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Yellow Dogs In The White House Press Room
All the lap dogs of the press, please continue to remain seated. Helen Thomas, one of the few remaining actual reporters, will do all the work. Here, she's questioning Scott McClellan:

Helen: The other day, in fact this week, you [McClellan] said that we, the United States, are in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history?

Scott: No. We are...that's where we are currently.

Helen: In view of your credibility, which is already mired...how can you say that?

Scott: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Helen: Were we invited into Iraq?

Scott: There are democratically elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, but we are there today.

Helen: You mean, if they asked us out, that we would have left?

Scott: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments.

Helen: I'm talking about today, too.

Scott: We are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.

Helen: Did we invade those countries?

At that point McClellan called on another reporter.

Thomas remarks on the exchange:

Those were the days when I longed for ABC-TV's great Sam Donaldson to back up my questions as he always did, and I did the same for him and other daring reporters. Then I realized that the old pros, reporters whom I had known in the past, many of them around during World War II and later the Vietnam War, reporters who had some historical perspective on government deception and folly, were not around anymore.

I honestly believe that if reporters had put the spotlight on the flaws in the Bush Administration's war policies, they could have saved the country the heartache and the losses of American and Iraqi lives.

It is past time for reporters to forget the party line, ask the tough questions and let the chips fall where they may.

Posted by aalkon at March 14, 2006 5:02 AM

Comments

Whence the cult of Helen? She's a silly old coot. Is she supposed to be an icon of late-20th feminism? She's playing a seven-year-old's word games with professional stallers, imagining that if she says "Gotcha!" at just the right time, all of sentient humanity will have to change course.

Or are we supposed to admire her for her journalistic brilliance? Which were the three stories she broke that rocked the world?.. Can you say without looking her up on Wikipedia? Could you say AFTER looking her up on Wikipedia? Who does she even work for nowadays, and why do we admire THEM?


> Helen: Did we invade
> those countries?

> At that point McClellan called
> on another reporter.

Jesus Fuck, are we supposed to admire her for this pathetic exchange, instead of being embarrassed for the shriveled loon?

> reporters who had some
> historical perspective on
> government deception and folly

Um, what exactly did the vaunted "perspective" protect us from at the time? Not much, as I recall... She's James Reston without the pipe. Or the rolodex.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2006 1:15 AM

Crid writes:

Jesus Fuck, are we supposed to admire her for this pathetic exchange, instead of being embarrassed for the shriveled loon?

Crid, just to let you know, I'm done with you. You are a disgusting, bigoted fuckhead. The only thing I'd care in the slightest to know about your opinions is whether or not your ageist attitudes will still prevail when you yourself are a senior citizen. The drawback of this is, of course, is that it necessitates your living to ripe old age. What a repulsive idea! I would only hope, by that time, you will actually have grown up. I'm certainly not placing any bets on THAT happening.

And for the record, yes, I think we are to be impressed. She asked a direct, simple question, and McClellan ran from it. Pretty sad when a Bush Admin flunkie cowers from a "shrivelled loon."

Posted by: Patrick at March 14, 2006 2:14 AM

Crid, your right on the money here. As for Helen Thomas' question, we did not invade Iraq and Afghanistan. We liberated them.

Posted by: nash at March 14, 2006 2:29 AM

One man's beginnings of a bloody civil war is another man's liberation!

I never see her in terms of feminism or non-feminism, simply as a bulldog who won't let go -- which is exactly the kind of press people we should have. Anybody else is just nice hair with not much underneath. As for identifying her as a "shriveled loon," thanks, but I don't need a supermodel to get at the news, so I don't see her in terms of age or looks, either, and find it weird that anyone would identify her or criticize her according to her subjective value as a woman. I do, however, hope I'm as driven as she is when I'm as old as she is.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2006 4:50 AM

Come on, Crid, leading questions are awesome! Like if Helen Thomas asks you, "Why are you such a pedophile?", and you say, "What? I'm not a pedophile," and she's like, "Well, why do you touch children?", and you're like, "I don't," and she says, "Okay, let me rephrase: Why do you have sex with little kids?", and you're like, "Next question," WHY DON'T YOU JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION???

