|BuzzFlash News Analysis|
June 5, 2006
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How a Typical New York Times Article is Really Bushevik Propaganda Disguised as News
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
Okay, okay, let’s get this straight once again.
The New York Times is schizophrenic. Its editorial page is liberal, in the old establishment sense of the word, while its news section (despite infrequent expose stories like the NSA domestic eavesdropping one) is generally pro-Bush (although in an understated insidious way). Now, why do BuzzFlash and many other progressive websites make this charge?
Because if you read the NYT carefully day after day, most of its news stories about the White House, Bush and foreign policy subtly reflect the administration perspective and spin, but written as though the NYT is offering up a third party “balanced” perspective.
You don’t just need to resurrect the debacle of Judith Miller’s pre-Iraq war farcically badly-sourced reporting or the puff pieces that New York Times White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller writes about Bush and his staff. You can look at almost any daily “background” piece on the White House and see just how much the New York Times political reporters are an extension of the Bush “spin machine.”
To put some meat on the bones of this sad reality, BuzzFlash dissected a recent article from the NYT. Our comments will be in brackets. Click here for the full New York Times story.
Before we begin a close scrutiny of the article, it is vital to remember that this is an administration that has been proven to lie daily, brazenly and egregiously. Yet, the New York Times continues to treat White House sources pedaling White House “spin” as purveyors of fact.
In short, the very context of this article as conveying a credible scenario should be called into question because it relies on White House sources who wish to remain anonymous, according to the New York Times, for no credible reason, since they obviously are telling flattering details about Bush being “in charge” with the full permission of the White House propaganda apparatus. That is because the sources, from the information in the article, had to be at a very high level (Stephen Hadley or Condeleezza Rice or both), who would not provide such details (or likely “spin” combined with a sprinkling of fact) if it weren’t part of a White House public relations effort to explain the latest White House Iranian gambit.
We won’t analyze the entire article, because of the length, but will offer some comments along the way [which you will find in brackets like these].
* * *
A Talk at Lunch That Shifted the Stance on Iran
[Many newspaper readers glance through headlines in a paper and then only read one or two stories. This NYT headline presents as fact the “anonymous sources” perspective that talk between Rice and Bush did indeed shift the stance on Iran. Two problems with this one. How can the NYT confirm that this “lunch shifted the stance on Iran”? More importantly, has the “stance” really shifted, or is the “stance” (military action) still the same, but the public relations approach to achieving the stance has shifted? The latter is the more likely scenario, but you wouldn’t know it from the headline.]
By HELENE COOPER and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON, June 3 — On a Tuesday afternoon two months ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat down to a small lunch in President Bush's private dining room behind the Oval Office and delivered grim news to her boss: Their coalition against Iran was at risk of falling apart. [A rather bold assertion presented as fact by the NYT. How about the word allegedly in here? Or White House sources claim that this is how “it” happened?]
A meeting she had attended in Berlin days earlier with European foreign ministers had been a disaster, she reported, according to participants in the discussion. Iran was neatly exploiting divisions among the Europeans and Russia, and speeding ahead with its enrichment of uranium. The president grimaced, one aide recalled, interpreting the look as one of exasperation "that said, 'O.K., team, what's the answer?' " [Here, the NYT adopts the bizarre Bush penchant for running foreign policy based on body language. Note, that Bush didn’t say “'O.K., team, what's the answer?' " This is an anonymous source’s interpretation of Bush’s grimace. Doesn’t the NYT think that this is an odd way to determine foreign policy, from a president’s grimace? Apparently not. Doesn’t the NYT wonder why Bush didn’t actually say something? Apparently not.]
That body language [ah, the “leadership” by “body language” school of Bush government is now fully incorporated into an allegedly “factual” news story] touched off a closely held two-month effort to reach a drastically different strategy, one articulated two weeks later in a single sentence that Ms. Rice wrote in a private memorandum. [Private to whom? Did the New York Times see the alleged memorandum?] It broached the idea that the United States end its nearly three-decade policy against direct talks with Iran. [Did it really do that, or did it perhaps indicate that the U.S. would offer to talk with Iran if Iran basically acceded to U.S. demands, which is no different than saying, “give us what we want, and then we’ll talk.” This was the same gambit, more or less, used with Iraq.]
