The facts behind the Fox interview

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Bush and bin Laden: what really happened

Clinton recommended to Chris Wallace that he go back and check his facts. I don't expect anyone at Fox to be interested in that kind of boring stuff, but perhaps I can help. This is from The Book on Bush, and there's plenty more. After all, this is just a blog, that's a book. People need to read books.

Following the Cole bombing, Clinton counterterrorism forces started working on an aggressive plan to retaliate against al Qaeda. Their plan to strike back reached then national security advisor Sandy Berger and other top officials on December 20, 2000. But with less than a month remaining in office and the Bush team about to take over, they decided it would be wrong to take an action that would tie the incoming administration's hands. Instead they took their case to the new administration in the hopes that some version of the plan might be enacted before it was too late. CIA director George Tenet termed al Qaeda a "tremendous threat" as well as an "immediate" one, while Berger warned Rice, "You're going to spend more time during your four years on terrorism generally and al Qaeda specifically than any other issue."

Clarke, who headed the counterterrorism office, then offered up a complete Power Point presentation to Rice, promising, "We would make a major error if we underestimated the challenge al Qaeda poses." Featuring a complete set of proposals to "roll back" al Qaeda, Clarke's plan envisaged the "breakup" of al Qaeda cells and their arrest and imprisonment. He also called for an attack on the financial network that supported the terrorists, freezing its assets, exposing its phony charities, and arresting its personnel. The United States would offer help to such disparate nations as Uzbekistan, the Philippines, and Yemen to combat the al Qaeda forces in their respective midsts. And finally, Clarke's proposal suggested a significant increase in U.S. covert action in Afghanistan with the goal of "eliminat[ing] the sanctuary" where the Taliban and bin Laden were operating in tandem. The plan recommended a considerable increase in American support for the Northern Alliance in their fight to overthrow the Taliban's repressive regime, thereby keeping the terrorists preoccupied with protecting their gains, rather than seeking new victories elsewhere. Simultaneously American military forces would begin planning for special operations inside Afghanistan and bombing strikes against terrorist-training camps.

It was an enormous undertaking, and Newsweek quoted one official as costing out the plan at "several hundreds of millions." Instead of acting on it, however, the Bush administration decided -- as it did with the Hart-Rudman recommendations -- to lay it aside and conduct its own review. Rice did not even bother to set up a high-level meeting to discuss the issue, but instead effectively demoted Clarke through a reorganization of the NSC structure.

As power in any strong hierarchy flows downward, the rest of the Bush team was hardly more concerned about meeting a potential terrorist threat.

All through the governmental system, the issue was moved, in the words of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton, "farther to the back burner."

Chris Matthews was right last week when he said the war in Iraq was no longer "on the tube." Much to the White House's delight, network TV has pulled way back in recent weeks, despite the fact that Iraq is imploding. The worst part? The media did the exact same thing during the 2004 campaign.

Hillary, profiled. (I haven't read it yet.) I also haven't read this either, but speaking of ahistoricism, I wonder: How much of the coverage of Chavez's speech mentioned the fact that it looks like Chavez has every right to conclude that Bush tried to overthrow him? That kind of gets to a guy. Just ask Fidel Castro ...

Letter to David Broder. Alterman on Broder from 1993, reprinted in 2003, here. I don't know how it ended up there, but thanks, I think. He should have retired back then, or even, perhaps, then.

Meet the New Broder; same as the Old Broder.

How to get Drudge to plug your book. (It's not so hard, really.)

Meanwhile, bragging, endlessly, about the fabulousness of your very own book party while sucking up to your "sanguine, merry, boyish, super, inexhaustible, global, boffo, glowing , ever-elegant, dapper, lovely, amazing " guests? My goodness. One is left speechless at the shamelessness of the self-promotion the people we call "journalists." Meanwhile, I wonder if ABC is charging Random House for all this promotion since I see no evidence that allowing Mark Halperin to cover his own fabulousness is being treated as an advertisement. Nor is there any indication that it's what magazines term an advertorial. These guys could give my girl Arianna a lesson in shameless... um, I mean fearlessness. (Maybe it really is time for a blogger ethics panel.) Anyway, we can write this sentence over and over: "If you want to know what's really wrong with Washington journalism ..."

This just in: Apparently, former TAP blogger Brendan Nyhan has been hired as a photographer at Juggs magazine but is whining that the magazine is refusing to publish his male-on-male porn photos ... or have I misread? Here.

Other things I didn't know: Iraq is apparently the Democrats' fault, here.

By the way, I've used the word "nigger" on occasion, almost always to discuss the use of the word "nigger" by black people, which is quite common. I even did it in class in Brooklyn college. It's weird that Governor Allen has neverevernevereverneverever used the word, huh? Here.

