has been "embedded" by the Pentagon in Iraq.
In the Jacobin style, none of this has been particularly subtle, but the Establishment press continues to behave as if this is all business as usual, even hiring the Michael Gersons and Karl Roves. Even more puzzling has been the reluctance of the Democrats in Congress to resist, although Harry Reid's procedural checkmate of recess appointments suggests that there is at least some consciousness on Capitol Hill that this administration does not "play ball".
What I still do not understand is why the Establishment media refused to accept Bill Clinton as elective King, but continue to accept the Younger Bush, who lacks Nixon's intelligence, Reagan's popular touch and "Hollywood glamour", or even his father's patrician good breeding coupled with alter ego Jim Baker's silky smooth iron-fist-in-velvet-glove power broking. I still think there is more here than meets the eye, and it goes well beyond the obvious "economic self-interest" arguments that simply don't add up when you compare the actual policies of the Clinton administration with those of the Younger Bush. There is an emotional and psycho-social dimension to this that goes well beyond CEOs.
Dan: You raise an excellent point. Near as I can tell, the situation was this: Rollback was a big gamble and with McClellan in particular they over-reached; it not only failed, it crashed as public support for Bush crashed.
It weakened the Bush White House because they actually destroyed one of the best assets they had: the White House briefing room, which broadcasts American democracy to the world, as well as the president's arguments. The press is a minor impediment as part of a major microphone the President uniquely controls.
A cold and realistic assessment would have told them that, but they actually listened to the "hot" voices of the culture war way more, satisfying a key constituency while putting into practice Cheney and Addington's "executive power as the absence of constraint."
The results were miserable: The Bush Bubble was bad enough and made worse by Rollback. The doctrine of infallability set in. A weak press secretary emboldens denial-based strategies, because the belief is you can put anything over.
What I have called the retreat from empricism gained another front. The realists lost another round, if you will. As I said above, when McClellan took over Bush was at a respectable 59 percent. When he left 33. And it's never recovered.
Rollback was quietly declared a failed policy by Josh Bolton in replacing Andrew Card. I went into in Snow at the Podium, Rollback on the Rocks:
During all of Scott McLellan’s time as press secretary, the Bush team charted an historically new course, which I have called Rollback, the decision to starve rather than feed the news beast, and wherever possible disengage from the press, treating it as either hostile or irrelevant, not a conduit to the nation but a special interest group begging for goodies it doesn’t deserve.
Back ‘em off, starve ‘em down and drive up their negatives. That was the policy. But in the news about Tony Snow there were signs of regret.
* From Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times: “Mr. Snow’s appointment has been described by Democrats and Republicans as an acknowledgment by the White House that it needs, among other things, a whole new approach to dealing with the national press corps after years of trying to keep it at a distance.” A whole new approach, huh?
* From Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher in the Washington Post: “White House aides said there is now broad agreement that the first-term strategy of largely ignoring the mainstream Washington media was a mistake… The strategy worked well for a long while, but aides said it eventually undercut their credibility with reporters and impeded the administration’s ability to receive fair treatment from the media when Bush’s popularity began to fade.” A mistake? Hmmmm.
* From Mike Allen, Time: “A Republican official familiar with the selection process said Snow, 50, was chosen because Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Counselor Dan Bartlett want ‘an informed and successful advocate’ who can spar with reporters and make the White House case more aggressively — both off-camera and on.” If they want an informed and successful advocate now, what did they want before?
The White House evacuated spaces where the president can legitimately be questioned because it was Adminstration policy in general that Bush’s authority went unchallenged, his descriptions of the world uncontested. This made him more brittle, but they felt strong doing it.
In this sense press rollback had a single customer: it’s what Bush wanted. Being questioned by non-believers who knew stuff… he definitely did not want that. The staff got the message, the message became a style and they never realized the impression they left: that Bush wasn’t up to taking questions, except from friendlies in very controlled situations.
And that was devastating to Bush's political strength. Rove, Card, Bush, Cheney, Hughes, Bartlett. They screwed up big time, Dan. The funny thing is, and something I did not appreciate at the time... "Rollback was tried and it failed hugely" was a story no one had an interest in telling. Think about it: who would want it out there for examination?
The press was embarrassed that it got pushed around and never left the briefing room en masse.
