Times (Finally) Tackles Joseph Wilson - July 14, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for July 14, 2004

Times (Finally) Tackles Joseph Wilson

Only four days late, the Times vaguely tackles the issue of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's lost credibility in a Wednesday story by James Risen, "How Niger Uranium Story Defied Wide Skepticism."

After summarizing the issue (and falsely implying that Bush mentioned Niger in his 2003 State of the Union Address), Risen in the 10th paragraph, finally gets to the matter of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was the spiritual heart of the alleged discrediting of the Hussein-African uranium connection: "Instead of assigning a trained intelligence officer to the Niger case, though, the C.I.A. sent a former American ambassador, Joseph Wilson, to talk to former Niger officials. His wife, Valerie Plame, was an officer in the counterproliferation division, and she had suggested that he be sent to Niger, according to the Senate report. That finding contradicts previous statements by Mr. Wilson, who publicly criticized the Bush administration last year for using the Niger evidence to help justify the war in Iraq. After his wife's identity as a C.I.A. officer was leaked to the news media, Mr. Wilson said she had not played a role in his assignment, and argued that her C.I.A. employment had been disclosed to punish him. The F.B.I. is investigating the source of the leak about Ms. Plame, which was classified information."

Good for the Times for finally mentioning the anti-war Wilson's credibility gap, given that Wilson wrote on its oped page last July that, if his findings were "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."

But the paper still doesn't get to the nub of the issue. Reporter Susan Schmidt in the Washington Post had a more pointed take in a Saturday story: "The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts."

For the rest of Risen on the Niger-uranium link, click here.

" Iraq War | Niger | James Risen | Uranium | Joseph Wilson

No Aid for Bush's Liberal AIDS Cause

One would think an administration embarking on an aggressive campaign to fight AIDS in Africa would get love notes from the liberal media. But apparently not an administration seen as "conservative," one whose motives must always be seen as suspect.

Wednesday's front-page story by Deborah Sontag (with additional reporting by Sharon LaFranier and Michael Wines) focuses on Bush's plan for fighting AIDS in Africa and notes "many critics" are wary of the plan's conservative ideology and unilateralism: "The administration's AIDS effort is under sharp scrutiny because it so big, so unabashedly Washington-dominated and tinged by the administration's political ideology. Many critics see big pharmaceutical companies behind the Bush administration's preference for costlier brand-name drugs, conservative Christians behind its heavy promotion of abstinence, and hard-line unilateralists behind its decision to bypass the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in creating its own plan."

Sontag and company manage to find a parallel in the Iraq war: "But at a time when American power was being imposed and questioned in the military arena, the AIDS plan struck some as another kind of unilateralism. They feared that Mr. Bush's program would undermine the multilateral Global Fund, which assists eight times as many countries, including India, China and Russia, whose infection rates are rising rapidly. And these experts thought it was retrogressive in its reliance on American universities, faith-based organizations and nongovernmental organizations, whose ability to pay higher salaries could drain workers from local public health systems that should be reinforced instead."

For more on Bush and AIDS in Africa, click here.

" Africa | AIDS | George W. Bush | Deborah Sontag

Ron Reagan Jr. Steals the Show

The Times trumpets Ron Reagan Jr.'s scheduled speech at the Democratic National Convention. Thomas Crampton notes Tuesday: "Republicans may have placed the feel-good legacy of Ronald Reagan center stage, but the Democrats just stole the best actor in a supporting role. Ron Reagan, younger son of the late Republican president, said on Monday that he would speak at the Democratic National Convention this month in Boston. The speech will deal exclusively with loosening restrictions on stem cell research, and Mr. Reagan, who has spoken critically of President Bush, said he would not use the occasion to criticize the administration."

Crampton insists: "Scientists theorize that the cells, which give rise to all other cells and tissues in the body, could yield treatments for Parkinson's disease, diabetes and, perhaps, Alzheimer's disease, which former President Reagan had. To cultivate the cell lines necessary for research, human embryos have to be destroyed. That disturbs religious conservatives and opponents of abortion who make up an important part of Mr. Bush's base."

