Bush Bracketology

Yesterday we took a break from the regulars and had some fun with March Madness on the Kerry and Bush blogs. We’ll give you an update on a political buzzer-beater below; but first, the real news.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall outs Fox News Channel for a complete hack job on the coverage of former White House anti-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke’s testimony to the 9/11 commission. The “fair and balanced” network cut-and-pasted bits of Clarke’s testimony to produce this invented exchange:

“You’ve got a real credibility problem,” John Lehman, former Navy secretary under President Reagan, told Clarke, calling the witness “an active partisan selling a book.”

Clarke responded: “I don’t think it’s a question of morality at all, I think it’s a question of politics.”

The short story (Marshall has the full version) is that the two Lehman quotes are lifted out of context and Clarke’s response was to a question asked by James R. Thompson, not Lehman.

As for things that Clarke actually has said, the one generating the most buzz is the revelation that he sent a memo to Condoleezza Rice on September 4, 2001 suggesting that hundreds of Americans could be killed in a terrorist attack. The Interesting Times blog asks, “Could this be the equivalent of Alexander Butterfield’s revelation that Nixon’s conversations were taped? ”

Also in the news yesterday was the White House decision to out Clarke as the source who gave a background briefing to the press in August 2002 about the Bush administration’s efforts against terrorism. This was no doubt a move to paint Clarke as a flip-flopper and discredit his testimony, but Matthew Yglesias, writing on “Tapped,” thinks it only offers more credence to Clarke’s testimony: “The fact [is] that, when pressed before to demonstrate that they were doing a good job on this issue, the person the White House turned to was Clarke — and this supports Clarke’s contention that he was waging a pretty lonely battle.” (Emphasis in original.)

Perhaps the biggest news, however, is that March Madness has infected the Bush blog. Two members of Michigan Students for Bush report, “The first round of March to Victory came to a classic March ending. In a photo-finish race to the end, Michigan Students for Bush pulled a come from behind victory to beat Iowa by four Bush Volunteers in the final minutes of the first round, 983 to 979.” Things got so intense that in the heat of the battle one participant reported, “My hands are shaking.”

We sweated that one out to the end, too. But riddle us this: How did Maine move on to the Sweet Sixteen despite losing to West Virginia by two volunteers? If you ask us, it seems like a recount is in order.

Thomas Lang

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.