The Card-Rove-Bartlett White House was embarrassed that its innovation turned into a disaster.
Bolton didn't want to start the job angering the culture warriors by advertising his rollback of rollback. That would be folly.
The cultural right still thinks rollback was necessary and valid and just and right and good.
The left thinks the press wimped out and allowed itself to be rolled back and of course Bush got away with it. They argue it was a success!
There is no constituency for "...rollback was part of a grand strategic gamble that failed."
Plus: The retreat from empiricism--which in my view happened throughout the government--is an embarrassment to the entire Washington elite, none of whom could prevent it, or even give it a name.
CQ: How many times has our charming host gone to the well with the "rollback" meme? ZZZZzzzzzzz.
Oh, I freely admit it's a theme I have tracked obsessively. I can do that; its my site. Readers know how to opt out.
But the cure for your ZZZZ is to become a better reader.
It started with "we don't think you have a fourth estate role..." via Andrew Card, and "You're Assuming That You Represent the Public. I Don't Accept That," which was W's idea. (April, 2004)
Previous presidents had the same resentments, of course, and drew cheers in parts of the electorate for voicing them. Previous presidents avoided the press, or routed around it with TV and photo ops. All presidents try to manipulate the news. It took until Bush the younger for the imaginative leap to be made: Attack the claim that any public interest at all is served by “meeting the press.” Remove the press from the system of checks and balances. Deny that it’s any “fourth branch of government” (Douglas Cater’s idea, 1959.) Don’t just work around a troublesome crew. Be bolder. Reject the reporters’ claim to be channeling the public and its questions.
Not only that. In January, Auletta reported the following on the Bush Thesis: “the White House has come to see reporters as special pleaders,” an interest group “that’s not nearly as powerful as it once was.” Bush thinks the national news organizations don’t have the influence Richard Nixon and other angry presidents saw in them. Here the Bush Thesis is like a mafia read, a Sopranos script: “You don’t have that kind of muscle any more, so shut the fuck up.”
But then I realized that these attitudes were part of something larger: de-certification of the press. (March, 2005)
But then I realized that de-certification was part of something larger, and more aggressive: Rollback of the press. (July, 2005)
But then I realized that rollback was part of something larger- larger than the press. The retreat from empiricism throughout the government. (Dec. 2006)
Then I realized that the retreat from empiricism was part of larger development: executive power as the absence of constraint, including the constraint of reality itself. (Sep. 2007)
You don't know how to read my Rollback Series, so you see only repetition, not development. I would add that both the warning about the retreat from empiricism and presidential power as the absence of constraint came from loyal and worried Republicans trying to describe what they had seen.
At that point Bush had become a danger to the Republican brand. The besotted--some of who we find here--are still focused on Bush hatred in others, partly (I believe) to avoid facing their own, oncoming.
Acknowledging the recapitulation of your own narrative of your understanding of the ideological project of the current administration...
Repeal of the Fourth Estate
Decertification of the Inside-the-Beltway Media
Rollback of the Role of the Press
Retreat from Empiricism
Absence of Restraint
...some of these stages intersect directly with PressThink; others address the administration's relationship to the entire body politic.
Your quote of Ken Auletta back in April 2004 is germane because, ideology aside, its insight is accurate: “'The White House has come to see reporters as special pleaders,' an interest group 'that’s not nearly as powerful as it once was.' Bush thinks the national news organizations don’t have the influence Richard Nixon and other angry presidents saw in them."
The so-called MainStreamMedia are indeed not nearly as powerful as they were in the second half of C20th. No institution of the mass industrial age is. Not the news media, not political parties, not labor unions, not Madison Avenue, not Detroit's Big Three, not metropolitan daily newspapers, not the entertainment-industrial complex.
Any incumbent of the White House -- benign, malign or merely neutrally experimental -- would have been obliged to toy with new media strategies in the face of this fragmented and defanged press corps. Many of those experiments would have failed. Experiments mostly do.
Both Anderson and Brazier hit the nail on the head, however, when they caution against reading too much into the particular failure of McClellan's brand of Rollback:
Anderson: "Moving past the McClellan model still leaves a considerable order of business yet to be done before we could consider ourselves to have recovered a democratic culture, even stipulating that rollback has failed and even assuming a more traditional pretense of White House accountability is one day restored."
