I was a guest last night on BIll Moyers Journal along with two stalwarts from McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder), John Walcott and Jonathan Landay, famed for repeatedly raising doubts about the Bush case for war back in 2002 and 2003. The subject was the lack of media self-criticism on the war in the wake of the McClellan book, what the press is still getting wrong, and the rising chances of an attack on Iran.
Bill was his usual thoughtful and welcoming self, his wife is a joy, and it was kind of a thrill to hang out in the Green Room with the McClatchy guys on Thursday morning as the new Senate report on the cooked Bush evidence against Saddam came in over their blackberries. Of course, they had reported almost all of it first, long ago.
I've linked to the full video and transcript below. I am also blogging and answering questions at the PBS site. Here is a bit of the transcript.
BILL MOYERS: But you've been -- you started writing that five years ago, six years ago [before McClellan], you were saying that the Press Corps, television and press in Washington, was complicit.
GREG MITCHELL: Right. Well, that's -- again, it's different coming from the chief White House spokesman than coming from me -- you know, for better or worse. But you know, I think what's troubling to me is the response to that. The media has not responded by saying, "Boy, we really got caught out here, and we really need to look at what we did wrong. And we're, you know, we need to report on what the mistakes we made and what we -- you know, what we've really learned now."
Charles Gibson said -- I don't think we would ask any different questions. I mean, it's shocking to me that someone would say we would even with the chance to relive this experience and so much we got wrong -- a war which is still going on over five years later, all the lost lives, all the financial costs of that. And then to look back at this, you know, this terrible episode in history of American journalism and say that if I could do it all over again, I'm not sure we would ask any different questions.
JOHN WALCOTT: Well, I'm not -- I don't know what questions ABC or anybody else asked. They may have asked all the right questions. The trouble is they asked all the wrong people.
GREG MITCHELL: There's been numerous opportunities actually just in the last few weeks for the media to do this self-assessment. And you remember the fifth anniversary of the start of the war. Almost no media self-assessment at that time. Pointing fingers at everybody but themselves. There was the mark of 4,000 deaths in Iraq. There was the fifth anniversary of "mission accomplished." Another great opportunity . We had the scandal of the Pentagon media generals, as I call them.
We had that opportunity. Now we've had Scott McClellan. There's been at least six opportunities in the last two months for the media to do this long-delayed and much needed self-assessment, self-criticism for the American public, and it hasn't happened.
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.