Monday, October 31, 2005

Harris giving Webb a run for his money.

I’ve been pondering for a while now how to approach this Paul Harris article from yesterday’s Guardian/Observer. It simply begs to be taken apart, but it is so utterly over-the-top and ridiculous, I have to wonder whether it really merits any attention. Consider, for example, the first two paragraphs of the piece:
On Monday evening last week, as darkness descended on the capital, smartly dressed FBI agents moved quietly through the leafy Washington neighbourhood of Georgetown. They knocked on doors, questioning several residents about how well they knew Valerie Plame, the exposed CIA agent at the heart of a scandal that has rocked the Bush administration to its foundations.

These are times of deep crisis in America. The stunning image of FBI agents scouring the most exclusive suburbs of Washington, just a mile or so from the White House, sums up the mood of fear, paranoia and siege mentality now gripping the Bush administration.
Deep crisis! Like, you know, the Civil War, the Red Scare…and Scooter Libby’s perjury? I mean, this reads almost like a mocking caricature of the exaggerated drama, suspense, and tension through which reporters so often try to frame their stories. Could anyone really be taken in by this idiocy?

Alas, ultimately Harris makes claims and insinuations that simply must be debunked. Like:
Brent Scowcroft, a close confidant of Bush's father, has also gone public. He last week slammed the war in Iraq and revealed the younger Bush had not spoken to him in two years.
Of course, Scowcroft has been critical of the war since before it even happened, and indeed he seems to be making October denunciations of Bush policy an annual event. But Harris pretends it’s all a big, shocking new development.

In typical Guardian style, he laces nearly every reference to conservatives with the pejorative “radical”, just to be sure the audience knows how to feel about them. Parroting what has become the standard Democratic talking point, he puts Bush’s woes over the Miers nomination down to “radical right-wing conservatives”. You know, radicals like George Will and the staff at National Review, all of which in reality pretty much personify and define the very essence of establishment conservatism in the US.

Harris says of the demise of the Miers nomination:
The radical right movement, with its agenda on abortion rights and social issues such as gay marriage, will now have to be placated.
Thus Harris characterizes the majority of the nation as the “radical right”.

Naturally, no treatment of Bush would be complete without the standard mention of the media-fabricated “milestone” in Iraq:
[The 2,000th American death in Iraq] was a grim milestone and one that the Bush administration had long dreaded.
I don’t know how much or how long the administration actually dreaded this arbitrary “milestone”, and I highly doubt Harris actually does either. But I’d be willing to bet that it can’t possibly be as much or as long the likes of The Guardian have looked forward to it.

And speaking of Iraq, how about this wholly ridiculous assertion in yet another attempt to present "nothing new" as "a shocking new development":
The 'V word' - comparing Iraq to Vietnam - is no longer taboo in Washington.
Which would imply that until recently it was taboo. I guess someone probably should have told that to Ron Hutcheson of Knight Ridder, who was writing as early as September 2003 that “Some See Troubling Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam”. Senator Max Cleland also seems to have been unaware of this recently removed taboo, writing an article (free registration required) about “Mistakes of Vietnam repeated with Iraq”, also in September 2003. So too William Greider, who wrote an article in The Nation in April 2004 titled “Iraq as Vietnam”. Also in April 2004, the John F. Kennedy Library sponsored a debate between David Halberstam and Jon Lee Anderson over, as you might have guessed, the question “Is Iraq Vietnam?” In August 2004, the Associated Press pointed out that “Iraq-Viet War coincidences noted”. Then in December 2004, Slate violated the taboo by writing that "Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966."

Quite a taboo, huh? Is Harris as ignorant of reality as he seems, or is he really that contemptuous of his readers?

More on Plame:
Politically, it is Iraq that gave birth to Plamegate, the investigation into who leaked the identity of Plame to reporters, apparently to smear her husband, ex-diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had become a critic of the build-up to war.
Notice how in Harris’ retelling, it is no longer an allegation, but is instead “apparent” that Plame’s name was leaked in order to “smear” her husband. How it is possible to “smear” someone with the truth, Harris doesn’t say.
That investigation has now spread its tentacles all over the administration.
If, that is, you consider one administration official to be “all over” the administration.
In fact, it goes to the heart of the Iraq issue: was intelligence deliberately misused to railroad Americans into believing Saddam Hussein was a direct threat?
If it is true that the investigation goes to the “heart of the issue”, one wonders, then, why the lead investigator, Patrick Fitzgerald, said in his press conference that:

This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel….The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction.

And I think anyone's who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.

I guess Harris must have missed that part.
The tough Brooklyn-born prosecutor, who made his name investigating the Mafia, has said his probe is not yet over. The shadow of Plamegate has not lifted from the White House. For Rove - and perhaps many other officials - Plamegate is in danger of becoming an agonising political death.
Again, it might have been useful had Harris actually listened to Fitzgerald’s press conference. What he actually said is that, while the investigation is not yet finished, the “bulk” of the work is over, it would be “very rare” to end the investigation after bringing charges, and that therefore the continuation of the investigation should be viewed as simply the “ordinary course” of events. In other words, don’t read too much into the fact that the investigation has not officially ended.

Instead Harris’ maintains his hopes - and passes them on to his readers as though they are reasonable - that Rove, not to mention “many other officials”, might go down in flames over Plame. Can you say wishful thinking?
There are even whisperings of Cheney stepping down to be replaced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Did I say wishful thinking? How about delusional. (Although I suspect Rice as an incumbent VP is the last thing that Democrats want to see as they look towards 2008.)

At one point Harris actually claims that “It is hard to overstate the depths of Bush's political crisis.”

And yet, using the seemingly limitless depths of his imagination along with his lack of concern for truth or accuracy, that is precisely what Paul Harris had managed to do, in spades. Perhaps he is intent on vying against Justin Webb for most shameless journalist in Britain.


Anonymous avaroo said...

I'm not sure that Harris can be blamed for more than standard Guardian spin. While I think the BBC can and should do better, I don't put the Guardian in that category. It is strictly a partisan rag. Did anyone happen to catch ex-President Carter on the Today show this morning? He easily could fill in for the Guardian should they need a reporter in the US to distort the news for Brits.

2:05 PM  

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