Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Washington Post Edition)

Justin Rood watches, slackjawed in amazement:

TPMmuckraker September 12, 2006 02:46 PM: WPost Taps White House War Salesman for Op-Ed Spot: The big story in the New York Times' Sept. 8, 2002 edition was headlined, "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts." That infamous article, by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, told the now-debunked tales of Saddam Hussein's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs, through the voices of lying Iraqi defectors and anonymous quotes by Bush administration officials. Most folks who read it probably can't recall the details of the article. But few have forgotten one comment from an unnamed "hard-liner" administration official, paraphrased by the reporters:

The first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.

It was memorable then for being such a clever and powerful turn of phrase. It's memorable now because we know it was baseless -- yet oft-repeated. And it's important to remember at this moment because the man who wrote it, Michael Gerson, just got himself a regular column in the Washington Post.

With no apparent sense of irony, the Post announced on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that Gerson -- one of the men who worked hardest to dishonestly connect al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein in the public mind, and launch an invasion of Iraq based on the horrible events of that day -- will join its op-ed team.

In the release publicizing its selection, Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt calls Gerson "an eloquent writer and provocative thinker." Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Take, for example, this eloquent and provocative line from Bush's 2003 State of the Union address: "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own." (We know now, of course, that's not the case.)

Yep, that was Gerson's. He was, in fact, the only speechwriter in the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), created to sell the idea of invading Iraq to the U.S. public. He was responsible for nearly every misleading statement that came out of the administration -- at least the ones that sounded good...

It is unclear whether Marc Gerson was cynical enough to be in on the con that is the Bush White House or naive enough to be one of the conned. In neither case does Fred Hiatt have any business hiring him for the Washington Post.

Of course, it is also unclear whether Fred Hiatt is cynical enough to be one of the very, very few in on the con who have not become sick to their stomach and abandoned Bush; or naive and stupid enough to be one of the very, very few who are still among the conned.

In neither case, of course, does he have any business working for the Washington Post.


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