Barone defended Bush by distorting 9-11 Commission, Senate Intel reports

On the July 30 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, U.S. News & World Report senior writer and FOX News Channel political contributor Michael Barone repeated an earlier smear against Democrats before echoing a factual distortion that has recently become a favorite conservative talking point. After observing that the Democratic National Convention was “united by hate” and that “hatred of [President] George W. Bush ... was thick in the air,” Barone falsely claimed that the “charge that George W. Bush misled the nation into war” in Iraq “seems to have been refuted by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9-11 Commission.”

From the July 30 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:

BARONE: In John Kerry's speech, for example, the -- “I will not mislead the nation into war,” he said. Well, what was he saying there? Of course, it's a charge that [President] George W. Bush misled the nation into war -- a charge that seems to have been refuted by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9-11 Commission.

In fact, the Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to investigate the issue of whether Bush and senior administration officials misrepresented the intelligence they received from the U.S. intelligence community, as administration critics have charged (pdf). The 30-page summary (pdf) of the report's conclusions does not mention Bush. That's because, as MSNBC reported, the committee decided at the outset not to investigate the Bush administration's use of intelligence in the first phase of its investigation -- to the consternation of many Democrats. Instead, the committee's 521-page report (long pdf) focused on the intelligence agencies themselves.

The 9-11 Commission report has even less to say about the Bush administration's honesty than the Senate. Its 567-page report focuses entirely on issues surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks: the rise of Al Qaeda; efforts by the Clinton and Bush administrations to address the threat; the development of the September 11 plot; and a chronicle of the events of September 11 itself. The report addresses Iraq only in the context of Al Qaeda and September 11 and, like the Senate report, it does not assess the accuracy or honesty of the Bush's public statements about the Iraqi threat.

Misleading use of these reports has become a pattern for conservative pundits eager to dismiss criticisms of the Bush administration. FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly invoked the reports in his nationally syndicated column on July 22 to demand an apology from Bush administration critics, including “far-left websites ... spewing forth deceit and allegations.” He repeated the distortion throughout the following week on television and radio, including his much-hyped July 27 interview with author and filmmaker Michael Moore.