Thursday, December 30, 2004

Selective Reporting

Once again, you have to go somewhere like the Washington Times to get the truth behind agenda-driven reporting in the so-called mainstream media. In today's edition, Helmut Sonnenfeldt and Ron Nessen address the press coverage of Donald Rumsfeld's response to a soldier asking a question about armored vehicles.

The question, planted with the soldier by a reporter, got a serious response from Rumsfeld that was only partially reported by the media. In addition, there are important facts left out of media reports because they don't fit the agenda. Here's some of what Sonnenfeldt and Nessen say:

This is the only portion of Mr. Rumsfeld's answer that was — and is still being — quoted endlessly in newspapers and broadcast on television and radio:

"As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

Mr. Rumsfeld's response has been repeatedly characterized as an insensitive, brusque, disrespectful, insulting putdown. And that description might be fitting if that was all the secretary said in response to the...question. ...

But the worst shortcoming of media coverage of this controversy was failure to report virtually all the unit's combat vehicles had already been up-armored by the Army and the rest were completed the day after Mr. Rumsfeld's Town Meeting comments to the troops in Kuwait.


Blogger Brian B said...

Well said. And thank you for your service.

5:52 PM, December 30, 2004  
Blogger Kevin said...

For one thing, what difference does it make what circumstances surrounded the soldier's question? And BTW, the soldier maintains that it was his question and his idea to ask the question. But even if it wasn't, what difference does it make? It was a legit question from a soldier to the Secretary of Defense. Trying to delegitimize the question by blaming it on a pesky reporter casts the soldier as a moron incapable of thinking for himself. And it's a classic demonization trick.

For another, General Schwartzkof clearly took exception to Rumsfeld's answer. Is he a moron too?

For another, by what twisted logic do we portray the soldier as only asking on behalf of his own unit?

Sonnendfeldt and Nessen basically concede that even this soldier's unit was completely uparmored when the question was asked. So, it's a legit question even under the contrived parameters that Sonnendfeldt and Nessen mischaracterized it as. I see no rational reason for dismissing it as something other than an open question on behalf of the entire service or at the very least on behalf of every unit dispatched from Kuwait without proper armor. After all, we know that Rumsfeld very rarily takes questions from soldiers. Plus the way the question was phrased gives every indication that the soldier was asking on behalf of every unit that had had to rummage for makeshift armor.

I'm sorry but I can't honestly agree that the Times piece gets to anything resembling "the truth behind agenda-driven reporting..." It seems to me that Sonnendfeldt and Nessen are merely trying to put a pro-Rumsfeld spin on the story.

7:42 PM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, I don't doubt that the soldier had his own concerns. But the question was formed and planted by the reporter, and stating that fact doesn't amount to saying the soldier is a moron (which I would never do) or attempting to demonize anyone.

I don't know what GEN Schwarzkopf said, but I'll look it up. I briefly worked for him at one time and learned to take him very seriously...or else!

In general, given what the soldier said and how he got the question, what Rumsfeld actually said versus what was reported, the clear implication that the soldier was talking about his unit (unless you mean to say the reporter's question was broader), the fact that his unit was already almost completely up-armored, and how all that was reported by the NYT, I think biased reporting is obvious.

The Times has a serious problem separating the political views of it's bosses and the majority of its reporters from the actual news. I think any fair assessment of the past few years of reporting would show that. However, if the same assessment were done on the Washington Post, I think they would come out as much more "fair and balanced," if I can use that term without being sued. One thing I have to give the more conservative least they make their position clear, and they generally make a greater effort to separate news from opinion.

8:04 PM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:14 PM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

According to an MSNBC report, Schwarzkopf said:

"I was very, very disappointed — no, let me put it stronger — I was angry by the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it all on the Army, as if he, as the secretary of defense, didn’t have anything to do with the Army and the Army was over there doing it themselves, screwing up."

Hmmm. I don't think this comment is on your point. He's criticizing Rumsfeld personally, and in defense of the Army. I'm sure he's also basing that comment on press reports, which, as we're talking about, were incomplete. In any case, let me make it very clear: I don't disagree with Schwarzkopf!

8:18 PM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Kevin said...

No, Tom. The question was not formed and planted by the reporter. The reporter did know about what the soldier wanted to ask Rumsfeld before he asked it. But, the reporter's role was in trying to talk Spc. Thomas Wilson into toning down the question so as to be more respectful of Secretary Rumsfeld.


While I would readily agree that the Wa. Times article didn't directly portray Spc. Wilson as a moron, other more overtly Conservative pieces very much did portray Wilson as essentially a moron. I believe the term they used was "ventriloquist dummy." The obvious implication there is that Spc. Wilson was an easily duped stooge. The Wa. Times piece merely tones it down, IMHO. But the same implication is there.


As for Schwarzkopf... Ya know, I had a heck of a time trying to find the proper spelling for his surname. I found several variations that were all identical except for one and sometimes two different letters or omitted letters. And that was among published sources. I'll go with your spelling since it sounds like you should know how it's properly spelled.

Anyway... in context I think it's clear that Schwarzkopf understood what Rumsfeld said. Remember, Spc. Wilson prefaced his question by pointing out how long the Iraq engagement had been going on. As you know, the Army does what the Secretary lets them do or directs them to do. Rumsfeld portrayed the armor issue as one where the Army was calling the shots as to how fast armor had been acquired prior to the Iraq War.

Rumsfeld said: "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment."

The obvious implication there is that Army soldiers started the conflict without sufficient armor because the Army hadn't adequately anticipated their needs. General Schwarzkopf knows perfectly well that the Army has never been in ultimate control of when and how much Armor is purchased and installed. Further, I suspect that he also knew that Rumsfeld's statement was pure spin and that in fact the manufactorers of the armor were willing and capable of producing more armor than the Secretary of Defense was willing to buy it. He rightly responded with indignation because Rumsfeld was obviously trying to deflect responsibility.

That Spc. Wilson's unit was reportedly finally uparmored within a day after Rumsfeld took the question is completely beside the point of what Spc. Wilson asked! General Schwarzkopf demonstrated that he understood the question and answer correctly and in context by responding with indignation.

10:45 PM, December 31, 2004  

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