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SLUGS LIKE THEM! White House slugs are sliming Clarke. Your press corps is happy to help them:


THIS JUST IN FROM THE CUCKOO’S NEST: Reading the New York Times these days is like reading reports from the cuckoo’s nest. Katharine “Kit” Seelye is quite upset because Dems don’t speak in alphabetical order. Elisabeth Bumiller wants you to know about Bush’s excellent bedtime habits. And in today’s paper, David Sanger reports the complaints of a man named Franklin C. Miller. According to Sanger, Miller is “[a] senior national security official who worked alongside Richard A. Clarke on Sept. 11, 2001.” And uh-oh! Miller “is disputing central elements of Mr. Clarke’s account of events in the White House Situation Room that day.”

Miller thus becomes the latest hack trying to make Clarke a liar. The Times is eager to air his complaints. But try to believe the kinds of concerns to which the Times devotes a large article. What errors by Clarke does Sanger relate? Incredibly, here’s the first “central element” which captures the scribe’s attention:

SANGER: In Mr. Clarke’s account, in a chapter called “Evacuate the White House,” he heads into the Situation Room at the first word of attack and begins issuing orders to close embassies and put military bases on a higher level of alert…He describes how Mr. Miller came into the room, squeezed Mr. Clarke’s bicep, and said, “Guess I’m working for you today. What can I do?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Mr. Miller said Monday. “I might say, ‘How can I help.’”

Incredible, isn’t it? This time you’re certain we’re making it up! But this is the sort of “central element” which leads David Sanger to write a full article. The problem? Clarke quoted Miller saying, “What can I do?” Miller says he wouldn’t say that. More likely, he said, “How can I help?”

Can’t you hear them cuckoos hollerin’? Other inanities fill Sanger’s piece, taken straight from the famous nest. (Example: Clarke says the Situation Room was “sparsely populated” on September 11. Miller says a dozen people were there.) But then, the New York Times has plainly become our most bizarre major newspaper. “Kit” Seelye has long been a registered cuckoo. Joining her today, and serving Bush: The Times’ latest cuckoo, David Sanger.

WHY CONDI WOULDN’T SPEAK: How “liberal” is the “liberal press corps?” Not very. Consider the treatment of Condoleezza Rice’s refusal to testify before the 9/11 commission. In particular, consider the segment on this topic from last night’s Scarborough Country.

Background: Rice has given four hours of private testimony to the 9/11 commission. But the commission wants her to testify in public, which requires going under oath. On last night’s program, Joe Scarborough said the White House is seeking a compromise—Rice will testify again in private, with the transcript to be made public. He discussed this matter with three major journalists: John Fund of the Wall Street Journal; Tim Berger of Time; and Deroy Murdock, a syndicated columnist.

Why has Rice tried to avoid public testimony? Predictably, Fund recited the White House line; the White House has refused to let her testify as a matter of principle (executive privilege). But this, of course, would not explain why the White House has let her appear in private, or why they would let her do so again. And a funny thing happened in Scarborough Land. Four journalists were there to debate this topic. But no one suggested that there might be a non-principled, political reason for the attempt to keep Rice private. Four journalists were assembled on MSNC. And none of them suggested an obvious reason why Bush may be holding Rice back.

Why would the White House let Rice testify—but only if cameras weren’t present? Duh! Here’s an obvious possibility: The White House doesn’t want tape of Rice being questioned. That is because of the gonzo statements she has made about 9/11 in the past.

