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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, March 31, 2003



Power Of the Blogosphere

Are we supposed to be able to fact-check, or what? And we can! Sort of, anyway. Over the weekend, the power of the blogosphere was on display.

Prof DeLong started things off with a post that included this:

...Those of us who read the Agonist remember that it was not all that many months ago that Ari Fleischer was... boasting, I guess... that Ari Fleischer actually said that "[General Tommy] Franks wasn't invited to the next strategy meeting because 'the president doesn't have time to listen to what the president doesn't want to hear,' "

The source for the quote was this post from Agonist.

One of the commenters pointed out that such a quote can not be found with Google, which includes the White House press briefings in its searches. A subsequent post at Agonist invited readers to track down the quote.

Relatively quickly readers found the original Agonist post, which sort of missed the point. Eventually, this story was settled upon as being the source. See if you can spot any problems:

Bush given Iraq invasion plan
By RICHARD SALE

U.S. Central Command head Gen. Tommy Franks briefed President Bush this week about a scaled-down contingency plan to strike Iraq that calls for an invasion force of some 80,000 to 100,000 personnel including only 50,000 ground troops, administration officials said.

In this new proposal, an invasion would take place during November and December, administration officials, who asked not to be identified by name, told United Press International.

A spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House said they had no information on the meeting and could neither confirm nor deny that it had taken place.

But a well-placed Pentagon official said, "Franks was asked to brief. The president doesn't have time to bother what with he doesn't want to hear." This official asked not to be quoted by name or assignment. Recent pressure from Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith to try and mount a scaled back invasion by October was turned back by staunch resistance from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, these sources said.


Ahh, did you notice that Fleischer is NOT the source? And are you perplexed by the news that Franks DID give the briefing? If this is suppport for the Agonist quote, well, we are all living in Australia and walking upside down.

Now, late in the comments we find two folks saying that heard Fleischer say it on live TV. Of course, the original Agonist post suggests that the comment was made months ago, but folks do have long memories, if not always reliable. But, unless someone can drive up in their Lexis-Nexis to save us, this Fleischer quote appears to be doomed.

UPDATE: A revised post by the Prof suggests that we are no longer waitng for the Lexis. As to the central question, why did "Shock and Awe" morph into "Aw, Shucks", reactions vary. Kaus, attacking up the center, says its about multiple wars. On the right flank, Kurtz of NRO says its about transformation: Rumsfeld prefers a lighter, quicker Army, while current officers prefer job security and opportunites for promotion (NO, he doesn't say it that way, I snuck my own snidery in there). Sullivan fights a rearguard action against what he might have called a "Coalition of the Cavilling", pointing out that after two weeks we have secured the oilfields and the sites that might have been used to launch missles at Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Israel. Maybe it's too early for the US to surrender. Time will tell!


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