Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Damn Howard Dean!

Howard Dean is being a pest again by pointing out uncomfortable truths:

DEAN:  The timing bothers me deeply.  This wouldn’t be such a problem if the president was credible.  But the president turned out to have said a great many things about us going into Iraq, which turned out not to be true.  Senior law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., are quoted in “The Washington Post” this morning as saying they haven’t received any new information of any kind, that none of this information was new, and it was all known of them ahead of time.  This is deeply troubling, Fred, deeply troubling.

The latest brouhaha over "that crazy Dean" really comes down to this: Dean is not accusing the Bush administration of manufacturing terror threats. He is only questioning the timing of the announcements of terror threats.

I repeat: the validity of the information is not in question here, it's the decision when to go public with it that is so troubling.

DEAN:  I think—any administration, and I certainly had this advantage when I was governor, had the opportunity to release and make news in the way that the challenger does not.  Do I think this president is making news, and John Ashcroft—remember, John Ashcroft called a terrorist alert last May, and that was rebuked by Washington officials, and which turned out he didn’t have the power to do such a thing.

This is a disturbing pattern in this administration that we see again, and again, and again.  And, yes, any administration has the opportunity to manufacture news, and the question is, not is there a terrorist threat or not, there clearly is, not whether al Qaeda presents a danger to these five buildings, yes, it clearly does.  What of the timing of the release of this news?  Why are we getting news that’s three years old and that we had access to three weeks ago?  Why are we finding that out on the Sunday after the Democratic National Convention?

Bush has an inherent advantage in the debate about the war on terror because he has access to the terror threat information before his opponent does. Dean is speaking the uncomfortable truth that all politicians do this kind of thing. Even he subtly admits to having done so. But in Dean's case the information he had access to was of a different degree to the information Bush has. It's one thing to time the announcement of the latest economic news for political advantage. It's quite another thing to time the announcement of threats of terrorism for the same reason.

"But they wouldn't do something like that" is not a sufficient response to this argument. And it is certainly not the kind of position from which responsible journalists should approach this matter.

And that's the really uncomfortable truth that Dean is pressing.


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