Saturday, August 20, 2005

E&P
"The San Francisco Chronicle called the speech "impressive in its breadth and eloquence." The Denver Post likened Powell to "Marshal Dillon facing down a gunslinger in Dodge City," adding that he had presented "not just one 'smoking gun' but a battery of them." The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune called Powell's case "overwhelming," while The Oregonian in Portland found it "devastating." To The Hartford (Ct.) Courant it was "masterful." The Plain Dealer in Cleveland deemed it "credible and persuasive."

One can only laugh, darkly, at the San Jose (Ca.) Mercury News asserting that Powell made his case "without resorting to exaggeration, a rhetorical tool he didn't need." The San Antonio Express-News called the speech "irrefutable," adding, "only those ready to believe Iraq and assume that the United States would manufacture false evidence against Saddam would not be persuaded by Powell's case."

And what of the two giants of the East? The Washington Post echoed others who found Powell's evidence "irrefutable." That paper's liberal columnist, Mary McGrory, wrote that Powell "persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince." She even likened the Powell report to the day John Dean "unloaded" on Nixon in the Watergate hearings. George Will said Powell's speech would "change all minds open to evidence."

Another Post liberal, Richard Cohen, opined: "The evidence he presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool, or possibly a Frenchman, could conclude otherwise."

Here's the Post's Jim Hoagland: "To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you."

The New York Times, meanwhile, hailed Powell's "powerful" and "sober, factual case." Like many other papers, the Times' coverage on its news pages — in separate stories by Steven Weisman, Michael Gordon and Adam Clymer — also bent over backward to give Powell the benefit of nearly every doubt. Apparently in thrall to Powell's moderate reputation, no one even mentioned that he was essentially acting as lead prosecutor with every reason to shape, or even create, facts to fit his brief.

Weisman called Powell's evidence "a nearly encyclopedic catalog that reached further than many had expected." He and Clymer both recalled Adlai Stevenson's speech to the U.N. in 1962 exposing Soviet missiles in Cuba. Gordon closed his piece by asserting that "it will be difficult for skeptics to argue that Washington's case against Iraq is based on groundless suspicions and not intelligence information." Try reading that with a straight face today.

One recalls two quotes garnered by Howard Kurtz last year when he took a look back at the Washington Post's pre-war coverage.

"There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?" -- Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks.

"We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power." -- Reporter Karen Young.

Why does any of this matter? It's fashionable to suggest that the White House was bent on war and nothing could have stopped them. But until the Powell speech, public opinion, editorial sentiment (as chronicled by E&P at the time) and street protests were all building against the war.

The Powell speech, and the media's swallowing of it, changed all that."

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