Thursday, February 05, 2004

A Blitzering Interview With The Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee 

After finding myself, during the past week or so, caught up in the sordid business of making a free-lance living, (i.e., being hired to do a month's worth of work within a week's time), and thus relatively starved of access to the often elevating task of blogging on the nature of contemporary political discourse, it was something of a shock to find myself, this morning, back in the company of ace reporter, foreign correspondent, on-air interviewer, war correspondent, and international man of mystery (am I the only person who thought he was Israeli because he'd been a correspondent for the Jerusalem Post), Wolf Blitzer.

It was during the 9AM PDT hour on CNN, where else, and Wolf, who else, was interviewing Senator Pat Roberts about the "intelligence," what else could it have been, failure in regards to the absence of Saddam's dreaded WMDs. The Senate Intelligence Committee is doing an investigation into the matter, and Senator Roberts, its chairman, was anxious to reassure the CNN viewers the committee's report will be made public, but before he could finish the thought, Wolf interrupted to reassure himself that the public version of the report will be properly cleansed of information that could compromise the security of these United States. For a nano-second Senator Roberts appeared flummoxed; he'd clearly been trying to make the point that the public's right to know would be honored, and here was a "reporter," expressing concern that the public's right to know be properly limited. "Oh, redacted, you mean, we call that redacted, " the Senator explained, before going on to reassure us all that there would be no intelligence leakages from his committee.

For another nano-second, I considered the possibility that Wolf's point was that because of the necessary redactions, the report would be necessarily compromised, but no, no such point was made, and the Senator was able to get back to his real message, that in the 200 or so interviews thus completed by the committee, tough interviews, too, not one person has so much as suggested that there was any undue "political" influence brought to bear on the process of intelligence gathering and interpretation, or words to that effect. (No transcript is yet available).

Why was I stunned? Hadn't I lived through the first successful articles of impeachment (all of which concerned themselves with a private sexual act unconnected to any aspect of the people's business) to be brought against a sitting President, (and only the second time in American history that it was even attempted), the 2000 campaign, the post-election Stealing of the Presidency, the post 9/11 fawning press coverage of this president and his entire presidency?

How easily we forget. Just ten days away from my TV set....

The interview got better.

Wolf raised the issue of George Tenet, and why President Bush has continued to express confidence in Tenet, especially in view of the suspicions some Republicans harbor because he was a Clinton appointee. The Senator's answer is notable because it suggests just how right Digby, and others are when they stress that Bush's re-election campaign, and that of the Republican congress as well, will stress, not the Iraq war, but 9/11, the event that changed everything and made Bush a war time president, a war we're still in, and that 9/11 is essentially the legacy of the Clinton administration. Here's approximately what Roberts said: The questions about Tenet's tenancy at the CIA had to do with events during the Clinton administration, i.e., the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers, and the bombing of the aspirin factory in the Sudan. Tenet and this President have worked closely with one another, and there's real respect there, and problems of intelligence gathering go back many years before either Tenet or Bush took over, or, again, words to that effect. Does George Tenet know something Bush is afraid might come out if he were to let Tenet take the fall? Just asking.

At some point the Senator reminded Wolf and his audience that the search for WMDs isn't yet over and that the Iraqi Survey Group is still in the job, with stacks of more documents to sift through, a point made by Tenet today in his speech at Georgetown. You can bet that we'll be hearing about the Iraqi Survey Group for weeks and even months, the way we heard for months about the work that David Kay was doing in Iraq, combing through records.

Wolf brought up David Kay's name; not attached to an actual question, it seemed more like a cue for the Senator that he probably had a point to make about Kay, and he did, of course, it being that David Kay went out of his way to be clear that he found no evidence that the mistaken assessment of the level of threat posed by WMDs in Iraq was the fault of any politicization of the intelligence process, and that Kay still supports Bush's policy of waging war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. That's how Republicans will always talk about this war, as the one waged to rid the world of Saddam; it's their strongest suit, and the left needs to be able to frame some sort of answer better than most I've yet heard, but that is for another post.

I don't need to tell you that Wolf couldn't find a single question to ask anything about the rather contradictory position David Kay has been carving out for himself, since admitting in his testimony to the Senate that there were no WMDs in Iraq, but then so has the rest of the SCLM cut Mr. Kay the same slack. Apparently, Kay's repurtation meant enough to him that he felt the need not to equivicate in that testimony, and his straightforwardness there has bought him a free ride in everything else he's had to say; he's treated as an independent, objective, no axe to grind voice, almost a hero. With their usual early onset of dementia amnesia, the same anchors and pundits who now reference Kay as the last objective word on the subject of the absence of WMD's in Iraq and what that means, don't seem to remember that Kay gave numerous interviews in the runup to the war in the person of a weapons inspector who was certain that Saddam's WMDs were a major threat, and that he heaped nothing but scorn on any voice that dared question that assessment, and behaved, in all respects, like a spokesman for the Bush administration.

Okay, not Wolf, but is there anyone at CNN, or MSNBC, or CNBC, or NBC, or ABC, or CBS, let's just forget Fox, who would be willing to ask David Kay how it is he knows what pressure was brought to bear on who in the CIA or the State Department, or about the differences in assessments between those two government agencies, or why, when he stressed WMDs as the raison d'etre for the war, their absence doesn't compromise the reasons for going to war, or.....anything that would challenge any of the paradoxes in Kay's current position?

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