Oatmeal for Once

Lately, we’ve felt like we’ve been subsisting on a media diet of Red Bull and Sour Patch Kids for way too long - we’re craving substance. We had to rummage about in the blogosphere for a while this a.m. to find something edible, but here’s what we rustled up:

Matthew Yglesias looks into the “retrospective debate about the Iraq war” in a post that points out the distinction between a decision to “abandon traditional diplomacy in favor of a robust coercive kind” and a decision to “abandon coercive diplomacy in favor of war.” He also faults the press for failing to report on the differences between what was known in October, 2002 (when the resolution authorizing the president to go to war was passed) versus what was known in March 2003 (when the war began). Yglesias contends that “the re-entry of the UN’s weapons inspectors operating through UNSCOM and the IAEA” provided information that undermined the intelligence on WMD that Bush was using, and that “[r]etrospective media accounts of the WMD story always focus on things that were said in 2002, never focusing on what was known — or knowable — in the actual run-up to the actual war.”

The Daily Howler fact-checks Bush’s newest label for Kerry as the National Journal’s most liberal senator, and finds that, surprise surprise, it’s not true. It provides a link to an August post that critiques a number of misleading claims (and the attendant media screw-ups), including the misleading National Journal citation.

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, we find another twist in the rather tumultuous world of fact-checking. Juan Non-Volokh fact-checks FactCheck.org, faulting the now-famous (thank you, Cheney) fact-checker for misrepresenting what the Vice President said about the percentage of casualties borne by Iraqis. Non-Volokh points out that Cheney actually said: “When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they’ve taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq” (emphasis added). FactCheck.org’s original piece treated Cheney’s claim as referring only to Iraqi fatalities, leading to the conclusion that Cheney’s 50% number was false because Iraqi deaths amounted to about 38% (Non-Volokh also notes the distinction between casualty and fatality numbers). The blogger expresses appreciation for the subsequent correction in the FactCheck.org piece, though he is somewhat dismayed that there was no acknowledgment of the original error.

Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish throws out a tidbit on U.S. policy towards Iran, which has gained prominence in the campaign after nuclear proliferation became a topic in the first debate. Referring to a recent New York Times report, Sullivan notes that Bush is now “agreeing to offer incentives to the mullahs to restrain their nuclear ambition,” and highlights this from the Times article:

“European diplomats said that the administration was very squeamish about even discussing incentives, in part because it would represent a policy reversal that would provoke a vigorous internal debate, and in part because of the presidential campaign.”

Sullivan comments: “Er, yes. The new policy would differ from Kerry’s because …er…”

Finally, Ronald Bailey of Reason Online offers an interesting angle on Kerry’s most recent pledge to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Bailey provides quotes from Nixon, Ford, Carter, Clinton, and Bush (W.) to make the rather depressing point that presidents for 30 years have vowed to pursue energy independence — and then didn’t. He also links to a more elaborate post on the same topic, written in July, in which he gives an informative history of the energy promises and policies of former presidents, as well as descriptions of the current candidates’ proposals.

All in all, a little more chewy than your usual blogosphere air-popped fare.

Red Bull Sugarfree anyone?

Susanna Dilliplane

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Susanna Dilliplane is a contributor to CJR.