Failing to Own Up to Joe Wilson's Credibility Collapse - July 19, 2004 -

Times Watch for July 19, 2004

Failing to Own Up to Joe Wilson's Credibility Collapse

Sunday brings a tentative update on the Niger-uranium brouhaha from Richard Stevenson and David Johnston. Yet the Times still fails to fully probe the lost credibility of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, an antiwar partisan boosted by the Times and one whose attempts to discredit the Niger-uranium link have been discredited themselves in two separate intelligence reports from Britain and the U.S.

Stevenson and Johnston open "New Reports Reopen Debate Over Whether Iraq Sought Uranium in Niger" with this provocative line: "Were those infamous 16 words correct after all? It has been a year and a half since President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, in which he suggested in a single sentence that Iraq might have been trying to acquire uranium in Africa for its nuclear weapons program. And it has been a year since the White House and the C.I.A. acknowledged that the evidence behind that assertion was flawed, opening Mr. Bush to a torrent of criticism about the credibility and reliability of the intelligence he used to justify toppling Saddam Hussein. But now two new reports have reopened the question of whether Mr. Bush was indeed correct when, on Jan. 28, 2003, he told the nation and the world, 'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.'"

Stevenson and Johnston note that the British report "concluded that the assertions by Mr. Bush and Mr. [Tony] Blair about Iraq's attempts to acquire uranium were 'well founded."

Actually, the report explicitly defends Bush's infamous 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address, ones that caused the administration much heartburn but which now have been validated by two separate intelligence reports. (What Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.")

They admit the Senate report "also contained some information that tended to bolster the view that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Niger and possibly one or two other African nations."

In the seventh paragraph, they finally address the lost credibility of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was all over the media (and the Times) bragging that his findings had discredited the Niger claim and thus a main pillar of Bush's case for war: "The new reports also raised questions about one of the White House's chief critics over the issue, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had tried to purchase uranium there. Among other things, the report pointed out that Mr. Wilson's official account to the C.I.A. noted that a former prime minister of Niger had told him that he had been approached in 1999 about meeting with an Iraqi delegation interested in 'expanding commercial relations' between Niger and Iraq. The former prime minister told Mr. Wilson that he interpreted the approach to mean the Iraqis were interested in acquiring a form of uranium."

After quoting a blast at the media from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Times minimizes the damage to the anti-war side: "If there is some measure of vindication for the administration in the new reports-something that Mr. Bush's critics do not concede-it still left the White House to deal with the many aftershocks that continue to emanate from the episode."

Blogger Tom Maguire, who's on top of the Wilson story, is unimpressed with Messrs. Stevenson and Johnston: "Some of Mr. Wilson's credibility problems are cited. However, the Times remains sphinx-like on the Senate report finding, undisputed by Mr. Wilson in his letter to the Post, that the Ambassador gave 'misleading information' in anonymous leaks to the Washington Post and by extension, Nick Kristof of the NY Times."

The Times also ran Wilson's misleading July 6, 2003, op-ed that put the whole Niger-uranium story into public view. In it, Wilson stated: "If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses."

Donald Luskin asks: "When is 'public editor' Daniel Okrent going to hold the New York Times to account for giving Wilson's lies a platform-the same way Okrent did when the 'newspaper of record' supposedly fell for the Bush administration's supposed WMD lies?"

Indeed, the Times consistently took Wilson's view of the Niger-uranium controversy as truth. Shouldn't the Times (which has been actively apologizing for trusting Bush too much on the war!) now acknowledge that, in Joe Wilson, it backed the wrong anti-war horse?

The misinformed reporting continues Monday. Douglas Jehl spreads the old line about Niger and uranium in a story about the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. One of the successes Jehl credits the tiny agency for is its dismissal of the "British contention" that Iraq was trying to get uranium from Niger: "It also predicted correctly that Turkey might not permit American troops to cross its territory en route to Iraq and dismissed as 'highly dubious' a British contention, now discredited, that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Niger."

Again, the recently released Butler report from Britain actually bolsters the assertion Hussein was trying to get uranium from Niger. Here's a relevant quote: "We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government's dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that: 'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa' was well-founded."

In other words, the idea that the Niger-uranium link has been "discredited" has now itself been discredited. Intelligence reporter Jehl should update his assumptions accordingly-or at least keep up with his own newspaper.

For Jehl's profile of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, click here.

For Stevenson and Johnston on the uranium-Niger debate, click here.

" Iraq War | Douglas Jehl | David Johnston | Niger | Richard Stevenson | Uranium | Joseph Wilson

Depends on What the Meaning of "Perhaps" Is

Adam Nagourney in Sunday's Week in Review asks "What Boston Can Do For Kerry," and shows what Nagourney can still do for Clinton: "Bill Clinton headed into his 1992 presidential nominating convention known-as he put it, perhaps disingenuously-for 'a woman I never slept with and a draft I didn't dodge, and facing what many Democrats feared was defeat to President George H. W. Bush."


