October 3, 2006

by Reb Yudel
Morning Media Notes

Charles Kaiser goes after the NYTimes coverage of the Republican Predatorgate scandal, asking why they put the mildest story on the front page:

It defies the imagination that the weekend editors of the New York Times read the four stories they had about Congressman Mark Foley that were written on Sunday, and then decided that the one by Rachel Swarns, which explained what a lovely person Foley had been to some of the pages, was the one that belonged on this morning's front page. Not the one that said the F.B.I. had started an investigation of the Congressman, and reiterated the fact that the Republican leadership knew for months about the Congressman's repugnant behavior, and chose to do nothing about it.

The really amazing thing about the Swarns story was that if anyone had realized that her lead was the opposite of the one she used -- and appeared in the 11 th paragaph of her piece--then it might have belonged on the front page. That was the graph which reported the "news" in the piece: that several pages had been driven out of the program by the Congressman's disgusting e-mails.

Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington tackles Bob Woodward's State of Denial:

In her New York Times review of "State of Denial," Michiko Kakutani says that Woodward paints a portrait of President Bush as "a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war."

To which I say: "Welcome to 2002, Bob." I can only hold my breath in anticipation of what headline grabbing insights "the best excavator of inside stories" will "unearth" for his next book: "Paris Hilton: Shallow Party Girl," or, perhaps, "Islamic Fundamentalism: Could be a Problem in the Future."

Sure, I suppose we should welcome the fact that Woodward has joined the rest of the sentient world in his appraisal of Bush. But without any expiation for -- and discussion of -- the role his earlier hagiographic renderings of the administration played in enabling all the behaviors he's now so aghast at, it's hard to take his Road to Damascus moment seriously. After all, if there's one thing you can say about Bush, it's that he is who he is.

Bush had that same religious certainty, lack of curiosity, impatience and disinclination to rethink things back in 2004, when Woodward published "Plan of Attack," or in 2002, when Woodward published "Bush at War."

But in those books, Woodward saw things a bit differently -- which would explain why "Plan of Attack" was given the top slot on the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign website's recommended reading list (ranking even higher than Karen Hughes' Bush-adoring "Ten Minutes from Normal"). And why Woodward, even in the wake of Abu Ghraib, could be found on Jim Lehrer in the spring of 2004 mooning over Bush's "moral determination, which we've not seen in the White House maybe in 100 years" and announcing, sounding like a TV car pitchman, "People want a tough president, and this man is tough."

Without some accounting in the new book about how Woodward himself could have been in a state of denial for the first five years of the Bush presidency, it's hard not to reach the "damning conclusion" that Woodward didn't write "State of Denial" because he suddenly realized Iraq was going to hell. He wrote it because he realized his reputation was going to hell.

Woodward, the classic Washington weathervane, knows, with his unerring weathervane instinct, that it's now okay to criticize Bush -- and that, indeed, anyone who wants a seat at the Big Persons' table after Bush leaves has to now admit Iraq has been a disaster. And Woodward definitely doesn't want to give up his special seat at the Big Persons' table.

Finally, as a reminder that the rotten apple doesn't fall far from the rotten tree, here's a timely flashback to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh's summary of his experience trying to get truth -- and justice -- from George H. W. Bush

George Bush served as vice president through the Reagan presidency from 1981 to 1989. In January 1989, he succeeded Reagan as President. It was in his capacity as President that Bush committed what will likely become his most memorable act in connection with Iran/contra. On December 24, 1992, twelve days before former Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger was to go to trial, Bush pardoned him.1 In issuing pardons to Weinberger and five other Iran/contra defendants, President Bush charged that Independent Counsel's prosecutions represented the ``criminalization of policy differences.''

President Bush also pardoned former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, former CIA Central American Task Force Chief Alan D. Fiers, Jr., former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Clair E. George, and former CIA Counter-Terrorism Chief Duane R. Clarridge. The Weinberger pardon marked the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness, because the President was knowledgeable of factual events underlying the case.

The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete. Before Bush's election as President, the investigation was primarily concerned with the operational conspiracy and the careful evaluation of the cases against former National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter and Lt. Col. Oliver L. North of the National Security Council staff, prior to their indictment in March 1988. This included a review of any exculpatory material that might have shown authorization for their conduct. In the course of this investigation, Vice President Bush was deposed on January 11, 1988.

A year later Bush was President-elect, and OIC was engaged in the intensive preparation for the trial of North, which began on January 31, 1989. After the completion of the trials of North and Poindexter and the pleas of guilty of retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim, OIC broadened its investigation to those supporting and supervising Poindexter and North. This investigation developed a large amount of new material with which it intended to question President Bush. His interrogation was left to the end because, as President, he obviously could not be questioned repeatedly. It was Independent Counsel's expectation that he would be available after the completion of the 1992 Presidential election campaign.

In light of his access to information, Bush would have been an important witness. In an early interview with the FBI in December 1986 and in the OIC deposition in January 1988, Bush acknowledged that he was regularly informed of events connected with the Iran arms sales, including the 1985 Israeli missile shipments. These statements conflicted with his more extreme public assertions that he was ``out of the loop'' regarding the operational details of the Iran initiative and was generally unaware of the strong opposition to the arms sales by Secretary of Defense Weinberger and Secretary of State George P. Shultz. He denied knowledge of the diversion of proceeds from the arms sales to assist the contras. He also denied knowledge of the secret contra-resupply operation supervised by North.....

On December 11, 1992, Chester Paul Beach, Jr., associate counsel to President Bush, informed the OIC that a diary, kept by Bush, dating back to his vice presidency, had not been produced to Independent Counsel. It consisted of Bush's nightly dictation concerning the events of the day. Although the diary contained many personal and political observations, it also contained a substantial number of references to the events surrounding the Iran/contra matter and the subsequent investigation. Accordingly, the diary was responsive to at least two document requests sent to the White House by the OIC in 1987 and 1992.

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