Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

RICE UNDER OATH (PART 3)! Bush had been warned about possible hijacks. Rice knew she couldn’t admit it:


SCHEDULE: Sorry—we’ll postpone discussion of those press conference questions till tomorrow. This morning, Jim Rutenberg pushed to the front of the line.

JIM RUTENBERG’S NO-NAME OFFENSE: Jim Rutenberg has his knickers knotted about those 9/11 commissioners. On the front page of today’s New York Times, the gentleman details their crimes:

RUTENBERG: Democrats and Republicans alike have raised concerns about the degree to which commission members are discussing their deliberations on television and, even, in newspaper columns—to the point that they are spinning their views like the politicians that many of them are.
Yikes! According to Rutenberg, the commissioners are “spinning their views” on TV—behaving “like the pols they are.” And you know that the scribe’s critique is fair. After all, “Democrats and Republicans alike” have been making the troubling charge.

But there’s only one problem with Rutenberg’s piece, which stretches to almost 1400 words. He doesn’t cite a single Democrat who has made this complaint about the conduct of the commissioners! And this is hardly a major surprise, since the complaint which Rutenberg describes is a current Republican spin-point.

Readers, go ahead—read right through this lengthy piece in search of a single Democrat! Rutenberg claims that such people are all over DC—but he fails to cite even one. He quotes Senators Arlen Specter (Republican, Pennsylvania) and Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky). He quotes a TV commentator, conservative Tucker Carlson (Republican, CNN). But he never cites a single Democrat, either by name or on background. And the reason for that is fairly clear. Late in the piece, he finally touches on the obvious—he’s discussing a conservative talking-point:

RUTENBERG: The Sept. 11 commission has come under attack from conservatives in the last two weeks, in particular, for what they say has been undue criticism of the Bush administration. Those assertions concern more than the members’ public appearances; they take issue with the members' questioning of witnesses.
Duh! In the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that the commission will find fault with Bush’s flawless performance. As this has happened, conservative spokesmen have begun to attack the commission as a self-serving, partisan enterprise. The claim of partisanship is especially odd; the commission is equally split among Reps and Dems and the commissioner, Thomas Kean, was selected by Bush himself. But no matter! Criticism of the commission’s conduct has become a widespread conservative line. Rutenberg, though, has a better idea. He says the criticism is coming from “Democrats and Republicans alike.” But he forgets to name even one Dem who has put forth the complaint he describes.

Incredibly, this is the second time in the past three days that Rutenberg has played this silly game. On Tuesday, he published a front-page report about Bill Clinton’s troubling book. Here’s how that piece began:

RUTENBERG: As Bill Clinton seeks to finish his memoirs, leading Democrats are voicing concern that the book could overshadow Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign, diverting attention to Mr. Clinton’s outsize legacy of scandal and achievement.
And that wasn’t all. “Many Democrats said they wanted the book published as far as possible before the election,” the scribe said. “They fear that the book will embolden Mr. Clinton’s foes to turn out and vote for President Bush.

Wow! “Many Democrats” were on Clinton’s ass. Indeed, “leading Democrats” were voicing concern. But just who were these leading Democrats? In the course of a 1500-word piece, Rutenberg failed to quote even one! He didn’t quote any Dem by name. He didn’t quote any Dem on background. And he pulls the same silly trick today, about a more serious subject.

We’ve told you this for many years—the New York Times is your country’s worst newspaper. The Times has been deeply dysfunctional for years—and Rutenberg seems at pains to prove it. Today, he takes a piece of RNC spin and pretends that Dems are pushing it too! Meanwhile, who puts this clowning into print? He has a name; you should know it. Bill Keller.

