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Asking for the truth = irresponsible reporting

That's Scott Maclellan's take on the situation, anyway. He was broiled alive by the White House press corps yesterday over Bush's lie about the Dr Evil's "mobile weapons labs". First, a little background for anyone who may have missed this story:

The date? May, 2003. The find? Iraqi Mobile Weapons labs, designed to make anthrax and other nasties deep in the heart of the desert, where no White Hats could track them down. Or so we were told. Of course, most of us cynics doubted the find from day one, as BushCo was desperate to find any evidence of WMDs post-invasion. Colin Powell is the individual quoted in the May 2003 story, but President Bush repeated the claim (gleefully, if I recall) that same day, and Dick Cheney repeated the claim on Meet the Press as late as September, 2003.

But here's the thing: It was all a lie. The initial report about finding mobile weapons labs was followed up quickly (the same day, I think) by a FAX from agents in the field saying "Whoopsie, jumped the gun there, Mr. P. These trailers aren't really Mobile Weapons Labs. Our Bad." (I'm paraphrasing). Despite this, Powell, Bush, and all the chief liars insisted for months and months that the invasion was now justified, because Dr. Evil had these mobile labs.

On to yesterday. Only 3 years later, and the press corps has caught up with this lie. Here is a brief excerpt of Scott MacLellan blaming the reporters for his own lies:

Reporter: So was the president made aware of the fact ...
McClellan: And are you all going to apologize?
Reporter: Was the president made aware of the faxed field report?
McClellan: Are you all going to apologize for that?
Reporter: Was the president aware of the faxed field report?
McClellan: Is that a correct statement?
Reporter: Scott, was the president made aware of the field report that was faxed?
McClellan: Jessica, I just told you, I've asked the intelligence community what they based this paper on. I can't tell you what they based their paper on. You have to. We're not an intelligence-gathering agency.
Reporter: No, but was the field report faxed ...

I wish I'd witnessed the skewering live. The press corps may be gutless weasels, but they will turn on their masters after being lied to and embarassed. Whee!

Incidentally, The Guardian broke this story in June, 2003, and raked Blair through the coals over it back then, in a more timely fashion. They didn't need a leaked fax to do so, either, as they did their own investigative reporting into the WMD trailer claim. Journalism 101.

So why is this being discussed now? I seem to remember it being dragged out and shot in the streets a few years ago. Maybe it was the Guardian stuff I read way back when. (Do you think that this whole interweb thingy that all the kids are using these days is going to make it harder to bury skeletons? It's gotta make life more difficult for these guys, don't you think?)

As for Scott McClellan, I have to feel a bit sorry for him. Doubtless he is a craven lying turd at heart, but his tenure as Bush's press anus is going to darken his soul forever.

I think the kerfluffle this week is revolving around the fact that the administration knew it was lying to the press. When the Guardian published the truth about the 'WMD trailers', the North American press probably thought that the administration was just mistaken, not outright lying. The press is quick to forgive executive incompetence, but not so much executive dishonesty. I don't know when exactly 'the fax' became public knowledge, but the timing of the fax implies that Bush and his cretins knew for a fact that the 'mobile weapons labs' were nothing of the sort. And yet, they insisted for months (years?) that they were proof positive of an Iraqi WMD stockpile.

The press does not take well to being embarrassed, especially given the press' complicity in the invasion and occupation. I suspect that they are biting back, either in an attempt to save face with the public, or because they are genuinely pissed about being lied to so brazenly and continuously.

Don't feel bad for Scott MacLellan. Doubtless, he talked to Ari Fleischer before taking the position of chief dissembler. He knew exactly what his job would entail, and that honesty was required nor wanted.

Hey Bri,
I just read the link you posted to the Cheney Meet the Press in Sept. '03 and pulled out this little gem:
Cheney: ...on biological weapons—we believe he’d developed the capacity to go mobile with his BW production capability because, again, in reaction to what we had done to him in ’91. We had intelligence reporting before the war that there were at least seven of these mobile labs that he had gone out and acquired. We’ve, since the war, found two of them. They’re in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack.

Russert: There’s real debate about those labs. (Russert winks) But I want to talk about something very specific. And that was the president’s State of the Union message when he said that the British had learned that Saddam was acquiring uranium from Africa.
Okay, I editted slightly, but it's absolutely beautiful - Cheney gets caught in a lie and Russert changes the subject. Like he was embarassed or something. WTF>

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