What the hell kind of country do we live in?

On March 15, the PBS affiliate in San Mateo, Calif. -- run by the local community college -- was fined $15,000 for having rebroadcast The Blues: Godfathers and Sons two years previous. More than 150,000 Californians watched; at least one viewer complained about the language, which included several variations on "fuck" and "shit" spoken by blues musicians, using an online form accessible through the Parents Television Council Web site.

PBS considered itself warned.

On June 15, not long after "shit" made the F.C.C.'s list, President Bush signed a bill increasing the maximum fine for an indecency violation tenfold. Now a single utterance of either word, whether from soldier, spy or bluesman, can mean a $325,000 penalty -- an amount greater than the annual government funding for some small PBS affiliates.

More here.

Meet the Mets: I was watching the HBO documentary -- disclosure: I'm a consultant -- on the Chicago Cubs' unhappy history, and it occurred to me: The Mets are the curse-killer killers. They killed the Cubbies' hopes and prayers in 1969, and they did the same thing to the Sox in '86. Sorry, guys. Mets in six. (More below.) The other thing that occurred to me while watching this is that my good friends at HBO made one of these the year before the Sox won. and they had to redo it. That's not happening this year, but um, there's always ... (I'm being extra nice because of my nephews, and maybe Stupid ...)

From the Benton Foundation:

GROUP THAT PAID OFF IRAQI PAPERS GETS NEW $6.2 MILLION MEDIA CONTRACT [SOURCE: Associated Press]

A public relations company known for its role in a controversial U.S. military program that paid Iraqi newspapers for stories favorable to coalition forces has been awarded another multimillion dollar media contract with American forces in Iraq. Washington-based Lincoln Group won a two-year contract to monitor a number of English and Arabic media outlets and produce public relations-type products such as talking points or speeches for U.S. forces in Iraq, officials said Tuesday. The contract is worth roughly $6.2 million per year over a two-year period.

Alter-reviews:

The Byrds, There Is a Season, Columbia, four CDs + DVD

This is good: "At their peak, the Byrds had everything a rock band could need -- the fame, the creativity, the ability to exude cool while sporting a wildly impractical haircut -- and still seemed to be having no fun whatsoever. Cursed with egos bigger even than their monumental talent, they bickered their way to fame and back."

Well, the folks at Columbia have released a second Byrds box set. Should you buy it? It depends, there's that first box set, as well as all those terrific re-releases of the records; my favorite is "Sweetheart of the Rodeo." The last box set reflected what great friends the guys still are, as Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman reformed to record four new songs, forgetting to invite Michael Clarke and Gene Clark. This one lets everyone have a say over the choice of 99 songs, plus a DVD of ten previously unissued television performances. So here's the thing. Yes it's great, most of it. The really early stuff is of historical interest, exclusively. The later stuff, well, it's not so bad. I'm happy to have it on. So the issue is, your level of fantaticism. Total fananatics will shell out the bucks just for the DVD. Anybody who doesn't have the first box, and more than 50 percent of the re-releases, well, you have my permission, even encouragement. I mean, this is one great and historic band. More here.

Hold On, He's Coming: Hey, look, Sam Moore's got a new record, called Overnight Sensational. It reminds me a lot of Solomon Burke's recent records, up to and including a terrific version of "None of Us are Free," including Sting, no less. I deeply disagree with the song's sentiments. It's completely wrong. It's a great song, though, and a pretty excellent album. The old guy sounds pretty great, what with Springsteen, Clapton, Wynonna, El Stingo, Bon Jovi, Winwood, Paul Rodgers, Mariah Carey, Vince Gill and others. The Bon Jovi song, "Lookin' For a Love," is excellent too. There's plenty, um, Moore.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Steve
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

I keep making this argument which nobody has ever rebutted, but nobody seems to care about it either. The pre-war planning in Iraq was not a matter of mistakenly believing that it would be quick and easy with no insurgency. It was politically required to be so. If the administration had planned for the post Sadaam chaos, it would have been forced to acknowledge that the war would not have been the cakewalk as advertised. Politically, the administration had to be omniscient, and extensive planning would have created the appearance of doubt. Later, when the insurgency started, it had to be minimized by using the available troops on hand. Extensive reinforcement would again have exposed the folly of the whole mission. The arrogance of the administration requires it to string along the troops rather than risk any possible political challenge, because only they are capable of ensuring our safety. So if you have to tell a few lies, let some more soldiers die, torture a few guys, it's okay because we all know what would happen if the liberals gained any ground. You want cowardice? How about that kind of planning where you don't even want to look at the "insurgency" file? And how about the above as an example for just how the administration views dissent, that it is more dangerous than the terrorists we are waging war against in Iraq?