Posted by: Jim Treacher at March 14, 2006 6:18 AM

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/05/20050523-9.html

I found the press briefing in which McClellan made the remarks that were given. It is interesting reading, and after looking over this and looking at his exchange with Helen Thomas, I'm beginning to see that McClellan is rather evasive.

And yes, I do find the suggestion that we're supposedly there at their invitation to be incredible. Who invited us into Iraq in the first place, for example? Saddam Hussein? Obviously not. The people of Iraq, of whom we killed 10,000 plus? Don't think so.

And if they asked to leave, would we? Well, since they have and we haven't, the answer is obviously not. Strange manner of "invitation." If I had guests in my home by my invitation, and they didn't leave when I asked them to, I would call the authorities to oust them. And they would probably never be invited again.

Posted by: Patrick at March 14, 2006 6:18 AM

Yeah, Crid! IT'S LIKE A TEA PARTY! (with mass graves)

Posted by: Jim Treacher at March 14, 2006 6:20 AM

"One man's beginnings of a bloody civil war is another man's liberation!"

Is that a quote from Abraham Lincoln?

Posted by: nash at March 14, 2006 8:21 AM

Patrick- even Bush has admitted the Iraqi civillian count is over 30,000, or "in that neighborhood". Some counts go over 100,000, so it is probably somewhere in the middle. Also, that does not count dead insurgents or "suspected" insurgents, or those Iraqis killed by their own countrymen.

Hell, we better be doing better than 4 dead civillians for each dead coalition member- we have planes and helicopters!

Posted by: eric at March 14, 2006 8:24 AM

Nobody took the bait! What did Thomas ever do for anyone, specifcally? For some, it's enough that she annoys midlevel functionaries in conservative administrations.

> You are a disgusting,
> bigoted fuckhead.

G'morning, Patrick.

> She asked a direct, simple
> question, and McClellan ran
> from it.

These people are cadet-level RHETORS. Their "direct, simple" constructions are actually backhanded and turgid. The White House press room is where the sluttiest, most short-sighted, INFANTILE form of discourse is practiced. Esteeming these people for the muscle of their clashes is like admiring an inner-city dope dealer for keen economic maneuvers. They are minor --if sparky-- cogs in a much larger machine.

Consider Bush's voters, and the millions who voted against him but had to think it over, and the many more millions who don't much care about this stuff. Why aren't they as cranky as Helen Thomas? Because they know that truth doesn't come in fussy, smartass niblets... Many learned this from raising children who needed to be taught that this gamesmanship is not how life is lived.

> I don't need a supermodel
> to get at the news

> it necessitates your
> living to ripe old age.

OK, that covers the shriveled part, what about the looniness? Being old doesn't make people smart. (I went to Google my favorite aphorism about this, but nearly drowned.)

> weird that anyone would identify
> her or criticize her according
> to her subjective value as a woman

What's "subjective value as a woman"? Allright, how about criticizing her as a pathetic, small-minded, lazy and clouded tool in a shop that's long since outgrown her thoughtless machinations? Again, what stories do you admire her for? Does anyone recall a single, notable scrap of truth that she brought to the fore by either insight or investigation?

Ditto her similarly-shrewish friend Donaldson. These reporters are rightly criticized for striking shallow, brittle postures that are readily broken with a bitchy backslap. (Reagan, circa '87: "My new hearing aid allows me to hear the helicopter over the roar of Sam Donaldson!") Mostly, they make others in the room seem serious and dignified in comparison, no small achievement: http://tinyurl.com/fs8qb

> Some counts go over 100,000,
> so it is probably somewhere
> in the middle.

That's fascinating arithmetic. You'll be remembered for it.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2006 11:40 AM

Seriously Eric, that is some grotesque, death-culty shit.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2006 11:42 AM

Crid- are you self medicating again?