As the Media Research Center reported in August 2000, "Clinton later admitted to a sexual relationship with Gennifer Flowers and that he received a draft notice in 1969 but returned to England."

For more, click here.

NYT Again Leads With Bad-News Economic Spin

Is the Times talking down a strong economy in an election year?

The Times makes, as its Sunday lead story, an economic analysis by Eduardo Porter that purports to show workers' wages falling behind inflation, accompanied with this loaded stack of headlines: "Hourly Pay In U.S. Not Keeping Pace With Price Rises-Slack Market For Labor-Drop in Spending Power May Gain Prominence as a Campaign Issue."

Porter's story opens and closes with quotes from liberal economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute while noting in between: "Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is pointing to lackluster wages as a telling weakness in the administration's economic track record. 'Americans feel squeezed between prices that are rising and incomes that are not,' Mark Mellman, a pollster for the campaign, said in a memorandum last month." No Bush spokesman is quoted by Porter.

After the jump is this melodramatic teaser headline: "Those who can least afford it are being hit the hardest," and a sidebar chart sports the headline: "Fewer Hours, Lower Pay."

For the rest of Porter on the economy, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Economy | Headlines | Eduardo Porter

Don't Be Fooled by Facts: McCain Still Hostile to Bush-Cheney

Judging by Thomas Crampton's article from the campaign trail Saturday, the Times is still eager to use Sen. John McCain as a wedge issue against Bush, despite the fact McCain has endorsed Bush and is campaigning for the president.

Crampton opens "Campaigning Together in Michigan, Cheney and McCain Express Mutual Admiration" with an echo of the Times irresponsible rumor-mongering front-page story from July 15, speculating on Cheney's resignation from the ticket.

He writes: "Vice President Dick Cheney and the man some Republicans say should replace him, Senator John McCain of Arizona, showered each other with praise on Friday at a rally here. The appearance was the first time the two men campaigned together this year, but if there was any tension, it was not evident from their words."

Having seen no actual hostility between the two, Crampton proceeds to imagine some: "Some attending the rally on Friday said they believed that the onstage friendliness between the Mr. Cheney and Mr. McCain belied deeply held distrust. 'There were a lot of smiles between McCain and Cheney on stage in front of the cameras,' said Byron J. Hughes, who clutched a copy of a book by Mr. McCain and wore an autographed T-shirt from the senator's failed presidential bid in 2000. 'But I think there was real tension there in the background.'"

For some reason, Crampton concludes with several detailed paragraphs about a liberal Sierra Club protest nearby, down to the name of a protester's dog and why the protester won't let "Luke" drink the river water (it's Bush's fault): "Mr. Brewer spoke while standing with several dozen protesters outside the rally chanting anti-Cheney slogans, including 'Halliburton Hero' and 'Chickenhawk Cheney.' Nearby, where the Grand River runs by the convention center, Don Wellman of Ferndale, Mich., and half a dozen other protesters paddled small boats and held aloft placards condemning the water policies of the Bush administration. Mr. Wellman's dog, Luke, wore a bright orange life preserver embossed with the slogan 'Defend America, Defeat Bush.' 'Normally Luke can lean over and drink from the water outside the canoe,' Mr. Wellman said. 'Today I had to bring him a special supply of tap water.'"

For the rest of Crampton on McCain, Cheney, and Luke, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Dick Cheney | Thomas Crampton | Sen. John McCain | Sierra Club

"Ethnic Cleansing Celebrated As the Height of Piety"

Nicholas Kristof on Saturday's column is slightly less offensive than its title ("Jesus and Jihad.") But some might think it's a close race. It's an excoriation of the popular Christian apocalyptic novel series "Left Behind," and of course, Abu Ghraib is mentioned.

Kristof fulminates: "If the latest in the 'Left Behind' series of evangelical thrillers is to be believed, Jesus will return to Earth, gather non-Christians to his left and toss them into everlasting fire".It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety. If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of 'Glorious Appearing' and publish it in Saudi Arabia, jubilantly describing a massacre of millions of non-Muslims by God, we would have a fit. We have quite properly linked the fundamentalist religious tracts of Islam with the intolerance they nurture, and it's time to remove the motes from our own eyes".No, I don't think the readers of 'Glorious Appearing' will ram planes into buildings. But we did imprison thousands of Muslims here and abroad after 9/11, and ordinary Americans joined in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in part because of a lack of empathy for the prisoners. It's harder to feel empathy for such people if we regard them as infidels and expect Jesus to dissolve their tongues and eyes any day now."

For the full Kristof column, click here.

" Abu Ghraib | Christianity | Columnists | Nicholas Kristof | "Left Behind" | Religion