Today's New York Times does a wonderful job of summing up the priorities of our nation's press corps.
We get a 500-word article correcting a trivial misstatement by President Bush that he "may be" the first president to fail to carry the state in which he was born (he isn't).
Meanwhile, during the same press conference, Bush was finally confronted by a reporter at yesterday's press conference for his latest attempt to link 9/11 and Iraq -- a tactic he has used repeatedly over the last few years with little challenge from the press.
Here's the key exchange, which begins with Bush justifying his decision to invade Iraq by vaguely referring to 9/11:
THE PRESIDENT: Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.
You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.
Q What did Iraq have to do with that?
THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?
Q The attack on the World Trade Center?
THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective.
But unlike the claim about Bush not carrying his state of birth, the incident is only briefly mentioned in the middle of a long Times story summarizing the news conference. Here is the full extent of the fact-checking of Bush’s claim:
When Mr. Bush referred to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Monday in reference to a question about Iraq, a reporter pressed him, "What did Iraq have to do with that?"
"Nothing," Mr. Bush responded somewhat testily, adding, "Nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack."
Leading up to the invasion in March 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney did call attention to the theory, since discredited, that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers might have met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer.
There is far more to this story than Cheney's pre-war efforts to promote the discredited Atta meeting in Prague, however.
Before the war, as we show in All the President's Spin (pages 177-84), the administration also suggested that Al Qaeda operatives were living "within" Iraq when they were actually in Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's control and exaggerated intelligence evidence about connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime.
In addition, the Times ignores the administration's post-war efforts to suggest ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq using vague rhetoric and tenuous evidence, which we also documented (pages 207-216). On May 1, 2003, for instance, Bush said that "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on." Administration officials also continued to refer to terrorists who were in Kurdish areas outside Saddam's control as being present in Iraq before the war and to promote the discredited Atta meeting in Prague.
When will the media get its priorities straight?