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ICON CONDI CONNED! Why was a brilliant icon fooled? Those palaces just looked so swanky:


CONDI MISUNDERESTIMATES: Is anyone more clueless than Condi Rice—or more immune to press criticism? In this morning’s Washington Post, Al Kamen relates her latest groaner. According to Kamen, Rice told a British reporter that the Bush Admin had “underestimated…how really awful Saddam Hussein was to his own people.” That may seem a bit surprising. But here’s how it happened, Rice said:

KAMEN: “I know it’s hard to believe that you could underestimate that,” Rice said. “But when you look at an infrastructure that looked gleaming, if you looked at pictures of Baghdad—but when you think about it, it was pictures of presidential palaces—and you look instead at the living conditions of people in Basra or in Sadr City; if you look at the fact that the electrical power grid was serving really only 50 percent of the country; if you look at the fact that there were large parts of the country with no sewage, yes, this is a hard task.”
Maybe Kamen is making this up. Maybe it’s April Fool in September. Because no one could believe that Rice really said this. No one could believe that Rice seemed to say that she and the Bush Admin based their ideas on how pretty the palaces looked.

No one could believe that Rice really said it—unless they considered the icon’s past statements. After September 11, Rice said that no one could have imagined airplanes being deliberately flown into buildings. (There were long-standings security warnings about that.) When the flap about the uranium-from-Africa broke, the White House explained that Rice hadn’t completely read the National Intelligence Estimate in which the State Department’s doubts were expressed. (Once the heat was off, Rice changed the story, saying that she had read the crucial report.) Now we’re told—unless Kamen is joking—that Rice was misled in pre-war planning by the fact that the palaces were so big and shiny. Reminder: This is the National Security Adviser of an Admin which has been praised for its great, brilliant competence.

But Condi Rice is a press corps untouchable. Last Sunday, she appeared on Fox News Sunday and Late Edition—and once again, she wasn’t asked whether she read that NIE. (Translation: She will never be asked.) Nor has she ever been asked why she said that those aluminum tubes could only be used for nukes. (Late Edition, 9/8/02. In the Ackerman/Judis TNR piece, this is one of the rare statements to which the word “lie” was applied.) In fact, as Gwen Ifill proved when she interviewed Rice, Condi Rice will be asked nothing. Condi Rice is a press corps untouchable. To all appearances, nothing she says can be so strange as to call the Gwen Ifills to action.

Condi Rice is a press corps princess, staring up at the big, gleaming palace.

And oh yes, one other thing. Condi Rice is Gwen Ifill’s pal. On and off the NewsHour set, Condi loves Gwen Ifill’s home cookin’. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/11/03, with links to earlier HOWLERS.

ICONIC SCRIPTS: For the record, Rice made a similar statement on Monday’s Sean Hannity show:

RICE: In fact, what we really underestimated was how brutal Saddam Hussein was to his own people. It’s hard to imagine that you could underestimate that. But when you look at how he really just undermined the mentality of the people so that it was a traumatized population, when you look at the fact that he had a system that was so mismanaged that the country really only had about 50 percent of the electrical power that it actually needed. You know, back then it looked like a gleaming city, but this was really a third- or a fourth-world country because he was using all of the resources of the country to build weapons of mass destruction and to build palaces for himself. So of course, we probably underestimated how much damage he really had done to the society.
“So of course” we underestimated, Icon-C said. In this Admin—famed for its competence—blundering is now just assumed.

REMEMBERING THE DISAPPEARED: Here at THE HOWLER, we think that certain important historical events really must be preserved. Let’s get specific: The Washington press corps is working hard to disappear the 2000 White House campaign. That’s why we salute Tucker Carlson. On Saturday’s Reliable Sources, Carlson did a rare thing. He told the truth about the press corps’ conduct in that campaign:

HOWARD KURTZ: No story line for the press side, that is terrible, Tucker. How did the media magically decide that [John] Kerry is struggling, sinking, tanking, you know, five months before anyone gets to vote?

CARLSON: Yes. I don’t know how I wound up in the role as Kerry defender, but that’s kind of how I feel. I think the press sees him as Al Gore, essentially. There was a huge amount of hostility, personal hostility from otherwise liberal political reporters directed at Al Gore

KURTZ: And you’re saying they just don't like John Kerry.

CARLSON: They just don’t like him. I mean, the Boston Globe, which has got to be the most liberal paper in the country, certainly the most annoying, has actually I think been really tough on John Kerry. They did this piece implying he’s hiding the fact he’s Jewish, completely unfair piece. It’s hard to imagine that they would do that to anyone else. I think people have a bias and the press have a bias against John Kerry. It’s amazing to watch.

Carlson is right about the Globe’s work on Kerry. More importantly, he joins the stragglers who began speaking up (last summer) about the trashing handed to Gore. Two years late—the coast now clear—they began to describe their cohort’s misconduct. Carlson joined their number last weekend. (We will, of course, offer one comment to Carlson. If these journalists trashed Gore—and if they’ve also trashed Kerry—there’s a very good chance that, whatever they are, they shouldn’t be listed as “liberals.”)

For the record, we’ve received a few e-mails expressing surprise at Carlson’s statement. Let us remind you of his past service. Flash back to October 4, 2000—one day after the first Bush-Gore debate. To his vast credit, Carlson went on CNN that day and made a startling but obvious statement; he said that Washington’s pundits were refusing to say how badly they thought Bush had done in the forum. At least three other pundits made the same observation, but Carlson—as a movement conservative—does deserve a great deal of credit for his comment, which was made in real time.

At any rate, the Washington press corps is very eager to let memories of Campaign 2000 fade away. Carlson does a major service by recalling what actually happened. The press doesn’t want you to know what it did—doesn’t want you to know it put Bush in the White House. The press wants its conduct disappeared. Saturday, Carlson remembered.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: On October 4, 2000, four major pundits agreed: The Washington press corps was blatantly faking as it reviewed the first Bush-Gore debate. To read what Carlson and Chris Matthews said, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/1/02. For the record, the New York Times’ Frank Bruni was one of the fakers. See that same DAILY HOWLER.

Also: How hard did the press corps work to trash hated Gore? On December 24, 1999—Christmas Eve—Kamen devoted his WashPost column to trashing the Gore family’s Christmas card. You guessed it: The Christmas card showed Gore was a phony. Make sure you have your barf bag ready. Then see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/24/99.