I hope this is not too Inside Baseball, but I am genuinely astonished by what the bloggers call "Mainstream Media."
The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have all gone way out of their way to deny that the Downing Street Memos are news. Like many of you, during the entire lead-up to the war with Iraq, I thought the whole thing was a set-up.
I raise this point not to prove how smart we are, but to emphasize that I followed the debate closely and probably unconsciously searched for evidence that reinforced what I already thought. I read some of the European press and most of the liberal publications in this country. I read the Times, the Post, the Wall Street Journal and several Texas papers every day. It's my job.
But when I read the first Downing Street Memo, my eyes bugged out and my jaw fell open. I could not believe what I was reading. It was news to me, and I'm no slouch at keeping up. Yes, it has long seemed to me the administration had been planning the war for months before it began its pubic relations campaign to scare a skeptical public.
That was no easy task. Public opinion was still evenly divided at the time we invaded. The administration actually said it could invade another country without even consulting Congress or the U.N. Pretty much everything that followed was a charade.
It was always weird that the White House kept saying it knew Saddam Hussein had WMD, but it would never tell the U.N. inspectors where. Yes, I suspected all that, but I was not the head of British intelligence in summer 2002, for pity's sake.
Here are some aggravating factors. Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote that "liberals" no longer want to talk about the war because we were against it to start with and probably hope it ends in disaster. Good Lord, who does he think we are?
Mr. Friedman, real, actual, honest-to-God American liberals are out here in the heartland, and we know the kids who are dying in Iraq. They are from our hometowns. We know their parents. That's why we hate this war. That's why we tried to tell everybody else it was a ghastly idea.
We are not sitting here gloating because it is the horrible mess we said it would be. I have said from the beginning that if this thing worked out the way Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney all said it would, I would be perfectly happy to kiss George Bush's feet.
The second aggravation is that the very prestigious papers that are now dismissing the Downing Street Memos have already themselves admitted that their pre-war coverage was -- I don't know, you pick the adjective. Slack? Inadequate? Less than rigorous? Wrong? And now they're saying, oh hell, this isn't news, we knew it all along.
Michael Kinsley of the Los Angeles Times, which has certainly done some commendable reporting on this war and taken the heat for it, too, also dismisses the memos. I don't get it. You suddenly get evidence that strongly suggests that this administration lied to all of us about war, and your reaction is to dismiss the evidence? And to put down the people who are calling you screaming about why you haven't bothered to mention it?
Also aggravating, the Republicans in Congress refuse to allow hearings. Rep. John Conyers, of Michigan, held "Democratic hearings," without the Rs, in a room described as a large closet, because they were not allowed to use an actual hearing room. Thirty Democratic representatives persisted in asking the important question, "Were Americans deliberately misled in the lead-up to this war?"
I don't know if these memos represent an impeachable offense -- although I must say, I don't want to bring up the Clinton comparison again. But they strike me as a hell of lot worse than anything Richard Nixon ever contemplated.
The irony of Deep Throat surfacing after all these years in the midst of this memo mess is almost too precious. Does The Washington Post have any hungry young reporters on Metro anymore? I'd say, start with: Who did Sir Richard Dearlove meet with besides George Tenet?