Brazier: "What you say now about Bush reads as if you believe that Bush's sinking in the polls has brought the world back to its proper course -- that the many lacunae in the public's knowledge of the world, which exist thanks to the cult of savviness and other vices of the US media, are no longer a problem, because Bush's stratagem against the media has failed."
Indeed the work of PressThink still has to be done. What about journalists? What do their experiments need to be to represent the interests of the body politic in a post-mass-media world? (As Insufficiently and Neuro and Aubrey all point out, journalists' sloppy experiments can make matters worse just as surely as sloppy experiments at the White House can) How do we citizens ensure that our government is accountable now existing monitoring mechanisms have lost clout? How can the public ensure that its lacunae of knowledge get properly filled?
I never said the American press was in its politics representative of the politics of the American people. I never believed it. I never considered for a second that it may be true, and so I don't feel obliged to "admit" that Bush was right when he made this idiotic point that Bush dead enders repeat endlessly.
The observation Bush offered back then is significant only because it touched on something else: the White House press did represent at one time the American public's interest in having an interlocutor capable of questioning the President in an informed way.
I would agree that this system is at an end. It has crashed, for a multitude of reasons, "rollback" being only one. Press behavior is another one. Change in the media universe a third, and changes in cultural authority a fourth.
I agree with Andrew that any occupant of the White House would have had to confront alternatives to that (crashed) system; that will also be true for the next president. We are entitled to examine and criticize the alternatives chosen.
In my rollback series I criticized the system that Card, Cheney, Bush, Hughes, Rove, Bartlett and company put in place of the old, disintegrating one.
It was later that I realized that Bush and Cheney intended to destroy every single interlocutor the President could have as a means of expanding executive power and adjusting to Bush's massive personal weaknesses, which begin with the fact that more than most politicians he cannot handle being questioned. By anyone.
Not good at rhetoric? No, Michael. Not good at handling any challenge to a pre-determined world view and more intellectually dishonest than any previous president we have had.
I never said McClellan "caused" a damn thing. I said he was a clown, a stooge, a weak figure you could roll over. Such men do not move events. Rather, he shows the true colors of the Bush crowd: willing to harm itself if it can make another constraint more absent. So I don't feel obliged to admit that he didn't cause this, that or the other. The idea of McClellan as a "cause" is, again, idiotic.
I don't know whom you are arguing with CQ, but it's wacky and irrelevant to this blog. Who thinks things are going to be wonderful with a Democratic President? I don't. You're talking to and writing about phantoms: voices in your head.
Go over to the DNC and write on their walls.
From Tim's link:
The balance between serving the President and serving the press is a problem that faces all presidential spokesmen, whether the President be Grover Cleveland or Bill Clinton. Marlin Fitzwater, of the Reagan and Bush administrations, said the press secretary enters into combat with the press with one hand tied behind his back because he must serve two masters.
This is exactly what Bush and company wanted to wipe out: the "two masters," a situation that arises because the press secretary in the past was the person on the president's team who pushed for fuller disclosure of reliable information.
It's like an accountant who has to serve the client and what are called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. These are ultimately good for the client too (see Enron) but may interfere with various plans and schemes the client has (see Enron.)
This tension is what Card, Rove, Cheney and Bush wanted to do away with. No more two masters; it interfered with their schemes. Marlin Fitzwater, a man of integrity, would have quit right there; he had the intelligence to see that wiping out the tension would be bad for him and for the president. McClellan was too dumb, too weak to see any of that, so he agreed: yes, master, one master. And that was his sole qualification for the job.
Now he wants to recover some dignity with his book but it's too late, and he doesn't have the stomach for it. And that's what happens to everyone who works for Bush in a visible capacity. They all emerge with shattered reputations. Bush's intellectual dishonesty, a thing of epic proportions, stronger than anything else about him, becomes their style. It is also the style of the Bush dead enders we see here.
I don't know why I have to even point this out, but in making these observations about the monumental, reality-destroying, party-wrecking dishonesty of the Bush inner circle I am not praising Hillary Clinton for her truthtelling nature. What a bizarre leap!
