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THE LOGIC OF CONTACTS AND RELATIONSHIPS! Suggestive words are being used to keep us confused about Qaeda:

FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004

THE LOGIC OF CONTACTS AND RELATIONSHIPS: So let’s see: Everyone agrees that Iraq and al Qaeda had “contacts.” And everyone agrees that they didn’t “coordinate.” Between those poles, the battle is now being waged. And it’s largely a battle about suggestive words, stewarded by a hapless press corps—a press corps which lacks the skill (and the heart) to straighten such folderol out.

What’s the logic of the present discussion? Yesterday, President Bush replied to the claim that he and his Admin had misstated this matter. Had Bush overstated the Iraq-al Qaeda “tie?” Here’s the start of Deborah Reichmann’s AP report:

REICHMANN: Saddam Hussein had "numerous contacts" with al-Qaida, President Bush said Thursday in disputing the Sept. 11 commission’s finding that the former Iraqi leader had no strong ties to the terrorist network responsible for the attacks.“The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida,” Bush said after meeting with his Cabinet...

“This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaida,” Bush said. “We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with (Osama) bin Laden, the head of al-Qaida, in the Sudan. There’s numerous contacts between the two.”

So according to Bush, the Admin has only been saying this: Saddam and al Qaeda had “a relationship.” And also, there were “numerous contacts” between them.

But the logic of this is quite murky. For example, President Reagan, while in office, had “numerous contacts” with the Soviet Union! Indeed, a “relationship” plainly existed between them! But that doesn’t mean that the CIA should have engaged in a war against Reagan. In fact, Reagan’s “relationship” with the Soviets was adversarial, as was quite clear in their “numerous contacts.” Yep—the fact that two parties have “contacts” and a “relationship” doesn’t tell you what that relationship is. Alas! Bush used slippery terms in yesterday’s statement—terms that seem to say more than they actually do. Did Iraq and al Qaeda have a “relationship?” Yes—but what was the nature of that “relationship?” What actually happened in their “contacts?” These are the questions at issue here. Sadly, your press corps is no more likely to sort this out than camels are likely to dance.

Example: If you want to see a TV entertainer taken for a ride by a skillful pol, read the transcript of last night’s Hardball. Pete Williams served as guest host, and David Dreier (R-CA) played Williams blue. Again, it turned on the use of a well-chosen word; there were “connections” between Saddam and al Qaeda, Dreier induced his host to keep saying. The word “connections” is quite suggestive, but what was the nature of those “connections?” Williams—inept—never asked. Meanwhile, on last night’s O’Reilly Factor, Mr. O was quite hapless too. He discussed the topic with Republican Jim Thompson, one of the 9/11 commissioners. Thompson repeatedly used the suggestive word “ties.” But what was the nature of those “ties?” Mr. O knew not to ask.

Readers, the situation is fairly clear. Everyone knows what the 9/11 commission reported, and spinners are trying to keep Americans from getting these matters too clear in their heads. The commission said that, while there were “contacts” between Iraq and al Qaeda, there was no “collaborative relationship”—they didn’t work together. In fact, when bin Laden asked for help (in 1994), Saddam didn’t go there, the commission has said. But what do American voters think? American voters are clueless, as always. More than half the American people still think Saddam was behind 9/11. The public is completely misinformed on this point—and the deceptions continue apace.

In this morning’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank takes a look at some of the things the Admin has said. Milbank seems to know what grinning TV hosts do not—that this turns on the logic of “contacts:”

MILBANK: Beyond the Sept. 11 attacks, administration officials have also suggested that there had been cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda that went beyond contacts. Bush last year called Hussein “an ally of al Qaeda.” Just this Monday, Cheney said Hussein “had long-established ties with al Qaeda.”
Was Saddam “an ally” of al Qaeda? That goes well beyond the claim of “contacts.” And, of course, it contradicts what the 9/11 commission now says it has found.

