"[R]are and unusual"? Contrary to Hume's claim, WSJ, Wash. Post editorial pages have often agreed
Research ››› ››› SIMON MALOY
Brit Hume reported that the revelation that President Bush authorized I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak classified portions of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction had the "rare and unusual result" of bringing "together the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post." Contrary to Hume's claim, however, the Post editorial board has often expressed views shared by the Journal -- a frequent source of conservative misinformation.
On the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume reported that the revelation that President Bush authorized Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak classified portions of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction had the "rare and unusual result" of bringing "together the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post." Hume was referring to an April 8 Journal editorial and an April 9 Post editorial -- both of which repeated a variety of falsehoods in defending Bush's actions. Contrary to Hume's claim, however, the Post editorial board has often expressed views shared by the Journal -- a frequent source of conservative misinformation.
From the April 10 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: The president's so-called leak of classified intelligence information in 2003 has had a rare and unusual result: it brought together the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Last week, the Journal wrote that the president, quote, "has a right -- even a duty -- to set the record straight," adding, quote, "Mr. Bush was divulging the truth." And Sunday's Washington Post called the declassification, quote, "a good leak," saying, quote, "President Bush was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq ... to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons," end quote.
The Post and Journal editorials to which Hume referred addressed the April 6 revelation that Bush, according to court papers pertaining to the federal investigation of Libby's role in the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, authorized Libby to disclose classified portions of the NIE to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller in July 2003. As Media Matters for America documented, the falsehoods espoused in the Post's April 9 editorial echoed the false claims being forwarded by media conservatives and Republican activists -- among them the Journal editorial page.
Below are editorials on a variety of topics in which the Post and the Journal have found common ground and, in some cases, even used similar language.
The Iraq war
As Media Matters has noted, the Post editorial page failed to challenge the Bush administration's justifications for the Iraq war during the lead-up to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and was complicit in forwarding many of the administration's false and misleading claims attempting to justify the war retroactively.
Following former Secretary of State Colin Powell's largely discredited February 5, 2003, speech before the United Nations Security Council on Iraq's purported WMD capabilities, a February 6 Post editorial titled "Irrefutable" opined that "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." The editorial went on to state:
And he offered a powerful new case that Saddam Hussein's regime is cooperating with a branch of the al Qaeda organization that is trying to acquire chemical weapons and stage attacks in Europe. Mr. Powell's evidence, including satellite photographs, audio recordings and reports from detainees and other informants, was overwhelming. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called it "powerful and irrefutable." Revealing those tapes and photographs had a cost, as Iraq will surely take countermeasures. But the decision to make so much evidence public will prove invaluable if it sways public opinion here and abroad. At a minimum, it will stand as a worthy last effort to engage the United Nations in facing a threat that the United States could, if necessary, address alone or with an ad-hoc coalition.
That same day, the Journal editorialized:
In an article on this page Monday, Colin Powell warned that his U.N. presentation yesterday would contain no "smoking gun." He was too modest. The array of evidence he presented amounts to a smoking fusillade of Saddam Hussein's efforts to resist and confound the U.N. order that he disarm.
The Powell brief contained reconnaissance photos, communications intercepts as well as information from human sources. Some of it probably shouldn't have been made public, since it no doubt tipped off Iraqis about U.S. intelligence sources and methods. But there can be no further doubt that Iraq is in material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441 -- at least not among anyone still open to the facts.
Iraq and 9-11
On June 17, 2004, the Post editorial page defended Cheney's statements linking Iraq to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- even though the 9-11 Commission dispelled that myth. According to the Post editorial:
In a pair of interim staff reports, the Sept. 11 commission yesterday gave the fullest and most detailed report on the planning of the attacks that the American public has received to date. Yet showing a peculiar instinct for the capillaries rather than the jugular, part of the public debate immediately focused on a single passing point that is no kind of revelation at all: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." Administration foes seized on this sentence to claim that Vice President Cheney has been lying, as recently as this week, about a purported relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The accusation is nearly as irresponsible as the Bush administration's rhetoric has been.
Similarly, in a June 18, 2004, editorial, the Journal defended Cheney's linkage of Iraqi intelligence to 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta:
Even here, though, the staff report is less a "slam dunk," as the CIA likes to say, than the coverage asserts. We are supposed to believe, for example, that the Commission has found out once and for all that there was no meeting in Prague between the Iraqi agent al-Ani and 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. But the only new evidence the report turns up is that some calls were made from Florida on Atta's cell phone at the same time he was reportedly in Prague. And since that phone would not have worked in Europe anyway, how do we know someone else wasn't using it? The Czechs still believe the Atta meeting took place, and the truth is we still don't know for sure.
Supreme Court nominations
The Post resoundingly endorsed Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination as chief justice in a September 18, 2005, editorial:
John G. Roberts Jr. should be confirmed as chief justice of the United States. He is overwhelmingly well-qualified, possesses an unusually keen legal mind and practices a collegiality of the type an effective chief justice must have. He shows every sign of commitment to restraint and impartiality. Nominees of comparable quality have, after rigorous hearings, been confirmed nearly unanimously. We hope Judge Roberts will similarly be approved by a large bipartisan vote.