I have no illusions about her, I do not support her, and I think she is by far the most likely of the Democratic candidates to continue those aspects of the Bush regime I find most revolting. Her press management so far suggests a continuation of rollback, but that's the least of it.
Thanks for posting that, Tim. I think the three cornered thing is true. So I can see how Rollback poses a danger of reducing it to two.
And yes, one of the things we should be talking about is what the next president--either party--is going to do with this busted system for communicating with the American people.
You're quite right, all of you, that Bush won't be a part of that, and what one thinks of Bush or a stooge like McClellan contributes not at all to that forward-looking discussion.
I hope to make some contributions along those lines.
Examining what happened during this debacle for representative government (W.'s years) I will continue to do. How the Clinton years prepared the ground for the degradations Bush visited on the land is, I think, an extremely important part of the story. Even more so given the polls in the current election.
Still, I'm pretty sure I will be writing posts on things like the retreat from empiricism, and "from meet the press to be the press," and maybe even rollback, for quite a while, exhausting the patience of almost all readers. You guys are early in the oncoming wave of resignations.
I study the press, and in my way of doing it that often means pursuing some small thing that is of scant significance to most everyone else. Like a story I heard about reporters "going out" with snipers in Sarajevo that may or may not have been true, and could only be treated as a fable.
I started my book, What Are Journalists For? with this plaque on the wall at the National Press Club that journalists had rushed by a zillion times, viewing its boilerplate language as bad wallpaper and never really thinking about the words.
To them, a vapid consensus statement like that doesn't signify. To me it does. And that plaque would be something I would study... really, really hard. Because it is their pressthink in almost subconscious form. The fact that they dismiss it makes it even more interesting.
Blog storms I study for the same reason. They bring out the id in the press. Traumas too.
If you look at the logo and header on the front page of PressThink you can see this idea represented in Bill Drenttel's design. Pressthink is in the ghostly background.
Here's the other thing.
Suppose the NIE has it exactly right, and Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, right along with Libya's.
That is not in the slightest a blow to Administration policy in southwest Asia. That is an overwhelming vindication of it.
Remember, Qadaffi said quite plainly that he abandoned his WMD program because "I saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, and I was afraid."
The problem with people like SL is this:
1. He doesn't know how to construct a fact-based argument. But in this he follow's Rosen's lead, in that Rosen will frequently build an entire lengthy post based not on facts, but upon assertions and interpretations. For example, "rollback," and "retreat from empiricism."
2. He grasps price (casualties) but does not grasp value.
3. He doesn't grasp complexity: There can exist simultaneously a number of reasons to invade Iraq. And Congress made it easy by spelling out more than a score of them, which they considered, debated and voted upon.
Moreover, he apparently does not grasp that if the NIE asserts something with "moderate confidence," then there is a substantial probability of that assessment being false, as well. That probability is translated thus: Contingency.
And contingencies are planned for.
4. He thinks an ad hominem against me supports his argument, though it really serves to highlight the lack of factual information he can bring to bear, and
5. He doesn't know when to stop digging a hole for himself. Indeed, in this case, he continues to levy ad hominem arguments against me based on assertion - that no WMD were found in Iraq - that has just been completely falsified.
Which of course brings us back to number one.
I'm sure he and Franklin Foer could close down a bar together, comiserating in their beer.
Says Tyndall earlier: "It seems significant to me that Iran suspended its program in the fall of 2003, according to NIE, immediately after the fall of its mortal enemy, the Baath regime of Iraq..."
well, since Saddam was overthrown well before the fall of 2003, its difficult to say 'immediately after."
The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that the IAEA has never said that Iran had a nuclear weapons program. And given the nature of "intelligence" under the Bush regime in the past, one must take the assertion that Iran was working on developing nukes with a large grain of salt.
And while wingnuts like to think that Iranian actions were based on the invasion of Iraq, a far more rational explanation is that Iran invited the IAEA to inspect its nuclear installations in February 2003 once it became clear from his inspections of Iraq that el Baradei and the IAEA were not in thrall to the USA, and would evaluate Iran's efforts impartially.
Throughout the eighties and nineties the US had blocked ever effort of the Iranian regime to finish its nuclear plants at Bushehr -- the US convinced West Germany to not ship equipment that had already been paid for, for instance. As a result, it would appear that Iran clandestinely sought help from Pakistan -- the effort had to be clandestine because while Iran was a signatory of the NNPT, Pakistan was not.