Consider her most amazing statement—the one she made in May 2002, nine months after the devastating attacks:

RICE (5/12/02): I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon. That they would try to use an airplane as a missile? A hijacked airplane as a missile? All of this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking.
As Kristin Breitweiser told Chris Matthews last Thursday, Rice was grossly incompetent, or was lying, when she made this remarkable statement (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/29/04). In fact, there had been a long string of intelligence warnings about the possibility of airplanes-as-weapons in the years before 9/11. Let’s assume that Rice was sincere when she made her puzzling statement. That would mean that, nine months after the 9/11 attacks, she was still ignorant of these warnings—warnings which had been discussed in the media by the time she spoke. Let’s say it again: This would mean that Condi Rice—Bush’s National Security chief—was still grossly uninformed about this matter nine months after the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, Rice tried to deal with her gonzo statement when she appeared before this commission in private. Here’s what Walter Pincus reported in last Friday’s Post:

PINCUS: Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste disclosed this week that Rice had asked, in her private meetings with the commission, to revise a statement she made publicly that “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that those people could have taken an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center…that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.” Rice told the commission that she misspoke; the commission has received information that prior to Sept. 11, U.S. intelligence agencies and Clarke had talked about terrorists using airplanes as missiles.
The icon “misspoke,” for an unexplained reason. For the record, Pincus’ formulation is excessively polite; in fact, U.S. intelligence agencies were repeatedly warned about airplanes-as-weapons in the years before 9/11, as the record makes embarrassingly clear. Let’s state the obvious: No White House in its right mind would want Rice questioned about this in public. Ben-Veniste could make Rice seem like a fool if this session occurred in public. Videotape of such an exchange could play on the networks for weeks.

Why has the White House tried to keep Rice private? One possible answer is obvious: The White House doesn’t want the public to see tape of Rice being asked about her remarkable ignorance. But last night on Scarborough Country, this possibility never occurred to four members of the “liberal press!” And let’s make one more obvious point: In her endless trips around the press corps, no one—no one—has ever asked Rice to explain her groaning misstatement. A real press corps would have asked long ago. But your “press corps” is really a gang of flunkeys. No one has asked Rice about this statement—and no one in the press ever will.

In fact, Rice is a press corps darling; the press would rather eat live worms than challenge her often-embarrassing conduct. Only a fool or a flunkey could fail to see one possible reason for the recent stand-off. But your press corps is spilling with both such groups. How “liberal” does your press seem today?

One last point: Some family members have been dragged out to complain about Richard Clarke’s testimony and book. The White House is playing these people for fools. Clarke is plainly reciting real facts (more tomorrow); with Rice, the White House has tried to keep the truth hidden. But who do these families complain about? Clarke! Alas! Politicians have always played decent people for fools, and—with the help of the “liberal” press—that’s what Bush has perhaps tried to do in the case of his darling, Icon Condi.

JACK BURKMAN, SUBVERSIVE: How corrupt, how vile has your discourse become? After his silly discussion of Rice, Scarborough led a discussion of Richard Clarke. He hosted Jack Burkman, former RNC spokesman. Burkman put his slithery skills on display—and took dead aim at America’s vital interests.

Just how big a slug is Burkman? We shared air time with Jack just this week; afterwards, you always run home to take a quick shower. And last night, it was business as usual. Here’s the sort of scummy man MSNBC is quite eager to broadcast:

BURKMAN: If [Clarke] felt that what he had to say was so darn important that the American people had to hear it because it could be instrumental in preventing another attack, why would he wait two and a half years to say it? If I hold, if you held, if anybody holds information, if their motive is pure, if their motive is to help the people, you would release that information two years ago. You wouldn’t release it now. I don’t know how anybody could look at this and see anything but bad motives, given the timing. And you could say the same thing for Madeleine Albright with her testimony—it was much the same story. I’ll tell you something else about Richard Clarke. I very strongly suspect that he has committed felonies in his testimony by releasing classified information. No one has looked into this. But the things that he cites could only have come—and I bet if you go through this, if the Justice Department goes through the transcripts, you will find several instances, each one of which is a felony, where this guy has committed crimes. And I’ll tell you something else. For a person who served in the Clinton administration, and you remember December 9, 1998, when impeachment was on the Hill and you were there, that team bombed Iraq committing what I argued then, will still argue now was nothing but blatant treason, the use of American military force—he was a part of that.
You get the sense of this slithering man. “All right, Jack, we don‘t want to get off on too many sidetracks here,” Joe Scarborough said.

