Worst of the Web Today: Taranto falsely claimed Dean pronounced bin Laden innocent

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In his May 23 "Best of the Web Today" column, Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto claimed that Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean proclaimed Osama bin Laden innocent of involvement in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Taranto quoted Dean's May 22 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, during which Dean highlighted "the insinuation the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false." From the full context of the quote, however, it is apparent that Dean misspoke: He clearly intended to refer to Saddam Hussein, not bin Laden.

Taranto wrote:

As for Osama bin Laden, Dean later pronounced him innocent:

Dean: The thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9/11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false. The 9/11 Commission, chaired by a Republican, said it was false. Is it wrong to send people to war without telling them the truth. And the truth was Osama bin Laden was a very bad person who was doing terrible things, but that Iraq was never a threat to the United States.

But Taranto omitted the question from host Tim Russert to which Dean was responding. Dean was critiquing the Bush administration's rationale for the war. Specifically, he addressed the allegation -- disproved by the 9-11 Commission -- that Iraq was linked to Al Qaeda's attack on the United States. Dean simply misspoke, intending to say "Saddam Hussein" rather than "Osama bin Laden."

From the May 22 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:

DEAN: Some of the things that the president said on our way into Iraq, they just weren't true, and I don't think that's right. So --

RUSSERT: Such as?

DEAN: Such as the weapons of mass destruction, which we have all known about, but the --

RUSSERT: Well, you said there were weapons of mass destruction.

DEAN: I said I wasn't sure, but I said I thought there probably were. But the thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9-11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false. The 9-11 Commission, chaired by a Republican, said it was false. Is it wrong to send people to war without telling them the truth. And the truth was Osama bin Laden was a very bad person who was doing terrible things, but that Iraq was never a threat to the United States. That was the truth. It was underlined by the 9-11 Commission, headed, again, by a Republican, a well-respected group of people. I don't think you send American men and women to war, first of all without properly equipping them, and secondly without telling the truth to their parents about why it is we're asking them to make that sacrifice. So those are the kinds of things that I think are very bad about the Republicans.

Even conservative news website WorldNetDaily.com agreed that Dean had made a mistake, proclaiming in a May 23 article: "Howard Dean confuses bin Laden, Saddam." Dean Nation, a weblog "dedicated to the spirit of the Dean Movement," noted that Dean had misspoken and also pointed out that President Bush similarly confused Saddam and bin Laden during the first presidential debate of the 2004 campaign.

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