The Journal gave a simliar endorsement of Roberts in a September 6, 2005, editorial: "Elevating Judge Roberts to Chief was a logical decision, both politically and on the merits. The Senate and media have been investigating the nominee since July, and have found superlatives with nary a negative. The Judge is in a position to be rapidly confirmed and ready to preside by the time the High Court begins its new term on October 3."
The Post haltingly endorsed Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court in a January 15 editorial:
Judge Alito's record raises concerns across a range of areas. His replacement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor could alter -- for the worse, from our point of view -- the Supreme Court's delicate balance in important areas of constitutional law. He would not have been our pick for the high court. Yet Judge Alito should be confirmed, both because of his positive qualities as an appellate judge and because of the dangerous precedent his rejection would set.
The Journal found less about Alito's nomination to object to in its November 1, 2005, endorsement: "With yesterday's nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, President Bush reached into his John Roberts playbook to name a judicial conservative with impeccable credentials. The nominee deserves to be confirmed easily and soon, and he likely will be -- though not without a tougher fight and probably with a smaller margin of Democratic support."
The Post never took a firm stand on the failed nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers, which was withdrawn on October 27, 2005, before the Senate Judiciary Committee could vote on it. However, in an editorial the day after her nomination was withdrawn, the Post indicated that it would have opposed the nomination, writing that Miers' professional background "did not look much like the résumé of a Supreme Court justice." The Journal was more open in rejecting the nomination on October 21, 2005, calling it "a political blunder of the first order" and, like the Post, focusing on her resumé:
Perhaps Ms. Miers will prove to be such a sterling Senate witness that she can still win confirmation. But so far the lesson we draw from this nomination is this: Bad things happen when a President decides that "diversity," personal loyalty and stealth are more important credentials for the Supreme Court than knowledge of the Constitution and battle-hardened experience fighting the judicial wars of the past 30 years.
In a February 11, 2005, editorial, the Post offered support for President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security and glided over the cut in promised guaranteed benefits Bush's plan would have imposed for many recipients, referring to them benignly as "tough steps necessary to fix the solvency problem." From the February 11 editorial: "But this doesn't mean that personal accounts have no impact on Social Security's solvency. By investing partly in stocks, personal accounts would boost benefits for the average retiree -- and hence make it politically easier to take the tough steps necessary to fix the solvency problem."
The Journal, in a February 4, 2005, editorial, went a step further and misleadingly claimed that Bush's proposal would not result in benefit cuts. From the Journal editorial: "For the President's fellow Republicans, the problem isn't philosophy but political risk. They like being called "Mr. Chairman," and addressing Social Security means explaining the matter to constituents who will hear from Democrats that their benefits will be cut. Never mind that this is false, many GOP incumbents would rather just pass one more highway bill."
Dubai Ports World controversy
In a March 10 editorial, the Post repeated Bush's suggestion that criticism of the failed deal to grant Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- owned by the government of Dubai -- operational control of six American ports was based on anti-Arab discrimination because there was no difference between DPW and the British company that previously controlled the ports. As Media Matters noted, there was a significant difference: DPW is state-owned, whereas the British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., was not -- a key distinction under the law governing foreign acquisition of assets in the U.S. According to the Post:
This isn't a good moment for Americans to discourage foreign investment, given the nation's dependence on foreign capital (see: Congress, drunken spending by). Nor will the message -- that foreign ownership was unobjectionable when it was British but intolerable when it was Arab -- do much to advance U.S. efforts to promote equitable investment rules for its own companies abroad.
On February 25, the Journal advanced a similar argument in attacking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) criticism of the deal:
In Mrs. Clinton's "hearts and minds" crusade, this will not go down as a good week. A United Arab Emirates government allied with America, that provides a Persian Gulf base for U.S. military operations, and that was the first Middle Eastern country to join the U.S. Container Security Initiative, has been rewarded with Congressional demagoguery that a company it owns can't be trusted to manage commercial operations in U.S. ports. With Mrs. Clinton herself leading the jeers.
And why? For no other reason than that it would be an Arab-owned company. If it is "foreign" ownership that's alarming, the same politicians would also be denouncing the Chinese, Singaporean and British companies that already manage some U.S. port operations. So the message that all Arabs need not apply comes through loud and clear.
On January 12, the Post editorialized against a Maryland law requiring the state's largest employers to spend 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits for employees, and defended employee health coverage at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., claiming that "Wal-Mart employees, like the employees of other large retailers that employ many low-wage workers, are only slightly more likely to collect Medicaid benefits than the national average." As Media Matters has noted, this claim is misleading, as a larger gap exists for the children of Wal-Mart employees.
On January 16, the Journal also editorialized against the law's passage and joined the Post in lauding Wal-Mart's health benefits: "As for Wal-Mart, it is hardly an ogre as an employer for 1.3 million Americans. It now offers an array of health plans to all full and part-time employees with monthly premiums as low as $23 for an individual and $65 for a family anywhere in the country (less in some areas). Employees can also choose to set up health savings accounts with Wal-Mart matching contributions up to $1,000."