But the Washington Post found last month that "the infrequently voiced reality, stem cell experts confess, is that, of all the diseases that may someday be cured by embryonic stem cell treatments, Alzheimer's is among the least likely to benefit."

Crampton notes: "Even when attending Republican events, Mr. Reagan has not held back on criticizing the president. More recently, addressing mourners on June 11 at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., he criticized people who drew religion into politics. 'Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man, Mr. Reagan said. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians-wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage.' Some conservative commentators viewed that statement as a swipe at Mr. Bush's policies on stem cells. Mr. Kerry has pressed hard on the issue, saying Mr. Bush was ignoring scientific fact to appease his party's right wing. If elected, Mr. Kerry promised a quick change in the policy."

Nowhere does Crampton even hint about the appropriateness of the Democrats exploiting a dead president. And while the story implies Ron Reagan is a Republican disaffected by the party's moralistic turn, he has previously boasted of voting for Ralph Nader in 2000.

For the rest of Crampton's profile of Ron Reagan, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democrats | Ron Reagan Jr. | Science

Ignoring Sen. Rockefeller's WMD Hypocrisy

Despite the impression left by mainstream media coverage, it wasn't just Bush or a dastardly neo-conservative cabal saying Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction: Sen. John Kerry said so in a Senate speech before the war, as did Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller.

But David Johnston's front-page Saturday story on the Senate's just-released intelligence report mentions none of this, instead using Rockefeller as his chief Bush critic: "Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the committee, said the report 'failed to explain the environment of intense pressure in which intelligence community officials were asked to render judgments on matters relating to Iraq, when policy officials had already forcefully stated their own conclusions in public.' Mr. Rockefeller, recalling that President Bush described Saddam Hussein in March 2002 as 'a dangerous man who possesses the world's most dangerous weapons,' said such comments put pressure on intelligence agencies to conform with the president's views."

That's some chutzpah on the part of Rockefeller given that Bush in March 2002 sounds a lot like Rockefeller even later in the run-up to the war.

Here's an excerpt from an October 2002 Rockefeller speech on the Senate floor, not mentioned by Johnston: "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. And that may happen sooner if he can obtain access to enriched uranium from foreign sources-something that is not that difficult in the current world. We should also remember that we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction".He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East."

For the rest of David Johnston on the Senate intelligence report, click here.

" Iraq War | David Johnston | Sen. John Rockefeller | WMD

Nagourney vs. "Fierce" Bush

Adam Nagourney is apparently very sensitive to any sign of Bush campaign rhetoric. Reporting Wednesday from the campaign trail in Minnesota, Nagourney notes: "President Bush swept across three states that he narrowly lost in 2000 on Tuesday with a vigorous defense of his record and a fierce attack on Senator John Kerry, his Democratic rival. Mr. Bush portrayed Mr. Kerry as a liberal Washington insider who voted against paying for troops in Iraq and supported Hollywood entertainers out of touch with 'the heart and soul' of America".The burst of activity occurs as Mr. Bush's aides prepare to lose the spotlight to Mr. Kerry, who heads to Boston for his nominating convention as Mr. Bush heads to his ranch in Crawford, Tex. With the president's aides worried that Mr. Kerry would enjoy a large increase in popularity, Mr. Bush went to lengths and used often harsh language in trying to discredit Mr. Kerry in what will be one of his last swings before the convention."

Just what was Bush's harsh language? This apparently, from Nagourney's next paragraph: "'He voted for the Patriot Act,' Mr. Bush said. 'He voted for Nafta. He voted for the No Child Left Behind Act and for the use of force in Iraq. Now he opposes the Patriot Act. He opposes Nafta. He opposes the No Child Left Behind Act and the liberation of Iraq.'" Nagourney then gave the Kerry campaign two paragraphs to rebut Bush.

Nagourney fretted in similar terms back in March: "With a fierce campaign of attacks led by President Bush, an orchestrated barrage of criticism by Republican elected officials and an imminent sweep of hard-hitting television advertisements, the White House is moving with unusual speed and force to try to discredit John Kerry, the president's likely Democratic challenger."

For the rest of Nagourney on the "fierce" Bush, click here.

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