It’s not just the New York Times which leaves out facts inconvenient to its arguments when covering “l’affiare Plame.” As I have reported repeatedly (here, here, here and here), while my hometown daily:
routinely reports the accusations that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV leveled against the Bush Administration, accusing it of ignoring his report finding that Saddam Hussein’s government had not attempted to purchase uranium from the African nation of Niger, it consistently fails to mention that a Senate Intelligence Committee discredited that Administration critic.
And this paper (read by fewer and fewer Angelenos every day) does it again today in a front-page over-the-fold article. Once again, the Times trots out Wilson’s claims without mentioning that a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report had discredited that former Kerry campaign staffer.
Reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten only mention that committee when they can use it to suit their ends (not reporting the whole story, but twisting it to serve their own anti-Bush agenda), this time noting that committee Democrats were “fuming” at the White House’s rejection of one of their requests for information. Selective reporting seems a hallmark of Times‘ coverage of this kerfuffle.
Except for a few quotes from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the article otherwise reads like Democratic talking points. The paper reports that Ms. Plame’s
name was disclosed to journalists in what was widely viewed as an effort to taint Wilson by suggesting that his mission to Africa had been arranged as a personal junket by his wife. It is illegal to knowingly leak the name of a covert operative.
Once again, I give these guys credit. Diligent reporters they may not be, but clever wordsmiths they are. By using the passive, they don’t have to provide a subject for those who believed this was an effort to “taint” Wilson. And they also neglect to mention that after an extensive investigation of this matter, a scrupulous federal prosecutor has failed to accuse any Administration official of breaking the law by leaking the name of a covert operative. Only Democratic partisans, angry bloggers and liberal reporters believe the Administration was trying to taint Wilson. When, in reality, it was merely trying to get out the facts which clearly discredited that self-important man.
Nearly two years after the Senate Intelligence Committee report discredited Wilson’s much ballyhooed (in the summer of 2003) attacks on the Administration, the LA Times continues to portray him as a noble critic whom the president and his cronies (led by the evil henchman Rove) tried to smear.
Let me repeat, the Bush Administration was only attempting to do what any Administration would do under similar circumstance — to rebut, in McClellan’s words “irresponsible and unfounded accusations being made against” it.” While I (and others) believe they do so in a clumsy manner, neither the president nor any of his Administration did anything illegal. So, the paper is left to trot out West Virginia Democratic John D. Rockefeller IV, another perennial Bush critic, to level the Left’s favorite charge, calling “the administration’s approach to leaks ‘extraordinarily hypocritical.’”
If someone had leveled charges against a Democratic Administration like those Mr. Wilson leveled against the Bush Administration and then been shown to be a dishonest man who twisted his own findings, the MSM would savage him and bring up his deceptions every time they mentioned his name. Instead the MSM fails to note Mr. Wilson’s dishonesty because his conclusions (albeit long since rebutted) suit the story they wish to tell. (Even though partisan (while the MSM puts itself forward as non-partisan, conservatives have shown better judgment. In the 1990s, many of us (including yours truly) cancelled (or refused to renew) our subscriptions to the American Spectator when its pages included increasing amounts of (unsubstantiated) anti-Clinton screeds and conspiracy theorists.) If the MSM did not delight in Bush-bashing, Joe Wilson would long since have joined the ranks of political cranks who rise to political prominence when it seems they have something to say and then fall into obscurity when that something proves to be filled with falsehoods and fabrications. (Though there are signs that Wilson is headed that way, e.g, here, here and here.)
The MSM has made much of this story and the White House’s alleged leak because they think it fits into their narrative of the Administration’s deception and duplicity. But, as Glenn Reynolds puts it, this “latest ‘Bush leaked’ story — which doesn’t hold up very well when you look at the actual story — is basically a ‘spoiling attack’ by the NYT and other media who fear subpoenas in the Libby case. As with all their efforts on this front, it’s likely to backfire.” Or as Austin Bay put it, it’s just “more evidence that the national press is more interested in playing “gotcha” with the Bush Administration than reporting the news.” And an indication that the LA Times seems to believe that because of the nobility of his cause, a Bush critic is by definition telling the truth. Even when there is a vast array of evidence to the contrary.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
UPDATE: Cecil Turner, commenting at JustOneMinute defends how the Administration handled this (which I called “clumsy” above). He notes that despite White House efforts to set the record straight, “the media still bought Wilson’s bogus story.”
