Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | July 09, 2003

About sources

By Steve Gilliard

Yesterday, I quoted a story from Capital Hill Blues, which was retracted, basically because the guy ceased to exist and all his sources said that the guy never existed. One could say Doug Thompson should have checked his sources before he ran a story accusing the president of ignoring information he was told was false, but at least he retracted it.

I hedged in using it because I have had doubts about CHB for a while, but since the piece didn't hang on using it, hedging was fine. I qualified it and the piece fit Bush's behavior. I didn't mention my doubts for a simple reason, I qualified it. I don't qualify pieces from the BBC. Using the words "if true" about a published piece is not a compliment. In fact, most people would take it as an insult. So I should have explained that. I'm not feeling too bad about using the story. It was worthy of comment at the time. As it is now, for different reasons.

I would still use the piece, but in a different way, since it comes from one of those habitual wackos you see in the news business. But in the end, unless someone can prove a story is false, I can only rely on my judgment in the end. Saying you don't trust a news source doesn't really do me any good unless I know you or you have some bona fides or have contrary facts to offer

Even though it's fiction, something still bothers me about that piece, and the larger conclusion it leads to.

Something happened between the CIA and the SOTU. So Thompson was wrong or his source got flakey or aliens beamed him up at Area 51, but how did Bush make a knowingly false statement in the SOTU? Who signed off on it? Did he actually know it was false?

I cam't imagine a junior staffer inserting this in a speech, considering the way Bush runs his White House. Someone senior inserted it, and while Thompson's story is to be discounted, a decision to use it was made in the West Wing. The question is how high. And we're talking a small room of people, no Perle, no Wolfowitz, but people who work directly for the President. People who see the people who see him daily. The one thing which a lot of people, including myself, missed, was that the President is extremely careful to manage his image and wouldn't be that honest in front of strangers.

Given the known management style of the Administration however, the question is whether the lie filtered up or Bush sent it down. Either way, a critical issue was lied about despite CIA warnings. Not that Bush trusted the CIA. The reason Thompson's source was believable was because there is a great deal of tension between the West Wing and Langley. The CIA was literally disbelieved and maniuplated about every aspect of the Iraq war. Now, the Agency is leaking like the Titantic because they aren't taking the blame for this mess.

So even if this story doesn't hold up, the questions remain: who put the lie in the SOTU and what else are these people lying about. They're already backing up as fast as a Sherman seeing a Tiger in the Normandy hedgerows. It's getting to the point that believing the White House is impossible, on anything from AIDS to Iraq. And the fact that a crank can slide in and tell a tall tale about Bush which is credible may reflect poorly on those who believe it, but it reflects even more poorly on those who they lie about.

Note: In the next week or two, once I figure out Moveable Type and devise a design, I'll be moving to my own blog. This is my first solo online venture in years and I'll be doing the same thing I do here, but with more discussion of technology, the subject I've written about on NetSlaves since 1998.

Kos has suggested I do this for months, as well as submit articles to the opinon magazines and websites, but the final straw was when I went over to American Politics Journal and they confused our writing. I then realized that it was time to do my own site.

I'll be here until I get the site up and whenever Kos needs a hand, which will be rare, I expect. I'll do this again, but let me thank him for the use of his site and for the quality and intelligence of the readers who frequent it. That means Terry, Joe and the rest of the party regulars are welcome to stop by as well as the rest of you:)

Thanks. It's been fun and should be even more fun in the future.

Posted July 09, 2003 08:09 PM


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