Balkinization  

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Missing the Forest for a Single, Immaterial Tree

Marty Lederman

This is actually quite humorous. The White House has been extremely reluctant to say anything at all about the CIA tapes scandal -- except that the President knew nothing about the tapes -- for a couple of weeks now. But today's New York Times story prompted an immediate, impassioned official response, which you can read here.

The Times story, as you'll recall, explained that there was plenty of discussion about the tapes' possible destruction at the White House, and that the highest ranking attorneys in the White House either insinuated to the CIA that the tapes should be destroyed or gave tepid and equivocal advice that the tapes be retained, without actually ordering that they be preserved, and without doing anything once they learned that the CIA had destroyed the tapes. Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

So what's the White House so exercised about today? That the Times story got it wrong? That in fact no one in the White House had such discussions? That it never reached the level of Gonzales and Addington? That no one in the White House indicated that the tapes should be destroyed? That White House lawyers did, in fact, order the CIA to preserve the tapes? That upon learning of the tapes' destruction, that the White House took appropriate action to investigate and punish the wrongdoers?

None of the above.

The White House's vigorous defense this morning is that, in fact, it has never denied the facts in the Times story:
The sub-headline of the story inaccurately says that the "White House Role Was Wider Than It Said", and the story states that "...the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes...was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged."

Under direction from the White House General Counsel while the Department of Justice and the CIA Inspector General conduct a preliminary inquiry, we have not publicly commented on facts relating to this issue, except to note President Bush's immediate reaction upon being briefed on the matter. Furthermore, we have not described - neither to highlight, nor to minimize -- the role or deliberations of White House officials in this matter.
Now, there's nothing actually inaccurate about the Times story: "the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes" was, in fact, "more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged" -- precisely because they have not acknowledged any involvement at all beyond Harriet Miers.

The Times did not write that the White House has lied about WH officials' involvement -- merely that they haven't yet come clean with the full story, which is true. There was some information coming from the White House about its involvement -- they tried to insinuate that the responsibility should be pinned on Harriet Miers alone, a story that was basically inaccurate. (Note the careful wording of the Press Statement: "Under direction from the White House General Counsel while the Department of Justice and the CIA Inspector General conduct a preliminary inquiry, we have not publicly commented on facts relating to this issue." One point of the Times piece is that the carefully orchestrated nonpublic leaks from the White House have been importantly incomplete and possibly misleading.)

But all this is beside the point, which is not whether the White House has been misleading in its "public" comments over the past two weeks, but whether the White House has been complicit in crimes and other wrongdoing over the past several years. And on that question, what's most notable about today's Press Statement is that it does not deny the substance of the Times story.

Comments:

The NYT sub-headline of the story - "White House Role Was Wider Than It Said" - is intentionally written to mislead its readers into falsely assuming the White House is involved in a cover up.

In fact, the White House has said nothing substantive about this issue, playing its usual "the matter is under investigation" bob and weave. Therefore, it could not have changed a story which it never provided.

If you take the NYT at face value, which is a dangerous thing to do, the only thing that has changed is that the NYT's anonymous sources now claim that more people at the White House knew about the tapes question than had previous anonymous sources.

However, I would be very surprised if the NYT did not know the entire breadth of WH knowledge about this issue before the story broke and is releasing it in stages to falsely create the impression of a cover up and to sell more papers.

If my speculation is true, there is an amusing angle to this story after all. The NYT readership is falling rapidly because of partisan lies like this sub headline. However, in order to sell more papers, the NYT is again misleading its readers.

The irony, the irony...
 

Correcting misleading headlines and sub-headlines would be a full time job. This misleading sub-headline must have been "over the target," because it's getting flak.
 

If my speculation is true...

It isn't. You first have to prove that readership for the NY Times is declining disproportionately to the national average, and then you have to prove that the reason for that decline stems from "partisan lies" and not the increase in use of Internet resources. A cursory exploration of the available circulation and readership statistics should put that speculation to rest once and for all.

As for Marty's post, it strikes me that pointing out that no opinion has been offered is not quite the same as failing to deny. However, it does seem as if they're stalling for time to get their story straight--as if that will work better this time than in previous cover-ups.
 

And I wonder if the fire in the Executive Office Building that happened to occur today will be used as an argument to attempt to delay the day of reckoning on Friday with Judge Kennedy due to the "fire damaged files".
Best,
Ben
 

PMS:

You might want to compare the circulation changes of the conservative WSJ and the Washington Times with that of the big liberal NYT, WP and LAT.

