FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004
THE LOGIC OF CONTACTS AND RELATIONSHIPS: So lets see: Everyone agrees that Iraq and al Qaeda had contacts. And everyone agrees that they didnt coordinate. Between those poles, the battle is now being waged. And its largely a battle about suggestive words, stewarded by a hapless press corps—a press corps which lacks the skill (and the heart) to straighten such folderol out.
Whats the logic of the present discussion? Yesterday, President Bush replied to the claim that he and his Admin had misstated this matter. Had Bush overstated the Iraq-al Qaeda tie? Heres the start of Deborah Reichmanns AP report:
REICHMANN: Saddam Hussein had "numerous contacts" with al-Qaida, President Bush said Thursday in disputing the Sept. 11 commissions finding that the former Iraqi leader had no strong ties to the terrorist network responsible for the attacks.The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida, Bush said after meeting with his Cabinet...So according to Bush, the Admin has only been saying this: Saddam and al Qaeda had a relationship. And also, there were numerous contacts between them.
But the logic of this is quite murky. For example, President Reagan, while in office, had numerous contacts with the Soviet Union! Indeed, a relationship plainly existed between them! But that doesnt mean that the CIA should have engaged in a war against Reagan. In fact, Reagans relationship with the Soviets was adversarial, as was quite clear in their numerous contacts. Yep—the fact that two parties have contacts and a relationship doesnt tell you what that relationship is. Alas! Bush used slippery terms in yesterdays statement—terms that seem to say more than they actually do. Did Iraq and al Qaeda have a relationship? Yes—but what was the nature of that relationship? What actually happened in their contacts? These are the questions at issue here. Sadly, your press corps is no more likely to sort this out than camels are likely to dance.
Example: If you want to see a TV entertainer taken for a ride by a skillful pol, read the transcript of last nights Hardball. Pete Williams served as guest host, and David Dreier (R-CA) played Williams blue. Again, it turned on the use of a well-chosen word; there were connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, Dreier induced his host to keep saying. The word connections is quite suggestive, but what was the nature of those connections? Williams—inept—never asked. Meanwhile, on last nights OReilly Factor, Mr. O was quite hapless too. He discussed the topic with Republican Jim Thompson, one of the 9/11 commissioners. Thompson repeatedly used the suggestive word ties. But what was the nature of those ties? Mr. O knew not to ask.
Readers, the situation is fairly clear. Everyone knows what the 9/11 commission reported, and spinners are trying to keep Americans from getting these matters too clear in their heads. The commission said that, while there were contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, there was no collaborative relationship—they didnt work together. In fact, when bin Laden asked for help (in 1994), Saddam didnt go there, the commission has said. But what do American voters think? American voters are clueless, as always. More than half the American people still think Saddam was behind 9/11. The public is completely misinformed on this point—and the deceptions continue apace.
In this mornings Washington Post, Dana Milbank takes a look at some of the things the Admin has said. Milbank seems to know what grinning TV hosts do not—that this turns on the logic of contacts:
MILBANK: Beyond the Sept. 11 attacks, administration officials have also suggested that there had been cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda that went beyond contacts. Bush last year called Hussein an ally of al Qaeda. Just this Monday, Cheney said Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda.Was Saddam an ally of al Qaeda? That goes well beyond the claim of contacts. And, of course, it contradicts what the 9/11 commission now says it has found.
Milbank mentions other things that Bush and Cheney have said (text below). But this discussion will continue to turn on the logic of well-chosen words. Remember—Reagan had links and ties to the Soviets. But the logic of links and ties—and relationships—is now being used to keep voters misled. Very few pundits have the skill—or the heart—to straighten this folderol out.
MORE FROM MILBANK: Heres something Cheney recently said about Iraq and al Qaeda:
MILBANK: In January, Cheney said the best source of information on the subject was an article in the Weekly Standard, which reported: Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda—perhaps even for Mohamed Atta—according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum.Whats the truth about Iraq and al Qaeda? We arent experts here at THE HOWLER. But Cheney seemed to vouch for the claim that Saddam and al Qaeda had an operational relationship. Just this week, the 9/11 commission said they had no collaborative relationship. Yes, those claims seem to be at odds. Thats why spinners will spread mass confusion.