Milbank mentions other things that Bush and Cheney have said (text below). But this discussion will continue to turn on the logic of well-chosen words. Remember—Reagan had “links” and “ties” to the Soviets. But the logic of “links” and “ties”—and “relationships”—is now being used to keep voters misled. Very few pundits have the skill—or the heart—to straighten this folderol out.

MORE FROM MILBANK: Here’s something Cheney recently said about Iraq and al Qaeda:

MILBANK: In January, Cheney said the “best source” of information on the subject was an article in the Weekly Standard, which reported: “Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda—perhaps even for Mohamed Atta—according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum.”
What’s the truth about Iraq and al Qaeda? We aren’t experts here at THE HOWLER. But Cheney seemed to vouch for the claim that Saddam and al Qaeda had an “operational relationship.” Just this week, the 9/11 commission said they had no “collaborative relationship.” Yes, those claims seem to be at odds. That’s why spinners will spread mass confusion.

HANNITY CROSSES THE ALPS: On Wednesday, Bill Press got hammered by Sean Hannity—and last night, it happened again. David Corn was on Hannity & Colmes to discuss the Iraq/al Qaeda “link” issue. But Corn got sidetracked onto something tangential—and Hannity ate him for lunch.

The issue: Did George Bush “lie” before the war when he said Iraq had WMD? Early on in his segment—still talking to Alan—Corn referred to these statements as “lies.” When his turn came, Hannity moved in for the kill—a kill that was quick and quite easy. Within moments, Corn was admitting that Kerry and Clinton also said that Saddam had WMD. Here’s the final thrust of the conqueror’s sword. Keep children at a safe distance:

HANNITY: Answer my question! Answer it! Why do you only call one person a liar?

CORN: Well, he happens to be president of the United States. He happens to be the person who launched a war based on this justification. John Kerry, Bill Clinton—

HANNITY: Are you going to vote for Kerry?

CORN: Whatever John Kerry and Bill Clinton said about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, neither one of them ever advocated a war—

HANNITY: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! But you’re going to vote for a guy that said the same thing—you can’t see your hypocrisy! You’re going to vote for a guy that said the same thing you’re telling us is a lie!

No, it never got any better. Hannity ate Corn for lunch; spat him back out; then dragged his remains around Alan’s chair. Indeed, he had done the same thing to Press one night earlier—on the very same topic, no less!

Readers, can this be the best liberal spokesmen can do? If so, skilled talk-show cons will eat them for lunch, as Sean did with Corn and with Press.

ANOTHER VICTIM: For the record, Hannity also massacred Princeton professor Jim Cavallaro last night. Cavallaro has signed a petition urging impeachment for those who helped formulate Abu Ghraib policy. But uh-oh! Hannity got the professor to say that FDR was the last century’s greatest president, then asked him if he has ever written about FDR and the internent of Japanese. Uh-oh! Cavallaro had volunteered FDR’s name, but had apparently never given a thought to the topic Hannity raised. Hannity added his skull to the pile. Is this really the best liberals can do when they show up for public discussion? (Solution: When Hannity asked for the century’s top prez, the answer was clear: No opinion. That’s not what I came to discuss.)

From the annals of endless deception

MR. GREEN’S GENES: And then—Oh, heavens to Betsy! Good Lord!—there’s Joshua Green of Atlantic Monthly. Readers, you know the way your Potemkin pundits like to recite their Approved Scripted Stories. In the last two issues of the Monthly, Green has told Scripted Tales about Gore. Do words exist for “people” this fake? We’ll report, and then tell you: They do not.