Mr. Bush's aides rarely describe policy debates in the Oval Office in much detail. [So, why are they talking to the NYT now? Senior Bush loyalist aides don’t freelance leaks.] But in recounting his decisions in this case, they appeared eager to portray him as determined to rebuild a fractured coalition still bearing scars from Iraq and find a way out of a negotiating dynamic that, as one aide said recently, "the Iranians were winning." [The closest the NYT gets to the reality of this entire story. It’s spin to make Bush appear “in charge” of White House policy in regards to Iran.]
Mr. Bush gradually grew more comfortable with offering talks to a country that he considers the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism, and whose president has advocated wiping Israel off the map. Mr. Bush's own early misgivings about the path he was considering came in a flurry of phone calls to Ms. Rice and to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser, that often began with questions like "What if the Iranians do this," gaming out loud a number of possible situations. [This is an unlikely scenario for the man who read “My Pet Goat” with an elementary school classroom for several minutes after being informed of 9/11, until his handlers were prepared to tell him what to do. But the NYT swallows it hook, line and sinker. Also notice how again a “spin” sentence is presented as fact, “Mr. Bush gradually grew more comfortable with offering talks to a country that he considers the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism, and whose president has advocated wiping Israel off the map.” Is the second part of the sentence the NYT piling on the WH “spin” or do they know that was in Bush’s head? It appears to be an additional point that the NYT added, but may or may not be a factor in the alleged decision making by Bush.]
Mr. Bush left open the option of scuttling the entire idea until early Wednesday morning, three senior officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were describing internal debates in the White House. [Why do they need to be anonymous? No senior Bush administration would provide such “spin” without Rove, Bush or Cheney approving. The NYT accepts that “speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were describing internal debates in the White House” is a credible reason to remain anonymous, which it is not in this case, since the WH obviously gave them the green light to talk with the NYT. They are anonymous because if their names appeared in the story, it would confirm it is “spin.” If they remain anonymous, the “spin” in the article appears as if the NYT is reporting fact, instead of calculated WH Bush image building.] He made the final decision only after telephone calls with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany led him to conclude that if Tehran refused to suspend its enrichment of uranium, or later dragged its feet, they would support an escalating series of sanctions against Iran at the United Nations that could lead to a confrontation. [Again, the NYT is reporting speculation about Bush’s state of mind (whatever there is of it) as fact. This is patently absurd.]
Even after Mr. Bush edited the statement [Does the NYT have definitive proof that Bush “edited” the statement? The “Great Decider” is not known for his editing skills or even desire to edit. This is likely, again, “spin” to make him appear in charge of foreign policy and intimately involved with foreign policy decision making down to minute wording of statements. This is highly implausible, given his record.] that Ms. Rice was scheduled to read Wednesday before she flew to Vienna to encourage Europe and Russia to sign on to a final package of incentives for Iran — and sanctions if it turns the offer down — Ms. Rice wanted to check in one more time. She called Mr. Bush. Was he sure he was O.K. with his decision?
"Go do it," he was said to have responded. [Finally, the NYT uses the words “he was said to have responded” and not reporting it as if it were fact. It took long enough in the article to make such a qualification. Actually, this sounds like the one piece of information thus far “reported” in this article that might be true. That’s about the extent of Bush’s capabilities: “Go do it.”]
She did, but the results remain unclear. Iran has given no indication it will
agree to Mr. Bush's threshold condition, suspending nuclear fuel production.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that he would oppose "any pressure
to deprive our people from their right" to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.
" Iran will examine the proposal and announce its opinion after that," Mr. Mottaki said. Mr. Bush's aides now acknowledge that the approach they had once publicly described as successfully "isolating" Iran was in fact viewed internally as going nowhere. Mr. Bush's search for a new option was driven, they say, by concern that the path he was on two months ago would inevitably force one of two potentially disastrous outcomes: an Iranian bomb, or an American attack on Iran's facilities. [He hasn’t really adopted a different endgame. As with Iraq, he has just adopted a different public relations strategy. Actually, the two outcomes in the NYT sentence are still the ones that the WH believes in, according to most accounts.]
