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Jake Tapper: Iraq Media Failure 'Incredibly Influential' On Me

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When recently talking to Jake Tapper about his new show, I asked the CNN host for his reflection on the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion and the media's role leading up to it.

Tapper, then a freelance writer and not part of the White House press corps, said that "too many members of the media got caught up and were beating the drum and were excited to be embedded and there was a very big failure."

"There were notable exceptions," Tapper said. "Some of the reporters with McClatchy, for example, did amazing work. But there was a big failure. It was incredibly influential. I cannot overstate how influential that failure of the media was to the way I approached my job when I was White House correspondent. It was constantly informing how I did my job and how important I felt it was to ask tough questions on any subject regardless of my personal feelings because I felt it was important for us to be checks on this incredibly powerful place."

Tapper described the run-up to war as "an in-between period of my journalistic career" and one that took him outside the Washington bubble. For that reason, Tapper said he had "an outsider's perspective of the whole thing and it all seemed strange for me."

On the day Colin Powell made his case before the U.N., Tapper was on the road with Howard Dean for a Salon profile in which he noted how "war-ready" Washington was at that time:

... It's Thursday, Feb. 6, the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations of evidence of Iraq's noncompliance with Resolution 1441. Edwards calls it "a powerful case." Kerry says it's "compelling." Lieberman, of course, is already in his fatigues.
Dean isn't sold. It doesn't indicate that Iraq is an imminent threat, he says.

From Washington come the barbs -- The New Republic calls it proof he's "not serious." ABC News' "The Note" wonders if he's backed himself into a corner. Dean has opposed the pending war because he didn't think President Bush had made his case. If he doesn't support military action now, the thinking goes, then he's just contradicting himself. Or, at the very least, he's been put in an untenable and -- for the moment, at least inside war-ready Washington, unpopular -- position.

He gets a deluge of phone calls from reporters asking him to clarify his position. Which is -- "as I've said about eight times today," he says, annoyed -- that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn't, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.