Times v. Post

The Washington Post is not a perfect newspaper. Along with most major newspapers in this country, it has been guilty of uncritically reporting the administration’s garbage many times over the past 5 years, particularly when it comes to the administration’s fiscal train wreck. But increasingly, the Post is willing to examine the administration’s statements for accuracy, while the Times is not.

Today’s paper provides a perfect example. The NYTimes ran one story on its front page about Bush’s speech yesterday:

In his speech, Mr. Bush asserted that Democrats as well as Republicans believed before the invasion in 2003 that Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons, a conclusion, he said, that was shared by the United Nations. He resisted any implication that his administration had deliberately distorted the available intelligence, and said that the resolution authorizing the use of force had been supported by more than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate based on the same information available to the White House.

…Two official inquiries – by the Senate Intelligence Committee and by a presidential commission – blamed intelligence agencies for inflating the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons programs, but stopped short of ascribing the problems to political pressures.

No mention of the fact that many of Bush’s statements yesterday were demonstrably questionable. One would think that the President saying things that are untrue would be news, too, but the NYTimes simply reports what he says and leaves it at that.

On the other hand, the Washington Post ran one story reporting the contents of Bush’s speech, and then another front page story that contained the following starting paragraphs:

Asterisks Dot White House’s Iraq Argument

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.

The administration’s overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

Unlike the NYTimes (which I’ve almost stopped reading, I must confess), the Post deserves credit for daring to show some evidence that they know how to think and write critically. If only they had done so years ago…