Sunday, March 07, 2010

Fisking WaPo Dana Milbank review of Karl Rove's "Courage and Consequence"

A couple times a year, it's good to flex the fisking muscle.

The WaPo article. Author Dana Milbank is a sputtering Elmer Fudd. This fisking exposes his bias, his venom, his lack of reason, his lack of evidence to justify his assertions.

#1 Milbank fails to rebut re "trashed" the White House

"[Rove] describes at length how Clinton staffers 'trashed' the White House"

Milbank protests "trashed". If Rove said "trashed" w/o then describing the damage, then Milbank would have an argument (a losing argument, imo, as the degree of trashing has no bearing upon the accuracy of "trashed" as a descriptor). However, Milbank doesn't understand that Rove's description of the damage allows readers to make up their own minds; that Rove's description of the damage means Rove is not misleading any readers.

Milbank, trying to make a case against "trashed", props up a straw man: "though investigators were 'unable to conclude whether the 2001 transition was worse than previous ones'". Milbank's straw man does not rebut Rove's point that Clinton staffers trashed the White House; does not rebut or contradict Rove's descriptions of the damage.

#2 Milbank extends his own mischaracterization of Dick Cheney

"[Rove] says it was a 'dangerous falsehood' that administration officials 'claimed Iraq had been behind 9/11,' so he must have forgotten Dick Cheney calling Iraq 'the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.'"

Milbank is repeating his own Dowd-like misrepresentation of Cheney's Meet the Press remarks in Sept 2003. In actuality, the "geographic base" of which Cheney was speaking was the entire Middle East. Milbank omitted the first part of Cheney's statement, in which Cheney was explaining the overall strategic goal of the WOT. The overall strategic vision is for a good representative government in Iraq to secure the larger region of the Middle East in such a way that actors in the Middle East do not become future threats to the U.S., do not seek WMD, do not provide safe haven for terrorists. This is a strategic vision which extends 10 years into the future, and 50 years into the future, and more. It is a strategic vision which most of the anti war left has refused to acknowledge. Cheney was speaking of overall strategic vision; was speaking of the Middle East as "the heart of the base, if you will" of violent fundamentalist Islam. Here's Cheney's unDowdified quote on Meet the Press:
"If we're successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it's not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it's not a safe haven for terrorists, then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

Another point: Milbank misuses context. Milbank's Dowdified Cheney quote implies Cheney made the assertion as part of a marketing campaign to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq. However, the invasion of Iraq occurred in March, 2003; Cheney's Meet the Press quote was in Sept of 2003. It makes no sense that Cheney, 6 months after the invasion, would suddenly and for the first time assert that Iraq was the geographic base of Al Qaeda. Further, I'm confident Cheney quotes exist which identify Afghanistan as the geographic home of Al Qaeda during that time period.

John at Powerlineblog, on Sept 29, 2003 in The Post Misquotes Cheney Again:
The Post's twisting of Cheney's statement to make it sound as if he said that Iraq was the geographic base of the 9/11 hijackers--which neither Cheney nor any other administration official has ever claimed--can only be a deliberate misrepresentation.

#3 Score! Milbank scores(!) by pointing out that Rove mischaracterized a 2000 Bush apology to McCain

This is assuming Milbank accurately characterizes Rove's book, which - given my low opinion of Milbank's reliability - I do not fully believe unless I read Rove's words for myself. But, for purposes of our discussion, I will address this as if Milbank is correctly characterizing Rove's words.

Here's what Rove allegedly referenced, via Politico quoting the 2007 book "Dead Certain":
Page 81: Meeting McCain privately in May of 2000 before picking up his former rival’s endorsement, Bush finally apologized for not denouncing the statement by Thomas Burch in the South Carolina primary. Burch was the veteran who, with Bush present, accused McCain of forgetting about Vietnam veterans.

A Bush apology, after the South Carolina primary was over, was politically meaningless. If Rove implied differently, then Rove was disingenuous.

#4 Milbank, in full Elmer Fudd mode, sputters about the alleged "RATS" ad in the 2000 Bush Gore campaign

Yes, and a Hillary ad put a child in pajamas which had "NIG" on them. RATS and NIG were never stories; were, instead, examples of media (with Milbank front and center) choosing sides and promoting one candidate over another. Milbank quotes Rove: "Our defense was the truth -- we thought it was an accident", and offers no factual rebuttal to Rove's simple assertion. There never was a story: there was only media speculation and sensationalism.

#5 Milbank sneers about Rove's characterization of Cheney's selection as VP

Milbank offers no factual rebuttal to counter Rove's assertion it is "far-fetched" that Cheney engineered his own selection. Neither Rove nor Milbank are covered in glory.

First, if Rove had no new information on Cheney's selection as VP, then Rove's inclusion of "far-fetched" speculation in the book seems illogical. However, maybe we can give Rove a tiny break, as he is an amateur author/ghosted author.

Second, Milbank supposedly IS a professional writer. If a professional writer has no new information, why include the Cheney-as-VP tidbit in a WaPo article which is already compressed by a word limit? Was Milbank merely searching for another opportunity to sneer? Apparently. Is this the best Milbank can do in however many words he has available in his hit job, and whilst having Rove's entire book as material? Apparently. Weak tea.

#6 Milbank sneers: "Rove didn't find it far-fetched to blame a Gore aide for leaking word of Bush's DUI"

"Blame" is a mischaracterization by Milbank; is either incompetent and/or deceptive. Rove is speculating, clearly says he is speculating, and gives his reasons for suspecting Chris Lehane. Politico has quotes from Rove's book.

#7 Milbank disagrees with Rove's characterization that Bush' education policy was a great policy success.

I'm not on top of this issue, probably agree with Milbank, but also am not interested in delving into the facts of this. Milbank attempts to rebut Rove via noting that the education policy is now being rewritten. Straw man. Rewriting the policy does not equate to the 2001 education policy being a failure. Milbank is maddeningly incompetent: even when he might be correct, he fails to make his case, and he either cluelessly or disingenuously erects straw men which unnecessarily damage his own credibility.

#8 Milbank sneers about Rove's characterization of the "My Pet Goat" moment as Bush "trying to project calm"

What am I missing? Bush was obviously shocked; was obviously trying to project calm. Where was Rove wrong? What other explanation exists? Milbank does not quote Rove saying Bush made the best choice. He only quotes Rove explaining Bush' motivation. What am I missing? Other than spewing maximum venom, what is Milbank trying to accomplish here?

#9 Milbank sneers about Rove's comments re Plame investigation

Milbank has no facts. Rove, though heavily investigated, was neither brought to trial nor convicted. Milbank can only sneer. It's all he's got.

I score this fight: Rove 7, Milbank 2. Even when I score a Milbank victory, as in #7, Milbank nevertheless displays amazing ability to discredit himself. Scoring the entire book would yield a result which would be something like this: Rove 98, Milbank 2.

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