Wack that mole

Wack that mole
: As I turned off my laptop last night to go to bed, I heard Howard Kurtz on CNN saying that it would have be seen whether the “deception was warranted” regarding the President’s trip to Iraq — bringing the predictions of the Ranting Profs in the post below to life.

Let’s wack this mole — let’s maul this meme — right now.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the White House keeping this trip secret for security reasons. There’s especially nothing wrong because reporters went and told us all about it.

But Kurtz and company are trying to start up a collective kvetch that will only make journalists look bad to a public this is wiser.

Here he is in the Washington Post today:

Although the White House lied to much of the press to conceal President Bush’s Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, many journalists and analysts yesterday were willing to give the administration a pass.

Well, “lied” is a strong word. You can tell it grates Kurtz that he couldn’t find every journalist agreeing with his proposition. But he found some:

But Philip Taubman, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, said that “in this day and age, there should have been a way to take more reporters. People are perfectly capable of maintaining a confidence for security reasons. It’s a bad precedent.” Once White House officials “decided to do a stealth trip, they bought into a whole series of things that are questionable.”

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, criticized the White House correspondents who made the trip without spilling the secret. “That’s just not kosher,” he said. “Reporters are in the business of telling the truth. They can’t decide it’s okay to lie sometimes because it serves a larger truth or good cause.”

What a naive crock.

Reporters are forever being told things that are off the record. They can’t tell the full truth. They made a secret deal not to tell the full truth. They do it to get larger stories. That’s 101.

And in a time of war, details of missions and whereabouts are routinely kept secret. Ask Geraldo Rivera. When he didn’t follow that rule, he got booted from Iraq. That’s the 102-level course in war reporting.

And that’s pure common sense.

This is a nonstory, guys, and you should know that better than anyone. Mole, get the hell back in that hole.

: And on the political side, most of the Democratic candidates tried to snark about Iraq still. Only Clark’s side had the sensible response:

Matt Bennett, the communications director for Gen. Wesley K. Clark, said: “We’re not going to throw stones at the guy for trying to do a nice thing for the troops. When the president goes and spends time with the troops, that’s a good thing.”

  • John

    To me, this comes off as an adult version of the old problem of cliques back in high school and junior high. You have your “in” group — those journalist and news organizations who were allowed to make the trip and were in on the secret — and the “outs” who weren’t told about it and had to find out through press pool reports.
    Being left on the outside tends to create sniping at those in on the secret, whether or not it’s some really cool weekend party being held by a bunch of 16-year-olds or the president going to Baghdad under cover of darkness and not telling Howard Kurtz or The New York Times. But given the attack on the DHL plane flying out of Baghdad last weekend — an attack which was videotaped and given to French TV and CNN, and for which Paris Match staffers photographed from the attackers’ launch-site — it’s hard to see how the sniping in the press is going to come off as anything less than a self-serving tantrum. The media spent the previous three days playing the video and showing the pictures detailing how dangerous it is to fly in and out of Baghdad. You can’t obessess about that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then whine about secrecy sending Air Force One into the same airport on Thursday and Friday.

  • Andy Freeman

    I like the assumption that reporters are owed a story. I’ll bet that they actually think that they’re owed help to tell the story they want to tell.

  • CNN deliberately, as a matter of official network policy, hid and lied about atrocities of the Saddam Hussein regime for the purposes of being able to keep a presence on the ground in Iraq during the years leading up to this year’s war. Eason Jordan wrote an apologetic for it in the NY Times and most media rallied around him and CNN; Poynter Institute’s ethics guy had less problems with that than with a Boston journalist bringing back to the US a poster he’d ripped from a pole in Iraq, after seeing many similar ones burned in the street.
    Then the President uses reasonable security procedures but still puts himself in significant danger, gives up his Thanksgiving, to take the good wishes and heartfelt appreciation of the American people to our troops in Iraq. This introduces ethical problems and cries of “foul!” from the self-important media elites who most likely still gladly admire Eason Jordan as a fine example of one of their own.
    Kind of speaks for itself.

  • Bob Edwards was in full atomic wedgie mode this morning.
    “The administration says that the President is in Crawford now, is that true?”

  • Reid

    Our Thanksgiving evening video was The Gathering Storm, a portrayal of Winston Churchill before WWII.
    It really is stunning to see how reviled he was in Parliament for warning of German rearmament. Some of the dialog could have been culled from yesterday’s papers with just a few minor changes in names and places. In memorable parliamentary scenes, he is shouted down by taunts and protestations like “Germany wants peace!” The standard line about those who fail to learn from history being doomed to repeat it has become a bland commonplace. And, yet, these “anti-war” dolts still never learn. Tell me, are the following words Churchill’s, or GW’s?
    In his radio address:
    To urge preparation of defense is not to assert the imminence of war. On the contrary, if war was imminent, preparations of defense would be too late.
    To Parliament:
    That is why I say we must act decisively and we must act now, to put our defenses in order. If we do not, history will cast its verdict with those terrible, chilling words… too late.

  • DGJ

    Uh, are you equating German invasions into sovereign countries with the brutal actions of a dictator within his country? No argument that both actions should be stopped, but I find the parallel a little forced. A failure in history IS that Saddam should have been eradicated 10 plus years ago. Let’s not repeat that.

  • capt joe

    I get the feeling that these guys would have liked to leak the news so they could have gotten the exclusive of the thousands of jihadis trying to blow up the presidents blow on entry.
    They would rather their story than the safety of their president.

  • Reid

    No, DGJ. I am saying that Saddam and his now confirmed links with Al Qaeda and other terror groups, combined with the likelihood of the end of sanctions and the subsequent rearmament of Iraq, represented an incpient though not imminent threat to us and to our allies, and only idiots and cowards who have failed to learn the lessons of history are the ones who find fault with our actions.
    The fact that we caught the cancer in Iraq before it had metastasized into Nazi German proportions did not make the threat any less actionable.

  • craig

    Myself, I thought that Kurtz was doing a subtle jab at the Times, by running a “Reporters should always blab” quote right after the “reporters can keep a secret” quote from the Times.
    The material from Rosentiel was enough to justify not telling anyone at all, if you beieve Rosentiel is representative of anyone beyond himself, and did a better job of pointing that out than any quote from the White House would have.
    Further, I wonder if his commitment to “They can’t decide it’s okay to lie sometimes because it serves a larger truth or good cause” applies to covering up the names of the people leaking about Plame, or Woodward covering up who Deep Throat is/was?

  • Jim

    Okay, lying is wrong.
    Isn’t it amazing, though, that somebody who works for the New York Daily Worker, oops, New York Times, thinks that the President owes his newspaper favors? The Times publishes Maureen Dowd, who edited enough words out of a quote from the President to change its meaning substantially. It publishes Paul Krugman, whose columns might as well read “George W. Bush is stupid and evil.” The Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom . . . of the press.” My copy says nothing of any obligation to provide information to the press. Therefore, it comes down to doing the press a favor.
    I don’t go out of my way to do favors for people who have treated me badly; why should the President?

  • Dan

    The “deception” is only warranted if you want George Bush to stay alive and the US to win the peace in Iraq.
    If you wish, secretly or not so secretly, for the POTUS to be killed or for America to lose the war, then, and only then, does Kurtz’s yammering about “deception” make sense.
    Memo to Mr. Kurtz: There is a difference between “honesty” and painting a target on your head.