Similarly, you might want to compare the success of Fox News against its competitors.

Unless you are arguing that the quality of the delivery of the liberal media is somehow substandard (which I do not), then you are left with the partisan content as the reason for the loss of customers for the NYT and its brethren.

This really is no mystery. Pew has repeatedly observed that conservatives are the greatest consumers of news media. Now that they have alternatives, conservatives are dropping the traditional liberal media outlets.
 

Unless you are arguing that the quality of the delivery of the liberal media is somehow substandard (which I do not), then you are left with the partisan content as the reason for the loss of customers for the NYT and its brethren.

This really is no mystery. Pew has repeatedly observed that conservatives are the greatest consumers of news media. Now that they have alternatives, conservatives are dropping the traditional liberal media outlets.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 12:14 PM


So the problem isn't that the NYT isn't accurate, the problem is that conservatives want "news sources" that will tell them what they want to hear.
 

I had precisely the same thought when I saw this.

As long as they're "clarifying" things, why don't they clarify what it was they did, rather than what it was they said?

Cheers,
 

Perino:
But I spoke to the President this morning about this. He has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday.

That is a comment about the role of the President in this affair. She opened the door. The NYT sub-headline is accurate if their story is true.
 

Remember the old joke about the financially troubled businessman thinking about insurance funds to bail him out being told about another business owner who had collected on flood damage, and asking (punch line drum roll!):

"How do you start a flood?"
 

I doubt that the White House itself is so exercised about a NYT subhead which is, indeed, irrelevant to the question of whether the White House has been complicit in crimes and other wrongdoing over the past several years. That subhead tree is, however, very material to Dana Perino's efforts to keep her tits out of the wringer -- as she took pains to make clear to the White House press corps:

"I am not accountable for all the anonymous sources that you turn up. This says that I was misleading, and I was not."
 

the only thing that has changed is that the NYT's anonymous sources now claim that more people at the White House knew about the tapes question than had previous anonymous sources.

This is entirely consistent with the original sub-head if the anonymous sources are from the White House.
 

Eric:

Anonymous sources to do not constitute a statement by the White House.
 

The NYTimes has changed the subheadline, conceding the White House was correct. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1207/7481.html
 

I concur with Mark that Ms. Perino was mainly speaking for herself.
 

nom said...

The NY Times has changed the subheadline, conceding the White House was correct.

I provided the link for your source.

Well bravo to the NYT for correcting their error. The New Republic, CBS News, AP and Al Gore could take a pointer here.
 

I'm not sure this is all "beside the point".

While it may be germane that the WH is intent not to end up like Scooter Libby, having lied even when many thought it wasn't necessary, the lengths to which Bush-43 will make carefully tailored statements that are prone to creating mis-direction and which, given a fuller picture of his intent, are very much lies (deliberate distortion), an abuse of public trust.

One doesn't have to go to the Iraq war "propaganda catapult" for examples.

During Petreaus week just weeks ago, Bush told the nation, in a carefully parsed sentence, that troops were coming home in December and made it sound like so much was in connection with the surge.

When news organizations researched what he was talking about, they found out that the planned rotation for the units in question had nothing whatsoever to do with the surge and had been planned long before Petreus' report.

Given that the President knew this, he was, in fact, lying to the public, in pursuit of supporting his policies.

Now, you might think that there is no crime in a politician telling lies (or that conservative news outlets ought not to wrongfoot conservative politicians who try it), but some people have a higher standard of conduct unbecoming.
 

You might want to compare the circulation changes of the conservative WSJ and the Washington Times with that of the big liberal NYT, WP and LAT.

Okay.

Circulation changes (Nov.-Nov.):

WSJ: Dropped 1.1% 2004-2005
Grew 0.6% 2005-2006
Dropped 1.53% 2006-2007

NYT: Grew 0.5% 2004-2005
Declined 1.9% 2005-2006
Declined 4.5% 2006-2007

LAT: Declined 3.8% 2004-2005
Declined 4.2% 2005-2006
Grew 0.5% 2006-2007

No trend seems to be evident other than the fact that newspapers in general are losing circulation.

The Washington Times, having a circulation lower than the Fresno Bee, is a non-factor in most of the industry analyses.

If your theory that the effect of "liberal lies" is stronger than the shift of news consumption to the Internet were correct, I'd expect to see more competition for the New York Times in the online market. I think you'll agree that the Nielsen numbers don't support that conclusion.

