Will the press ever gore Cheney?

Published June 15, 2004 2:02PM (EDT)

In 2000, the press corps was quite diligent about keeping the citizenry well-informed on Al Gore's supposed tall tales. The New York Post kept a tally of "Al's Lies." Of course, so many of these inconsequential non-stories turned out to be exactly that -- non-stories. From supposedly claiming to invent the Internet, to whether he and/or Tipper were the inspiration for Love Story, so much of the spin about Gore's relationship with the truth was based on misrepresentations. Still, the obsession with "Gore's lies" produced a campaign trail legend that Gore is a fabricator, much as John Kerry is now considered a flip-flopper --- an RNC talking point magically repeated back to pollsters by voters who rarely read or hear a news story that doesn't mention Kerry's troublingly "nuanced" positions.

We look forward, then, to Dick Cheney getting the Gore treatment from the media. The vice president is still telling Americans that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al-Qaida. He made that statement again yesterday in Orlando -- but just two newspapers and the Associated Press have published stories so far, according to a Nexis search of today's newspapers and wires.

The Miami Herald story about Cheney's speech buries the Saddam-al-Qaida claim several paragraphs into an already short piece, reporting: "The vice president also continued to link Iraq's ousted dictator Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda -- a stand that has been much criticized by some terrorism experts."

The Orlando Sentinel piece mentioned Cheney citing "Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to al-Qaeda in defending the Iraq invasion," in the story's first paragraph, but you have to read several more paragraphs before learning that "critics of the administration have said the ties between Saddam and the international terrorist organization headed by bin Laden were unproven and Cheney did not offer any new evidence."

These "terrorism experts" and "critics" were joined prominently, months ago, by the Secretary of State, who admitted that the Saddam/al-Qaida connection has indeed never been proven, saying publicly that he has "not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection."

If the media were truly to give Cheney the Gore treatment, reporters would ask the vice president at every campaign stop just what new evidence he has linking Saddam to al-Qaida. And if he's got some, by chance, he should share it with Colin Powell.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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