Bungling The Sandy Berger Burglary - July 21, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for July 21, 2004

Bungling The Sandy Berger Burglary

Wednesday's Times offleads with the wacky Sandy Berger story-Clinton's former national security adviser is accused of stuffing classified documents and notes into his clothing and then "inadvertently" losing some of the documents.

Eric Lichtblau's story opens (note that right in the third sentence, Democrats are allowed to accuse Republicans of unfair news leaks): "Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, resigned abruptly Tuesday as a senior adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign after the disclosure that he had improperly removed classified material on terrorism from a secure government reading room last year. The decision came after Mr. Berger endured a day of furious criticism from Republican leaders, who accused him of breaching national security and possibly passing classified material to Mr. Kerry's campaign. Democrats, in turn, accused the Bush administration of leaking word of an F.B.I. investigation of Mr. Berger as a way of diverting attention from the release of the Sept. 11 commission's final report Thursday."

The reports Berger took were classified versions of an "after-action" report on the millennium plots by al Qaeda in 1999, according to the Times. Lichtblau notes: "[Lanny] Breuer, the lawyer, said Mr. Berger inadvertently put three or four versions of the report on the plots in a leather portfolio he had with him. 'He had lots of papers, and the memos got caught up in the portfolio,' he said. 'It was an accident.' Mr. Berger also put in his jacket and pants pockets handwritten notes that he had made during his review of the documents, Mr. Breuer said."

USA Today has a more pointed and comprehensive story on Berger, emphasizing that Berger apparently took documents on more than one occasion (a detail the Times fails to mention): "After one of his visits to the Archives last fall, one of the government officials said, Berger was alerted to the missing documents and later returned some of the materials. On subsequent visits by Berger, Archives staffers specially marked documents he reviewed to try to ensure their return. But the government official said some of those materials also went missing, prompting Archives staffers to alert federal authorities."

At National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy wonders why the Times "waited until paragraph 16 of its story to mention the post-Millennium after action review-the document Berger has been reported to have somehow 'inadvertently' snatched on multiple occasions."

The Times' earlier coverage of the Berger fiasco also leaves something to be desired.

Tuesday's paper limited its Berger coverage to a tiny box story from Mark Glassman, on page A17, "Clinton Aide Took Classified Material." The brief story nonetheless leaves an inaccurate impression when it says: "Mr. Berger returned all of the documents and notes to the archives in October, within a week of his learning they were missing, his lawyers said."

The Times left it at that, but as we know now, some documents are still missing. Berger himself admits to "inadvertently" discarding some. Slate's Mickey Kaus is astonished: "Even cynical New York Times-bashers must be astonished that that [page A17] is where the paper ran the news of the Sandy Berger criminal investigation".I guess they wouldn't want to bump that late-breaking piece on untucked shirttails from the front page."

In an online follow-up article posted later on Tuesday, David Stout and Mark Glassman write: "Mr. Berger, no stranger to the knees and elbows of Washington, apparently bowed to the political reality that 'if you have to explain it, don't bother.'" As if this was just run-of-the-mill political attack, not a former national security adviser breaking the law by lifting classified material, "inadvertently" or not.

For the rest of Eric Lichtblau on the Berger story, click here.

" Sandy Berger | Campaign 2004 | Sen. John Kerry | Eric Lichtblau | Terrorism

Bush Campaign on Defensive (Just Ignore What I Wrote Yesterday)

Adam Nagourney hints Bush is in trouble (yawn) in Wednesday's front-page campaign story co-written with Richard Stevenson-but their findings seem to contradict Nagourney's own reporting from Tuesday.

In "Bush Campaign Plans No Rest In Next Month," they write, "The Bush campaign is shifting gears at time when some Republicans have grown worried about Mr. Bush's prospects and concerned that the hard-edged and expensive campaign he has waged over the past six months has inflicted less damage on the Democrats than many had hoped. Mr. Bush's job-approval ratings, historically a reliable indicator of an incumbent's prospects for re-election, remain at less than 50 percent, a level that even some Republicans said put him in a danger zone."

Nagourney and Stevenson then use Bush's campaign itinerary to suggest he's being forced to shore up his base of support: "Mr. Bush in recent days has had to campaign in solidly Republican areas, and to stress conservative issues, to maintain the enthusiasm of his base. In contrast, Mr. Kerry appears so confident of support from his base that he makes a point of saying in campaign appearances that he is appealing for the support of non-Democrats, and at one point, strongly expressed his personal opposition to abortion, without creating any stir."

