Here we go again. Another devastating report being spun as a mixed bag -- with the spin dutifully echoed by the media. Another administration brain tumor being "offset" by shiny hair.
This time it's the new National Intelligence Estimate report on the threat of terrorist violence against America that is being given the utterly ludicrous "on the one hand... and on the other hand" treatment.
A prime example of this came on AC 360, where Anderson Cooper reported that "both sides in the Iraq debate are spinning [the NIE] to support their case." To prove his point, he rolled a video clip of Bush making the case for staying the course in Iraq. Back on camera, he said, "The Democrats, of course, see it differently."
"Of course" they do. Not because there are always two sides to every issue, but because the facts are different than Bush claims they are.
Cooper then turned to a trio of experts whose goal was "Keeping Them Honest."
Up first was the always bracing Michael Ware, beamed in via satellite from Iraq, where he has spent most of the war. Ware took a cudgel to the White House spin machine, beating down the administration's attempt to portray the war as a fight between America and al-Qaeda by reporting that "al-Qaeda would be lucky to make up 3 percent of the insurgency." Ware's verdict on the White House: "They're trying to play the American public."
Next up was CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen who agreed with Ware that al-Qaeda in Iraq is a "relatively small group" but was quick to add: "On the other hand, the largest number of suicide attackers in Iraq are foreigners... few Iraqis are involved in the suicide attacks. And it's the suicide attacks, of course, that sparked the civil war, that got the United Nations to withdraw, and that made Iraq a much more dangerous place. So, despite their small number, they have had a disproportionate strategic effect on the ground."
So for those keeping score, that's one "the administration is not being honest" and one "the administration is partially honest and partially dishonest." Hmm... I wonder what could be next? Perhaps someone to defend the administration as "totally honest"?
Enter CNN military analyst, retired U.S. General David Grange. Like the White House, Grange sees a silver lining in the fact that the war in Iraq has "multiplied" the number of terrorists: "I kind of like the idea [terrorists] assemble in Iraq, because there's more of them there to take down, instead of hunting them around the world of global operations, which are very difficult. Here, we have a license to kill or capture. Many other places, we do not. And, so, I don't think it's a bad thing that they're assembling in Iraq."
As usual, Ware refused to let the spin go unchallenged: "The whole notion of 'better to fight them over there than over here,' let's bring them in like a honey pot and draw them to Iraq and kill them, is absolutely ludicrous. In fact, it's so ludicrous, it's downright dangerous, because what they're doing is, they're creating entire generation of jihadis that did not exist... Iraq has been a total disaster, in terms of limiting the number of jihadis on the planet."
So there you had it -- a typical media sampler. One saying "it's A", one saying "it's B," and one saying "it's a little of each".
Fair, balanced, objective. And utterly confusing for the very public they are trying to inform.
There are such things as facts. There is such a thing as reality. And refusing to see those facts and report that reality -- undiluted by an "on the other hand" mixer -- isn't a sign of objectivity, it's a sign of intellectual laziness and journalistic muddled thinking.
The NIE report represents the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and is a stark and unambiguous repudiation of the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategy and its contention that the war in Iraq has made us safer.
Indeed, the report suggests that it's just the opposite -- that the war in Iraq has fueled a growing hatred of America, spread Islamic extremism, and spawned an expanding crop of newly inspired jihadists around the globe. And it eviscerates the Bushies' bedrock notion that we are fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here. It turns out that the odds of us having to fight them over here have greatly increased precisely because we are fighting them over there.
The report also highlights the "regenerated" strength of al-Qaeda. So not only have we failed to capture bin Laden and destroy those that attacked us on 9/11 -- we have, thanks to Bush's tragic actions, actually helped keep al-Qaeda strong and deadly.
If this NIE assessment was a Keeping Us Safe report card, Bush would get an F.
There are times when there aren't two sides to an issue -- when there is no "other hand." This is one of those times.
The president vowed to keep us safer and, according to 16 intelligence agencies, he has failed. Period. End of story.