Sunday, April 01, 2007


Yesterday, I posted an article on pointing out the absurd bias in the Washington Post's Military Correspondent Tom Ricks’s story about Gen. Barry McCaffrey’s March 26 report on his trip to Iraq. In it, I pointed out how Ricks had totally inverted the McCaffrey report to fit his own anti-war narrative. My piece apparently struck a nerve.

Last evening, Ricks sent me this e-mail:
Subject: A comment on yours
News isn't a proportional relationship--that is, one paragraph deep in a report may contain the nugget of a story, and hundreds of other pages may not be worth a mention. In my view, given General McCaffrey's past optimism, the news here was his "problems" section. Also, when I pointed out to him the discrpeancy in the tone of different parts of the report, he told me that he wrote that section with his head, but the later more optimistic parts with his heart.
At any rate, if I were interested in misprepresentation, why would I have the Post make sure to put the entire report on-line, and have a notice to that effect at the end of the print story that encouraged people to read the whole thing?
Tom Ricks
Military Correspondent
The Washington Post
Here’s my response:
News isn't proportional, but reporting is about facts, not fitting something into your narrative. Your piece is about 663 words, and from the first sentence to the last -- with only two sentences I can find intervening to show McCaffrey's actual assessment -- your go on and on with freighted words about how hopeless the whole enterprise is.
If you were reporting and not commenting politically, you should have made clear McCaffrey's conclusions:
1. Since Petraeus arrived, the situation on the ground has improved "clearly and measurably"'
2. We can still achieve the president's objectives of a stable Iraq not producing terrorists and committed to a law-based government; and 3. Most importantly -- and contrary to what the Dems are doing in Congress -- "[W]e need a last powerful effort to provide US leaders on the ground -- the political support, economic reconstruction resources and the military strength it requires to succeed."
You chose sides in "Fiasco." Why not just admit it? What has Downie said about this? Who reviewed it before it went out? Has Downie decided to let your readers know that the White House is disputing the truth of your report?
Let's send this to the deans of the top five journalism schools and see what they say about it. And let's stand you and me up in front of a town hall group in Colorado Springs or St. Louis and see who is believed. How does the Post justify this obvious strong bias? Best, Jed Babbin.
Jed Babbin
Human Events
This is what the Washington Post, the New York Times, CBS and the rest of the politically active media do when caught: obfuscate. Will the editors of the Washington Post ever hear of the White House’s disparagement of the Ricks report, or of the actual import of McCaffrey’s words? Don’t bet on it.


By Howard Fineman

Despite the loss of Congress, an unpopular president and public weariness over the war in Iraq, Republicans are marching to same old tune.

March 31, 2007 - “The war,” Sen. Mitch McConnell told me last week, “is the reason you are speaking to the Republican leader, not the majority leader.” Yet McConnell and his fellow Republicans in Congress have chosen, nearly unanimously, to stick with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove in a confrontation over the Democrats’ proposal to tie $100 billion in Iraq funding to a timetable for withdrawal. “The war is a difficult issue for my party, which is a statement of the obvious,” he said. But the goal remains the same: “to establish a stable government in Iraq” that can be an ally in the “war on terror.” And so it came to pass that the Leonidas of Louisville led the Spartans—47 senators and 198 House members who voted against the Dems—to Thermopylae (or at least spring break).

Since self-sacrifice for the sake of principle is rare in Congress, you have to ask: are Republicans marching to glory? Or, in Barbara Tuchman’s stinging phrase, is this a March of Folly? Sen. Evan Bayh, a hawkish Democrat turned war critic, thinks the more apt screen reference is “Blazing Saddles.” “You know the movie scene: the guy turns a gun on himself and shouts, ‘Stop or I’ll shoot!’” With presidential approval ratings at historic lows, with voters supporting a timetable for withdrawal by a clear majority, with the GOP’s brand name melting faster than an Alaskan glacier, what could McConnell & Co. be thinking?

Short answer: whatever Rove tells them to. The Boy Genius faces subpoenas and an antagonistic press, but Republicans up for re-election in 2008—including McConnell, 17 other senators and the party’s declared presidential contenders—have not found, or even seriously searched for, an alternative to Rove’s “wartime commander in chief” theory of post-9/11 politics.

The GOP survival strategy rests—not unreasonably—on the hope that Democrats fall to squabbling over competing House and Senate versions of a funding bill. Republicans will argue that Congress is not able, and constitutionally barred, from a lead role in the war. And they’ll decry the pork-barrel spending the Dems used to grease passage of their plans. Rove, meanwhile, is talking up internal polls that purport to show an uptick in public optimism about Iraq. Bush, on the road this week, plans to argue that the surge is working and tout the “new realism” of the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. With not the least bit of irony—let alone shame—Republicans will contend that they care more about the soldiers, the sordid evidence at Walter Reed notwithstanding. They will unveil an online “countdown” clock showing the days allegedly left until money runs out for the troops—a made-up number in the world’s capital of flexible arithmetic.

But, at their core, Republicans will rely on Rove’s argument that emerged after 9/11: that the GOP, led by Bush, does not flinch from war; that the war on terror is unlimited in space and time; and that those who think otherwise are misguided, weak-kneed or naive enablers of the enemy. Democrats, McConnell says, wrote a bill that has a “surrender date for Iraq in it.” He professes a lack of concern for polls that show his own approval rating in Kentucky at 46 percent, and the president’s at 43 percent: “Kentucky is not Berkeley. We have Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles. I would doubt that an antiwar effort would get much resonance in a very patriotic, pro-military state like mine.” But even in Kentucky, there’s a limit to patience. The Screaming Eagles may not be able to rescue him.