Really? Nagourney seemed to uncover the opposite just yesterday. Here's the lead sentence to Nagourney's Tuesday clich"-fest on the Bush and Kerry campaigns: "They campaign in the same places: rural stretches of West Virginia, the suburbs of Philadelphia, farm country in Ohio. They talk about the same issues: the economy, tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the nation's security. They are scrapping for many of the same voters".One day Mr. Bush is heralding his tax cuts as the engine that, as he told voters recently in Wisconsin, has lifted the nation into an economic recovery. He describes the economy as 'strong and getting stronger.' Two days later, Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is in West Virginia calling those same tax cuts a threat to health care and education, and a burden that has saddled the nation with a debt that is throttling hope for long-term prosperity."

To recap: Republican Bush is campaigning in Democratic Wisconsin (Gore won Wisconsin in 2000 by a very narrow margin), while Kerry feels obliged to campaign in heavily Democratic West Virginia (which surprised conventional wisdom by going to Bush in 2000). That could demonstrate the Kerry campaign feels uncomfortable on what should be safe Democratic turf.

Nagourney and Stevenson conclude with a long litany from Bill Clinton's old campaign director that paints Bush as reaping what he's sowed: "Mr. Bush has repeatedly attacked Mr. Kerry on the campaign trail, and recently went so far as to attack Mr. Kerry's chosen running mate, Senator John Edwards. 'We never attacked Dole,' said Doug Sosnik, who was President Bill Clinton's political director, referring to Bob Dole, Mr. Clinton's Republican opponent in 1996. 'The notion that Bill Clinton, as president of the United States, would be attacking Jack Kemp is unimaginable,' Mr. Sosnik continued, referring to Mr. Dole's running mate. Mr. Sosnik argued that Mr. Bush had put himself in this position because of the way he approached the White House from the start of his administration. 'They did two things when they took office which were completely counterintuitive,' Mr. Sosnik said. 'One is they acted like they had the mandate, and No. 2, they didn't act like Nixon and go to the middle. They went to their base. It's unusual; it's been the coin of their realm. I think they are paying the price for it now.'"

Sage words from an unbiased source, no doubt.

For the rest of Nagourney and Stevenson on Bush and Kerry, click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Sen. John Kerry | Adam Nagourney | Richard Stevenson

And "Some Say" the NYT Is Liberal Propaganda

Tuesday's Arts section leads with a review from A.O. Scott of the new anti-Fox documentary "Outfoxed." Besides an unusual headline (TW gives it an A for effort, C for effect), "Tallyho! Spin, Flag Waving And Shouting To Catch a Fox," the review is pretty predictable.

Scott writes: "There is also an amusing, appalling dissection of the way Fox uses the phrase 'some say,' as in 'some say Senator Kerry has a tendency to flip-flop,' not to cloak a source but to camouflage a statement of opinion."

(The Times of course would never stoop to such a formulation as "some say.")

Then, either ironically or not, Scott employs the same word choice just four sentences later: "Some will say that the argument is unfair and unbalanced. Fox's critics-the most famous are Walter Cronkite and the inevitable Al Franken-appear relaxed, reasonable and good-humored, sitting in front of shelves of books and making their points in measured tones of voice. The on-air Fox personalities, on the other hand, appear to be a prize collection of blowhards and hyenas, with little regard for either journalistic niceties or basic good manners. But whose fault is it, really, if they come off badly? They are, after all, on television. What we see must be what they-and Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch-want us to see. It must also be what we-or at least the millions who watch Fox News Channel, including some who shut out virtually every other source of news-want to see. Which is, according to 'Outfoxed,' cause for alarm, and for action."

Scott evidently considers host Bill O'Reilly the second coming of Joe McCarthy: "Watching Bill O'Reilly's belligerent, boorish 'interview' with Jeremy Glick, whose father died in the attack on the World Trade Center and who came to oppose the administration's military response to 9/11, is enough to make you wish that the ghost of Joseph Welch would enter the studio and inquire, at long last, after Mr. O'Reilly's sense of decency. But those days-when Welch undid Senator Joseph R. McCarthy on live television, and when that medium was new enough to bring a promise of transparency and truth-telling into the public consciousness-are long past."

For the rest of A.O. Scott on "Outfoxed," click here.

" Fox News | Movies | Bill O'Reilly | A.O. Scott | Television