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June 09, 2008

Bush Lied: The Devil In the Details

Fred Hiatt looks below the surface spin of the recently released Rockefeller report and finds that... (sacre bleu!) the Senator from W. Virginia has been less than honest with the American people:

... dive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."

On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."

On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."

As you read through the report, you begin to think maybe you've mistakenly picked up the minority dissent. But, no, this is the Rockefeller indictment. So, you think, the smoking gun must appear in the section on Bush's claims about Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to terrorism.

But statements regarding Iraq's support for terrorist groups other than al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda "were substantiated by the intelligence assessments," and statements regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." The report is left to complain about "implications" and statements that "left the impression" that those contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation.

In the report's final section, the committee takes issue with Bush's statements about Saddam Hussein's intentions and what the future might have held. But was that really a question of misrepresenting intelligence, or was it a question of judgment that politicians are expected to make?

After all, it was not Bush, but Rockefeller, who said in October 2002: "There has been some debate over how 'imminent' a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. I also believe after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated. . . . To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? I do not think we can."

Rockefeller was reminded of that statement by the committee's vice chairman, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), who with three other Republican senators filed a minority dissent that includes many other such statements from Democratic senators who had access to the intelligence reports that Bush read. The dissenters assert that they were cut out of the report's preparation, allowing for a great deal of skewing and partisanship, but that even so, "the reports essentially validate what we have been saying all along: that policymakers' statements were substantiated by the intelligence."

If you're holding your breath for this earth-shattering development to appear on the 11 o'clock update to the evening news... don't. The wave of the future is talented infotainment anchors like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who specialize in over the top dramatics

"Is Keith Olbermann the Future of Journalism?" the American Journalism Review asked last year. The piece quoted Chicago media critic Phil Rosenthal saying Olbermann "flows from funny to poignant in connecting the seemingly random dots of a day's events, important and trivial, steadfastly clinging to basic tenets about what is and what isn't news without being bound to traditional approaches." He's right about Olbermann loosening the vise of tradition, which can be a good thing. And Olbermann doesn't just flow funny, at times he hemorrhages funny. But poignancy? Connecting random dots? "Steadfastly clinging to basic tenets about what is and what isn't news"?

Get a grip. The man's a big ham.

If only his over the top antics were the most serious problem with Olbermann. It's one thing to lighten up the evening news with a little banter. It's another thing entirely when your news coverage becomes so one-sided that you become the in-house network of Barack Obama:

"There's a huge difference between rooting for one side in a Democratic primary, and another one to take sides in a general election and go out and openly root for a candidate. You can't do that," said the insider. "You think Russert is going to put up with that? Election night coverage in November with Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann?

"The key is his willingness to quit," says our source about Olbermann. "And he means it. He has convinced management of that. They are convinced that he will walk. He behaves like a man who has nothing left to lose. He is not central to MSNBC, he is the center of the MSNBC ratings strategy. We hang the entire schedule on him."

But drama makes for good ratings, and one thing Olbermann is good at, it's generating drama. And if it's a slow news day, you can always make up paranoid conspiracy theories:

Early on in the MSNBC coverage last night, Andrea Mitchell mentioned that in the venue of Hillary's speech, as it was in the basement of Baruch College in an auditorium of sorts, there was no cell or blackberry coverage. Olbermann ran with it and came up with this theory:

And one is almost forced to ask whether they picked this particular venue with no TV monitors and cell phone or blackberry service so that nobody there would know that 54 minutes ago, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois had become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

Yeah, that's probably what happened.

I suppose next you'll be trying to convince us of some cockamamie story like there were connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Oops. My bad. That was Senator Rockafeller, wasn't it? No wonder the American people don't trust the media to be impartial:

Ideologically, political liberals give the least pessimistic assessment of reporters, but even 50% of those on the political left see bias. Thirty-three percent (33%) of liberals believe most reporters try to be objective. Moderates, by a 65% to 17% margin, see reporters as advocates, not scribes. Among political conservatives, only 7% see reporters as objective while 83% believe they are biased.

Given these results, it’s not surprising that 76% of voters believe the media has too much power and influence over elections. Just 3% believe the Fourth Estate has too little influence while 16% say the balance is about right.

Of course you have to wonder a bit at an electorate that willingly tunes in to an anchor who openly brags about being willing to throw elections.

Only in Amerikkka. What a country: it's enough to bring a tear to Michelle Obama's eye.

Posted by Cassandra at June 9, 2008 07:11 AM

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I think you are bitterly clinging to former notions (now in a Post Modernist Age, how double-plus ungood!) about the need for truth, honesty and objectivity.
Let your emotions flow! Show us your passion! Let your anger lead you to the Dark Side young Skywalker (oops! mixed a metaphor there).

