Sunday, August 10, 2003

Journalistic Dissonance

It's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Day in today's Washington Post.

First, there's Option A:

This article is based on interviews with analysts and policymakers inside and outside the U.S. government, and access to internal documents and technical evidence not previously made public.

The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied . . .

And then, Option B:

THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL race seems to be carrying the Democratic Party in a dangerous direction on the issues of the Iraq war and national security -- dangerous for the nation and risky for the party too. Some of the candidates are more off course than others. If they listen to former vice president Al Gore, who took it upon himself last week to suggest a theme of attack for the nine candidates, they will all go off the cliff.

Mr. Gore, who not so long ago was describing Iraq as a "virulent threat in a class by itself," validated just about every conspiratorial theory of the antiwar left. President Bush, in distorting evidence about the Iraqi threat, was pursuing policies "designed to benefit friends and supporters." The war was waged "at least partly in order to ensure our continued access to oil." And it occurred because "false impressions" precluded the nation from conducting a serious debate before the war.

This notion -- that we were all somehow bamboozled into war -- is part of Mr. Gore's larger conviction that Mr. Bush has put one over on the nation, and not just with regard to Iraq.

[. . .]

He's not the only Democrat who thinks he can have it both ways, pandering to anti-Bush passion while protecting his national-security flank. Sen. John Kerry has been trying something similar with, for example, this applause line, which he must know can only stoke isolationist sentiment: "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad while closing them in Brooklyn." It would be possible to support firefighters in Brooklyn without questioning U.S. commitment to Iraq. Sen. Joe Lieberman has found plenty to criticize in the Bush administration foreign policy without abandoning his longstanding support of American strength and democracy promotion. It's an honorable position, and one that doesn't depend on portraying everyone else as poor saps duped by wizardly Bush propaganda.

Unfortunately, unlike the series of old, you can't flip ahead to see which alternative leads you (or, as the case may be, the ascendency of an oil-addled junta) to an untimely end. Bugger.