An additional factor that was mentioned in the trades is the effect of the national "do not call" registry on newspaper marketing, which typically relied on cold calls by phone to maintain subscription levels.
 

amicus:

The rotation of units is always planned several months in advance. This is of no consequence to the President's comments. Instead, you need to look at whether the military has adjusted this rotation to deal with enemy activity.

When the enemy is active, the military will request that unit tours be extended. This happened to great anti-war fanfare when the enemy launched an offensive to influence our elections in 2006.

In contrast, when the enemy have been defeated and cleared from provinces in Iraq, the units rotating out will not be replaced by new units. This will be the case over the next few months in the cleared and pacified Sunni Triangle (Anbar Province) and Diyala Province. The vast majority of the troops we are withdrawing from those formerly battle ridden areas are not being replaced.

Quite simply, we have now won the Iraq War. The Sunni insurgency has surrendered and joined the police and army. al Qaeda in Iraq has been all but eliminated. Violence has collapsed, thousands of Iraqi refugees are returning and economic activity is now surpassing pre war levels.

The Marines are so bored that they want to be deployed to Afghanistan to find some actual enemy to fight.

Our troops have started to come home and we are negotiating basing agreements to keep a smaller force in country to help preserve the peace the way we did in Korea and innumerable other countries.

However, it is a shame that the President and military are so burned from the premature "MIssion Accomplished" fiasco that they will not admit the victory our troops have won. Instead, the troops come home without being acknowledged for the victory they have fought so hard to win. That is a true tragedy.
 

Quite simply, we have now won the Iraq War....

Good. Too bad about those 3896 dead soldiers. Bring the troops home.

But I am a bit curious as to by what standard one might say "we have now won the Iraqi war". Anything "mission accomplished" or "major combat operations have ended"?

... The Sunni insurgency has surrendered and joined the police and army....

... which might be a problem. Some folks say we're just arming the factions for the fight when we leave. And with no political reconciliation, there will be a fight.

... al Qaeda in Iraq has been all but eliminated....

"But, your Honour, I wasn't drunk and smoking in bed. The bed was already on fire when I got into it...."

There was no (so-called) "al Qaeda in Iraq" before we got there.

... Violence has collapsed, thousands of Iraqi refugees are returning ...

They're "returning" because their visas are expiring and the host countries want them out. (There's other links for this as well).

... and economic activity is now surpassing pre war levels.

Oh, BS.

Cheers,
 

pms_chicago said...

BD: You might want to compare the circulation changes of the conservative WSJ and the Washington Times with that of the big liberal NYT, WP and LAT.

Okay. Circulation changes (Nov.-Nov.):

WSJ: Dropped 1.1% 2004-2005
Grew 0.6% 2005-2006
Dropped 1.53% 2006-2007

NYT: Grew 0.5% 2004-2005
Declined 1.9% 2005-2006
Declined 4.5% 2006-2007

LAT: Declined 3.8% 2004-2005
Declined 4.2% 2005-2006
Grew 0.5% 2006-2007

No trend seems to be evident other than the fact that newspapers in general are losing circulation.


Huh? Can you do the math?

Let me do it for you...

WSJ: -2.0%
NYT: -5.8%
LAT: -7.4%

While newspapers are being abandoned in favor of technology, leftist papers are being dropped three times faster.
 

While newspapers are being abandoned in favor of technology, leftist papers are being dropped three times faster.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 11:33 PM


Did you consider that that the readers of "leftist" papers might have better internet access?
 

bart said: "The rotation of units is always planned several months in advance. This is of no consequence to the President's comments."

Bart, on the first point I disagree and on the second, you are just wrong.

Tours have been extended with less than "several months" planning. The situation in theater is fluid, within the basic confines of logistics and personnel policy.

During 'Petreaus week', the President deliberately misrepresented, in my view, why these troops were rotating out this December. Their rotation was planned before the "success" of the surge was either reported or known.

Here are the comments, for any readers who care to look them up:

*Because of this success*, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 Marines scheduled to leave Anbar province later this month. In addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade, for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas. And he expects that by July, we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from 20 combat brigades to 15.

When the news organizations looked into that Army combat brigade, they found out ... the rest of the story.

No matter whether one believes we are advancing or retreating in Iraq, the point remains that there is a pattern of a WH comfortable MIS-leading, so that it is not completely "beside the point" as suggested in the article above, I don't think.
 

In order to be happy oneself it is necessary to make at least one other person happy.
Agen Judi Online Terpercaya
 

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