Avoiding Joseph Wilson's Liberal Bent - October 6, 2003

Times Watch for October 6, 2003

Avoiding Joseph Wilson's Liberal Bent

Former African ambassador Joseph Wilson stands at the center of the controversy over who in the White House told journalist Robert Novak that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. Reporter Lynette Clemetson's interview with Wilson for her Sunday story, "Adviser to Bush's Father Redefines Himself as Wary Whistle-Blower," soft-pedals Wilson's liberal political stance.

Clemetson also makes an inaccurate statement about Wilson, who the Bush administration sent to Niger on a fact-finding mission: "First he challenged the administration's claim, put forth by the president in the State of the Union address, that Saddam Hussein sought uranium ore from Niger to build nuclear weapons." As Times Watch has said before, Bush didn't mention Niger in his State of the Union address.

She continues: "Republican leaders have portrayed Mr. Wilson as a partisan Democrat with an agenda. 'Joe Wilson is not an apolitical person himself,' said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee. 'He's someone who feels passionately about politics.'"

(But that's not all Gillespie said. Gillespie in full, as reported by Richard Stevenson and Eric Lichtblau in the October 2 Times: "Joe Wilson is not an apolitical person himself. He's someone who feels passionately about politics, is a supporter of John Kerry's campaign, a maxed-out contributor, and wants to endorse him given the opportunity. He has spoken to a Win Without War rally, one of the most radical anti-Bush groups out there.")

Clemetson immediately follows the truncated Gillespie quote with this: "But Mr. Wilson-the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein-is not so convenient a foil. A registered Democrat who is supporting Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in his bid to win the presidency, Mr. Wilson said he voted twice for the first President Bush.Those who have known and worked with Mr. Wilson say his partisan ties have never been easily discernible. 'I had no idea what party he was in," said Peter Teeley, 63, who served as press secretary to the senior Mr. Bush in his years as vice president. 'When he was in Baghdad he was recognized, and rightly so, as someone with a lot of courage. There was a lot of admiration for Joe and a lot of respect for the way he carried out his duties for the president and for the United States.' Susan Rice, assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Clinton administration, said of Wilson: 'The guy played very much down the middle of the road politically.'"

Clemetson fails to mention Wilson's penning in February of an anti-war opinion for the far-left Nation magazine, which has never been mistaken for a "middle-of-the-road" publication.

Clemetson fawns over the erudite, lyric-quoting Wilson: "Mr. Wilson's personal style is alternately straightforward and laid-back. One moment he is holding forth eruditely about what he called the current administration's 'penchant for unilateralism,' and its mistake in taking what he called the 'highest risk, lowest reward option of invasion, conquest and occupation.' The next moment he is rocked back in his chair, referencing Jimmy Buffett and the need to 'change latitudes and change attitudes,' to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, or criticizing the way the Bush administration 'dissed' the Europeans in the prelude to the war."

For the rest of Clemetson's interview with Joe Wilson, click here.

CIA | Lynette Clemetson | Iraq War | Niger | Joseph Wilson

Republican Win In California = Bad News for Bush?

Could a Republican win in California be bad news for Bush? Reporter Adam Nagourney thinks so. In Monday's "Schwarzenegger Win Could Have Downside for Bush," Nagourney, who usually deals with the presidential campaign, talks to a Bush adviser about the suspiciously-timed Schwarzenegger scandals: "The adviser said that with the passage of time, voters outside California would forget the tales of Mr. Schwarzenegger's behavior toward women that have dominated the news here. But that may be less the case in California. In fact, The Los Angeles Times reported on its front page Sunday that four more women had come forward to say Mr. Schwarzenegger had fondled, spanked or touched them without their consent-bringing the number, by the newspaper's count, to 15. Both Democrats and Republicans said they saw little reason to expect such reports to cease if Mr. Schwarzenegger becomes governor."

Two other Times stories on Monday give additional space to the allegations of womanizing, as well as the charge that Schwarzenegger was quoted "admiring Hitler." The Times' aggressive pursuit of Schwarzenegger scandals certainly marks a philosophy shift on allegations of personal misbehavior since the days of Democrat Bill Clinton.

(Note: David Kirkpatrick's Saturday story on Schwarzenegger's Hitler comments clarifies the actor's "admiration" of Hitler by quoting a corrected transcript of Schwarzenegger's comments. The corrected transcript shows the comments in a significantly less incendiary light: "I admired Hitler for instance because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn't admire him for what he did with it. It is very hard to say who I admired and who are my heroes. And I admired basically people who are powerful people, like Kennedy. Who people listen to and just wait until he comes out with telling them what to do. People like that I admire a lot.")

