Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Cursed be the deceiver
Anyhow, today's paper had what seemed to me to be a very slanted article about the Administration's response to Richard Clarke. It was basically a series of attacks on Clarke's credibility peppered with an occasional mention of the charges Clarke is making. What the article lacked was any attempt to evaluate the substance of either Clarke's charges or of the attacks against him.
I mention all of this by way of explaining how I came to be searching the web for Monday's USA Today, to see how Clarke's charges were handled there. That article isn't all I might have hoped for either, but it does a better job of presenting Clarke's case. So on the initial charge of craptastic reporting, USA Today gets a provisional acquittal.
But buried near the bottom of Monday's article was this paragraph:
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Sunday on ABC's This Week that while he has been critical of Bush policies on Iraq, 'I think it's unfair to blame the president for the spread of terror and the diffuseness of it.'
As it happens, I watched Biden's appearance on This Week. He went on to make the point that the Bush team could and should be blamed for failing to recognize that the United States faced more serious threats from diffuse terrorist organizations like al Quaeda than from rogue states like Iraq. In other words, Biden was making one of the same charges as Clarke.
Biden wasn't defending Bush. By reducing what he was saying to a soundbite, USA Today totally misrepresented his point. I don't know whether this was the result of bias, negligence, incompetence, or what. But its annoying.
Before you decide never to buy a USA Today again (except when you need to see the Sports section) consider that they're not the only ones who got it wrong. The Guardian's article on Clarke's allegations has Biden saying, "Even if he had followed the advice of me and many other people, I still think the same thing would have happened."
So what happened? Well, Biden made a very sharp and moderately complex criticism that he softened with the addition of a few conciliatory words. The press, for some reason, ignored the criticism and ran with the absolution.
There's probably a lesson here, but I don't think I want to learn it.
ps - At least one person agrees with my understanding of Biden's point.