Conservatives, even some inside the administration, are worried that Mr. Bush may be forced into other concessions, including allowing Iran to continue some low level of nuclear fuel production. Others fear that the commitments Mr. Bush believes he extracted from Mr. Putin, Ms. Merkel and President Jacques Chirac of France may erode.
But the story of how a president who rarely changes his mind did so in this case — after refusing similar proposals on Iran four years ago — illustrates the changed dynamic between the State Department and the White House in Mr. Bush's second term. When Colin L. Powell was secretary of state, the two buildings often seemed at war. But 18 months after Ms. Rice took over, her relationship with Mr. Bush has led to policies [Exactly what changes in policy are they talking about? We’d like to know, because we haven’t read about them.] that one former adviser to Ms. Rice and Mr. Bush said "he never would have allowed Colin to pursue." [Again, is there really any fundamental change in policy toward Iran here? The Administration is just repackaging their ultimatum. This paragraph is a rather sweeping conclusion by the NYT, and fits in nicely if you consider that Condoleezza Rice was a likely source for this article.]
It is unclear how much dissent, if any, surrounded the decision, which appears to have been driven largely by the president, Ms. Rice and Mr. Hadley, with other senior national security officials playing a more remote role. [Given either Rice or Hadley or both were sources for this article, this is a bit self-serving. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine Bush “driving” this decision. This is just Rice and/or Hadley trying to build up Bush’s “leadership”image.] Both White House and State Department officials say Vice President Dick Cheney, long an opponent of proposals to engage Iran, agreed to this experiment. [Now it is an experiment. We can see the test tube labs all lined up.] But it is unclear whether he is an enthusiast, or simply expects Iran to reject suspending enrichment — clearing the way to sanctions that could test the Iranian government's ability to survive.
After the surprise election of Mr. Ahmadinejad last summer, Iran ended its suspension of uranium enrichment, and the United States and Europe won resolutions at the International Atomic Energy Agency to move the issue to the United Nations Security Council. But it took weeks over the winter to get the weakest of Security Council actions — a "presidential statement." [This is written from the White House perspective, but as a NYT factual assessment.] Russia, which has huge financial interests in Iran and is supplying it with nuclear reactors, was particularly reluctant to push the Iranians too hard.
At a private dinner on March 6 at the Watergate with Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov warned that Iran could do what North Korea did in 2003 — throw out inspectors and abandon the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That would close the biggest window into Iran's program, making it hard to assess its bomb capability — the same issue that had led to huge errors in Iraq. [That’s not what led to huge errors in Iraq, as the NYT should know better than anyone. This is a factually misleading statement by the NYT. This accepts the White House cover story that errors in intelligence led to the war with Iraq, not lies and a determination to go to war no matter what.]
On March 30, Ms. Rice traveled to Berlin for what turned into a fractious meeting with representatives of the other four permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. She questioned what kind of sanctions would be effective. The conversation went nowhere.
That led to Ms. Rice's warning to Mr. Bush over lunch, on April 4, that the momentum to confront Iran was disintegrating. Mr. Bush, one aide noted, was receiving special intelligence assessments every morning, some on Iran's intentions, others examining Mr. Ahmadinejad's personality, still others exploring how long it would take Iran to produce a bomb. [Yeah, sure. In August of 2001, Bush received a special intelligence assessment that Al-Qaeda was planning imminent hijackings in America, and he did nothing, promptly going on a month’s vacation. As a result, he blew the chance to prevent 9/11 by not taking special measures to prevent hijackings. Anyone who believes that Bush is reading all this information is on crack.]
On Easter weekend [poor lonely Condi], Ms. Rice sat in her apartment and drafted a two-page proposal for a new strategy that pursued three tracks: the threat of "coercive measures" through the United Nations, negotiations with Iran that included what Ms. Rice has called "bold" incentives for Iran to give up the production of all nuclear fuel and a separate set of strategies for economic sanctions if the Security Council failed to act.
