There ain't no way to hide ...


I hope it's no secret to anyone that I published a book in 2004 called When Presidents Lie. The thesis of my argument was that while deception often appears politically attractive to chief executives in the short term, it is just about always a mistake because reality cannot be lied away. Instead of dealing with the problems created by the reality, politicians end up dealing with the consequences of their lies and ignoring the actual problem with which they were dealing in the first place. Left ignored, this problem tends to metastasize and comes back, almost inevitably, to bite the liar in the backside.

The dynamic I describe is on display, I think, in this story, in which we learn:

Recently unclassified documents suggest that senior officers viewed the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in late 2005 as a potential public relations problem that could fuel insurgent propaganda against the American military, leading investigators to question whether the officers' immediate response had been intentionally misleading.

Col. R. Gary Sokoloski, a lawyer who was chief of staff to Maj. General Richard A. Huck, the division commander, approved a news release about the killings that investigators interviewing him in March 2006 suggested was "intentionally inaccurate" because it stated, contrary to the facts at hand, that the civilians had been killed by an insurgent's bomb.

According to a transcript of the interview, Colonel Sokoloski told the investigators, "We knew the, you know, the strategic implications of being permanently present in Haditha and how badly the insurgents wanted us out of there."

But Colonel Sokoloski told them he believed that the news release was accurate as written. "At the time," he said, "given the information that was available to me and the objective to get that out for the press" before insurgents put out their own information, "that is what we went with."

So you see. The truth was considered too damaging at the time to be released, and so a lie was constructed. But the truth was known to the people in the area and created the exact problem that could have been predicted. Add to that the additional problems that were created by the lies.

And by the way, no one should be shocked by these massacres in times of war. Everyone who voted for and supported the war was voting for and supporting massacres. They are inevitable in war, particularly in guerrilla wars. Some wars are worth it. But I would submit that this war, entirely predictably, was not.

From our sponsors:

Having promised "update" of Feb. column predicting Bush "comeback," Broder did not mention it

During a May 4 online chat, Washington Post columnist David Broder told readers that his then-upcoming May 6 column would be his "best effort at an update" to his February 16 column in which he asserted that President Bush was "poised for a political comeback." In his May 6 column, titled "A War the Public Will End," Broder did not in any way address his assertion that Bush had been "poised for a comeback," much less note that the predicted comeback did not occur. Rather, in that column, Broder took the position that Bush has a short-term advantage over Democrats on Iraq because Bush "has a clear plan" for the war strategy, whereas "[t]he Democratic-controlled Congress ... lacks agreement on any such plan." Broder asserted that Bush's "high-risk policy" of "apply[ing] more military force in and around Baghdad in hopes of suppressing the sectarian violence and creating space for the Iraqi politicians to assemble a functioning government," had "no guarantee of success. But it is a clear strategy." Read more

Limbaugh suggested Obama needs Secret Service protection because of "Clinton Inc."

On the May 7 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh defended his "Barack, The Magic Negro" song -- a parody mocking 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful and Sen. Barack Obama (IL) -- and said, in response to reports about the controversy this parody has generated: "If I were to think about Barack Obama being in any trouble -- needing Secret Service -- I would look to Clinton Inc. before I looked at me. Try that, drive-by media. Get that out there." Read more

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Nicholas Pisano
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

Hello Eric,

It's the old Navy guy reporting from New Orleans on Sunday, May 6, 2007, the last day of Jazzfest. There are many things that rend your heart in this city, a shell of its former self -- a shell of devastation wrapping both figuratively and literally around the Wonderland that is the French Quarter and Uptown. Tourists once again ply the Quarter and pay too much at its much heralded restaurants and clubs but one needs to walk just a few blocks from NOLA's version of the Green Zone and you find yourself among National Guard Humvees patrolling the damaged streets and neighborhoods where many traffic lights still do not work and where one finds a chaotic public works system.

Despite the best efforts of many of the city's most caring citizens, celebrities, artists and the millions of people that come to experience its music and culture, it is becoming apparent that the malignant neglect that was inflicted upon the city by the Bush Administration and the insurance industry in the wake of Katrina has changed it irrevocably and destroyed what made it great. New Orleans as we knew and loved it is gone -- forever.

I know that many people would be outraged and hurt by these words and I do not doubt that Jazzfest and other traditions such as Mardi Gras will go on (albeit as artifacts), the streets (probably most of them), sewers and levees will be repaired and many of the destroyed buildings will be razed and others may be built in their place. But the heart and soul of this city is missing because almost two-thirds of its citizens are still gone and many, such as Aaron Neville for health reasons -- so much a part of the musical landscape here -- cannot or will not return.

During the second weekend of this annual celebration of New Orleans' cultural contribution to the country the city was given a reminder of why many of its citizens seethe with anger at the mention of FEMA or the Army Corps of Engineers. A typical spring storm moved through the area on Friday dumping several inches of rain over a two hour period. The Army Corps of Engineers had to step in and slow down the pumping of the city storm drains into one of the canals because of fears that it would breach and fail. This caused many parts of the city to be flooded, albeit temporarily. But one must ask that if a two-hour downpour can almost cause a major failure of one part of the flood control system, just how safe is the city almost two years after Katrina?

