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November 05, 2007


I'm no fan of Tim Russert, and Fred Thompson is my pick in the race, but honestly, have you spent a lot of time watching Meet The Press? Tim Russert is the worst quote reader on television. He regularly butchers the quotes, skipping entire phrases at times. I don't think it's intentional either, I think the guy just has a problem with reading out loud. That's what I'd likely attribute this to, not some gotcha agenda against Fred Thompson but rather Tim Russert's apparent and frequent incompetence at reading quotes.

It's to the point where I'm almost happy when he's out and they have Andrea Mitchell on there instead. At least she doesn't screw up when she reads out loud.

The Duelfer Commission, David Kay, all the weapons inspectors said they did not find any WMD.

And yet they all managed to miss some 500 degraded chemical WMDs, Sarin and Mustard Gas. Wonder what else they missed...

Since we know that Libya had a nuke program and got it from Iraq, how can any honest person deny that Iraq had a nuke program?

Oh wait! We're talking about Russert here. Never mind. No expectations of honesty from Perjuring Tim.

I saw that, and wondered why Thompson didn't catch it.

Maybe he didn't want to say something like, "no, I said had had, not had."

Russert clearly butchered the quote.

I think it's time to retire the MSM acronymn(Main Stream Media) and replace it with MBM, Make Believe Media. With increasing frequency we see national talking (or writing) heads play Let's Pretend with the facts to make sure their final product supports their agenda.

The point here is that Thompson was using a bit of spin back in Iowa.

The question is, was there adequate cause (or an accurate assessment of the Iraqi threat) to justify an invasion ?

Thompson is arguing that there was, but he does so by lowering the bar on the justification.

The argument that Powell made before the UN and that the Administration presented was different. They argued that Saddam HAD an active WMD program and WAS an immediate and present threat.

Thompson says that that argument was accurate but then he changes the terms by saying that because Saddam once "had had" WMD that that was, in essence, the same as actually "having" WMD.

Mr. Nyhan, when you want to argue that someone took statements out of context, it's good practice to provide said context.

Prima facie, Thompson's comments that the Iraqi insurgency is nuthin' but "a bunch of kids with improvised explosive devices" and that Bin Laden is "more symbolism than anything else" are troubling. As Russert says, they appear to show a profound disrespect for our soldiers fighting in Iraq and the victims of 9/11. Now maybe there is somehow an exonerating context to Thompson's remarks. If so, show it. As it stands, you are merely arguing by repeated assertion which is "shameless", "demagogue[ry]", a "cheap debating tactic[]", "not journalism" and of "no substantive content".

Back to the Thompson and the WMD question -

It's like asking if Saddam was a credible threat and Thompson replies, "Yes, we know he was evil and capable of evil acts".

Then he's later asked to explain how Saddam was a 'credible threat' and Thompson replies, "What I said was that he was evil..."

And, clearly, anyone (Thompson included) can find lots of evidence to show that Saddam was evil. No debate there.

Then Thompson can speculate about how much Saddam would want to be a threat and how bad that would be, etc.

That's what he's done here - he's provided an answer but justifies it by answering a different question.

I'd sat that Russert could have left the matter alone as Thompson made himself more clear when the question came up at the debate, but he was still using the same speculative proof (saying that Saddam would have had WMD by now if we hadn't invaded and by saying, in essence, that wanting a WMD program was as bad as having one).

The calcified conventional wisdom is wrong on this, per usual. Saddam never had some sort of ephiphany to completely divest himself of WMD program at any time. We don't have an accurate accounting of what he did with his weapons in the 1998-2002 period- only estimations of what we think happened. He could have shuttled his WMD in and out of his country after 9-11 at will- we just don't know, because we lacked solid human intelligence. Why folks in the media continue insist that he didn't have WMD is monumentally misleading, and also fundamentally ignorant of how evil nation-states have always operated.

If the above quotes are accurate, then there is a striking irony to the exchange regarding the 'bunch of kids' quote.

Russert berated Thompson for saying "... the Iraqi insurgency is made up of ‘a bunch of kids with improvised explosive devices..."

Then he proceeds to say "As you know, we’ve lost 3,834 kids; ..."

So he objected to referring to the "insurgents" as kids, but then he refers to the US soldiers as 'kids' while citing the # of deceased soldiers.

He scolds Thompson with the line:
RUSSERT: It’s more than just a bunch of kids... [referring to the insurgency].

Well, if the insurgency is more than a bunch of kids, then presumably our soldiers should be characterized as more than 'kids' as well, Mr. Russert.

The argument that Powell made before the UN and that the Administration presented was different. They argued that Saddam HAD an active WMD program

Saddam did. Maybe he followed Russian SOP [Operation Sarandar] and ditched whatever compnonets he could, then sent the start-up reasearch into Syria. Regardles, we know that he had a practice of evading weapon's inspectors by farming his WMD research out to Sudan and Libya.

and WAS an immediate and present threat.

No, I distinctly remember POTUS declaring that we could not afford to wait until Saddam was an imminent threat. Huge diff.

Thank you for the detailed reply. But, frankly, it's underwhelming.

The full context of the first quote only makes it clearer:
"We will not be a safer country, we will not be a safer America if the whole world watches us being defeated by a bunch of kids with improvised explosive devices."
How can you read that and not see that Thompson is minimizing the insurgency (and therefore implicitly minimizing the work of our troops)? Sorry, but Russert did not cherry-pick this quote, if anything the opposite.

The second quote is admittedly a closer and more complex call. He did truncate context, but I would say Russert is tolerably within the bounds of acceptable discourse here. However you want to slice it, for Thompson to say "bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else" was just dumb. It certainly isn't very respectful to the family of victims who may feel a righteous need for vengeance. Or people who are concerned about deterring future acts of terrorism.

Fen -

You can also believe that he had an active WMD program but hid it prior to (and after) the invasion.

That is not, however, what both the Iraq Study Group and the Senate Committee on Intelligence concluded. They concluded the opposite - that WMD and nuclear programs were nonexistent in 2002.

(They also wrote that all nuclear programs had ended in 1991 after which time Iraq's ability to resume one had "progressively declined". Secondly, more in response to Stan, Lybia developed their nuclear program with help from the Soviets, not Iraq).

They also concluded that the intelligence used in 2002 was poor quality, speculative and was cherry picked (for example, assessments that WMDs were limited or didn't exist were ignored or downplayed).

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