What Lawrence O’Donnell said in real time!


Another big fake on Iraq: It's one of the miseries of this anniversary week! We refer to the people who are misrepresenting their bulldog stance in the weeks leading up to war with Iraq.

On Monday night, Lawrence O’Donnell and David Corn pretended to recall the way Corn brawled on TV during the run-up to Iraq. Just yesterday, we showed you that David, in the real world, engaged in no such fights.

Wouldn't you know it? David and Lawrence were aggressively misremembering!

Speaking of Corn, how about Lawrence? Early in his chat with Corn, he defined his own past stance as follows. Please note the highlighted statement:

O’DONNELL (3/18/13): Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, a war 53 percent of Americans now believe was a mistake. How that mistake was made is the subject of the MSNBC documentary "Hubris, Selling the Iraq War," based on the book of the same title by David Corn and Michael Isikoff.

Here is Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times, discussing the media’s role leading up to the war.

KELLER (videotape): But there was a kind of—you know, a kind of mainstream view that this was real. Add to that the kind of, just the competitive urge that motivates newspaper reporters, the desire to get stories first, to get stories exclusively, to get stories on the front page. You know, all of those came into play. And in fact the Times wrote a number of really bad stories, inadequately sourced, unskeptical stories about, particularly about Saddam’s weapons capabilities. And those stories were rewarded with lavish front page display.

The Times also wrote a lot of very good stories, more skeptical stories, and those tended to be buried on page A13. So there is—reporters respond to those sorts of incentives. So there was—at least some reporters, you know, went out looking to feed that hunger for scoops.

O’DONNELL: David Corn, speaking as someone who never said anything in favor of the Iraq War, I’ve always been kind of defensive for the media on this, in that people would say to me at the time, “How come they’re not reporting on those aluminum tubes that can be used for this other thing?” I said, “The reason you know that is that you read it in the Washington Post or the New York Times.”
Lawrence defined himself as “someone who never said anything in favor of the Iraq War.” Moments later, he and Corn pretended to recall Corn’s endless on-air brawling.

We couldn’t help wondering: What did Lawrence actually say in the months before the war? Here’s the answer:

Lawrence may not have said anything in favor of going to war. But just for the record, it doesn't look like he ever said anything against that notion either.

According to Nexis, Lawrence published no op-ed columns about the idea of war with Iraq. He wasn’t doing a lot of cable during that period, but he appeared as a Hardball guest on seven occasions between Labor Day 2002 and March 2003.

We find no statements opposing the war. To give you a taste of the gentleman’s tone, here he was on Hardball just one week before the invasion. Two recent polls had shown narrow majorities in favor of some sort of action:
MATTHEWS (3/11/03): Lawrence, do you agree that this is a closely debated issue across the country?

O’DONNELL: Well, yes and no. I mean, some of these poll numbers, Chris, if they were the results of a presidential election, would be called a landslide. I mean, you know nowadays, 56-44 is a landslide victory for one side or the other.

MATTHEWS: But does it meet the old Colin Powell term of overwhelming public support at home? Does it meet that standard that he had in the Powell doctrine?

O’DONNELL: Not overwhelming. It certainly isn't overwhelming support. But what you do have is overwhelming agreement that the ultimate objective is worthwhile and you have a disagreement about which way to go. I mean, listen to Fred Thompson, actor turned senator turned actor again, in today's L.A. Times. He just says calmly, I think the choice of inaction is worse and will lead ultimately to more vulnerability than the choice of action.

The other side, the peace side, simply thinks that the choice of action will lead to more vulnerability than the choice of inaction. That's really— But everyone agrees that the ultimate disarming of Saddam is a very good thing.
As you can see, Lawrence wasn’t exactly yelling himself hoarse in opposition to the impending invasion. Later in the program, he said this about Nancy Pelosi's peacenik stance:
MATTHEWS: Lawrence, it seems like Gephardt, Lieberman, Edwards, three big guys, all for the nomination, all support the war. Is that going to be the Democratic position next winter?

O’DONNELL: Well, we'll see how the war goes, Chris. The Democrats will—and certainly the Democratic nominee will be in a position to retrospectively criticize the Bush action. There's a lot that's happened since they took those votes in the Congress.

And so, there's a lot of different wrinkles along the road that individual candidates have chosen to criticize and say, “Let's do this differently—”


O’DONNELL: —“let's be more patient with this.” And by the way, they're perfectly reasonable arguments. It may be accurately described as hedging their bets, but my experience—

MATTHEWS: Following up with Ron's point, why did Nancy Pelosi out of nowhere this week come out against the war as the chief House Democrat, when all of her colleagues, as I mentioned, supported the war when it mattered, when the vote was taken?

O’DONNELL: Well she has her district, which is extremely anti-war at this point, to consider. And I can't speak for exactly why she timed it that way, but this is the difficulty of having somebody from a district like hers in that leadership position.


O'DONNELL: There could be a conflict there in terms of what the wisest political choice for her party is.
That was the end of the segment. Lawrence didn’t speak in support of invasion—but he didn’t oppose it either. All in all, Lawrence O’Donnell behaved like a Serious Person.

From Labor Day through the start of the war, we can’t find a peep out of Lawrence in opposition to the war. On Monday night, you may have gotten a different impression.

Lawrence was toying with you just a tad. But then, what else is new?


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  2. One week before the invasion, when it was virtually certain to happened, a clear (not a "narrow") majority favoring the invasion, and it was pretty much time for patriotic circling of the wagons, is not very representative of the full picture. I'd like to see what he actually said about the issue over a longer period beginning in 2002. O'Donnell didn't claim a whole lot ("never said anything in favor"). Or did he completely ignore the issue entirely?

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  4. If anyone has an interest in seeing a journalist who actively and vociferously opposed not only the Iraq war, but the Afghan war, check out Democracy now.org and click on the Iraq timeline. Of special interest to me was the video of the host, Amy Goodman, being interviewed by Charlie Rose. It seemed to me that Mr. Rose began with a subtle bias against Ms. Goodman's position, (but that may only be my own lack of objectivity). He certainly defended the "corporate" press, and stated that it does not matter who owns the corporate media, they would not be allowed to interfere with editorial policy. Anyway, it seems worthwhile to see someone who actually opposed the war before it started, and who had a critique of the press then too. I think her observations were borne out by what has happened. Please keep up the fine work, Daily Howler.