It is a grotesque, death-culty thing. You have been this blogs biggest cheerleader for it. Did you want the numbers would be less?

Posted by: eric at March 14, 2006 1:45 PM

Eric: 500,000 died to abolish slavery in the U.S. That's one death for every eight slaves freed. Was it worth it?

30,000 people died in Iraq to liberate over 20 million Iraqis. That's one death for every 660 Iraqis liberated. Over ten times more Iraqis were liberated than slaves were freed. There is no question in my mind that we did the right thing.

It's sad that so many Iraqi lives were lost to rid the world of Saddam and bring freedom to Iraq. But it's no less sad than the number of U.S. soldiers that died in the Civil War or the number of Russians that sacrificed their lives to defeat Hitler. But that doesn't change the righteousness of the cause.

Posted by: nash at March 14, 2006 5:20 PM

Civil War = Our f-ing country. If we Americans want to murder other Americans, that's one thing. 30,000 Iraqis is quite another.

Posted by: Christina at March 14, 2006 6:01 PM

As soon as she got to the words "that incredible distortion of American history," she was no longer being a reporter trying to get at the truth (clutch breast), but an arguer. Her next comment, about his credibility, is of the same character.

People who want someone to publicly argue with the Bush Administration think that's just fine, and the fact that she is no longer doing her job, but something else they think is better, is enough for them.

The current governments of Iraq and Afghanistan want us to be there, and are quite open about that. If you want to say "well, that's not the same as being invited, so McClellan is wrong, or spinning the facts," fine. But it is also wrong, or spinning the facts, to call it an "incredible distortion." Especially when your job is to find out what is happening, not pass judgement on it. So while some would call McClellan "evasive," it could as easily be called "refusing to be drawn into a pointless quibble."

Being a bulldog who won't let go would indeed be laudable, if Helen Thomas were being persistent about uncovering the truth, rather than just giving voice to the fact that she disagrees with this administration.

Eric said "some counts go over 100,000." No. One count goes over 100,000, in a study that was rushed into print without review and has since been shredded.

Thomas's own comment at the end "if the reporters could have put the spotlight on the flaws..." They did. And they put the spotlight on a lot of things that turned out not to be flaws, like the starvation of hundreds of thousands, the loss of 50,000 Americans, and imminent civil war. They tried to persuade the public that this was foolhardy and they lost. History may prove them correct in their assessment. But history will never prove that they were doing a simple thing like, uh, their jobs.

I'll make understanding the White House press corps easy for you: Did Iago ask innocent questions?

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at March 14, 2006 7:14 PM

Hey Advice Goddess - having waded in to despatch the lightweights and hotheads, could you please a reply to the more considered criticism of Assistant Village Idiot?

If Helen Thomas' questions are more propaganda than newsgathering, is her persistence admirable?

Would you similarly admire reporters who pressed their leading questions on the Clintons or Al Gore - would they be "feisty bulldogs" - or merely yellow journalists of the worse sort?

Posted by: Ben-David at March 14, 2006 11:38 PM

Assistant Village Idiot writes:

The current governments of Iraq and Afghanistan want us to be there, and are quite open about that.

Hmmm... let's see. Governments that we essentially put into place (in regions known to be hostile to democracy) want us to be there.

Let's think about that little nugget of genius, folks. We go into Iraq, oust their current dictator (who, besides being a brutal and sick tyrant was about the only thing stopping the Sunnis and the Shiites from killing each other), impose a democratic electoral process, allowing the people to elect those they wish (among those brave/stupid enough to actually want the job), and these newly elected "want us to be there."

Considering the alternative for the newly elected is probably removal from office and prompt decapitation by those millions who are actually hostile to U.S. presence (gee, wonder why?), I'd want us to the be there, too!

"More considered criticism" my ass!

Posted by: Patrick at March 15, 2006 7:02 AM

"...besides being a brutal and sick tyrant was about the only thing stopping the Sunnis and the Shiites from killing each other..."

And Mussolini kept the trains running on time! (Or... whoops.)

