Just Bad

The Gray Lady started an editorial cat fight with WaPo, says Editor & Publisher.

It’s war. No, not Sunni vs. Shia in Iraq, but The New York Times editorial page vs. its Washington Post counterpart.

Perhaps it’s all in good fun, but it was startling to find a Times’ editorial on Sunday titled “The Bad Leak” exactly one week after a controversial Post editorial called “A Good Leak.” The leak—involving former White House aide“Scooter” Libby—was the same, but the point of view about 180 degrees different.

Just a week ago, the hawkish Post had defended Libby’s leak of intelligence information to reporters as being in the public interest; Ambassador Joseph Wilson had it coming; President Bush had good reason to think Iraq tried to get uranium in Niger a few years ago; and now the president’s critics were unfairly criticizing him for the leak, among other things.

In a bit of embarrassment, the Post, on the very day the editorial appeared, had pretty much proved in its news pages that the leak was really meant to punish Wilson, and most of the information in the leak was obviously, and knowingly, false.

Now comes the Times editorial—siding with the Post news team against its editorial page.

From “A Bad Leak“:

President Bush says he declassified portions of the prewar intelligence assessment on Iraq because he “wanted people to see the truth” about Iraq’s weapons programs and to understand why he kept accusing Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons that turned out not to exist. This would be a noble sentiment if it actually bore any relationship to Mr. Bush’s actions in this case, or his overall record.

Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq — in any accepted sense of that word — when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later.

And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes. He has run one of the most secretive administrations in American history, consistently withholding information and vital documents not just from the public, but also from Congress. Just the other day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee that the names of the lawyers who reviewed Mr. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program were a state secret.

The Kool-Aiders are sticking to the “if the President does it, it’s OK” defense, utterly ignoring the bare-assed context of this particular leak — that the President used classified documents for selfish purposes, as if an intelligence assessment were nothing but a useful gimmick for political advantage that happened to be at his personal and privileged disposal.

Since Mr. Bush regularly denounces leakers, the White House has made much of the notion that he did not leak classified information, he declassified it. This explanation strains credulity. Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified.

Even more, it strains credulity that a document was actually “declassified” if the White House kept the full document hidden and the “declassification” secret — even from the CIA — until it became politically expedient to announce it. As John Dean wrote, “The secrecy surely suggests cover-up.”

And it surely suggests misuse of the powers of office for personal advantage, which according to some constitutional scholars is the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

8 thoughts on “Just Bad

  1. Yes, President George W Bush, unlike Bill Clinton, is actually guilty of an impeachable offense. We dare not talk about it though as it is something that would rally the Republicans to vote against Democrats during this fall’s elections.

  2. Bush lied to the American people, He decieved our nation with his lies. He’s squandered vast amounts of money that could have been used constructively and destroyed thousands of innocent lives…If ever there was a high crime—Bush has committed it…and he should be impeached at a minimum.

    My hope and my prayer is that misery and suffering inhabit the life of George W. Bush. May a portion of the misery he’s sown return back to him in abundance…the miserable shitbag!

  3. I have trouble understanding the logic that supports the notion that secretly leaking information can be equated with “responding”. The explanation of the actions (leaking) after the fact cannot disguise the intentions of the actions (manipulation) at the moment that they occurred. Had the President wanted to respond in order to properly inform the American public about the classified information, then logically, why wouldn’t he have simply done so directly? If the President feels the American public should hear important classified information, he can simply release the information in any number of straightforward ways through a press release from the White House or explained in a speech or through a news conference. Frankly, “a good leak” need not be a leak at all. Trying to explain why it was a leak is the task at hand.

    Unfortunately, that can’t be done logically because, at the time the leak occurred, the leaked information needed to be selective. Had they actually acknowledged the “declassification” openly at the time that they now assert it was declassified by the President, then the documents would have become immediately accessible to the press and the public. If that were to happen at the point in time when the issue was receiving scrutiny in the media, it may have minimized the intended smear of Wilson’s assertions. The media would have reviewed the entire document and found information that would have conflicted with the administrations assessment and potentially given some added credibility to Wilson’s assertions and accusations.

    I would argue that the subsequent release of the document (I believe roughly ten days later) was also strategic. It gave the administration enough time to smear Wilson knowing full well that the flurry of media attention before the actual release of the document would provide the players a necessary window of opportunity to sufficiently cast doubt on Wilson’s assertions. In retrospect, the plan to smear Wilson was quite effective given that no significant traction would be gained by those who, at the time, doubted much of the intelligence being provided and the necessity to invade Iraq.

    Further, I might speculate that the repercussions of the release of Valerie Plames name may have been a poorly vetted or overlooked detail that resulted in an unintended consequence. Unfortunately for the administration, her exposure and the subsequent attempt to cover it up and reconstruct the events has led to an abundance of doubt as to the intended actions of the President and his operatives. The full degree of damage to this President, who has billed himself as a straight shooter, is yet to be determined.

    more observations here:


  4. I am no fan of Judith Miller, but the logic of “leaking” to her information that the President had “declassified” and then allowing her to sit in jail for 12 wks without admitting you are the one who spoke to her eludes me. If the information was so important to “educate the public” and perfectly within the right of the President, why not just call a press conference and get the “facts” out to everyone at once. To leave Judith in jail belies the innocence of this whole operation.

  5. Boy Sue ,, you hit the nail tight on the head,, yet no one has called them on leaving Miller in jail, not the media ….no one,, so thanks for pointing it out…I would sure LOVE to hear them explain it, wouldn’t you?

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