HANNITY CROSSES THE ALPS: On Wednesday, Bill Press got hammered by Sean Hannity—and last night, it happened again. David Corn was on Hannity & Colmes to discuss the Iraq/al Qaeda link issue. But Corn got sidetracked onto something tangential—and Hannity ate him for lunch.
The issue: Did George Bush lie before the war when he said Iraq had WMD? Early on in his segment—still talking to Alan—Corn referred to these statements as lies. When his turn came, Hannity moved in for the kill—a kill that was quick and quite easy. Within moments, Corn was admitting that Kerry and Clinton also said that Saddam had WMD. Heres the final thrust of the conquerors sword. Keep children at a safe distance:
HANNITY: Answer my question! Answer it! Why do you only call one person a liar?No, it never got any better. Hannity ate Corn for lunch; spat him back out; then dragged his remains around Alans chair. Indeed, he had done the same thing to Press one night earlier—on the very same topic, no less!
Readers, can this be the best liberal spokesmen can do? If so, skilled talk-show cons will eat them for lunch, as Sean did with Corn and with Press.
ANOTHER VICTIM: For the record, Hannity also massacred Princeton professor Jim Cavallaro last night. Cavallaro has signed a petition urging impeachment for those who helped formulate Abu Ghraib policy. But uh-oh! Hannity got the professor to say that FDR was the last centurys greatest president, then asked him if he has ever written about FDR and the internent of Japanese. Uh-oh! Cavallaro had volunteered FDRs name, but had apparently never given a thought to the topic Hannity raised. Hannity added his skull to the pile. Is this really the best liberals can do when they show up for public discussion? (Solution: When Hannity asked for the centurys top prez, the answer was clear: No opinion. Thats not what I came to discuss.)
MR. GREENS GENES: And then—Oh, heavens to Betsy! Good Lord!—theres Joshua Green of Atlantic Monthly. Readers, you know the way your Potemkin pundits like to recite their Approved Scripted Stories. In the last two issues of the Monthly, Green has told Scripted Tales about Gore. Do words exist for people this fake? Well report, and then tell you: They do not.
In the Monthlys June issue, Green pretended to be concerned about the negativity of White House elections. Readers, strap yourselves into your chairs. This really is how he began:
GREEN (pgh 1): As voters turn election, an abiding question from the previous one frustrates Democrats: How is it, they wonder, that Al Gore told small fibs and was branded a liar while George W. Bush told big ones and was elected President? Gore's many exaggerations may have been foolishthat he had somehow invented the Internet, that he grew up on a Tennessee farm, and so on. But surely, this line of thinking goes, they paled alongside Bush's audacious claim that he could cut taxes by $1.3 trillion, effortlessly privatize Social Security, and still balance the budget.Lets start by answering Greens (fatuous) question.. How did Gore get branded a liar? Easy! Because Greens colleagues kept reciting phony claims about Gore and looking away when Bush told real whoppers. Green knows this, of course, but prefers to play dumb. Meanwhile, how do we know that a scribe would tell tales about Gore? Well, just look at Greens opening paragraph!!
Good God! Ignore invented the Internet for a moment and try to believe that Green is still bruiting Al-Gore-and-the-farm! This refers to a phony flap the press gimmicked up in March 1999, when their War Against Gore was just getting started. As everyone in the press corps knew, Gore had grown up in Washington and in Tennessee, where he spent four months of every year on the familys farm. And yes, Gore had to work on that farm. When Bill Turques bio of Gore appeared, heres part of the way he described it:
TURQUE (pages 32-33): For parts of virtually every summer through high school, Gore worked with the farmhands and was often assigned an extra project assigned by his father...Even the local kids, who might have enjoyed watching a city slicker sweat some, were appalled at how hard Gore was worked. It was horrendous, said one woman who knew him well as a teenager...Als father would just work the dickens out of him, said Mark Gore, one of Cousin Gradys grandsons.In fact, this part of Gores life had been widely described ever since his 1988 run for the White House. Every Washington scribe knew about it. But in the spring of 1999, the press was upset by Bill Clintons ten blow jobs, and they began to stage a War Against Gore—even pretending, for a few months, that Gore had lied to Iowa farmers when he said he had worked as a kid on his familys farm. This claim against Gore was so totally fake that, amazingly, even the press corps abandoned it; after June 1999, only the kookiest of the kooky-con right ever referred to this nonsense again. But readers, theres Green, five years later, again reciting the abandoned canard! Lets face it: Such people will never stop lying about your leaders, as long as the pleasing tale they recite suits the tastes of the ruling press elite.
