MILBANK (4/13/06): Clinton did not level criticism [at Bush] directly; he merely suggested what he thought the legendary J. William Fulbright, the former senator from Arkansas and a Clinton mentor, would have thought of the current situation. Fulbright, who died in 1995, was in no position to argue.Is there any known way to be dumber? (Lets ignore the dumb remark about Fulbrights inability to argue.) Clinton is making an important point about the views of the Islamic world. To do that, of course, he has to cite polls. So what does Milbank do? Of course! In best Comic Genius Fashion, he interrupts This Serious Discussion to hand us a brain-dead, scripted remark. In your celebrity press corps, its Hard Pundit Law: All must bow low to such RNC hackwork. Bill Clinton simply lives by the polls! The RNC invented the claim long ago. So even here, in the midst of this life-and-death debate, a worthless scribe knows he must type it.
Fulbright, Clinton said, "essentially thought that a country had to have a military but there were limits to what you could achieve militarily. And he believed that over the long run the gains we achieved through reasonable conversation...are those that are the most lasting."
The former president offered Indonesia as proof of this conviction, and, in true Clinton fashion, he cited opinion polls. "Approval of bin Laden had gone from 58 percent to 28 percent," he said. Why? "They saw the military dropping food instead of bombs.
Where do they come from? Could they be human? As weve told you, the endless hack-work of pundits like Milbank raises an important question. Can these life-forms really be human? Are we surrounded by creatures like us, as weve been told all our lives?
BY TUESDAY, FITZ CAME AROUND: Readers, you can be comfortable knowing that your DAILY HOWLER is almost constantly right. By Tuesday evening, Patrick Fitzgerald had corrected last weeks filing on Scooter Libby—in a way which comported with what we wrote here on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Yes, the Web Excitables were deeply disturbed by the selective way Libby had briefed Judith Miller. But on Monday, we showed you how weak that reading seemed to be—and Fitzie came around the next day.
Here is Dafna Linzers opening paragraph in a small, well-hidden report from yesterdays Post:
LINZER (4/12/06): The federal prosecutor overseeing the indictment of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, yesterday corrected an assertion in an earlier court filing that Libby had misrepresented the significance placed by the CIA on allegations that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger.Omigod! Fitzgerald corrected the assertion that Libby had misrepresented to Miller. In fact, Linzer was making things easy for her own press corps tribe. In fact, Fitzgeralds original filing hadnt directly asserted such a thing; the press corps had taken the filing and teased out this pleasing claim. At any rate, its just as we told you on Monday and Tuesday. The press corps hysterics about that key judgments matter seemed like a bunch of nit-picking to us. By Tuesday, Fitzie agreed:
LINZER: In a letter to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, Fitzgerald wrote yesterday that he wanted to "correct" the sentence that dealt with the issue in a filing he submitted last Wednesday. That sentence said Libby "was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium.Life gets monotonous, dont it? Yes, its basically as we told you. In fact, Libby didnt have to misstate in his conversation with Miller. The NIEs key judgments did seem to imply that Iraq was seeking uranium. (Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them.) And as they continued, these same key judgments flatly stated that Iraq was seeking fissile material from abroad. In fact, Scooter didnt have to misrepresent this document to make the case he wanted to make. The key judgements implied that Iraq was seeking uranium. And then, there was that luscious statement from the documents body:
Instead, the sentence should have conveyed that Libby was to tell Miller some of the key judgments of the NIE "and that the NIE stated that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium.
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE: Iraq has about 500 metric tons of yellowcake—and low enriched uranium at Tuwaitha, which is inspected annually by the IAEA. Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; acquiring either would shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons.Why would Scooter have bothered lying (or reading selectively)? He just had to read the relevant key judgments, then read the supporting material.
No, none of this means that Iraq really was trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; we simply dont know the truth about that, and we dont know the truth about what Libby thought. But while Web Excitables screamed selectivity, our young analysts calmly sat down and deconstructed the relevant document. Our analysis appeared on Monday morning—and the next day, Mr. Fitz came around.
Oh yes, one last thing: How goofy has the discourse been this week? On Monday night—just as Fitzie was rethinking his filing—David Shuster showed up on Hardball and, in a truly ludicrous moment, reported that the vigorously trying to procure uranium passage wasnt in the NIE at all! (An hour later, Keith Olbermann made the same absurd statement.) The next day, we told you how bungled those statements were, and suggested where the misstatement may have come from. But elsewhere, Web Excitables swung into action. They posted tape of Shusters blunder—and said how great his performance was! ReddHead uttered the most memorable phrase. Now that is reporting, she said.
Sometimes, readers ask us how we manage to get these matters so right. Folks, our secret is known as reading. You hold the key document up to your face. Then you say all the words to yourself.
A total guess about MSNBCs bungle: How did Shuster and Olbermann manage to make so absurd a misstatement? Well offer a guess. Well guess that MSNBCs news producers prepare news summaries for the channels big stars. Well guess that these producers read that misleading Pincus report and got misled, in the way we described. Obviously, these producers should have known that the vigorously trying phrase was, in fact, in the NIE. But they didnt, and omigod! Neither did Shuster or Olbermann! Uh-oh! Two big stars of our cable news world hadnt read the actual NIE!
Of course, it may have worked in a different way on Countdown. Maybe Keith shows up and just reads from prompter after doing his sports talk with Dan. Of course, first priority goes to writing the segments about those gorillas-who-smoke.
