I love reading the right-wing punditry on the Democratic presidential primary race. There’s a lot of wishful thinking and projection mixed in with the gossip and rumormongering. There’s still a total obsession with Clintonisma, and Bill Safire’s column this morning in the Times follows in a long line of Hillary-obsessed predictions from the libertarian-neocon margin of the Republican universe that Safire inhabits.
(Does anyone else think he’s been really disappointing on McLehrer, either mouthing obviously false talking points – he repeated the canard that the 9th Circuit is the “most overturned,” for example – or defaming liberalism, which he calls leftism, in a generic way? Strangely, for example, he put down the ruling on the Recall, but then said he agreed with it, but not on the merits, sinply because he likes the idea of living with the results of elections. I agree with that principle, but it’s strange that he was willing to applaud the outcome while criticizing the legal reasoning.)
What caught my eye this morning was that he took the already smeared-together statements Clark made about (1) the general attempt to associate 9/11 and Iraq emanating from “around the White House” and elsewhere and (2) his report that someone asked him to make that association on television on the day (or within a day of?) the attack, without being able to substantiate the claim. Admittedly, what he said could be read as implying that the call asking him to make the connection on the air came directly from the White House. Paul Krugman made this leap and reported it as such. Perhaps because Krugman’s principled attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable to the verities of traditional conservative-style neoliberal economics and simple standards of truthtelling has turned him into a right-wing bogeyman, the same tired old pundits (from George Will on down) latched onto the Krugman interpretation of Clark’s assertions.
Then, when Clark clarified without repudiating a whit of his original statement, the spin is that he is changing his story. Safire takes this calumny a step further, writing today:
He began by claiming to have been pressured to stop his defeatist wartime CNN commentary by someone “around the White House”; challenged, he morphed that source into a Canadian Middle East think tank….
Count the errors and notice the spin. Asked to assert that Iraq was connected to 9/11 has somehow now morphed into pressured to stop his defeatist wartime commentary. Clark’s story takes plance on 9/11 or the day after. Safire’s version would necessarily have to have come later. Clark attributed the clamor of people connecting Iraq to al Qaeda after the attack as coming from “around the White House” as well as from other sources. Safire ties the White House reference to the idea of someone trying to influence the substance of Clark’s TV appearances (having already mangled what Clark reports he was asked to do).
George Will has already ignored demands that he correct his misstatements and creative editing of Clark’s comments (available for checking on the Web via transcripts). Is there any point in trying to hold Safire’s feat to the fire as well?