Friday, June 17, 2005

Ahoy, the winds of change

Bush pressed to answer `Downing Street Memo' questions

Antiwar Group Says Leaked British Memo Shows Bush Misled Public on His War Plans

The Downing Street memo, so named because the meeting was at the prime minister's London residence, was published in The Sunday Times of London on May 1.

It is one of seven prewar documents leaked since September to Michael Smith, a reporter for The Daily Telegraph before he began working for The Sunday Times. One, written in preparation for the July 23 meeting and published Sunday by The Sunday Times, warned that "a postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise" in which "Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."
Activists have accused mainstream news organizations of playing down the document's significance, even as antiwar bloggers have seized upon it as evidence.

David Swanson, a Democratic activist and one of the founders of After Downing Street, criticized those defenders of President Bush and journalists who have called the memo "old news" because the president's war preparations were widely reported by mid-2002.
"It's not old news to most Americans," Mr. Swanson said.

(MY Comments)
Jim Vandehei, a reporter from the Washington Post, appeared on MSNBC’s Countdown (with Alex Witt filling in for Keith Obermann) last night to give his expert opinion about the Forum held By John Conyers.
Keep in mind that Vandehei was not asked if he had attended the hearing…or spoken to or listened to any of the witnesses before or after their testimony.

Jim, good evening. Nice to have you with us on COUNTDOWN.


WITT: Before we talk about the Downing Street memos, let me begin by asking you about what‘s going on in Iraq. I mean, specifically, Jim, is it getting more difficult for the president to keep on painting a rosy picture? Is this problem he can no longer ignore?

VANDEHEI: It‘s definitely something he can‘t ignore any more, and he acknowledges that. The White House is planning to shift its strategy in the next couple of weeks to focus more attention on Iraq, and probably at the expense of Social Security and some other issues.
The president is looking at the same poll numbers that we are, and he believes he has to reengage with the American people, explain the mission, and explain his plan for victory.

WITT: OK. Let‘s turn now to the Downing Street memos. Is anything in the documents, or anything that we‘ve heard today, as damning as the Democrats on the Hill or liberal bloggers might wish there to be?

VANDEHEI: Well, not really, and the reason would be that the two allegations that are in the memo are basically that the president was planning to go to war long before he was publicly acknowledging it, and determined to use highly disputed weapons of mass destruction information to justify an invasion. Both of those charges, I think, have largely been true—proved by the media, and by administration officials who were there during the war planning sessions.
So what you do have for the first time is, you have it in writing, you have this memo from the British, saying that this is our interpretation of what the United States is thinking. And that‘s what Democrats are seizing on.

WITT: Jim, how seriously was today‘s unofficial hearing being taken
by those on Capitol Hill who were not participating in it?

VANDEHEI: Probably not very seriously. I mean, what you had here were antiwar liberals holding a mock hearing, where they had critics of the administration only testifying. Basically, Republicans control all the levers power in Washington. Democrats have very little that they can do to raise issues or to raise investigations.
So what they did is, they held this mock hearing. And I think it generated some media attention, hence we‘re sitting here talking about it tonight.

WITT: Yes. There has been criticism, though, that the major media outlets have not been paying enough attention to the Downing Street memos. I mean, do you think that‘s starting to change? Do you think this story is really gathering steam, notwithstanding that we‘re talking about it tonight?

VANDEHEI: Right. Well, it‘s interesting, I mean, my e-mailbox has been filled with e-mails from several Democrats who are just angry that the media‘s not doing enough on the issue. And I think if you look at some of the television programs and the major newspapers over the last couple of days, there‘s been a lot of stories now about the memo. But a lot of them are about the process, about Democrats being angry that we‘re not talking about the memo.
Now, our newspaper did have a front-page story in the last week that talked about the specifics of what‘s in that memo and what is significant about it. But for the most part, I haven‘t seen a ton of coverage in the United States of the content.

WITT: And what‘s it going to take to get these memos on the front page of the newspapers? And do you think it should be there in that placement?

VANDEHEI: Right, I mean, I think that‘s usually an editor‘s judgment. I think that there‘s nothing else that‘s going to come that‘s from that memo. We‘ve seen the memo, we know the contents. So I don‘t think you‘re going to see a lot more coverage of it, other than Democrats saying that there should be more focus on why we went to war, more focus on the fact that the president was relying on faulty weapons of mass destruction information.
But I think a lot of that stuff was really hashed out in the elections. A lot of people know that.
And what they‘re focused on now is the disconnect between what the president is saying is happening on the ground in Iraq, and what they‘re seeing on television, with mounting casualties and the insurgency appearing to look stronger rather than weaker. And I think that‘s where a lot of the focus is. And I know that‘s a lot of -- where a lot of the focus of our newspaper is right now.

WITT: How about historical context for these memos? Do you think—what do you think that‘s going to play out to be?

VANDEHEI: Right. I mean, I think the historical context is that it‘s the first time we really have something in writing that proves what I think a lot of people already knew. I mean, we had—our reporters have talked to several officials that have said exactly what‘s in those memos. But now you have a paper trail. So I think that would be the historical significance of it.

WITT: All right, Jim VandeHei of “The Washington Post,” thanks so much for your time here on COUNTDOWN. We appreciate it.

As an antiwar liberal (person with some maturity) and liberal leaning independent blogger, I am beginning to understand the concept of “tipping point”. The Bush Administration and their enablers have been hiding important facts about plans and activities to such a degree that the sheer weight of the hidden information is about to tip the container and spill out all over the awareness of the American people.

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