They were accompanied by a calendar Ms. Rice had marked in three colors tracking the schedule for each of the three tracks, which Mr. Hadley told her was "brilliant, colorful, and completely impenetrable." [Extremely odd statement that the NYT drops in the article without a follow-up. We have a Secretary of State who develops an “impenetrable” plan, according to the now “on record” national security adviser, and the NYT just drops the damning assessment without elaboration.]
For the first time, her proposal also raised a question the administration had long avoided: Had the time arrived for the United States to play what she and Mr. Bush, both bridge players, called their biggest card — offering to talk with Iran? [Not much of a card at all, more of a ploy.] She shared the proposal with Mr. Hadley, and then raised it with Mr. Bush in private on May 5
The idea intrigued Mr. Bush, White House officials say, and on May 8, Ms. Rice met with him just hours before flying to New York for a meeting with her European counterparts.
She asked him what kind of body language [Back to the Bush “body language” school of diplomacy.] to display at the United Nations meeting. Should she signal that the United States was considering negotiations with Iran? "Be careful," he said, according to officials familiar with the conversation. "I haven't made up my mind." [Hmm, what kind of body language does “I haven’t made up my mind” require?]
That same day, an 18-page letter from Mr. Ahmadinejad arrived. It declared liberal democracy a failure, although it also was perceived by many as an effort to reach out and start a dialogue.
Ms. Rice and Mr. Hadley read the letter on the flight to New York, but dismissed it. "It isn't addressing the issues we're dealing with in a concrete way," Ms. Rice said that day.
Her meeting in New York with her European counterparts turned testy, particularly an exchange with Mr. Lavrov, who was still smarting from a speech by Mr. Cheney denouncing Russia for its increasingly authoritarian behavior. But the discussion, while fractious, convinced her that the only way to break the stalemate was to offer to join the negotiations. [Again, pretty clear evidence that Rice was a source on this story, and that this story is extremely favorable to Rice, who went out of her way to give a favorable impression of Bush.]
While Mr. Bush was intrigued, he was intent on secrecy, and so when the National Security Council met on the subject on May 17, he warned against leaks. [We couldn’t stop laughing after reading, Bush “warned against leaks.” Obviously, the NYT saw nothing ironic in this.] The session was notable because Mr. Cheney, who had fought in the first term against engagement with Iran, said the offer might work, largely because it would force the choices back on Iran. And while the council had dismissed the letter, it used the meeting to discuss whether to respond.
While Mr. Bush initially told Ms. Rice that others could work out the final negotiations, Ms. Rice told the president that "only you can nail this down," apparently a reference to keeping Ms. Merkel and Mr. Putin on board. Mr. Bush made the calls and got them to agree that if Iran resists, they will move ahead with a range of sanctions.
But Mr. Bush, led by Ms. Rice, is taking a significant risk. He must hold together countries that bitterly broke with the United States three years ago on Iraq. And now, he seems acutely aware that part of his legacy may depend on his ability to prevent Iran from emerging as a nuclear power in the Middle East, without again resorting to military force. [A strange final paragraph to a potentially faux news story. Abruptly, the NYT switches into an entirely different tone, now in a few sentences, making a dramatic judgment on the relatively minor White House PR move with Iran. Also, once again, the NYT enters into Bush’s state of mind: “he seems acutely aware that part of his legacy may depend on his ability to prevent Iran from emerging as a nuclear power in the Middle East.” How in the world does the NYT claim to know that Bush is “acutely aware” of his legacy, Iran and the bomb? Really, how can they make this claim? Are they hot wired into his brain? And then there is the subtlety of "without again resorting to military force," which, by implication, supports the notion that Bush invaded Iraq to get rid of WMDs (that weren't there to begin with). The last sentence of the "news" article is the kind of pompous, grandiose statements that the NYT specializes in.]
Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran for this article.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
BuzzFlash Afternote: This NYT story evidences one of the great tragedies of the mainstream media. They work not to upset the White House by revealing the truth in order to preserve access to top insiders like Rice and Hadley. But that access only gives them “spin” stories that are really PR pieces for the Bush White House and the insiders themselves. In short, it’s PR, not journalism.
So, what is the access worth if it results in stories as flawed and biased as this one?
Nothing, indeed, except misrepresenting the news in both context and fact.