Knight Ridder's John Walcott and others sound off on the media's handling of the Downing Street memo. Plus: Readers debate the case for impeaching President Bush.

By Salon Staff
Published June 11, 2005 8:00AM (EDT)

[Read "Bush Lied About War? Nope, No News There!" by Eric Boehlert, and "Afraid to Tell the Truth" and "The Last Laugh," by Joe Conason.]

In his eagerness to castigate the national media for ignoring the Downing Street memo, Joe Conason, like Eric Boehlert the day before, overlooks the fact that the nation's second-largest newspaper company wrote about the memo on May 5. The story by the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau confirmed the authenticity of the memo and, more important, reported that it was an accurate account of what had transpired.

Readers can find the May 5 story at www.krwashington.com, under the "Iraq intelligence" heading. There, they also can find, among other things, a Feb. 13, 2002, story, written nearly six months before the Downing Street memo, reporting that President Bush had made the decision to oust Saddam Hussein and had ordered his aides to begin preparing military and other plans for doing so. Former Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat, has written in his book that he discovered much the same thing six days later, when during a visit to the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Gen. Tommy Franks revealed that some military and other assets were already being diverted from the war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq.

-- John Walcott, Washington Bureau Chief, Knight Ridder

Great article by your Eric Boehlert, "Bush lied about war? Nope, no news there!" Though he could have stopped at the title and the pith would have been communicated perfectly. Save a few brave souls, the media is worthless to the citizens of our country. I hope they can heal and get back to fighting the good fight, but it doesn't look good.

-- John Rogers

Eric Boehlert's article about the Downing Street memo and Joe Conason's recent column "Afraid to Tell the Truth" both point fingers at complacent or frightened reporters and editors as the primary reason that this memo hasn't received major coverage in the U.S., as it has in Britain. I find all this hand-wringing over the poor reporters silly. Why have neither of these columnists mentioned the possibility that the corporate media, as a whole, is sitting on this story, and that the intentions of individual reporters are meaningless in this context?

Fox News is only the most obvious tip of this iceberg. All of our major news organizations are owned in whole or part by giant corporations. Corporations are driven to make profits; their owners/executives have profited hugely under this administration. I'm sure some reporter would love to make their name on this story. Any reporter with a working brain must have seen the sensation this memo has caused in the British press, and surely not all reporters/editors are so quaking in their boots that they wouldn't take a chance on this. My money says that, simply, no one has been allowed to. The rich folks at the top say, "Don't publish," and silence follows.

-- Erik Henriksen

Mr. Cox of USA Today says of the Downing Street memo: "[It] doesn't say something we haven't heard in one way or another over the last two and a half years."

It seems to me that American news media are no longer able to discern between speculation and evidence. Were Nixon's secret tapes not newsworthy because, prior to their existence being revealed, people had wondered out loud if Nixon was involved in the coverup?

-- Bill Elmelund

[Read "The I-Word," by Mark Tushnet, Jack Rakove, Michael J. Gerhardt and Cass Sunstein.]

Rarely have I read a more confused and vapid article than the one by the four supposed constitutional scholars Mark Tushnet, Jack Rakove, Michael J. Gerhardt and Cass Sunstein discussing the probability of impeachment for George Bush. The article starts off reality-based by stating that rarely has the case for impeachment been more obvious. Somehow, after that, they maunder through a series of bizarre conclusions that impeachment is not really necessary and anyway, since there is no political likelihood of its success and because we all knew about these high crimes already, it's silly to even discuss it.

The Downing Street memo has been dismissed as old news. But the minutes leaked in the memo have a good deal of significance, because they constitute official high-level government records, which plainly contradict this administration's campaign of propaganda and disinformation. This evidence could certainly be actionable by a Congress interested in the truth.

And lying to Congress, and modifying, manufacturing and distorting evidence to lie to the American people, in a joint session of Congress are far from his only impeachable offenses. Bribery is one of the original enumerated causes mentioned for impeachment and there has not ever been a president more deeply involved in taking contributions, or bribes, from a vast array of special interests who thereafter received immense paybacks, usually at the direct cost and detriment of the American public.

After dismissing the very idea of any responsibility ever being assigned to this multiply criminal administration, the authors end the article with a childish whine, "Could we please talk about something else?" Well, no. These "scholars" might want to ignore criminal conduct of the rankest sort, but some of the American public has had enough of this pretender and those who would attempt to distract us from his despicable conduct. This piece was the antithesis of scholarship and the authors should be ashamed.

-- Keith Lammers

Where on earth did you find that lame group of war-criminal apologists? OK, you did say where you found them, so a better question is, "Why did you give them any ink?" Aside from those of Mark Tushnet, many of the arguments presented by the other three columnists were ridiculous.

Rakove: "Simply put, Americans know as much now about the defects in the administration's case for war as we did when we voted in November." Really? The vast majority of Americans have never even heard of the Downing Street memo, because if it's not on TV, they haven't heard of it. Even the relatively few of us who do choose to read their news need to go digging online on their own to learn anything of any substance on the topic, because mainstream newspapers have hardly mentioned the story either. I'm guessing that if most Americans were actually aware of the significance of the memo, they'd be outraged enough to demand that their legislators move to impeach, or at least that they investigate further. Rakove concludes saying that an "informed electorate made its choice" and we have to live with it. Putting aside the ongoing controversy and unanswered questions of what really happened in Ohio during this past presidential election, the existence of the Downing Street memo proves that we were in fact by definition not informed. Sheesh.

Gerhardt: "It is perfectly reasonable to construe Bush's reelection as ratifying his call for war in Iraq and redeeming him against claims that he had acted in bad faith. Nothing in the Downing Street memo suggests we should reject that interpretation." On the contrary, the memo explicitly suggests that the Bush administration fixed the intelligence to lead us into war under false pretenses. In other words, he blatantly acted in bad faith.

As for Sunstein, anyone who seriously thinks that "Bush believed in good faith that Saddam posed a genuine threat to American security ..." is simply ignoring all of the evidence to the contrary (Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, the Downing Street memo, the fact that there never were any WMD found, etc.).

Next time, please use a sampling of columnists with a lower ratio of partisan hacks.

-- Adam Draeger

I used to say it out loud and often: If President Clinton can be impeached for fibbing about some extracurricular hanky-panky, then surely President Bush can be impeached for misleading us into war. That's what Ralph Nader thinks. Because of who he is, when Mr. Nader utters the "I" word people pay attention.

But four out of four constitutional scholars say "Nyet" (of course, we don't know what a fifth constitutional scholar would say).

As much as I dislike the president's policies and distrust his administration's dissembling, I'm glad to hear some learned voices on the subject. Just because Clinton's congressional comeuppance was an epic political overreach doesn't mean we should cheapen our democracy for each subsequent president. Lousy judgment, it turns out, is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor.

Perhaps instead of suggesting we pervert the Constitution, Mr. Nader might consider focusing his bomb-throwing cachet and organization toward addressing why 75 million of us don't pull the lever on Election Day.

We got what we deserved and we're stuck with it. With any luck, that'll be lesson enough come 2008.

-- Steven Daly

Salon Staff

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