Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Hang on a second...
As the Newsweek apology morphed into a full-on retraction Monday, the fact dawned on more than a few observers (including this one) that the trajectory of this story has been all to Ratherian. As Newsweek's beleaguered editor, Mark Whitaker, was at pains to repeat over and over again on "Nightline," the 10 sentence story that ran on May 9, penned by primarily Michael Isikoff (no lefty there -- we're talking Monica blue dress chaser-in-chief, here), was shown -- in its entirety -- to TWO senior Pentagon officials before it ran. Neither of them chose to debunk the essential facts of the story. Neither pleaded (or more Bush administration-like) ordered, Newsweek not to run the story, including the Koranic verses, for fear of the consequences in the Muslim world.

Yet on Monday, in ever-more hyperbolic demonstrations of fake outrage, first Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita and then White House hacksman Scott McClellan fulminated at Newsweek's "irresponsibility" in publishing a story that has "cost lives" and damaged "America's image abroad." Hang on, I thought Abu-Ghraib and the failure to find WMD in Iraq did that ...

The WH turned the screws on Newsweek, after first abetting the publication of the story, at least by default, and after getting the apology they demanded, they and their blogmob are now laying all the carnage throughout the Mideast at the magazine's doorstep.

Message to Newsweek: You've been Rathergated. The administration and its henchmen, including Bush's official news network, Fox, will now use this story to beat, bludgeon and more importantly, blame you for all its troubles with Islam.

That point has been made over and over again today, on Rawstory.com, on Nightline, by "Hardball's" saving grace David Shuster (a former Fox man himself), by WaPo's Howard Kurtz, and on Countdown, where Keith Olbermann turned to the last sane man left in the Washington press corps, Craig Crawford:

Whatever I smell comes from this odd sequence of events: Newsweek gets blasted by the White House, apologizes over the weekend but doesn't retract its story. Then McClellan offers his Journalism 101 outdoor seminar and blasts the magazine further. Finally, just before 5 PM Monday, the Dan Rather drama replaying itself in its collective corporate mind, Newsweek retracts.


I’m always warning about the logical fallacy - the illusion that just because one event follows another, the latter must have necessarily caused the former. But when I wondered tonight on Countdown if it applied here, Craig Crawford reassured me. “The dots connect.”

...

One of the most under-publicized analyses of 9/11 concludes that Osama Bin Laden assumed that the attacks on the U.S. would galvanize Islamic anger towards this country, and they'd overthrow their secular governments and woo-hoo we've got an international religious war. Obviously it didn't happen. It didn't even happen when the West went into Iraq. But if stuff like the Newsweek version of a now two-year old tale about toilets and Qu’rans is enough to set off rioting in the streets of countries whose nationals were not even the supposed recipients of the ‘abuse’, then weren’t those members of the military or the government with whom Newsweek vetted the plausibility of its item, honor-bound to say “you can’t print this”?


Or would somebody rather play politics with this? The way Craig Crawford reconstructed it, this one went similarly to the way the Killian Memos story evolved at the White House. The news organization turns to the administration for a denial. The administration says nothing. The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet - or has its proxies do it for them.


That’s beyond shameful. It’s treasonous.


It's also effective, especially for this White House, with this press corps (Matthews jumped in with both feet on Monday, hammering Newsweek for bum reporting and completely ignoring the scads of previous stories detailing precisely the kind of religious outrages being protested against.) As many others have pointed out, the only difference between the Newsweek story and all the previous ones is that the old stories came from detainees (or former U.S. interpreters and other personnel). This one had the imprimatur of a "high level U.S. government official."

Other than that, there was nothing new here.

In fact, the administration didn't seem to give a damn about the story (as Olbermann points out, Joint Chiefs chairman Dick Meyers dismissed it last week as not being the real cause of the Afghan and other violence). The Newsweek piece only became the root of the problem after Condi Rice's attempt to soothe Muslim anger failed miserably. (Rice has, of course, changed her tune considerably and is now singing from the Di-Rita-McClellan songsheet:)

Rice on May 14:
"Disrespect for the Holy Quran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States. We honor the sacred books of all the world's great religions. Disrespect for the Holy Quran is abhorrent to us all.
...
"Our military authorities are investigating these allegations fully. If they are proven true, we will take appropriate action. ... Guaranteeing religious rights is of great personal importance to the president and to me."

Rice on May 16:

``It's appalling that this story got out there,'' Rice told reporters traveling home with her Monday from her trip to Iraq.

...

``I do think it's done a lot of harm,'' Rice said. ``Of course, 16 people died but it's also done a lot of harm to America's efforts,'' to demonstrate tolerance and breed goodwill in the Muslim world.

...


``The sad thing was that there was a lot of anger that got stirred by a story that was not very well founded,'' Rice said.


By the way, if you doubt for a second that this is the administtration playing hardball, check out this story in Monday's Washington Post:

Report Critical of Rumsfeld Is Pulled After DOD Protest

By Mike AllenWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 16, 2005; A05


A government commission studying overseas military bases sent Congress a report that included criticism of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's strategy, then removed the document from the commission Web site after the Pentagon complained that it divulged classified information.


The congressionally appointed panel contends that the 262-page report is based only on public sources, and several commission officials say they believe the Defense Department was annoyed because their conclusions include harsh criticism of some elements of Rumsfeld's plan for streamlining the military.

...

The commission chairman, Al Cornella, a Republican, said in an interview that he was trying to cooperate but that he had not agreed to have the Pentagon clear the report in advance. "The commission is confident that everything in our report was obtained from unclassified sources or settings," he said.


According to e-mails that an official involved in the dispute read to The Washington Post, Barry Pavel, the Defense Department's director of strategy on global posture, wrote to Cornella on May 7 to warn of "the potential need to conduct an investigation regarding violation of security classification procedures, including the IT-related aspects (eg, possibly having to clean your servers, etc)."


Commission officials said they took that as a threat to revoke their security clearances and to bring military police or information technology agents to their Arlington offices.


The officials said Pavel raised the concerns with Cornella on May 6 in an e-mail with the subject line, "Re: report." "I'll be frank," Pavel wrote, according to the e-mail read to The Post.


"I found it professionally disappointing; riddled with errors of fact, misperceptions, and misunderstandings; and divulging classified information that will damage our foreign relations and national security." The officials said that after the complaint, they removed the original report from their Web site, collected the printed copies that they could retract, removed some appendixes and had the reports rebound before the news conference.


This is how these folks operate. Welcome to the Brave New World.
posted by JReid @ 1:44 AM  
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