For the rest of Nagourney on Schwarzenegger, click here.

California | Adam Nagourney | Recall | Scandals | Arnold Schwarzenegger | Women

The Times' Favorite Republican

Friday's front-pager by Todd Purdum and Janet Elder, "Poll Shows Drop in Confidence On Bush Skill in Handling Crises-Country on the Wrong Track, According to a Solid Majority." The Times story on the poll portrays the findings as wall-to-wall bad news for Bush, which may explain why it made the front page.

The story includes three person-on-the-street interviews, including the Times' favorite kind of interviewee, an anti-war Republican, and the only one identified as Republican: "Mary Preble, 46, a registered nurse and a Republican in Sugar Land, Tex., said: 'I don't feel George W. Bush has a grasp on what the public is really interested in.' She added: 'I wasn't happy about the invasion in Iraq. We shouldn't have attacked before anything was proven. There seem to be no nuclear weapons. Right now he is trying to rally everyone around to the cause and give money to rebuild Iraq. But why should other countries kick in cash when he didn't wait until the U.N. said we're behind you? The other countries don't believe he has the leadership skills he should have.'"

Purdum and Elder conclude their dispatch with words from another interviewee, who praises the Democrats with a faint damn for just caring too much about too many things: "The Democrats' plan is never as clear as the Republicans' because the Republicans focus on the very narrow goal of laissez-faire government and capitalism. The Democrats try to incorporate a broader base of social issues."

For the rest of the Times on Bush's poll numbers, click here.

Campaign 2004 | Janet Elder | Todd Purdum | Polls

Ignoring Gun Control Failure, Here and Abroad

Lizette Alvarez files an interesting story from Manchester on British police adopting American-style rules of "zero tolerance" to combat the rise in violent and gun-related crime. But the story leaves out an important angle: The utter failure of gun control.

Alvarez writes in Friday's Times: "Although overall crime has dropped slightly in recent years, Britain's major cities have seen an alarming jump in gun-related and violent crime. Gang warfare, drive-by shootings, crack dealing and the like, crimes that once were the exclusive staples of American urban street life, have encroached on everyday life here. Assaults, robberies and carjackings have grown steadily. Guns are no longer a rarity. While the aggregate numbers pale next to America's, gun crime in England and Wales rose by 35 percent in 2002 and has nearly doubled since 1997. In the year 2001-2002, guns were involved in 9,974 crimes."

She could have pointed out what even the liberal Observer (the Guardian's Sunday paper) notes in its latest edition-that gun-related crimes have soared since Britain banned private ownership of handguns in 1997 (the very year gun crime began rising).

Observer reporter Tony Thompson writes: "Handgun crime has soared past levels last seen before the Dunblane massacre of 1996 and the ban on ownership of handguns introduced the year after Thomas Hamilton, an amateur shooting enthusiast, shot dead 16 schoolchildren, their teacher and himself in the Perthshire town. It was hoped the measure would reduce the number of handguns available to criminals. Now handgun crime is at its highest since 1993." Then again, such an admission would work against the Times gun-control agenda here at home.

For the rest of Alvarez's story on rising crime in Britain, click here.

Lizette Alvarez | Britain | Crime | Gun Control

Blair Cleared, But Times Still Suspicious

Reporting on a book by Blair's former foreign secretary, Robin Cook (who resigned in protest over Blair's support of the Iraq War), reporter Warren Hoge commits another incomplete telling of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "dodgy dossier" controversy.

Hoge writes for Monday's Times: "The failure to find unconventional weapons and the public suspicions, aired during six weeks of hearings this summer, that the government doctored intelligence to win support for an unpopular war have caused Mr. Blair's popularity to slump to its lowest point since he came to power in 1997."

As Times Watch has previously noted regarding another Hoge story, those suspicions of intelligence manipulation rest on a BBC report from reporter Andrew Gilligan that has itself been discredited. Hoge again fails to mention that Blairs government was cleared by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee on the charge of manipulating intelligence.

For the rest of Hoge on Blair, click here.

Tony Blair | Andrew Gilligan | Iraq War | Warren Hoge

Better Late Than Never

From Monday's Corrections section (last item): "An article in The Times Magazine on Sept. 22, 1974, about the movie actor Charles Bronson, who died on Aug. 30 this year, misstated his military record. Publicity material asserting that Mr. Bronson had been a B-29 gunner in World War II, called into doubt by the article, was indeed correct. (The magazine error came to light after it was repeated in an obituary on Sept. 2 and in some late editions on Sept. 1. The more recent error was corrected in this space on Sept. 18.)"

Charles Bronson | Corrections | Movies | Obituaries