Analyze This

Did I not predict just yesterday that the New York Times would learn nothing from recent admissions that its coverage is too uncritical and fawning toward the government and its intentions?

Today, The Times' Todd S. Purdum offers the "news analysis" that:

By sending Mr. Wolfowitz to the World Bank, and another outspoken administration figure, John R. Bolton, to be ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Bush all but announced his belief that both institutions could benefit from unconventional thinking and stern discipline.

When the man who said, "There's no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," is nominated U.S. ambassador to the U.N., one way to describe this is "unconventional thinking" - but I can think of others.

Similarly, when the foreign occupier whose every prediction about U.S. intervention in Iraq turned out to be dead wrong and who said, "I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq," is nominated to head the multilateral institution that is supposed to intervene to help other countries, phrases more apt than "unconventional thinking" spring to mind.

More "analysis" from Purdum:

The cerebral Mr. Wolfowitz forged an unlikely bond with a president who calls himself a gut player. Mr. Bush undertook the invasion of Iraq principally proclaiming the danger of its unconventional weapons, but came in time, aides said, to share the impassioned view of the man he calls Wolfie: that a democratic beachhead in Iraq could reshape the broader Middle East.

Bush "came in time" to the "democratic beachhead" justification currently circulating around the beltway thanks to "Wolfie's ... impassioned view"? I don't suppose the fact that all his pre-war arguments for the invasion turned out to be so much horseshit helped to spur Bush's gradual acceptance of "Wolfie's" passion.

How much more hopeful the "democratic beachhead" might have been if it had been secured not by invading a country that was a threat to no one but by encouraging democracy in the brutal dictatorships that the U.S. counts as staunch allies in its "war on terror", like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Of course, the strongmen who rule those countries have yet to outlive their usefulness, as Saddam did to his ruin.

(I haven't even considered Wolfowitz's role as Ambassador to Indonesia, where he cultivated the brutal dictator General Suharto to the grave detriment of Indonesia's long-suffering multitudes. I don't recall Wolfowitz pushing meaningfully for the "democracy" he claims to cherish when he was in a position to do so with a country that desperately needed it.)

The "analysis" gets better:

Mr. Bush has now sent Mr. Wolfowitz to shake up the world of international economic development in some of the same ways that he and Mr. Rumsfeld have sought to shake up American military and foreign policy.

If by "shake up" Purdum means "screw up" - since Rumsfeld's central premise in creating a lighter, faster, more high-tech military has been an abysmal failure in Iraq - then I'm inclined to agree.

An unnamed associate claims that Wolfowitz will, in Purdum's words, "demand fresh accountability from governments that receive aid," which is interesting since Wolfowitz has taken no accountability whatsoever for being so completely wrong about Iraq:

Of course, this is an administration that punishes people for being right by pushing them out of government and rewards people for being wrong by promoting them. Some "accountability".

Purdum implicitly castigates "critics on the left" for their "scathing ... denunciations", but instead of confronting the criticisms against Wolfowitz he falls back on a deft equivocation: "Wolfowitz may be easy to caricature but he is harder to categorize." Purdum notes his "outsized influence on administration policy" and identifies his early support for "action against Iraq" but doesn't touch the consequences of these factors, preferring to rest on a lame, "results that are now well known."

Is this the best the Times can do? This fluff piece reminds me exactly of the quasi-news propaganda emanating from the White House that had the Times' editors all up in a tizzy so recently. I kept looking for a disclaimer hidden in small print at the bottom that it had actually been phoned in by Wolfowitz himself.

Ryan McGreal
March 17, 2005

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