Posted by: Jim Treacher at March 15, 2006 7:43 AM

Patrick -- first, I notice you didn't answer the main point.

Next: The places that the US has brought democracy do not always honor us by putting in the people we like, or doing what we want. Afghanistan and Iraq have both already voted against our wishes at the UN. The accusation is often made that the US would remove these governments. One problem. It has never actually, uh, happened. Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, Phillipines, just about all of Central America...

In fact, is there anyone we've liberated who does actually do what we want?

That accusation is empty.

As to the current governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no evidence that they do not fit the definition of popularly-elected governments. The suggestion that because we're THERE (snigger snigger) that it would be naive to think we're not controlling the elections, is a convenient belief on your part, because no amount of contrary evidence will ever undo it. It requires no positive evidence for you to accept it as an article of faith. It just, y'know, fits your installed template.

Added hint: Only the young and socially insecure are likely to be persuaded just because you employ sneering as an argument.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at March 15, 2006 3:04 PM

Assistant Village Idiot writes:

Added hint: Only the young and socially insecure are likely to be persuaded just because you employ sneering as an argument.

I think others besides the young and socially insecure would be more likely to be persuaded by my soi-disant sneering, than say, your patent dishonesty. You have grossly distorted my post and attempted to assign things to me that I never said. I should just call you a liar, but I'm naive enough to think that it's possible that you might have misunderstood me.

This first:

Next: The places that the US has brought democracy do not always honor us by putting in the people we like, or doing what we want.

First of all, I never said they "put in the people we like." If you reread my post (without trying to distort it this time, please) you'll see that I only said they used the process we like.

Next (emphasis mine):

As to the current governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no evidence that they do not fit the definition of popularly-elected governments. The suggestion that because we're THERE (snigger snigger) that it would be naive to think we're not controlling the elections, is a convenient belief on your part, because no amount of contrary evidence will ever undo it.

The only instance of "convenient belief" I see is the idea that I said we were controlling the elections. This would be a "convenient belief" on your part, because I never said it. I said that the process is there because we installed it, and it is. And I do believe that those who are opposed to this new process and U.S. presence are strong and fanatical enough to promptly remove and execute those elected officials should we leave now. And that would be regardless of who was elected, whether we wanted them there or not.

And also note, I never said they weren't popularly elected. My intent was to state that only the process we installed would likely be removed should we leave.

You will note I said "...impose a democratic electoral process, allowing the people to elect those they wish..." To use a cliche, what part of "allowing the people to elect those they wish" did you not understand?

Posted by: Patrick at March 16, 2006 8:45 AM

Patrick, your comment:

...impose a democratic electoral process, allowing the people to elect those they wish (among those brave/stupid enough to actually want the job), and these newly elected "want us to be there."

The word "impose" jumps out at me. The sarcastic quotes at the end do also. More mildly, the parenthetical remark also seems to belittle the new government. My original claim is that McLellan's claim is technically true, not a lie. I took your comment to be a criticism of that little thought of mine. It was not?

So are you acknowledging that it's legitimate to say that McLellan's claim is true -- which would seem to contradict one of your comments -- Or are you claiming that McLellan's comment is false -- which would seem to contradict your next comment.

Or are you trying to have it both ways?

Look, you seem like an intelligent enough guy, if intemperate -- a fault I have often shown on blogs myself. Helen Thomas was exalted and McLellan accused of lying. I still think that neither case has been made.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at March 16, 2006 3:28 PM

Assistant Village Idiot writes:

The word "impose" jumps out at me. The sarcastic quotes at the end do also.

That is, quite literally, your problem. I said we imposed a democratic process, i.e., a system of government in which officials are elected. And we did. I never said we imposed officials under a pretense of having them elected. You inferred that, and that is dishonest. Period.

And by the way, what sarcastic quotes?

My original claim is that McLellan's [sic] claim is technically true, not a lie.

