Frank Rich began my weekend reading with the reminder that Deep Throat's "follow the money" advice came from screenwriter William Goldman, not W. Mark Felt. "This confusion of Hollywood's version of history with the genuine article would quickly prove symptomatic of the overall unreality of the Deep Throat coverage. Was Mr. Felt a hero or a villain? Should he "follow the money" into a book deal, and if so, how would a 91-year-old showing signs of dementia either write a book or schmooze about it with Larry King? How did Vanity Fair scoop The Post? How does Robert Redford feel about it all? Such were the questions that killed time for a nation awaiting the much-heralded feature mediathon, the Michael Jackson verdict."
(Or is it Angelina Jolie who's distracted us, the Inky's Dick Polman asks.)
Rich went on to observe that Richard Nixon and Watergate itself were glossed over in the coverage. As were the bad things Charles Colson and about 30 others did. Three years ago, on Watergate's 30th anniversary, an ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans couldn't explain what the scandal was. "Watergate has gone back to being the "third-rate burglary" of Nixon administration spin. It is once again being covered up."
So is any real discussion of the Downing Street memo, Rich charged, thanks to the sort of lapdog press that Nixon would have loved. He cited scholarship by Eric Boehlert of Salon that only 2 in 940 questions at White House briefings have addressed the London Times' publication of notes from a July 23, 2002 meeting where Tony Blair's aides reported on a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq.
We in the lap pack have been increasingly hammered from the left regions of the blogosphere. The left is savoring some recent progress in getting us to bite. New stories emerge. Yet it's not quite working. Matt at the Tattered Coat offered his take yesterday:
The biggest problem, first and foremost, seems to be pessimism. Pessimism about the possibility of any scandal to do damage to Bush at this point, and pessimism about the ability of a rag-tag group of bloggers and U.S. Representatives to change the minds of the editors of Americas newspapers who have, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a story about a President lying our country into war is not worth a single investigative report.
Inquirer editors have received more than
100 215 emails questioning our coverage, says deputy managing editor Carl Lavin. One criticism: We didn't run a Knight Ridder Washington bureau report written four days after the London Times piece ran. Lavin, in a letter to readers Judy Rubin and Debs Bleicher, wrote, "The public record, illustrated through articles published in the Inquirer in July and August 2002, made it clear at the time that President Bush and his top advisers were making a very strong case for military action to oust Saddam. The president wanted to remove Saddam from power and his administration was making plans to use military means to achieve that goal."
Lavin cited a number of stories from those months, then noted that books by Gen. Tommy Franks and Bob Woodward gave greater details of the plans for war. James S. Robbins of the American Foreign Policy Council has made this argument in the National Review Online.
"History may never allow us to know, of course, if from the president's point of view the decision was firm in July, or August, or the week before the bombing began," wrote Lavin. "At what point can a president turn off the planning machinery and decide not to attack?"
Meaning, the paper is saying about the memo, "You already knew this." People either didn't grasp it, didn't believe it, didn't care, or got it all - and still prefered the president.
An Atrios reader named Pilot reacted to a post of Dick Polman's column on the popular Philly-based political blog.
Hey, I'm just as glad as the next guy that this stuff is trickling out and I hope it weakens Bush seriously.
But ... for the life of me, I can't figure out what the surprise is. Just who was it that did not think we were going to war from early on?
Going to the UN? Getting Congressional resolution? Merely filling in the checkboxes and Congressional CYA. At the risk of being obnoxious there was never any doubt in my mind that the Administration had decided long before and WE were going to go along.
Other than political points are slowing the move to more bad decisions, there isn't much point in trying to get Bush and his crew to change course. They're a bunch of "true believers."
The more important issue is how we allowed ourselves to be deluded and cowed. Avoiding those behaviors is the only true protection against lousy political leadership. The real burden is not on them, it's on us.
Now that it's going badly and there don't appear to be any good options, we're beginning to see a new version of Congressional and press CYA. We should hold them to account as well, but we should also push for some real behavioral change in both institutions.
And we need to look in the mirror and accept our own responsibility. How did we allow this god awful mess come to pass?
We've also run a number of stories about Alex's Lemonade Stand, which this weekend kicked off a summer campaign to raise money to battle pediatric cancer. And I haven't read one of them. It has been one of those subjects that I read defensively, scanning the headline and lede so I know what it is about, but not going deeper. Then I read Sally Swift's Daily Sally post on her nephew, also named Alex, and it grabbed me by the collar. I recommend it.
The nightmare began this way:
Mom's folding laundry one day, chatting with her happy, healthy, precocious 4-year-old son (my nephew). He's lying on the bed on his side. She notices each time she speaks, he lifts his head off the pillow. She asks him why and he says, 'So I can hear you.'
Didn't catch this in the Observer blog last week, but Tony Blair took some heat upon his return from Washington for what his subjects perceived as creeping Yankisms. Asked about Britain's EU budget rebate, Blair huffed:
"The UK rebate will remain and we will not negotiate it away. Period."
"'Period'"? asked Observer blogger Rafael Behr. "Has someone, like, just come back from the States, or what? ... Heck yeah, Tony! Why not? Run it up the flag pole see who salutes. It's a no brainer."
With Iranian elections scheduled for June 17, U.S.-based blogger Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder, has returned home, calculating that it is the least risky time to visit because the regime wants to appear tolerant. You can read Hoder's blog here. I listened to him talk at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York last month. He was one of the bloggers who inspired the Global Voices project at Harvard Law. Wired magazine profiled him. He wish him luck, given the beatings of Iranian liberals we read about yesterday. ...
As long as we're heavily international this morning, I was amazed by a British blog reporting mobile phone bullying on the playground. Kids apparently text message abuses and beat fellow students as others video record the attack with their phones. A Web site called Stop Text Bully is trying to stop the nasty trend.