And, it would appear that included in the 'technology' information provided by Pakistan was some information related to weapons development -- and some equipment transferred to Iran had been contaminated with weapons grade uranium -- these things were discovered by the IAEA, and (after an ultimatum issued by the IAEA in September 2003) Iran has been providing credible explanations for these anomolies.
It should also be noted that most of the "damning" information about Iran's supposed weapons program is coming throught the US backed, anti-Iranian terrorist group, the MEK. We've already seen this movie, starring the INC, and we know how that turned out..
In other words, Andrew, don't assume that Iran ever had a weapons program -- or at least one that was active until Fall 2003. The most likely explanation is that some changes occured with the way in which Iran's civilian nuclear power program was administered in Fall 2003 as a result of the "ultimatum" issued by the IAEA in September of that year.
(The idea that Iran would shut down a clandestine weapons program in Fall 2003 is counter-intuitive in terms of what was happening in US neo-con policy circles at that time -- the big discussion wasn't about whether the US should invade another country, but which country (Syria or Iran) after the Iraq "success". Iran had watched as the US lied about the non-existent Iraqi nuclear program, so what point would there be in shutting down a weapons program knowing that the US would lie about it anyway?)
Your choice of which intel to believe is interesting.
Richard, its not a question of which intelligence I believe -- its a question of knowing what the facts are -- and knowing how this admistration has consistently twisted intelligence "to make the facts fit the policy." And its truly unfortunate that such skepticism is warranted, because while we have no credible evidence that Iran had a weapons program, absense of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Iran's violations of the NPT were the US's fault? Uh, no.
Tim, prior to the Iranian Revolution, Iran was developing peaceful uses of nuclear technology with US cooperation, including the sale of 6 nuclear power plants agreed to in 1975. (The Shah also said, in 1974, that he intended to get nuclear weapons, btw). That program was shut down when the Shah was overthrown.
In 1993, Clinton got Russia to shut down negotiations for "heavy water" reactors, and got Germany to renege on its contract to finish the Buhsher power plant -- and since that time, the Clinton administration (followed by Bushco) did everything it could to prevent Iran from generating electricity using nuclear technology -- including the blocking of sale/transfer of enriched uranium for use in power plants.
Thus, the only way that Iran could exercise its right to produce electricity in nucler power plants was to do so clandestinely.
And while I understand that the IAEA wants enrichment stopped so that 'good faith negotiations' can take place, do you honestly believe that the Bush administration would negotiate "in good faith?" Iran twice suspended all enrichment activities (in 2003 and 2004) but when the US and EU3 demanded that the shut down be permanent, the 'good faith' negotiations broke down.
(I'd also like to suggest that the nations which currently produce reactor fuel want to maintain their monopoly --- and this plays a role in the EU3's actions)
The same old suspects are going to be wrapping the same old stuff in a new package.
That isn't going to solve anything.
You can look for the new model in Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Totten, along with several less well-known folks getting down and dirty in Iraq--or in Totten's case, the ME generally.
That stuff is ready made for the new model. Independent, self-supporting, expert at the business of war and reporting, connected to idunnohowmany other experts and practitioners. More guts than ought to be expected. Don't use stringers. Take lots of pictures. Sit in conferences with local leaders and US commanders.
The result, outside of the wingnut blogosphere....
It's not the package. It's the content. Got any idea of, say, breaking the world view away from the NYT? Gonna quit making shit up?
How about reviewing how the MSM got Katrina wrong? Stuff's out there by people who were there. How about an article discussing the differential recoveries from Katrina in NOLA, Mississippi, and Alabama?
Does it take a new model to consider that the problem of homelessness doesn't effing DISAPPEAR once a dem is elected? Does it take a new model to figure out that people noticed the MSM acted as if, once Reagan were out, everybody had a new home? Daily 6:30 reports on the problem went away. Think nobody noticed?
Wrap it up how you want. But I haven't seen anybody interested in whether the public is going to buy it any more than they bought the old crap, which they are increasingly not buying.
Well, this is the season for new wrapping paper and it seems to make people happy.