I watched about 30 seconds of "Countdown!" the other night (about my weekly tolerable dose), and I couldn't believe how BIG Keith Olbermann's face was on the TV screen. Wow. Talk about an 'extreme close-up!' Or maybe it's just his big head. :)

Interesting how the whole NBC New Division has prostituted themselves. And that, I think, is the shape of things to come.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 9, 2008 03:22 PM


I have a killer post coming up in re: that whole 'clinging to former notions' thing.

Posted by: That's Gonna Leave a Mark.... at June 9, 2008 03:24 PM

"Killer post"? Is that an allowed PC metaphor now? I doubt that the sort of post you are planning and the concommittant commentary is really going to do my kids any good.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 9, 2008 03:59 PM

Typos. She meant a "filler" post about clinging *thongs*...

Posted by: BillT at June 9, 2008 04:42 PM

Still won't do your kids any good, though.

Posted by: BillT at June 9, 2008 04:44 PM

So, is it lying when you act in good faith in bad information? Everyone, including those who opposed the Iraq war thought Saddam had WMD's. This is just another example of election year posturing.

I have no idea if Olberman is the future of our news media since I'v never seen him. I quit watching network news(and all their other programs) during the 04 election. For me a bigger question is, does the American (and western) news media have any future? Since they have lost credibility and the faith of their audience, I'd say they don't have a future. It would take a lot at this point for me to trust them again any time soon.

Posted by: Schnauzer at June 9, 2008 06:22 PM

Yes. It is Lying When You Act In Good Faith with Bad Intel when you are a leader they despise.

The MSM doesn't call it that when they get they do the same thing. They call it 'truthiness,'
and award each other Pulitzer Prizes for it.

Posted by: Cricket at June 9, 2008 06:50 PM

> hat policymakers' statements were substantiated by the intelligence.

...Just not substantiated by the intelligence of the Dems.

No, not the information, you silly!

Posted by: OBloody Hell at June 10, 2008 12:08 AM

> And Olbermann doesn't just flow funny, at times he hemorrhages funny. But poignancy?

The Colbert Report is better -- it's funnier, and skewers both sides (even if a little more against the right than left) and doesn't CLAIM to be "NEWS" or "JOURNALISM".

Posted by: OBloody Hell at June 10, 2008 12:14 AM

> your news coverage becomes so one-sided that you become the in-house network of Barack Obama:

Contrast, BTW, Fox firing a minor employee for openly supporting McCain, IIRC, about 4-5 months ago. Everybody on the left claims Fox is neither fair nor balanced, but they are the only ones who have made it clear that their reporters aren't to openly support a candidate.

Posted by: OBloody Hell at June 10, 2008 12:17 AM

> ZShe meant a "filler" post about clinging *thongs*...

You sure it wasn't a "thriller" post about clinging "Frogs"? I've heard bad things about Frenchmen.

Posted by: OBloody Hell at June 10, 2008 12:20 AM

> So, is it lying when you act in good faith in bad information?

Only Republicans can lie. As a matter of fact, it's the only thing they ever do. They lie about lying about not telling the truth out of both sides of their mouths.

Dems speak "truthiness to power", and such. They tell stories which have an "inner truth" which is independent of silly, useless facts.

See how it works? Glad I could clear that up for ya!


Posted by: OBloody Hell at June 10, 2008 12:24 AM

Where can one actually read a copy of the Rockefeller report?

Posted by: RonF at June 10, 2008 02:58 PM


"Where can one actually read a copy of the Rockefeller report?"
I've still not had a chance to track it all the way back to the actual 5 Phase II reports, but this link should help get you started in the right direction by providing the titles of the reports.

And then there is little critique on the report.

Bon Appetite!

Posted by: bthun at June 11, 2008 08:01 PM

You can always spot a dellusioned Hillary supporter. Keith Olbermann is the man and a hero to me, while you IMO are just so much worthless noise.

Posted by: George Johnson at June 15, 2008 04:36 PM

Ummm... it's called situational awareness.

Republicans aren't too likely to be voting for Hillary any time soon :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 15, 2008 05:52 PM

You can always spot a dellusioned Hillary supporter.

Oooh -- a new non-word!

*dellusioned* adj. combination of delusional and disillusioned.

Usually used by one who is.

Posted by: BillT at June 15, 2008 06:46 PM

"Keith Olbermann is the man and a hero to me"
There's a sucker born every minute.
P.T. Barnum

Posted by: bthun at June 15, 2008 11:55 PM