Name: Jim
Hometown: Chicago

Hi Eric,

How come the MSM never seems to mention the US backed failed coup against Chavez in 2002, while discussing his "El Diablo" remarks at the UN? Chavez came within an eyelash of being deposed, and we all know that the life span of deposed presidents (and often their immediate families) tends to be rather short. Why the hell shouldn't Chavez have a little personal animus against Bush, who must have sanctioned the whole plot? But I've yet to read a reminder of it in the recent coverage (I'd be grateful for an example). No, Chavez is just some crazed radical, whose far left ideological bent makes him hate the stalwart conservative Bush. How can Americans ever come to understand the world, and realize that actions have consequences, when the press does such a pathetic job in reporting the news? At least Chavez contented himself with a little name calling. Would that Bush were that mature!

Name: Phil Davies
Hometown: Lafayette Hill, PA

Dear Eric,

I am writing today because I am concerned about the 2006 exit polls and what if anything will be reported on them before the election.

There seems to be no coverage of this important topic. Yet, in 2004 there was a gigantic discrepancy between the exit poll numbers and the official vote results (which was glossed over by "adjusting" the exit poll numbers to equal the official results).

After extensive research on the internet (at least for a novice), I was able to find only the following two items. One, that Warren Mitofsky negotiated with the News Election Pool to ensure there would be no leaks in 2006 if he agreed to do the exit polls (like CNN fortunately did in 2004 when unaltered exit poll results were left online until after midnight). And Two, that since Mitofsky died, his partner from 2004, Edison Media Research, will run the exit polls for 2006.

This ain't much to go on, but it does raise important questions:

1. Will the exit poll methodology be modified by Edison Media Research to be more accurate this year (and to get rid of the supposed problem of response rates between political parties)?

2. Will unaltered/actual exit poll results be released by the NEP immediately following the election?

3. Will the MSM, or anyone, cover this topic before the election, when it will do some good?

Exit poll results are used in many countries as evidence of election fraud. But that is only possible if the real/unaltered numbers are released. If publishing this information is not agreed to by the News Election Pool before the election, then they will never allow it afterwards.

Maybe you could report on the 2006 exit poll plans or, with your connections, convince some of your peers to do so. Thank you.

Name: Stacey Crockett
Hometown: Bellingham, WA

Regarding your question, "Have Bush and Satan ever actually been seen in the same place at the same time," I'd have to say yes. There are numerous pictures of Bush and Cheney in the same place at the same time.

Keep up the good fight -- love your blog.

Name: Sathya
Hometown: Fremont, CA

There is nothing surprising in the Newsweek covers. The magazine gives the people what they want to see. Most people around the world want to see the US fail (thanks to Bush administration policies), they get the "Losing Afghanistan" cover. Americans do not want any bad news, so we get a different cover.

Name: Ed M
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Hey, you rave on about the Mets all you want, but you know what the truly amazing baseball story is this year (and what a shock the MSM doesn't cover it)?

The Minnesota Twins. As a true baseball fan, how could you possibly disagree?

Name: Joe Raskin
Hometown: Brooklyn

Dr. Alterman:

As a Mets fan of 44 years standing, it would be nice to see another Subway Series. I believe that the 2000 World Series must and can be avenged. However, there's an older debt that must first be repaid.

I want the Mets to play the Oakland Athletics.

Without question, the Yankees have the better team, and it would be immensely satisfying to see the victory parade up Broadway. I'd love to see the look on Steinbrenner's face.

I want to see the Mets play the Oakland Athletics first. I want to avenge 1973.

This thought hit me a few weeks ago when Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez started talking about that Series, and wondering about Yogi Berra's pitching strategy late in the series. If you remember, with the Mets ahead 3 games to 2, Yogi chose to pitch both Tom Seaver and Jon Matlack on short rest in the sixth and seventh games. Seaver lost the sixth game, and Reggie Jackson hit a moon shot off of Matlack in the seventh game, and the Mets lost. Both Hernandez and Cohen wondered why Yogi didn't pitch George Stone (who had gone 12-3 during the regular season, and barely pitched in the postseason) in the sixth game, giving Seaver (who only won 311 games in his career) the opportunity to have a full rest in case a seventh game was needed (backed up by Matlack, the criminally underrated Jerry Koosman, and Tug McGraw, as well).

Gary Cohen remarked that he's been wondering about that for the last 33 years. So have I. I want that sixth game back. I want Oakland this year. We can take care of the Yankees next year.

Eric replies: You know, I was watching then, and had that same thought. But I still want the Yankees. Beating the A's would be like beating Bob Dole. I want the Bush/Cheney/Nixon/Steinbrenner/Yankees.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.