February 08, 2004

Where was the press?

From Campaign Desk comes this link to the New York Review of Books' analysis of pre-war press coverage; it's not a pretty thing.

In the period before the war, US journalists were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration. Those with dissenting views—and there were more than a few—were shut out. Reflecting this, the coverage was highly deferential to the White House. This was especially apparent on the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction— the heart of the President's case for war. Despite abundant evidence of the administration's brazen misuse of intelligence in this matter, the press repeatedly let officials get away with it. As journalists rush to chronicle the administration's failings on Iraq, they should pay some attention to their own.

Why did the press willingly go along with the Administration's claims? "In a city where access is all, few wanted to risk losing it." Here's a telling point from near the end of the story:

If nothing else, the Iraq saga should cause journalists to examine the breadth of their sources. "One question worth asking," John Walcott of Knight Ridder says, "is whether we in journalism have become too reliant on high-level officials instead of cultivating less glamorous people in the bowels of the bureaucracy. "In the case of Iraq, he added, the political appointees "really closed ranks. So if you relied exclusively on traditional news sources—assistant secretaries and above—you would not have heard things we heard."

Among many other interesting items, there's this, which should be a caution to those who wish to fall upon David Kay's neck in relief after his recent resignation amid negative results from his work:

According to the IAEA, his background in nuclear and weapons matters was very limited—he has a Ph.D. in international affairs—and he spent no more than five weeks as an inspector in Iraq in 1991. This was far less time—and far longer ago—than was the case for many other inspectors.

That implies that Kay's pre-war ability to judge WMD existence was suspect, so perhaps his post-war ability is equally suspect. He's had ample time and money to search since the invasion, so it's easy to assume that his post-war knowledge is greater than that he had last year at this time, but it raises questions, at least for me. No doubt the spinmeisters at the White House will also notice that quote from the IAEA.

Posted by Linkmeister at February 8, 2004 03:03 PM

Great minds!

I just blogged about the Tim Russert interview with Bush, and at almost every step, he's invoking the name of David Kay as a shield to deflect criticism. My jaw hit the floor when I read the bit about Kay's credentials and reliability. Trust that this will be linked back to when I calm down enough to rant intelligently about it all. ;)

Posted by: Fox at February 9, 2004 08:57 AM

The spin doctors in the White House are going to paint him to look like a rose no matter how bad he may smell in the end. It isn't about our nation or our troops or our foriegn policy right now. It is all about three simple words: four more years.

That is all that G.W. and his boys really seem to care about right now. Economy's great! (Where are the jobs?) We caught Sadam! (Where is Osama?) We have freed the Iraqi people! (Where are the weapons and why did you lie?)

So, ignore what you read in the 'liberal media', things are going great. Please, keep your head down and take your place in line....

Posted by: paz at February 9, 2004 10:28 AM