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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Chronicle logic: redundant resolve = lack of resolve

After publishing a "news analysis" last week on the theme that Kerry has actually been consistent on Iraq, the San Francisco Chronicle published another analysis today claiming to demonstrate that the real flip flopper is Bush. Marc Sandalow, the Chronicle's Washington Bureau Chief, pushes the year old canard that the war was supposed to be all about WMD, but now with "the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction," the rationale has changed to freeing the Iraqi people.

The problem with this story is that the Bush administration has always advanced a long list of rationales for regime change in Iraq, from enforcing the terms of the 91 cease fire, especially the inspection requirement (the nominal "casus belli" of the war), to the Bush doctrine (going after regimes that harbor terrorists), to WMD threats, to the liberation of the Iraqi people, to the need to bring democracy and liberty to the Muslim world.

A University of Illinois undergraduate, Devon Largio, has recently been in the news for documenting 27 different rationales for the Iraq war, all advanced by the Bush administration between 9/11 and the war-power vote of 10/02. Sandalow actually cites Largio's study as his source, while citing no new Bush administration rationales that have been added post 10/02. How then does he justify the charge of flip-flopping?

Buried deep in the story, Sandalow asserts that: "What changed was the emphasis." In other words, after picking and choosing quotes from different periods to suggest a dramatic change in rationale, Sandalow basically admits he was lying. The "later" rationales were actually there at the beginning, but were just left out of the story for dramatic effect.

Of course there have been changes in emphasis. In particular, the WMD angle was emphasized at the U.N. to try to keep the pitch simple for the foreign folks. When pitching the Iraq war to Americans, however, everything was on the table, which makes Democrat claims that they were misled by the simplified U.N. pitch a couple of months later particularly egregious. Do they see themselves as part of the America that voted for war, or as part of the international community that America then tried to convince to assist us?

Sandalow claims that the multiple rationales for war:
makes it difficult to support Bush campaign chairman Ken Mehlman's description of the upcoming debate as a "square-off between resolve and optimism versus vacillation and defeatism."

Oh really? All of the different Bush rationales for war were forwarded as grounds for resolve. Logically, multiple rationales imply redundant layers of resolve, but Sandalow pretends that it implies lack of resolve. Bush has never wavered in his resolve and optimism and Sandalow does not even try to find a waver because there isn't one to be found. He just asserts the absurd non sequitur that multiple grounds for resolve = lack of resolve.

In this Saldalow is copying a talking point from Kerry's New York University speech (which he also cites):
By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

Which is more partisan, making up his own non sequiturs, or taking them from the Kerry campaign? Either way, Sandalow is world-class hack.

1. An earlier Sandalow hack job Fisked here.)

2. Largio's research might not be too reliable. His executive summary describes President Bush's U.N. speech as introducing an "imminent threat" rationale, whild noting that Bush never used that exact phrase. In fact, Bush's actual language--that "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger"--was intended to distinguish between an imminent threat and a threat that may not come to fruition for some time, but must not be allowed to come to fruition. The President made this clear in his State of the Union address where he said:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent.

Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?

If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.

But I'd still give Largio an A. Excellent work for a youngster.

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