Various matters

Newsweek's Richard Wolffe responds. Dick Cheney explains how 9/11 made "quagmires" desirable. Neoconservatism and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published February 23, 2007 9:30PM (EST)

(1) Newsweek's Senior White House Correspondent, Richard Wolffe, appeared today on Air America's program, The Young Turks, in order to discuss the post I wrote about Wolffe's journalism and, specifically, the comments he made this week as part of a panel at the National Press Club featuring Tony Snow. The Young Turks segment can be viewed here.

It was slightly frustrating listening to Wolffe criticize the argument I made without being able to respond to what he was saying, but the host, Cenk Uygur, did a good job at times asking the right questions (although, as Uygur commendably admitted, his personal affection for Wolffe may have prevented him from being aggressive in his questioning when warranted -- a dynamic to which Wolffe claimed, quite incredibly, to be immune when reporting on his friendly White House associates).

At times during the interview, Wolffe was even more condescending about bloggers than he was during the Tony Snow event. For instance, this is Wolffe on the difference between bloggers and journalists (emphasis in original):

I think you get better political reporting by having non-partisan reporting. That's not a role for bloggers -- that's what reporters do.

I think bloggers can have a lot of fun, and serve a great purpose in landing political punches. But bloggers shouldn't expect reporters to do that work for them.

I will have more to say tomorrow about the points Wolffe made in defense of himself -- much more -- but for the moment, permit me to say something positive about him (particularly since it is quite unlikely that tomorrow's post will be able to accommodate such sentiments).

As I have said several times before regarding Joe Klein's engagement with bloggers on the Time blog, I give Wolffe credit for appearing on that show and responding to the arguments made against him. National journalists are long accustomed to having unchallenged monologues whereby they pass down Approved Wisdom to their quiet, passive readers.

That journalists are now compelled to address criticisms of their work and to account to their readers for their behavior is, as Uyger pointed out in his post-interview segment, a new and encouraging development. That can only have a positive impact on how political journalism in this country functions. As I said, I'll address the "substance" of Wolffe's remarks tomorrow.

(2) The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin -- (who, by the way, wrote what I think are some definitive guidelines for good journalism which Wolffe might want to consult) -- noticed what appears to be a rather significant aspect of Dick Cheney's interview yesterday with ABC News' Jonathan Karl. Karl asked Cheney about his 1991 quote where Cheney explained why the first Bush administration decided not to depose Saddam Hussein as part of the Persian Gulf War. Cheney said then (audio is here):

The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we'd have to do once we got there. You'd probably have to put some new government in place. It's not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you'd have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire.

When Karl asked Cheney about the quote -- which Froomkin says "may have been the first time a reporter asked Cheney to respond" -- Cheney replied: "Well, I stand by what I said in '91. But look what's happened since then -- we had 9/11." Cheney then proceeded to babble nonresponsively about all the terrible Terrorist Attacks and all the great things we have accomplished in Iraq and how important it is to Stand Tall in the face of the Terrorists -- none of which, of course, addresses why we invaded Iraq if doing so is the "classic definition of a quagmire." As Froomkin asks:

So if I read this correctly, Cheney is saying: Yes, it's a quagmire. But after 9/11 we needed to prove that we weren't weak.

Is that now the official White House position?

That, as I noted earlier today, has indeed become the sole and all-consuming view of the Bush administration on all foreign policy matters, and as much as anything else, it is that mindset which explains our current predicament.

(3) Related both to Froomkin's observations and to my earlier post today about the neoconservative obsession with showing what they understand to be "power," the always insightful Dover Bitch looks at the events that led up to President Kennedy's successful navigation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and analyzes what would have happened had 1962's version of the neoconservative mindset prevailed instead.

Glenn Greenwald

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