Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mr. President's Ownership Society

It seems the White House has managed to once again stifle the free press, and forced Newsweek to retract it's report of reports regarding the mishandling of the Qur'an, including being tossed into buckets used for toilets. The White House and Administration's reasoning for outrage over the story? It was based on a single anonymous source. Because of that story, they claim, people are being killed! The outrage. The injustice. How could Newsweek do such an irresponsible thing!

Probably by following the president's lead.

From Think Progress:
Remember when we learned that the evidence for Iraq’s supposed mobile biological weapons labs came from an unreliable source? What was McClellan’s response then?
QUESTION: Does it concern the President that the primary source for the intelligence on the mobile biological weapons labs was a guy that U.S. intelligence never even interviewed?

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, all these issues will be looked at as part of a broad review by the independent commission that the President appointed… But it’s important that we look at what we learn on the ground and compare that with what we believed prior to going into Iraq.
[White House Press Gaggle, 4/5/04]
There you have it. When confronted with an anonymous source who provided faulty intelligence that the President relied upon to go to war, McClellan chose not to talk about standards of accountability that should be met. Instead, the White House passed the buck to an independent commission and suggested that it didn’t matter what subsequent information they learned about Iraq’s intelligence because they didn’t know it when they went to war. Newsweek has taken responsibility by retracting its story. Will President Bush take responsibility for his own errors?
QUESTION: He’s the president of the United States. This thing he told the country on the verge of taking the nation to war has turned out to be, by your own account, not reliable. That’s his fault, isn’t it?

MCCLELLAN: No.
[White House Press Briefing, 7/17/03]
So what does Bush's mouthpiece, Mr. McClellan have to say about the Newsweek article? Surely he'll give as wide a margin to the press as he does to the President. Or not:
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I find it puzzling that Newsweek now acknowledges that the facts were wrong, and they refuse to offer a retraction. There is a certain journalistic standard that should be met, and in this case it was not met. The report was not accurate, and it was based on a single anonymous source who cannot personally substantiate the report, so the -- so they cannot verify the accuracy of the report.

Q Scott, is the White House demanding a retraction --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying --

Q -- or are you satisfied with the statement Newsweek has made --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying that I find it puzzling that the reporter got it wrong, yet said they're not retracting the story.
Boy oh boy. Where do I start with this one? How about with the facts, which Mr. McClellan naturally gets wrong. From Guantanamo detainee accounts via Human Rights Watch:
72.They were never given prayer mats and initially they didn't get a Koran. When the Korans were provided, they were kicked and thrown about by the guards and on occasion thrown in the buckets used for the toilets. This kept happening. When it happened it was always said to be an accident but it was a recurrent theme
Then there's this part: Since Newsweek reported documented allegations that were over two years old, yet McClellan and the Administration claim are false because they are based on one anonymous source, McClellan finds it disturbing that the reporter is not retracting the story? Gee, get the facts wrong and don't retract a story. Who does that remind me of? Pot meet kettle:
"The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations."
• President Bush, 3/16/03

Iraq poses "terrible threats to the civilized world."
• Vice President Dick Cheney, 1/30/03

"Iraq poses a serious and mounting threat to our country. His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
• Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 1/29/03

"This is about imminent threat."
• White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/03

"Absolutely."
• White House spokesman Ari Fleischer answering whether Iraq was an "imminent threat," 5/7/03
In Bush's ownership society, everyone is liable for their mistakes - except the administration. Even when some mistakes are more "mistaken" than others.