Hey, you dumb f*cking rubes: This morning, over at firedoglake, Christy Hardin Smith is treating her readers like a pack of dumb, f*cking rubes. ReddHead just cant puzzle it out the meaning of Fitzgeralds correction. Try to believe that she wrote this:
SMITH (4/13/06): Now, to those of us who have been obsessed with this case since the investigation began, this has some meaning. But I can guarantee you that if you tried to explain the significance of this to someone who hasnt paid attention to the case, you are simply going to get some eyes glazing over and a "huh?Pathetic. So lets explain it nice and slow, so slow that even Smith will get it. Here goes: When Fitzgeralds original filing appeared, typists like Smith went into hysterics; they said the filing showed that Cheney gave Libby permission to misrepresent the NIEs contents. As noted, it got so stupid that Shuster and Olbermann even said that the passage about Iraq vigorously trying to pursue uranium wasnt in the NIE at all! )And Smith, of course, applauded this statement!) Now, Fitzgerald corrects his original statement; it becomes clear that Libby didnt misstate the contents of the NIE. We went from did misstate to didnt misstate. And to Smith, this is deeply confusing.
Readers, well suggest that you always go to firedoglake for all your vital True Belief Needs—and to get treated like a pack of dumb rubes in the process. In the meantime, recall what weve often said: At this point, if you have to embellish facts to make a case against Bush, you ought to get out of the case-making business. But you know the nature of the life-forms around you. Many of them embellish their facts just because they enjoy the process. It makes their blogging a good deal easier—and it makes their lives much more fun.
The larger perspective: Some of you will have heart attacks about the heresy of these comments. None of this means that the Bush Admin didnt misstate all kinds of facts. But the notion that Libby misstated the NIE never really made much sense, as we explained after reading the document. But people like Smith are there to soothe you—to minister to your True Belief Needs. Every event must prove the preferred tale. Your lives must be one pleasing tale, the kind we tell children at bed-time.
WHAT THE TIMES WROTE: Why did it seem strange to think that Libby misstated the NIE? Because he didnt have to misstate; because the NIEs key judgments tended to support his desired case. And no, we werent the only ones who noticed this obvious fact. Last Friday, David Johnston wrote the original New York Times story. Here was his fifth paragraph:
JOHNSTON (4/7/06): Among the key judgments in the report, called a National Intelligence Estimate, was that Saddam Hussein was probably seeking fuel for nuclear weapons.Duh. All Libby had to do was cite the key judgments supporting that claim, then read the vigorously trying passage from inside the report. There was no apparent need to misstate. But Fitzgerald posted a clumsy statement—and Those Who Know What Its Good For You To Think began with their script-driven work. Three days later, we were actually being told that the vigorously trying passage wasnt in the NIE at all—and Web Hysterics, people like Smith, were cheering this fantasy on. Today, of course, theyre utterly puzzled about what the new filing means.
EXAMPLE TWO—BUSH AMONG THE DOUBLE-WIDES: In a rational world, the Washington Post would be laughed out of town for its handling of the mobile trailer story. Large parts of Joby Warricks original front-page report are important and should be examined further. (We say that because the Admins misstatements about the trailers continued for more than a year.) But Warrick obviously structured his story to make it appear that Bush was lying when he made his now-famous remarks on May 29, 2003. In fact, Warricks report gave no evidence supporting such a notion, and after the White House pushed back, Warrick ran to Keith Olbermanns arms and offered the kind of slippery excuse we rightly reject when the Bush Admin makes them. (The story didnt say that Bush lied, Warrick said. No, but it plainly implied that. That was its obvious intent.) Meanwhile, when the Post decided to report on the White House objections, to whom was the story assigned? Of course! It was assigned to Joby Warrick! Pathetic. In todays Post, you can read Warricks weak report on the complaints about his own story.
As weve said, this story should be reported further. But Warrick plainly tried to imply something which he couldnt demonstrate; he tried to imply that Bush knew about the 5/27 report when he made his remarks two days later. And yes, this is what your press corps does when a president hits the mid-30s. Back when it actually mattered, they kept their brave mouths tightly shut.
HOW BUSHS REMARKS WERE RECEIVED: Those who know What Its Good For You To Think will also mislead you about the way Bushs 5/29/03 statement was received. For the record, Bushs claim about the two mobile trailers was greeted very skeptically. For example, heres the start of a New York Times editorial on the subject:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (6/1/03): President Bush may be convinced that two trailers found in Iraq were used as biological weapons labs, but the evidence is far from definitive. Referring to the two trailers in an interview with Polish television before he departed for Europe last week, Mr. Bush said the United States had found weapons of mass destruction and banned manufacturing devices in Iraq. Reports from the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency support that view, but they are based on inconclusive information.And it wasnt just the Times. That very same day, the evil one—Novak—rolled his eyes about Bushs claim on Meet the Press:
Intelligence analysts told reporters last week that the configuration of equipment in the trailers would not work efficiently as a biological production plant, is not a design used by anyone else and would not lead anyone to link the trailers intuitively with biological weapons...
RUSSERT (6/1/03): Bob Novak, Albert Hunt, the president said in Poland yesterday that we have found weapons of mass destruction.This doesnt address the principal question—whether Bush knew that his statement was wrong. But his claim about the mobile trailers was greeted with a good many rolled eyes. Of course, those who know What Its Good For You To Think will hand you a much more pleasing story. Theyll keep insisting that of course Bush knew—and that his fiendishly clever remarks were swallowed down whole, on all sides.
NOVAK: Well, he's talking about those two chemical—biological warfare things. I don't think that really—I don't think that really makes the case. He obviously feels a credibility problem here.
PART 3—THE LOGIC OF FAILING SCHOOLS: We gave our education analysts the day off. Our series resumes on the morrow.