Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fleischer shreds McClellan’s MSM “too soft” claim

Ari Fleischer was White House press secretary from January 2001 to July 2003. Writing today in the Guardian he get right to his main point - - -

Among the allegations in former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's book is his assertion that the national press corps was "too deferential to the White House", and that the media were "complicit enablers" of President Bush's agenda. The press, he charges, failed to aggressively question the rationale for war.

As someone whose duty it was to assume the position of a human piñata every day in the briefing room, I only wish Scott were right.

Liberals have made this charge for years, and prominent reporters have split their verdicts. Critics and journalists have also said they were intimidated after 9/11, and pulled back from tough questions.

Katie Couric, who was at NBC in the lead-up to the war, has called it "one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism".

ABC's Charlie Gibson says journalists did ask hard questions but that the White House didn't answer them.

At the risk of agreeing with one of my toughest protagonists in the briefing room, NBC's David Gregory, the press was tough, plenty tough. I have the scars - and the transcripts - to prove it.

Less than five hours after the September 11 attacks, as we flew on Air Force One, the travelling White House press corps asked me if the "president should be satisfied with the performance of the intelligence community". "Has he asked to find out where the gaps were," reporters demanded. "Is he concerned about the fact that this attack of this severity happened with no warnings?"

Even before the fires were out at the World Trade Centre, journalists pointed fingers and raised important questions. On a personal level they were stunned, like everyone else. On a professional level, they dug in.

Over the next few weeks - during the period when critics charge that the press did not do its job and was caught up in the post-9/11 patriotic fervour - I was challenged every day about intelligence mistakes, military plans and whether George Bush was "going soft" on Vladimir Putin to gain his support.

During the war in Afghanistan, I was grilled over the conduct of the war itself. I refused to answer questions about operational military details, questions that no White House press secretary should ever answer. I often returned to my office beaten down from the clashes in the briefing room. But those clashes have always been part of the job.

As for Iraq, as soon as Bush indicated that he was even considering using force against Saddam Hussein, the press challenged the White House. "Is the president willing to prepare to sacrifice American and Iraqi innocent lives to take out Saddam Hussein?" Helen Thomas asked in September 2002, more than six months before the war began.

In the lead-up to the war, no matter what position the president took, the press took the opposite.

One reporter quoted foreign leaders as saying that Bush would "destroy the war on terrorism" if he went to war, and of course almost all the press said Bush's actions were unilateral - despite support from Britain, Italy, Spain, Denmark and practically every nation in eastern Europe. …

There’s more refutation by Fleischer here.

I hope you read his entire column.

IMO – The column is a “clip-and-save” to have handy the next time you see some of the McClellan “MSM too soft on Bush” nonsense in your local paper and decide you’ll write the editor and set the record straight.

You couldn’t cite a better source than Fleischer. He has "the scars - and the transcripts - to prove" what he says.

And he provides some powerful examples to cite in your letter.