One of these three got it right: All week, we’ve watched as major press corps figures tried to explain (or obscure) their past stance regarding Iraq.
To our ear, Lawrence O’Donnell seemed to be trying to give the impression that he spoke out against the invasion. Ditto for his guest, David Corn. Ditto for John Judis.
As best we can tell, these three superstars never did speak out, except perhaps in quiet rooms, when nobody else was around.
With high pomposity, Ezra Klein penned a ludicrous column about the “analytical failure” he committed regarding Iraq—back when he was a freshman in college. According to Ezra, he brilliantly reversed himself as soon as he saw that the war was being conducted badly.
The editors of the New York Times complained about everyone except the New York Times. Joe Scarborough aired a videotape which was a pure con. And so it went, on and on.
Today, let’s look at three others who served.
At the Washington Post, David Ignatius manned up this week—about the fact that he got it wrong in real time:
IGNATIUS (3/21/13): Ten years ago this week, I was covering the U.S. military as it began its assault on Iraq. As I read back now over my clips, I see a few useful warnings about the difficulties ahead. But I owe readers an apology for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense.We’ll take that confession any day over the faking of Corn and O’Donnell. Or over the endless analytics dished by Jonathan Chait:
Invading Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein a decade ago was one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history. We’ll never know whether the story might have been different if better planning had been done for “the day after,” or the Iraqi army hadn’t been disbanded, or several other “ifs.” But the abiding truth is that America shouldn’t have rolled the dice this way on a war of choice.
CHAIT (3/19/13): Since it’s Iraq War mea culpa week, I ought to fess up for those readers who didn’t follow me ten years ago and admit that I supported the war. I was wrong about it. But the conclusions I’ve drawn from the episode are not the conclusions many other liberals have drawn. Since I am asked about this periodically, I should explain why.That may sound like an Ignatius-style confession. It isn’t, as you will see if you try to read all the way to the end of Chait’s explanation.
Some people pretend that they spoke when they didn’t. Others punish the public with filibusters as they pretend to confess.
All the people we’ve mentioned have retained or improved their prior positions within the celebrity press corps. One other scribe pretty much has not, although we’re not sure how much he cares.
That other journalist is Gene Lyons. Lyons committed the ultimate crime:
In real time, he got it right.
In pseudo-journalistic culture, there is only one crime which can’t be forgiven. It can’t be forgiven when some journalist breaks from the herd and turns out to be right.
Every other cow will be spared. By law, this cow must be slaughtered. It’s the number one law of the guild:
You are not allowed to be right. Not unless everyone else is!
This week, at the National Memo, Lyons quoted some of what he wrote in real time, when the other cows got it wrong. This is a fairly good chunk of his new column:
LYONS (3/21/13): Skepticism...was in short supply. Spooked by 9/11 and intimidated by the intellectual bullies of the Bush administration, American journalists largely abandoned that professional virtue in favor of propaganda and groupthink.We were glad to see Lyons quote himself from that ten-year-old column. This was a refreshing stance, especially after seeing O’Donnell con his readers several nights, pretending that he had written or said something like that.
Among scores of examples, the one that’s stuck in my craw was allegedly liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Reacting to Gen. Colin Powell’s anti-Saddam speech to the United Nations General Assembly—since repudiated by its author—Cohen wrote that “Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool—or possibly a Frenchman—could conclude otherwise.”
“War fever, catch it,” this fool wrote.
I added that to anybody capable of remembering past intelligence hoaxes, it wasn’t clear that Powell’s presentation answered any of the objections put forward by doubters like George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor, Gen. Brent Scowcroft.
“To any skeptic with a computer modem, moreover, it became quite clear why Powell’s speech failed to convert many at the UN,” my Feb. 5, 2003 column continued.
“Key parts of [his] presentation were dubious on their face. That alleged al Qaeda base in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq? If it’s what Powell says, why hasn’t it been bombed to smithereens? British and U.S. jets have been conducting sorties in the no-fly zone for months. Because it’s a dusty outpost not worth bombing, reporters for The Observer who visited the place quickly saw.
“The mobile bio-war death labs? Please. Even if [UN inspector] Hans Blix hadn’t told The Guardian that U.S. tips had guided inspectors to mobile food inspection facilities, anybody who’s dodged herds of camels, goats and sheep and maniacal drivers on bumpy Middle Eastern highways had to laugh. Bio-war experts told Newsweek the idea was preposterous. ‘U.S. intelligence,’ it reported ‘after years of looking for them, has never found even one.’
“Then there was the embarrassing fact that key elements of a British intelligence document cited by Powell turned out to have been plagiarized from magazine articles and a California grad student’s M.A. thesis based upon 12-year-old evidence.”
I could go on. In fact, I did...
He hadn’t. In real time, O’Donnell ran off and hid in the woods, just like everyone else did.
Years earlier, Lyons had been right about something else. He had been right about the war the mainstream press corps waged against Clinton and Clinton during the 1990s. He published Fools for Scandal in 1996, challenging the whole Whitewater hoax.
The book was excerpted in, then published by Harper’s. Pseudo-liberals all agreed—by law, they had to ignore it. (Later, Lyons and Joe Conason published The Hunting of the President.)
Go ahead! At the end of this pitiful week, we think you should read Lyons’ column. O’Donnell, Corn, Judis, Klein—hacks like these have found different ways to con us rubes this week.
Lyons got it right in real time. He could see how foolish, how implausible, that presentation by Powell was. Near the end of this week’s column, he draws the basic lesson:
LYONS: But there are no penalties in Washington journalism for being proven dramatically wrong.Almost everyone else stampeded. They were still treating us pseudo-liberals like fools ten years later—this week.
The safest place during a stampede is always the middle of the herd.
They’re very good at playing that game. They know we’ll just sit there and take it.