Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 4, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

WOLFOWITZ....Why did I take the time to set the record straight on the Wolfowitz quote in the post just below? Aside from my well-known dedication to truth and light, the reason is simple: I don't like to see liberals make fools of themselves, and the Guardian's version of the quote was so obviously wrong that accepting it was just a setup for trouble.

(I saw it first this morning at Road to Surfdom, which expressed appropriate skepticism, then over at KOS, which was somewhat less skeptical, and then at Counterspin, which wasn't skeptical at all. Finally, after reading this post at Instapundit and then going back to Surfdom for the links, I wrote my post.)

But why "obviously" wrong? Can I illustrate with a little dramatic presentation? Pretend that the following top secret conversation took place in the Oval Office sometime last year:

BUSH: How about WMD?

WOLFOWITZ: No, Tenet says there isn't any. The inspectors got it all back in 1998.

BUSH: Al-Qaeda?

WOLFOWITZ: We've got that Prague thing, but hell, even Perle thinks it's horseshit. Nothing there either.

POWELL: Well look, if you want me to make a case to the UN, I've got have something to say. What do you want me to do, just admit to everyone that we want their oil?

(Raucous laughter from entire group.)

CHENEY: Come on, we just have to find something that sounds good. I'll ask Rumsfeld to put the OSP on it.

BUSH: OSP?

CHENEY: Don't worry about it. But I know those boys, and if anyone can spin a good WMD story, they can.

BUSH: OK, let's do it.

POWELL: I'm in.

WOLFOWITZ: Me too. Lock and load.

Here's the deal: even if that exact conversation had taken place, Wolfowitz is a smart guy who's been in government positions for two decades. He would never get caught admitting it.

It's just dumb to see a supposedly damning quote from Wolfowitz made in a public forum and accept it uncritically. Even if Wolfowitz does think the whole war was about oil, there's not a reporter in the world who could trick him into saying it. So just give up on the idea that it's going to happen.

I suspect that what we're seeing at work in this particular case is the real bias of the press. Most reporters don't care all that much about a liberal or conservative take on things, what they really want is to see their byline above the fold on the front page. They don't care who they're interviewing or what side of the aisle they're on, if they see a chance to print something that seems like an attention grabber, they'll go with it. This out-of-context quote looked good, so someone went with it. That's all.

UPDATE: Oh, and was the war all about oil? This is tiresome. In a broad sense, of course it was about oil. The reason we care about the stability of the Middle East in the first place is oil, and if it weren't for that we'd just lend our support to Israel and otherwise stay out of things there. On the other hand, was it about taking direct control of Iraq's oil and pumping it straight into our Strategic Petroleum Reserve? No. We just didn't want Saddam threatening the Mideast oil supply.

There were a few other reasons too, of course. Many of us disagreed with those reasons, but most of them were out in the open. So let's lighten up on the conspiracy theorizing, OK?

Kevin Drum 2:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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