Thursday, March 25, 2004

Occasionally Fair and Balanced

"Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. I failed you. We tried hard, but we failed you...I ask for your understanding, and your forgiveness."

When Clarke said that, everything changed. The whole atmosphere. He did something that was NEVER DONE BEFORE IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION - he took responsibility. You could almost FEEL the nationwide sigh of relief.

When Clarke said that, he did Bush's JOB for him. He said what Bush should have said a year ago. Bush, of course, would never say any such thing. He's never honestly apologized for anything. He's not man enough.

The White House response has been totally predictable: smear, smear, smear. They have yet to actually deal with the actual substance of what Clarke said. All they can do is smear the man.

As you probably have heard, in August 2002, Clarke gave a background briefing (background briefings are always anonymous) to the press at Bush's request. Not surprisingly Clarke seems to praise Bush in that briefing. Someone from the Bush administration called Fox News and asked them to reveal who the anonymous briefer was. Fox actually complied, thus giving the lie - if there had been any doubt before - to their claims of being fair and balanced. A supposedly independent news organization revealing their source at the request of a politician who wishes to defame a political opponent is surely a new low in journalism. It led to this statement by Bob Kerrey during the hearings:

KERREY: And let me also say this document of Fox News earlier, this transcript that they had, this is a background briefing. And all of us that have provided background briefings for the press before should beware. I mean, Fox should say "occasionally fair and balanced" after putting something like this out.

KERREY:(LAUGHTER) Because they violated a serious trust.

KERREY:(APPLAUSE) All of us that come into this kind of an environment and provide background briefings for the press I think will always have this as a reminder that sometimes it isn't going to happen, that it's background. Sometimes, if it suits their interest, they're going to go back, pull the tape, convert it into transcript and send it out in the public arena and try to embarrass us or discredit us. So I object to what they've done, and I think it's an unfortunate thing they did.


Write to the Commission with praise for Bob Kerrey for saying that (snail mail is FAR more effective than email):

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street, SW
Room 5125
Washington, DC 20407

Clarke's background briefing received quite a bit of play in the news - but interestingly many news organizations (showing how "liberal" the media are) FAILED to point out the fact that Clarke was asked about it during the hearing - and gave a very clear, very simple answer:

THOMPSON: Mr. Clarke, in this background briefing, as Senator Kerrey has now described it, for the press in August of 2002, you intended to mislead the press, did you not?

CLARKE: No. I think there is a very fine line that anyone who's been in the White House, in any administration, can tell you about. And that is when you are special assistant to the president and you're asked to explain something that is potentially embarrassing to the administration, because the administration didn't do enough or didn't do it in a timely manner and is taking political heat for it, as was the case there, you have a choice. Actually, I think you have three choices. You can resign rather than do it. I chose not to do that. Second choice is...

THOMPSON: Why was that, Mr. Clarke? You finally resigned because you were frustrated.

CLARKE: I was, at that time, at the request of the president, preparing a national strategy to defend America's cyberspace, something which I thought then and think now is vitally important. I thought that completing that strategy was a lot more important than whether or not I had to provide emphasis in one place or other while discussing the facts on this particular news story. The second choice one has, Governor, is whether or not to say things that are untruthful. And no one in the Bush White House asked me to say things that were untruthful, and I would not have said them. In any event, the third choice that one has is to put the best face you can for the administration on the facts as they were, and that is what I did. I think that is what most people in the White House in any administration do when they're asked to explain something that is embarrassing to the administration.

THOMPSON: But you will admit that what you said in August of 2002 is inconsistent with what you say in your book?

CLARKE: No, I don't think it's inconsistent at all. I think, as I said in your last round of questioning, Governor, that it's really a matter here of emphasis and tone. I mean, what you're suggesting, perhaps, is that as special assistant to the president of the United States when asked to give a press backgrounder I should spend my time in that press backgrounder criticizing him. I think that's somewhat of an unrealistic thing to expect.

THOMPSON: Well, what it suggests to me is that there is one standard of candor and morality for White House special assistants and another standard of candor and morality for the rest of America.

CLARKE: I don't get that.

CLARKE: I don't think it's a question of morality at all. I think it's a question of politics.


THOMPSON: I'm not a Washington insider. I've never been a special assistant in the White House. I'm from the Midwest. So I think I'll leave it there.

Check your local newspaper. If they mention Clarke's background briefing without mentioning either Clarke's explanation or Fox's serious breach of journalistic ethics, write to them and ask them WHY their coverage is so totally imbalanced and dishonest.

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