Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mainstream Media 101: how to twist words

Update: the news article now says "Tones Down" -- go figure.
Bush Lowers Temperature of Iraq War Debate

BEIJING - After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy.

"People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were "reprehensible."

The president also praised Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., as "a fine man" and a strong supporter of the military despite the congressman's call for troop withdrawal as soon as possible....

"I heard somebody say, `Well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position.' I totally reject that thought," Bush said.

"This is not an issue of who's patriotic and who's not patriotic," he said. "It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq."
Read that again: "After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy." This might have the slightest semblance of accuracy, of truth, had President Bush actually said anything of the kind. I have yet to hear President Bush or Vice President Cheney call critics of the war "unpatriotic" just for disagreeing with the administration, let alone suggest they have no right to disagree.

I have previously quoted his Veterans Day speech, where he said:
While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.
Will you look at that: President Bush, in his first speech in almost three years that really defended his policy on Iraq, said that it is "perfectly legitimate" for his critics to disagree with him, but that "it is" -- not "they are" -- "deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." Nowhere did he make the most miniscule insinuation that it's unpatriotic to disagree.

From President Bush's November 14th speech at in Alaska:
The terrorists want to use the vacuum that would be created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, to build a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against America and non-radical Muslim governments. That's what they tell us. That's their stated goal...

Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people. Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat.


Let me give you some quotes from three senior Democrat leaders: First, and I quote, "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons." Another senior Democrat leader said, "The war against terrorism will not be finished as long as Saddam Hussein is in power." Here's another quote from a senior Democrat leader: "Saddam Hussein, in effect, has thumbed his nose at the world community. And I think the President is approaching this in the right fashion."

They spoke the truth then, and they're speaking politics now.
Nowhere did he make the most miniscule insinuation that it's unpatriotic to call for a troop withdrawal, only that it's what the terrorists want, because that's what the terrorists have stated plainly. Moreover, he threw the Democrats' words right back at them, though the mainstream media ignores that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Bob Graham and others, after the September 11th attacks (meaning these were not just responses to Saddam's 1998 expulsion of UN inspectors), warned of Saddam's WMD capabilities.

More recently, it has been implied that Vice President Cheney is calling critics of the Iraq war "unpatriotic," yet here's what he actually said:
I hope you’ll permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to say a few words that were not part of my remarks that I'd planned originally this evening but which concern a matter of great importance to our entire nation....

Most of you know, I have spent a lot of years in public service, and first came to work in Washington back in the late 1960s. I know what it's like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq's capabilities and intentions that -- made by this Administration and by the previous administration. There was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat, that he had violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and that, in a post-9/11 world, we could not afford to take the word of a dictator who had a history of weapons of mass destruction programs, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, whose nation had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder. Those are the facts.

What we're hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures –- conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers –- and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.

The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -– but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.
There you have it, and if you read the rest of the speech, to paraphrase James Madison, I cannot undertake to lay my finger on where he called anyone unpatriotic for disagreeing, or even for calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

So from where did this myth of "You're unpatriotic to disagree with President Bush" come? Probably the same place where, from a sound clip that Sean Hannity likes to play anytime we think Hillary Clinton -- the queen of state-worshippers -- might not be as bad as we think. I don't have the clip, but if you regularly listen to his show, you know to what I refer. Shrill as a banshee, she screams that she's "sick and tired" of being called unpatriotic just for disagreeing, insisting that we have a right to disagree. Well, Senator, I have never heard anyone call you unpatriotic just for disagreeing! Indeed, both sides often invoke what is often attributed to Voltaire but was actually said by a "Friend of Voltaire": "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Yet it was Democrats in the late 1990s who insisted these investigations and calls for impeachment were dividing the nation, that we should stop and let President Clinton do his job. Where are such calls today from leading Democrats?

No one is calling Sen. Murtha unpatriotic, either. In fact, from the same AP article:
Bush came to the defense of Murtha, the hawkish congressman who has been denounced by Republicans for advocating withdrawal. Bush's own spokesman had compared the combat-decorated Vietnam veteran to war critic-movie producer Michael Moore and suggested Murtha was counseling surrender to terrorists.

On Sunday, Bush called Murtha a "fine man and a good man."

"I know the decision to call for the immediate withdrawal of our troops by Congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way," the president said. "I disagree with his position."
How curious: which "spokesman" was this? "Bush's own spokesman" is Scott McLellan, so why not refer to him by name, and his position as White House Press Secretary? Why not provide a specific quote? Or could the reporter have been referring to this, as reported by CNN? It turns out that the Michael Moore comparison was far from how it sounds:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House accused a senior House Democrat -- and a decorated Vietnam veteran -- who called for a swift withdrawal from Iraq of advocating surrender, comparing him to anti-war filmmaker Michael Moore.

In a broadside issued Thursday night, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said that it is "baffling that [Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha] is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party."

McClellan called Murtha, a retired Marine colonel who earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam, "a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting America."


But McClellan added, "The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists."

A senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Murtha had supported the resolution that authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
There was no direct comparison of him to Michael Moore, only putting Murtha in the same camp as those who rabidly call for an immediate withdrawal. Grouping Murtha with the Michael Moore left is also warranted, and if anything, no one has grouped him: he has grouped himself, and it is because of his sanctimony, not the anti-war beliefs he insinuates he recently adopted. Despite his military service, Murtha is far from the "hawk" that the mainstream media is now making him out to be, as McQ of QandO exposed on Friday. About 18 months ago, Murtha started calling for a troop withdrawal, so the man has hardly had a recent change of heart. In fact, I find Murtha's timing outrightly appalling: Murtha's comments were reported on May 6th, one day after four American civilians were infamously murdered in Fallujah, with their bodies dragged through the streets and hung over a bridge.

I really don't know many details about Murtha's service, but I myself (as one who freely affirms has never served in uniform, not being of the appropriate temperament) cannot fathom why he suggested cutting and running after such a gruesome event, which could only prove we had to fight harder to defeat some truly evil people. "Cut and run" to what end? Imagine had John Kerry won the presidency, and we began to withdraw from Iraq a few months ago, going by his "We'll start withdrawing in my first six months" plan. Can any mortal mind envision the crisis as Saddam's loyalists and existing terrorists regained strength, with reinforcements pouring in from Syria and Saudi Arabia to re-enslave the Iraqi people and butcher the newly elected leadership? The "humanitarian disaster" would have put Rwanda to shame.

McQ made a very good point afterward:
Now, who should I believe? John Murtha who says "Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region", or COL Brown who's there, who's engaged and who says we need to finish the job, even at the risk of is life? A combat leader who thinks that not finishing the job risks the security of Iraq, the region and the US.

Me? I'll go with COL Brown.
As far as Murtha's implication that those in the Bush Administration aren't qualified to make military decisions because they never served (and got "deferments"), McQ served more than 28 years as an infantry officer and is thus qualified by Murtha's standard. Such a standard is rubbish, in any case. Serving does not make one automatically right. Logically speaking, one is right because one is right, not necessarily because one has directly participated in the issue.

You have to give credit to the mainstream media: no matter what President Bush says, they'll find a way to twist it, and create a myth in the public's mind of what the media would like us to believe the President said. Maybe he really didn't say it, but that's what they want us to believe he meant...right? And when John Murtha tearfully calls for a troop withdrawal, it's not really "déjà vu all over again," because mainstream media will just ignore what he was already calling for in May 2004.

Let's not be surprised. After all, it's mainstream media that gave us the phrase, "Fake, but accurate."

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