Monday, March 22, 2004

Hearty laughter from readers as Times crudely buries Clarke revelations 

Readers, first thing in the morning on the train I open the Times. And this morning I was eager to see what coverage the Newspaper of Record would give to Richard Clarke's explosive interview on 60 Minutes (back here). Front page? No. A2? No. Strange. Here's a man who served seven Presidents, Republican and Democratic, including Bush, who says "war President" Bush is doing a "terrible job," and the Times doesn't cover the story. Did I somehow get a very early edition? No. Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip. At last! Page A18 (here) And who gets the byline? Wait for it...
Judith Miller!

[Rim shot. Applause.] And yes, I did laugh. Loud and long. Rather unusual for me in the morning, and even more unusual on the train.

Folks, it's Miller time. The Iraqi Jeff Gerth, who believes that her job as a reporter stenographer is to "report what the government thinks" (back here), is up to her old tricks as Designated Fluffer of Bush officialdom in the Times "news" room. Let's read:

First, Miller repeats Bush flak Dan Bartlett's denial: the book's timing is "more about politics than policy." [Really, is that the best Bartlett can do? We know from DiIulio and O'Neill that there is no policy in the White House; they don't even have the institutional structure for it—It's all politics with them, which would explain why they project their behavior onto others. Besides, it's eight month's 'til the election; does that mean that all books on policy have to be published in the first three years and four months of a President's term?]

Then, after repeating a different set of denials from Rice enabler Steven Hadley (we remember him from the "16 words" fiasco, Atrios, here), and throwing in an "alleged" and an "accused", Miller gets round to the actual substance of Clarke's book. Which is, indeed, explosive:

  1. Condi downgraded the position of counter-terrorism adviser and seemed not to know what AQ was

  2. Rummy advised bombing Iraq instead of Afghanistan on 9/12 "because there were no decent targets in Afghanistan"—even though AQ was in Afghanistan

  3. Wolfie "belittled" the AQ threat, and thought 9/11 was "too sophisticated and complicated" for AQ to have pulled off by itself

  4. Tom Ridge must clear all statements with White House operative Andy Card

  5. Tom Ridge opposed the creation of his own department on the grounds that it would be too costly to integrate with other agencies.

Let's contrast the placement and coverage of the Clarke story in The World's Greatest Newspaper with its placement in The Metro—the little free tabloid with the green logo read by commuters world-wide... And look! The story's on page 02. Fortunately, Metro used Reuters, instead of Judith Miller, and they manage to get the money quote into the second graf:

[CLARKE] Bush ignored terrorism for months"

The Metro editors also get some money into the box quote on the book:

The Bush administration ignored intelligence "chatter" in 2001 about possible terror attacks.

Metro plays fair, and puts the WhiteWash House denials right up front. But their coverage is crisp, incisive, gets the main point right, and is appropriately placed. Contrast this to Miller's labored, Beltway-driven apologia for the administration.

Here are the yawners the Times did place above the fold on A1:

  1. "Delivery delays hurt US effort to equip Iraqis"

  2. "As Europe Hunts for Terrorists, the Hunted Press Advantage"

  3. "Official Killed as Strife Grows in Afghanistan"

  4. "Detective in Corruption Inquiry Was Scrutinized in 1996 Case"

1996, hmmm...

All worthy stories, to be sure. As important? No.

If Clarke is right, the entire CW on Bush's character as a war president, Bush's conduct of the WOT, and the genesis of the war of choice in Iraq, is wrong. And an insider, an expert in the field, who served Democratic and Republican Presidents alike, who knew all the players, and who was at Ground Zero in the White House on 9/11 when Bush was flying round the country looking for a place to hide, is giving us the real story for the first time. And what does Izvestia on the Hudson do? Burying the story is one thing. Burying the story and then assigning it to Judy Miller is another—that's just an outright insult to the intelligence of their (dwindling) readership.

The Times is carrying so much water for Bush on this one you'd think they were waterboys for the Texas Rangers. I guess they want to leave the airwaves clear for Bush while Kerry is on vacation.

Readers, here is the email address of the (very overworked) Times ombudsman. And here is his phone: (212) 556-7652. Please, share your concerns about the placement of the Clarke story, the reporter assigned to it, and future coverage with him. Be sure to mention that the giveaway Metro put the story on page 2; I think that will get under their skin.

UPDATE Okrent responds.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
~ current ~

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]


copyright 2003-2010

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?