At Jazzfest the jazz tent this year, as if in acknowledgment of the periphery to which the music has now been relegated at the city that gave it its birth and the festival to which it lends its name, was situated in a far corner of the fairgrounds, the Gospel Tent now taking its previously centralized location. One also saw few minority faces in the jazz tent this year, an further indication, I think, of the African-American neighborhoods that are now for all intents and purposes gone. It is not that festivals of this sort do not and should not appeal to people of all ethnic groups but in previous years I remember the jazz devotees as a more integrated group -- reflecting jazz's roots and its ideals.

I have always taken something of importance from Jazzfest. This year I saw the future of jazz and his name is trumpeter Nicholas Payton. I first saw Payton ten years ago when he was touring with the late Doc Cheatham. No longer a youngster, it is apparent that Payton has absorbed jazz history and is ready to turn things inside out and to follow his own muse. It will be a good thing for the music, I think, and I look forward to seeing where he intends to go.

On the other side of the ledger, Alvin Baptiste, one of the great jazz pioneers, a jazz educator and an outstanding clarinetist, died this morning, age 74, of an apparent heart attack. He was to play today at Jazzfest and his passing seemed to be a metaphor for the many losses experienced here but for the city's musical community which greeted the sad news with a resilience and exuberance that, at least for the moment, made one hope for the future of this place. Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis, Maurice Brown, Bob French, Baptiste's students, members of the Baptiste family and dozens of other musicians and singers took the stage to honor their mentor and friend. Baptiste's niece, Stephanie Jordan, teamed with her trumpeter brother, Marlon Jordan, for an emotional performance of "Here's to Life" that matched poignant moments from previous festivals such as Shirley Horne's own rendition of this same song in 2005 just weeks before her own death and John Boutte's updated rendition of "Louisiana 1927" last year during the first post-Katrina Jazzfest. Breaking down in tears, Ms. Jordan was led from the stage by her brother. The program continued with a steady stream of the elite of New Orleans' musical talent, including the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band and Branford Marsalis' quintet and ended with a brass band of two dozen of New Orleans' most notable musicians following the local funereal tradition of first playing sanctified songs such as "I'll Fly Away" and then ending with "Didn't He Ramble?" as musicians played and danced, the people in the tent, including Jazzfest staff, joining in the send-off to one of New Orleans' greats, dancing in the aisles and around the stage.

I have had a love affair with New Orleans for many years now. It is hard to explain the allure that this city offers to a Jersey boy like me. To me New Orleans is like an old lover who has consorted with the wrong men who neither appreciate her attributes or her beauty and who have abused her. The romance is gone. She is old, worn and run-down but the allure is still there, shining just below the surface. You hope for her and want to be there for when she will call, and you know that she will call again if for no other reason than to reminisce about old times and to talk about things that will never be. She will always break your heart. I can barely hear her voice now. I am helpless before her fate.

Lifted from Romenesko:

From TYLER GREEN: From the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who reviewed the George Tenet memoir in Sunday's WP Book World:

Full disclosure: In discussions with Tenet as a reporter for this paper, I many times urged him to write his memoir, and, after he resigned from the CIA, I even spent a day with him and his co-writer, Bill Harlow, in late 2005 to suggest questions he should try to address. Foremost, I hoped that he would provide intimate portraits of the two presidents he had served as CIA director -- George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Instead, he has adhered to the rule of CIA directors: protect the president at all costs.

To recap: Woodward reviewed the book that he repeatedly advised the writer to write. Woodward reviewed the book even after he made extensive recommendations to the writers on what to include. (Judging from Woodward's description he was a full-fledged advisor to the co-writer.) And, of course, Woodward reviewed the book after the writer(s) failed to follow his advice. Naturally he half-pans it. (To entirely pan it might, I suppose, call into question his recommendation to write it.)

I know we're all supposed to be numb to Bob Woodward's ethical conflicts: When the 99th doesn't matter, why should the 100th? But this is an unquestionably clear example of where the disclosure of conflict of interest is not enough. Woodward should not have been allowed near this review. [Permalink]

From CHARLES KAISER: In the first debate among Republican candidates for president last night, former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson was asked by Politico's John Harris, "If a private employer finds homosexuality immoral, should he be allowed to fire a gay worker?"

Thompson answered: "I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that that is an issue that business people have got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be." Harris seemed surprised: "OK, so the answer is yes?" Thompson replied, "Yes."

Today, Thompson was sufficiently embarrassed to retract his answer on CNN: "That's never been my position," the candidate said, adding that discrimination isn't acceptable.

Will the gay and straight reporters and editors who covered the debate for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times be equally embarrassed, because they decided Thompson's original, outrageous answer didn't warrant a mention in any of their newspapers this morning? (Thompson's startling declaration, "Washington changed us," was important enough to make it into the Post.) [Permalink]

From STEPHEN MILLER, obituaries editor, New York Sun: The New York Post never almost never runs full-blown staff written obits, yet here they are with what purports to be an obit -- but is actually a circulation promotion!

They are hammering the New York Times for not running this guy's obit, but in reality nobody (that I can find, and especially including the NY Post) wrote an obit for Armin Schaper when he died in August.

This kind of thing -- missing a deceased war hero -- is not at all unusual, especially if the family makes no attempt to alert the newspapers. Which is a fair guess in this case.

This is really an all-time low for the Post (at least from an obits perspective), quite a statement. [Permalink]

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