Friday, February 17, 2006

All the news that didn't fit

National journalists this past week have been bombarded with emails from Dick Cheney's defenders, and the message has gone something like this: You're overplaying the hunting story, cut it out, move on, there are are more important things to write about. But, actually, the Bush administration and its supporters should be happy that the hunting story got so much attention, given the tenor of some of the news that got knocked off the front page and off the top of the broadcasts.

For instance: while virtually every American now knows about the risks of being "peppered," far fewer are probably aware that an investigatory panel of House Republicans - that's the caucus which usually marches most faithfully to the White House's tune - released a withering report about the Bush administration's response to the Katrina crisis. A news story is here. From the report: "Katrina was a failure of initiative. It was a failure of leadership." The bumbling Democrats of Louisiana took their lumps in the report, but most telling was the fact that Bush's initial statement after the crisis - that nobody could have foreseen the breaching of the levees - was demolished in the report: "This crisis was not only predictable, it was predicted...earlier presidential involvement might have resulted in a more effective response." Meanwhile, the House Republican sleuths made it clear that the White House had tried to cover up its shortcomings during the investigation, and complained that its negotiations for White House info had "proved frustrating and difficult."

Another story that took a backseat to the hunting imbroglio: Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official, who had major intelligence responsibilities during the runup to the Iraq war, has penned a piece in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, contending that the Bush administration distorted and manipulated prewar intelligence in order to falsely claim that Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to U.S. security. His testimony, as an eyewitness to the process, comes at a time when the Bush administration's Senate allies have successfully fought to forestall an official investigation into whether the White House cherry-picked the evidence. (The key Republican senator, Pat Roberts, has said that such an investigation was on the "back burner.") Pillar's views - for instance, that the administration insisted there was a Saddam-al Qaeda alliance, even though "the intelligence community never offered any analysis that supported the notion" - might well have received more attention this past week if not for the mega-focus on the veep. Indeed, at last check, the paper I work for hasn't run any news stories about Pillar. (However, for those of you who would prefer to automatically dismiss Pillar as a biased disgruntled ex-employee, the conservative backlash has begun.)