UP-UPDATE: This piece ended up being longer (as is my wont) than I had anticipated that I neglected to address the incredibly biased conclusion to the LA Times article in question:
The discrepancy suggests that Bush authorized the leak before his senior intelligence aides and advisors fully concluded that its release would not violate national security.
Please. This is more an editorial comment than non-partisan reporting. While the discrepancy may “suggest” what the Times wants it to suggest, its reporters provide no evidence to buttress their case. If anywhere, it belongs on the paper’s editorial page or a blog, but not on the news page.
UP-UP-UPDATE: If I were fisking this article, instead of trying to write an essay (as is my wont), I would have made much of this paragraph:
To counter Wilson’s claims, the administration disclosed classified information to attack his arguments and undermine his personal credibility, recent court filings show.
First, if the president authorized release of the report, then it wasn’t classified (as I noted in this post.)
Second, the reporters accuse the administration of attempting to “undermine [Wilson’s] personal credibility” so it sounds as if some conspiracy is afoot, when, in reality, all the administration was doing was getting information out to counter Wilson’s false claims. Thus, by showing that the facts of the matter were at odds with what the man said, the release of that information did indeed undermine his credibility. After all, when all the facts are on the table, he has been shown to be a dishonest man. What’s wrong with undermining the credibility of such a man?
But, because the LA Times did not report that Wilson’s reports had long since been discredited (as I note above), the paper’s use of this expression makes the Administration’s efforts appear to be a smear. It’s not a smear to release information which shows that a partisan critic has been playing fast and loose with the facts.
UP-UP-UP-UPDATE: The more I read about this latest revelation, the less I realize there is to it. And that the media is all in a tizzy is a more a sign of their own bias than the information’s newsworthiness. As the National Review editors write:
But what, exactly, is the misdeed involved here? First of all, it should be made clear — as it has not been in some discussions — that Fitzgerald does not charge that the president authorized Libby to say anything about Valerie Plame Wilson. Remember her? The leak of her allegedly classified CIA identity was supposedly what the Fitzgerald investigation was all about. Yet the new stories have nothing to do with her. As a matter of fact, on page 27 of the new filing, Fitzgerald writes that as late as September 2003, “the President was unaware of the role that the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser [Libby] had in fact played in disclosing Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment…”
So that’s that. But what about the leak? Yes, the president authorized a top aide to leak portions of the National Intelligence Estimate, which was classified, although it would later be de-classified. But what is wrong with that? When the president decides to make something public, it can be made public. The Plame case has revolved around the allegedly unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Would anyone argue that this disclosure was unauthorized?
So we ask all those who have become so very excited about this new story: Read the Fitzgerald filing. Read a few news reports about what was happening in July 2003. And ask yourself: What is the problem? If you think about it, you’ll probably agree that there isn’t one.
Now that I’ve whet your appetite, just read the whole thing!
UP-UP-UP-UP-UPDATE: And again today (April 9) in a “new analysis” on the President’s credibility, LA Times writer Doyle McManus notes that “the White House was trying to rebut charges from former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that the administration had exaggerated Iraq’s nuclear programs” while neglecting to mention that Wilson’s charges have long since been discredited.
Perhaps, the Times (if it were a serious newspaper) should do a piece wondering if there’s a link between the president’s declining credibility and the media’s biased reporting of this (and other stories). And it doesn’t help the White House that the president’s press secretary often appears in a “defensive crouch.”
To counter a biased media, you need an aggressive press operation willing to take the offensive, not a tired one, lamely defending the Administration in the most banal of terms.