So you see the kind of slithering thing the RNC sends out on the Land. (Vintage Burkman: “And you could say the same thing for Madeleine Albright!”) Of course, beasts like Burkman have always existed, taking dead aim at America’s discourse. But now we have people like Scarborough—and orgs like MSNBC—who are eager to send these slithering creatures out to subvert your challenged land.

MINOR POINT—CLARKE IS RIGHT: While Burkman was sliming Clarke and Albright, the Times was posting Paul Krugman’s column. Krugman notes something pundits all know to avoid—Clarke is right in his basic assertions:

KRUGMAN: The truth is that among experts, what Mr. Clarke says about Mr. Bush’s terrorism policy isn’t controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources—including “Bush at War,” by Bob Woodward.
Tomorrow, we’ll walk you through the Woodward book to show you how it supports Clarke’s “controversial” statements. Yes, it’s easy to show that, on the merits, Clarke’s assertions are basically accurate. As Krugman explains, that’s why Clarke is now being subjected to slithering things like Jack Burkman:
KRUGMAN: That’s why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination
And your “liberal press corps” plays the game! How many shows have made an effort to list and evaluate Clarke’s real claims? And how many shows have wasted your time on stupid claims about his bank account and his personality? How many scribes have dealt with pure trivia? Latest example: According to Clarke, Miller said, “What can I do?” In fact, he said, “How can I help?”

Yes, Krugman’s own paper is busy today, making a joke of your national discourse. But one last point of praise for The Krug: The scribe rebukes CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for an astonishing bit of misconduct:

KRUGMAN: [J]ournalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke “wants to make a few bucks, and that in his own personal life, they’re also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well.”
Nice work, Wolf! Be sure to make dark insinuations about Clarke’s “weird” personal life! For the record, here’s the slithering exchange, with correspondent John King, from last Wednesday’s Wolf Blitzer Reports:
BLITZER: John, I get the sense not only what Dr. Rice just said to you and other reporters at the White House, but what administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn’t get a certain promotion. He’s got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they’re also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don’t know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president. Is that the sense that you're getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?

KING: None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke's personal life in any way. But they offer a very mixed picture.

Have Bush officials been whispering to Blitzer, suggesting “weird aspects in Clarke’s life as well?” That would hardly be surprising. The White House has slugs like Burkman crawling about, fouling the land and whispering slanders. Blitzer should report what these creatures have said. But that would take courage, and a bit of integrity. Did you think your “liberal press corps” had either?

TOMORROW: Woodward’s book supports Clarke’s assertions. A must-read HOWLER report.

Annals of social promotion

THIS JUST IN FROM LAKE WOBEGON: We know—we owe you installments about “social promotion.” But in this morning’s Times, a reading specialist from Chicago’s schools offers a puzzling report on the subject. According to Marlene Heath, the end of social promotion in Chicago has led to a far brighter day.

But alas! Heath seems to write, not from Chicago, but from the land of the lotus. Here’s her most puzzling passage:

HEATH: I began teaching sixth graders in 1992, and shortly after social promotion ended [in 1995], I began to see students who were much better prepared. This new caliber of students allowed me to do what I should have been able to do all along—teach sixth-grade-level work to all my students. That hadn’t been possible with the two or three nonreaders who had passed each year through my class before.
That passage is deeply bizarre. According to Heath, she teaches in a Chicago school. What is the social profile of her students? “[A]lmost 100 percent [are] living in poverty and many in public housing,” she says. Despite this, what are her sixth-grade classes like? Even before social promotion supposedly ended, all but two or three of her students were able to work at sixth-grade level! As a sixth-grade teacher, she says she had 27 students on sixth-grade level, and two or three who couldn’t read at all.

Only the Times would publish such strangeness. If that’s what Heath’s classes were like before reform, there was almost nothing to reform in the first place! But that’s not the reality of our troubled urban schools. What a shame that the Times doesn’t know it.