Friday's Times provided a "stark" display of how the same information - in this case, the newly released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on progress in Iraq- can be spun in different directions, depending on who's doing the spinning. The Times' lead story by Mark Mazzetti was headlined "U.S. Intelligence Offers Grim View Of Iraqi Leaders."
Mazzetti certainly treated it grimly.
"A stark assessment released Thursday by the nation's intelligence agencies depicts a paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year.
"The assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, casts strong doubts on the viability of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq. It gives a dim prognosis on the likelihood that Iraqi politicians can heal deep sectarian rifts before next spring, when American military commanders have said that a crunch on available troops will require reducing the United States' presence in Iraq.
"But the report also implicitly criticizes proposals offered by Democrats, including several presidential candidates, who have called for a withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq by next year and for a major shift in the American approach, from manpower-intensive counterinsurgency operations to lower-profile efforts aimed at supporting Iraqi troops and carrying out quick-strike counterterrorism raids."
"The assessment concludes that there is little reason to expect that Iraqi politicians will achieve significant gains before spring, when American commanders say they will have to begin to cut troop levels in Iraq, now at more than 160,000, to ease the burden on military personnel."
"In their attacks, Democrats ignored the report's criticism of the approach that has been a common theme of their own Iraq proposals, which have emphasized a withdrawal of American combat troops. Most Democrats have urged that American forces who stay in Iraq limit their operations to training, support and quick-strike counterterrorism missions."
The Washington Post put the story on A-10. Reporter Walter Pincus provided a less "stark" and negative lead:
"The U.S. intelligence community yesterday provided a mixed picture of the security situation in Iraq but cautioned that a drawdown of U.S. forces there and a scaled-back mission for the remaining U.S. troops 'would erode security gains achieved thus far.'
"The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq over the past several months has so far brought 'uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation,' according to declassified key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, an update of a January assessment."