YOU JUST CAN’T GET THIS STUPID: Could Rutenberg possibly be this dumb? Midway through this morning’s piece, he notes a blindingly obvious fact—TV producers are happy to book commissioners. He quotes a CNN producer to that effect—then expresses surprise about Carlson:

RUTENBERG: Such accessibility has come to the delight of news producers. “It’s refreshing that the principals in a really important moment in American history are available, and they're usually not,” said David Bohrman, the CNN Washington bureau chief.
Yet even one of CNN's commentators, the conservative Tucker Carlson, cited on “Crossfire” on Wednesday what he said were Mr. Ben-Veniste’s appearances on at least six programs over the course of the last five days and said, “He’s destroying the credibility of these proceedings.”
Wow! Even that! Can Rutenberg possibly be this dumb? He expresses surprise that Carlson, a conservative pundit (not a producer), is voicing common conservative spin. Can Rutenberg possibly be this dumb? Someone should ask Mr. Keller.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: When last we looked in on the hapless Rutenberg, he took a puzzling claim in a Bush TV ad and rewrote it, making it seem more reasonable. (To his credit, he didn’t pretend that Dems were saying it!) Can Rutenberg possibly be this compliant? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/26/04.

From the annals of Rice under oath

RICE UNDER OATH (PART 3): Last Thursday, Condi Rice testified, under oath, before the 9/11 commission. After she made her opening statement, Richard Ben-Veniste questioned her about that August 6 PDB (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/13/04). In retrospect, it’s plain that Rice didn’t want to mention one part of that PDB. One part of its text was toxic. We’ll help you pick it out:

PRESIDENTIAL BRIEF, 8/6/01: (pgh 7) Al Qaeda members—including some who are U.S. citizens—have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks….

(9) We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [REDACTED] service in 1998 saying that bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

(10) Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

(11) The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of bin Laden supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

Duh! On August 6, 2001, Bush was told about “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.” And five weeks later, four planes were hijacked! If you were president, would you want to broadcast the fact that you had been warned about hijackings? Not likely—and it seems fairly clear, from Rice’s testimony, that she didn’t want to mention it either. Result? When questioned about the PDB, Rice made a joke of her oath.

Rice didn’t want to mention that warning. Indeed, the pattern begins in her opening statement. As we saw in Tuesday’s HOWLER, Rice mentioned the “historic” 1998 hijack threat, the one found in paragraph 9 (see above). But she failed to mention the ongoing threats mentioned in paragraph 10. And when Ben-Veniste asked her, several times, about that language from paragraph 10, Rice evaded his questions for all she was worth. Ben-Veniste rephrased his question several times. Here was his final attempt:

BEN-VENISTE: I am asking you whether it is not the case that you learned in the PDB memo of August 6th that the FBI was saying that it had information suggesting that preparations—not historically, but ongoing, along with these numerous full-field investigations against al Qaeda cells—that preparations were being made consistent with hijackings within the United States.
Ben-Veniste used the language of the PDB itself. The answer to his question was simple: Yes. But here’s how Rice honored her oath—the oath to “tell the whole truth:”
RICE: May I address the question, sir? The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president’s questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by al Qaeda inside the United States. He asked because all of the threat reporting, or the threat reporting that was actionable, was about the threats abroad, not about the United States.

This particular PDB had a long section on what bin Laden had wanted to do—speculative, much of it—in ’97, ’98, that he had in fact liked the results of the 1993 bombing. It had a number of discussions of—it had a discussion of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held in the United States, Ressam. It reported that the FBI had full field investigations underway. And we checked on the issue of whether or not there was something going on with surveillance of buildings, and we were told, I believe, that the issue was the courthouse in which this might take place.

Commissioner, this was not a warning. This was a historic memo—historical memo prepared by the agency because the president was asking questions about what we knew about the inside.

How did she answer this bone-simple question? She refused to respond to what she’d been asked; talked about things she hadn’t been asked, then said the PDB “was not a warning.” And remember: When Rice gave Ben-Veniste this “answer,” the PDB was a classified document. American citizens had no way to know how phony her “answers” had been.

Yep—Rice was making a joke of her oath. Ben-Veniste knew this, of course, but the PDB’s classification meant that he couldn’t openly quote the document. But two days later, guess what happened? The White House released the text of the Daily Brief. Finally, everyone could see how fake Rice’s answers had been.

But the Washington press corps averted its gaze from the matter of Rice’s failed oath. No one said that she persistently failed to answer those bone-simple questions. Indeed, something very different occurred. On Sunday morning, pundits hammered Ben-Veniste for daring to question Rice as he’d done! Rice had make a joke of her oath—some will even say that she lied. But Ben-Veniste did something far worse—he dared to question a Washington Icon. So Washington’s pundits came down on his head—and gave Darling Condi her pass.

TOMORROW: Hammering the guy who was right