Update [2005-5-13 16:52:39 by Congressman John Conyers]:
4:45p: Many are asking what they can do to help move this forward. Some Dailykos readers have commented below that they have set up a website
for activism. This is exactly what I had in mind and I congratulate them for it.
In the meantime, I am submitting a substantial op-ed on this to the major newspapers. So far, my press secretary advises me that the NY Times has declined to run it and the Washington Post seems less thaN enthusiastic. I must admit to being puzzled about this apparent blackout on this issue.
Concerning the Post story today, I have learned that -- despite my staff's frequent calls to the Post asking them to cover this story and letting them know I would make time to talk to them about it, the reporter -- Walter Pincus -- was apparently never advised that 90 Members had written a letter on this. Again, Mr. Pincus is a tremendous reporter and this confirms what I originally thought -- had he known about the letter, he would have at least given it a mention.
[END OF UPDATE]
This morning, several newspapers pick up the Downing Street Memo story. Two of three largely miss the point. Strangely, the best story and one of the two mediocre ones share the same byline. I'll explain below.
First, the best -- the San Francisco Chronicle. In a story with the byline of Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, with an additional note that "The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report," the story quickly hits the two most important points (1) that the document shows intentionally manipulated intelligence and (2) that, despite representations to the contrary, the Bush Administration was hell bent on war. It describes the uproar the memo created in Great Britain in the lead up to its elections, which blew over after the elections. It notes that 89 Democrats have asked for answers about this and that the British government has not disputed the authenticity of the document. You get the picture. There is a lot there that places this story in its proper context. The story is on page A-1, according to the website.
Second, under the same byline, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, on page A-18, is an article that does a fairly straightforward job of reviewing the contents of the memo, but utterly lacks context. First, the headline, which I have been told the reporter frequently has no control over, "British Intelligence Warned Blair of War,
Prime Minister Was Told of White House's Resolve to Use Military Against Hussein." That's not exactly the point is it? The point is that if the British account of what US officials were telling them is accurate, then the same officials were lying to the American people -- about their intentions with to go to war, and about Iraq's (nonexistent) WMD capabilities. The story itself fails to make the same point. And, while the story provides some useful context about past investigations, it fails to mention that there is an ongoing one, requested in a letter by 90 Members of Congress. The letter, had it been mentioned, would have provided the missing context. Alternatively, a recounting of the contemporaneous statements of Bush officials that are contradicted by the document would have worked well.
Walter Pincus is an exceptional reporter and he has a typically rigorous and interesting piece, unrelated to this matter, on page A-4 of the paper. I am speculating here, but it is almost as if an editor threw him the Downing Street story as the last item of his to-do list and a not very big deal, and it was reported accordingly. The contrast between the reporting in his two stories could not be more stark.
Now to the worst -- the Minneapolis Star Tribune, not a great piece. First, the headline "U.S. anger over war memo is slight." Really? According to the piece -- while "[l]iberal web logs have buzzed for days" about this matter, quoting a local academic for substantiation, it is reported that "[m]ost Americans are focused on seeking positive outcomes from the war, not reason to blame the Bush administration for starting it."
Then, the ho-hum comes:
"It is not surprising, Pike said, that the new report has drawn little attention in the United States, where Bush was reelected even while polling found that half the electorate believed Bush either lied or deliberately exaggerated evidence to justify going to war.
'I didn't think anybody felt there was a need for more smoking guns," Pike said. 'Didn't we already know that?'"
I knew it, but I don't recall that being reported in the Star Tribune before and check out the polling on Iraq and Al Qaeda and WMD to find out what a significant portion of the public, with the misreporting and lack of follow up of the national news media, "knows" about Iraq.
In an interesting interview on Salon.com, the outgoing ombudsman for the New York Times, Daniel Okrent, is asked about its paper's WMD coverage. The most pertinent excerpt:
"[Interviewer:] You wrote: "The editors' note to readers will have served its apparent function only if it launches a new round ... of aggressively reported stories detailing the misinformation, disinformation and suspect analysis that led virtually the entire world to believe Hussein had W.M.D. at his disposal." A year later, do you think the Times follow-up reporting has been up to that standard?
[Okrent]: There was one really good long piece by Michael Gordon. But I don't think it was enough. I think they could have done more."
Where is the Times story about this?
With notable exceptions, aren't we owed more from the Fourth Estate? You are the consumers of news and, whether you agree with my assessments or not, you should let these news outlets know what you think of their coverage.
I expect to say much much more about this in a public forum soon.
Also posted at www.conyersblog.us