In the Monthly’s June issue, Green pretended to be concerned about the negativity of White House elections. Readers, strap yourselves into your chairs. This really is how he began:

GREEN (pgh 1): As voters turn election, an abiding question from the previous one frustrates Democrats: How is it, they wonder, that Al Gore told small fibs and was branded a liar while George W. Bush told big ones and was elected President? Gore's many exaggerations may have been foolish—that he had somehow invented the Internet, that he grew up on a Tennessee farm, and so on. But surely, this line of thinking goes, they paled alongside Bush's audacious claim that he could cut taxes by $1.3 trillion, effortlessly privatize Social Security, and still balance the budget.
Let’s start by answering Green’s (fatuous) question.. How did Gore get branded a liar? Easy! Because Green’s colleagues kept reciting phony claims about Gore and looking away when Bush told real whoppers. Green knows this, of course, but prefers to play dumb. Meanwhile, how do we know that a scribe would tell tales about Gore? Well, just look at Green’s opening paragraph!!

Good God! Ignore “invented the Internet” for a moment and try to believe that Green is still bruiting Al-Gore-and-the-farm! This refers to a phony flap the press gimmicked up in March 1999, when their War Against Gore was just getting started. As everyone in the press corps knew, Gore had grown up in Washington and in Tennessee, where he spent four months of every year on the family’s farm. And yes, Gore had to work on that farm. When Bill Turque’s bio of Gore appeared, here’s part of the way he described it:

TURQUE (pages 32-33): For parts of virtually every summer through high school, Gore worked with the farmhands and was often assigned an extra project assigned by his father...Even the local kids, who might have enjoyed watching a city slicker sweat some, were appalled at how hard Gore was worked. “It was horrendous,” said one woman who knew him well as a teenager...“Al’s father would just work the dickens out of him,” said Mark Gore, one of Cousin Grady’s grandsons.
In fact, this part of Gore’s life had been widely described ever since his 1988 run for the White House. Every Washington scribe knew about it. But in the spring of 1999, the press was upset by Bill Clinton’s ten blow jobs, and they began to stage a War Against Gore—even pretending, for a few months, that Gore had lied to Iowa farmers when he said he had worked as a kid on his family’s farm. This claim against Gore was so totally fake that, amazingly, even the press corps abandoned it; after June 1999, only the kookiest of the kooky-con right ever referred to this nonsense again. But readers, there’s Green, five years later, again reciting the abandoned canard! Let’s face it: Such people will never stop lying about your leaders, as long as the pleasing tale they recite suits the tastes of the ruling press elite.

But beyond that, try to believe it! That Green still peddles the worn-out idea that Gore said he “invented the Internet!” Yes, people like Green pushed this fake, phony tale all through Campaign 2000—but since then, even scribes have begun to admit that this tale is fake, phony, unfair. No, Gore never said he “invented the Internet,” and what he did say was perfectly sensible (link below). But try to believe the silly “reply” Green penned when someone wrote Atlantic and said so. This is from the July/August issue:

Gore and the Internet

Joshua Green (“Playing Dirty,” June Atlantic) focuses on politicians’ use of factual material or innuendo, but begins his story by repeating something that very simply and unarguably is false: he refers to what he calls “[Al] Gore’s many exaggerations, including one “that he had somehow invented the Internet.” Gore never said or implied that.
Stan Kurzban
Chappaque, N.Y.

Joshua Green replies:
Nonsense. Gore’s saying that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet” is akin to my suggesting that because I paid my taxes I took the initiative in balancing the federal budget—a considerable exaggeration.

That may be the stupidest thing we’ve ever seen in print. In our lives.

Readers, let’s examine Green’s deathless comparison. Did Green “take the initiative in balancing the budget? In fact, he’s one of a hundred million tax-payers! But as everyone has always known, Gore was the key leader, within the Congress, in creating what we now call the Internet. For example, here’s what Newt Gingrich said about this as Election 2000 approached:

GINGRICH (9/1/00): In all fairness, it’s something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.
Biographer David Maraniss had already said something similar. “Gore really was instrumental in developing the Internet,” he told Howard Kurtz in August 2000. “He was the one congressman who understood the whole thing in the ’70s.” What did Gore do to develop the Net? Back in March 1999, James Brosnan of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal summarized some of Gore’s work in the area. He began by quoting various Internet honchos describing Gore’s leadership role. (Mike Roberts of ICANN: “[Gore] had the major inside-the-Beltway role in turning the Internet from a research tool into something pointed squarely to education and the economy at large.”) Go ahead, read that again, Dear Readers; Gore had “the major inside-the Beltway role.” Then Brosnan listed some of Gore’s work in the Congress:
BROSNAN: In 1973, Kahn and Vinton Cerf, a Stanford researcher, sketched out a design for the Internet. Cerf would later design the Internet protocol TCP (Transmission Control Program).

Gore, who chaired the Senate Commerce science subcommittee, passed the legislation that created five super-computer centers in 1986. That in turn led to National Science Foundation grant money to link the centers to other universities through NSFNET.

Doug Van Howeling, who ran NSFNET and who now heads the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, said Gore tracked the advances.“He would invite a leading scientist and just spend a good part of the day talking to him,” said Van Howeling.

In 1990, Gore made speeches about taking the Internet beyond scientific research [i.e., to make it what it is now].

“If we had the information superhighways we need, a schoolchild could plug into the Library of Congress every afternoon and explore a universe of knowledge jumping from one subject to another, according to the curiosity of the moment," said Gore. [This was a novel idea at the time.]

In 1991, Gore helped pass legislation to create a high-speed National Research and Education Network, but it took two other developments to make the Internet what it is today...

It’s absurd to think that Green doesn’t know this. But in his “reply,” he baldly deceives the Atlantic’s readers, saying he played the same role in balancing the budget that Gore played in creating the Net! This is utterly stupid and baldly false, and it’s absurd to think that Green doesn’t know it. For the record, Cullen Murphy is the “Managing Editor” who puts such consummate garbage into print. Will the time ever come when we tell these men that they have to stop lying about our leaders? Will the time ever come when we tell the Greens that they have to stop Telling Their Tales?

No, Gore didn’t say he invented the Internet. What he did say (Green clips his comment) was slightly clumsy, but perfectly reasonable (link below). In fact, everyone always knew that Gore was the leader within the Congress (what he had said) in creating what we now call the Net. But Green and his cohort just love their tall tales, and they’ll never—repeat, never—stop reciting them.

For the record, Green isn’t some sort of kooky con; in fact, he’s one of those “good guys” career pseudo-journalists about whose self-dealing we have long warned you. During Campaign 2000, in fact, he was writing for the American Prospect, a “liberal” publication which sat on its hands while the tales about Gore were recited. (He also wrote for the Washington Monthly, whose April 2000 cover story debunked the foolish tales about Gore.) Now he works at the august Atlantic, where he peddles political porn of the type we’ve produced. It’s hard to know what a nation can do when such a priesthood stewards its discourse.

By the way, a closing question: Why do you only hear from THE HOWLER about scribes of low caliber like Green? Readers, why don’t you write to Marshall, Alterman, Drum and Brock and ask if it’s OK with them when garbage like this keeps getting printed? Frankly, we’re tired of pointing these matters out while the web’s career typists look away, behaving fraternally as colleagues trash your interests and make an ongoing joke of your lives. And no, we aren’t kidding—we really do mean it. Ask them directly why they never seem to speak up about garbage like this. Why do they happily beat up on cons, but stand by silent when it comes to the Greens? They and their publications sat silently by while the War Against Gore put George Bush in the White House. Don’t you ever want to ask why they’re so mild, even now?

Meanwhile, try to believe that he said it! Al Gore fibbed about life on the farm! Al Gore said he invented the Internet! And—incredibly—Al Gore helped create the Net the same way I, Joshus Green, helped balance the budget!! What can it mean when such perfect clowns are allowed to steward the American discourse? It means that such scribes get to lead easy lives—while a sick joke is made of your interests.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? To read the things that every scribe knows, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02.