Disingenous. Of McClellan and of you. A system of government that we forced on these people has produced elected officials. Those embittered supporters of the old order might not be favorably disposed to this new process. Moreover, they might just be strong enough and fanatical enough (given what we know about Hussein's ruthlessness) to remove and probably execute the new elected officials, but for the presence of the U.S. Were I in their place, I would want the U.S. in my country at least until the end of natural life, given the likely alternative is a gruesome death. (Is this sounding repetitive yet? Will you never get this? Or are you just pretending not to understand? Crid is fond of the same tactic.)

So, when you say that they want us there, you're referring to a government that we placed there, in a place that not only has made no indication that they're ready for a move to democracy, but has shown repeatedly that they're actually hostile to the idea. Of course this new government wants U.S. protection!

Posted by: Patrick at March 17, 2006 4:59 PM

1) So, when you get upset, your summary paragraph essentially concedes that you were indeed saying what I thought you were. Thank you.

2) Yes, of course I get that you are saying that the elected government wants us to stay there for reasons of their own safety. As my statement was that they have indeed invited us in some sense, I consider it irrelevant that you try to contradict me by claiming "yes, it was an invitation, but for bad reasons."

3) You have still not attempted the main point.

4) The accusation of lying falls from your lips rather easily.

5) Reviewing the discussion, I am quite content to let my argument stand as is. Have your best shot.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at March 17, 2006 8:24 PM

Assistant Village Idiot writes:

1) So, when you get upset, your summary paragraph essentially concedes that you were indeed saying what I thought you were. Thank you.

Not upset. Slightly irritated, maybe. I really have no patience with those who attempt to take statements out of context or try to claim their opponents said things that were never said. This is the tactic of those who know they have lost the argument.

2) Yes, of course I get that you are saying that the elected government wants us to stay there for reasons of their own safety. As my statement was that they have indeed invited us in some sense, I consider it irrelevant that you try to contradict me by claiming "yes, it was an invitation, but for bad reasons."

Apparently, you don't get it. Or are going to continue to pretend you don't. There's a bit more to it than, "yes, it was an invitation, but for bad reasons."

This is a system of government that they didn't arrive at on their own, nor were they headed in that direction, nor have they indicated any desire to have a democratic form of government.

So, what we have is an illegitimate government that we put into place. They did the voting, but only because we gave them no alternative.

So, who is this "they" that invited us there? "They" don't represent the people. Following this protocol, we could make ourselves the most welcome nation on the earth. Sudan doesn't want us in their nation? No problemo! We just march in, imprison their current leaders, inform the people that they are now (against their wills) subscribers to a democratic process and let them elect their leaders. These new leaders, keenly aware of their illegitimacy, will certainly invite us to stay, given the alternative, while the citizenry might be more apt to kill us, if the opportunity presents itself. We'd be the most welcome and the most hated nation on earth! How's that for a paradox?

3) You have still not attempted the main point.

Newsflash: I'm not obligated to.

4) The accusation of lying falls from your lips rather easily.

If you find this unsettling, I would advise you, in the future, to read what it is being said, not read INTO what is being said. As already addressed, you did claim I said things that were never said. As I said before, that's your problem. I didn't make the news. I reported it.

What I find unsettling is the way you have become defensive about it, instead of conceding your error. I know of no one who cares to have their opinions misrepresented. That is the tactic of trolls, not debaters.

5) Reviewing the discussion, I am quite content to let my argument stand as is. Have your best shot.

Ditto.

Posted by: Patrick at March 18, 2006 4:07 AM

Just thinking about all this imperialism we're exercising. What makes us so different from the Soviet Union of the red scare? Russia also sought to spread their form of government to unwilling parties, which is why Korea now exists in two pieces.

Is it just because we're such nice, benevolent people and the Russians are just so evil?

Posted by: Patrick at March 18, 2006 6:59 AM

"What I find unsettling is the way you have become defensive about it, instead of conceding your error. I know of no one who cares to have their opinions misrepresented. That is the tactic of trolls, not debaters."

There you have it.

Posted by: shrimplate at March 22, 2006 2:45 PM