Since its inception a few short months ago, Politico, the online soul-mate to the Drudge Report, has gotten into the habit of creating news stories through innuendo, omission, outright error, and now today, out of thin air.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "incompetent" during an interview Tuesday with a group of liberal bloggers, a comment that was never reported.
Reid made similar disparaging remarks about Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said several sources familiar with the interview.
Of course the reason this comment was never reported is quite simple: the bloggers on the call don't remember this quote. I, along with mcjoan and Kagro X, participated in that conference call and none of us heard Reid say it. And of the four other bloggers who were there, Joe and John from AMERICAblog and Jonathon Singer, have no recollection of it. What's more, Politico's John Bresnahan attributes the quote to "several sources familiar with the interview." None of us was contacted by Politico, so who exactly comprises the "several" people they talked to? They're not saying.
The only incompetence any of us remember being discussed was that of George Bush's disastrous Iraq policy. But no one can argue with that, and as the clamor to end the war becomes a roar, and with the upcoming fights to force George Bush and his Republican enablers to listen to the American people, demonizing Democrats has become the prime objective. So a controversy is created that has the Democratic Senate Majority Leader disparaging the military. And when you want a negative story about Democrats to make the rounds, who better to call than Politico?
And since Politico "broke" this news, just as it happened when they created the "slow bleed" story that was immediately picked up by every conservative publication and prominent Republican, the alleged remarks by Reid are being used to paint Reid as an anti-military surrender monkey. John McCain has called Reid's alleged remark "highly inappropriate, Wolf Blitzer is breathlessly reporting that Reid "bashed" the military, and this is how Tony Snow began today's White House press briefing:
We are a little bit concerned about some reports on the Internet that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a conversation with liberal bloggers, had referred to General Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as incompetent, and apparently, again according to the reports, had said disparaging things also about General David Petraeus. We certainly hope it's not true, because in a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man who is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq.
Indeed, Senator Reid has, at some point, declared the war lost, and also has declared the surge a failure, even though it has not yet been fully enacted. I don't know if it's true or not. If it is true, I certainly hope he does apologize.
Q How come you didn't wait to find out? Why the preemptive strike?
MR. SNOW: Well, I just think it's appropriate to comment on it.
Q Whether or not it's true?
Q That things are outrageous, but you don't know whether they are or not they are true.
MR. SNOW: Well, do you trust the Politico? I don't know. We'll give a call, but --
Q You never like to comment on things that we hear --
Q -- but you say are hypothetical.
MR. SNOW: You got me.
Yes, Mr. Snow, they got you. And you've got Politico. It seems that this newest mouthpiece for the Republican Party is, again, just making it up.
And of course if anyone wants to argue that the two Generals are competent, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Update: Well, it seems that Reid did say Pace was incompetent. He said to Pace's face. From Bob Geiger, the seventh blogger on the call:
I was on that call. And let me explain to The Politico why I did not report on it.
It's because those of us who actually participated in the conference call heard the context in which Senator Reid made his comments. What he said about Pace was not said in the spirit of throwing some rhetorical red meat to a bunch of liberal bloggers by gratuitously bashing General Pace -- which is certainly what one could infer from The Politicos "reporting" on this story.
Rather, Reid was talking informally about George W. Bush's refusal to dump Alberto Gonzales and told us what he said to Pace in a private meeting before Bush tossed aside the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff like a rotting fish.
Here's exactly what Reid said:
"I guess the president, uh, he's gotten rid of Pace because he could not get him confirmed here in the Senate... Pace is also a yes-man for the president and I told him to his face, I laid it out to him last time he came to see me, I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was."
A throw away line that was so unremarkable that none of us remembered or reported it, yet Politico attributes it to "several sources," and claims that:
This is but the latest example of how Reid, under pressure from liberal activists to do more to stop the war, is going on the attack against President Bush and his military leaders...
No, it was something that Harry Reid said to the unable-to-be-reconfirmed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's face. But Politico and the White House describe it as red meat for "liberal activists."