But beyond that, try to believe it! That Green still peddles the worn-out idea that Gore said he invented the Internet! Yes, people like Green pushed this fake, phony tale all through Campaign 2000—but since then, even scribes have begun to admit that this tale is fake, phony, unfair. No, Gore never said he invented the Internet, and what he did say was perfectly sensible (link below). But try to believe the silly reply Green penned when someone wrote Atlantic and said so. This is from the July/August issue:
Gore and the InternetThat may be the stupidest thing weve ever seen in print. In our lives.
Readers, lets examine Greens deathless comparison. Did Green take the initiative in balancing the budget? In fact, hes one of a hundred million tax-payers! But as everyone has always known, Gore was the key leader, within the Congress, in creating what we now call the Internet. For example, heres what Newt Gingrich said about this as Election 2000 approached:
GINGRICH (9/1/00): In all fairness, its something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.Biographer David Maraniss had already said something similar. Gore really was instrumental in developing the Internet, he told Howard Kurtz in August 2000. He was the one congressman who understood the whole thing in the 70s. What did Gore do to develop the Net? Back in March 1999, James Brosnan of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal summarized some of Gores work in the area. He began by quoting various Internet honchos describing Gores leadership role. (Mike Roberts of ICANN: [Gore] had the major inside-the-Beltway role in turning the Internet from a research tool into something pointed squarely to education and the economy at large.) Go ahead, read that again, Dear Readers; Gore had the major inside-the Beltway role. Then Brosnan listed some of Gores work in the Congress:
BROSNAN: In 1973, Kahn and Vinton Cerf, a Stanford researcher, sketched out a design for the Internet. Cerf would later design the Internet protocol TCP (Transmission Control Program).Its absurd to think that Green doesnt know this. But in his reply, he baldly deceives the Atlantics readers, saying he played the same role in balancing the budget that Gore played in creating the Net! This is utterly stupid and baldly false, and its absurd to think that Green doesnt know it. For the record, Cullen Murphy is the Managing Editor who puts such consummate garbage into print. Will the time ever come when we tell these men that they have to stop lying about our leaders? Will the time ever come when we tell the Greens that they have to stop Telling Their Tales?
No, Gore didnt say he invented the Internet. What he did say (Green clips his comment) was slightly clumsy, but perfectly reasonable (link below). In fact, everyone always knew that Gore was the leader within the Congress (what he had said) in creating what we now call the Net. But Green and his cohort just love their tall tales, and theyll never—repeat, never—stop reciting them.
For the record, Green isnt some sort of kooky con; in fact, hes one of those good guys career pseudo-journalists about whose self-dealing we have long warned you. During Campaign 2000, in fact, he was writing for the American Prospect, a liberal publication which sat on its hands while the tales about Gore were recited. (He also wrote for the Washington Monthly, whose April 2000 cover story debunked the foolish tales about Gore.) Now he works at the august Atlantic, where he peddles political porn of the type weve produced. Its hard to know what a nation can do when such a priesthood stewards its discourse.
By the way, a closing question: Why do you only hear from THE HOWLER about scribes of low caliber like Green? Readers, why dont you write to Marshall, Alterman, Drum and Brock and ask if its OK with them when garbage like this keeps getting printed? Frankly, were tired of pointing these matters out while the webs career typists look away, behaving fraternally as colleagues trash your interests and make an ongoing joke of your lives. And no, we arent kidding—we really do mean it. Ask them directly why they never seem to speak up about garbage like this. Why do they happily beat up on cons, but stand by silent when it comes to the Greens? They and their publications sat silently by while the War Against Gore put George Bush in the White House. Dont you ever want to ask why theyre so mild, even now?
Meanwhile, try to believe that he said it! Al Gore fibbed about life on the farm! Al Gore said he invented the Internet! And—incredibly—Al Gore helped create the Net the same way I, Joshus Green, helped balance the budget!! What can it mean when such perfect clowns are allowed to steward the American discourse? It means that such scribes get to lead easy lives—while a sick joke is made of your interests.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? To read the things that every scribe knows, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02.