THE BLOG
05/23/2005 12:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Superhero Named Divertor, Saturday Night Live , Me and WMDs

I posted this item on my own davidcorn.com blog. But since it does mention fellow HuffPost blogger Adam McKay, I thought I'd share:

I just received a prestigious journalistic honor. I was spoofed on Saturday Night Live. This occurred during the TV Funhouse cartoon—a regular feature produced by Robert Smigel, who is also known as the mad genius behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. (Click here to read about my last encounter with Triumph.) In the cartoon, I was one of four pundits on a split-screen yapping about the budget deficit and talking over one another. All this media attention on the deficit was bad for the administration. So the president called on a superhero named Divertor to help. Divertor immediately flew over Los Angeles, looking for the right opportunity. Then he spotted it: Sinbad the comic was addressing a classroom of students. Using his powers, Divertor made Sinbad expose himself to the young ones. Immediately, the media was obsessed with the Sinbad scandal. (Headline on Fox: "Sin-Bad?") No longer were media commentators discussing the deficit. They were slicing and dicing the Sinbad controversy. And when the news broke that nuclear waste the administration had buried in a mercury mine had leeched into the nation's water supply and was about to turn all Americans into mutants, the president once again sent for Divertor, who this time caused sitcom actress Jenna Elfman to be arrested for owning slaves. You can guess the rest. (As of Monday morning, the video of this toon was posted on www.thepoliticalteen.net. But I couldn't get it to work for me.)

Smigel and cowriter Adam McKay (a fellow blogger of mine at HuffingtonPost.com) had a good point, and they overstated it well. Look at recent front-page stories (both of which happened to have appeared in The New York Times last week) that received less media attention than Corey Clark's purported affair with Paula Abdul. One was a report that US commanders believe the United States is losing ground in Iraq. The other was an expose about US officials in Afghanistan horrifically abusing detainees. These stories hardly caused an uproar in the rest of the media.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post published a signficant piece on Sunday by veteran reporter Walter Pincus that blew apart the argument that before the war the WMD intelligence was clear and alarming even if it later proved to be incorrect. Bushbackers and war champions routinely use this phony argument to justify the war. War-skeptics (such as myself) have pointed to the prewar intelligence and the post-invasion investigations to note there were plenty of signs before the invasion that the intelligence was indeed iffy. Pincus notes:

[I]t appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.

His article says,

[A] close reading of the recent 6000-page report by the president's commission on intelligence and the previous report by the Senate panel, shows that as war approached, many U.S, intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons program.

Almost every major piece? That's some endorsement of Bush's case for war. To those who have followed this closely, Pincus' report is no surprise. Had Bush bothered to look at the prewar intelligence himself (with a somewhat discerning eye), he would have known that CIA chief George Tenet's "slam dunk" assertion was bunk. But as the White House acknowledged, neither Bush nor his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, read the 90-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. (Before the war, Rice was aware of the dispute among analysts on whether Iraq was importing aluminum tubes for a nuclear weapons program or for producing rocket launchers. Still, she publicly declared there was no question that these tubes were evidence of a revived nuclear weapons program.) Much of this overall story is already on the public record--Pincus dove deep into the stuff--but the media has mostly ignored this angle on the WMD intelligence scandal. And that has allowed Bush and his comrades to get away with shifting blame for the massive prewar intelligence failure to the CIA.

Did Bush hype bad intelligence and shirk his responsibility to ensure intelligence used to justify a war was sound? That seems like a rather important matter, and Pincus' piece suggests that's precisely what Bush did. Yet where did the Post place this piece? It buried the article in a single-column slot on p. A26, which was six pages into its foreign news coverage. I credit the paper for dispatching Pincus to dissect this topic. But this placement practically guaranteed the story would make no splash.

As I contemplated Smigel's cartoon and considered all these major news stories that triggered not much in the way of a media hullabaloo, I thought maybe Divertor has a superhero colleague whose name is Neglector. And his job might even be easier than that of Divertor.

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Note to Smigel and McKay. I want to retain all marketing rights to Neglector. He may be my ticket out of the blogosphere! Unless, of course, as a rich and pwerful celebrity with strong views on politics I still would want to blog. But where oh where could I do that?