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Did Cheney Go Too Far?
In his latest, Hersh writes that the White House "was closely involved in the planning of Israel's retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah's heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground."
Another Hersh tidbit: "[A] Pentagon consultant told me that intelligence about Hezbollah and Iran is being mishandled by the White House the same way intelligence had been when, in 2002 and early 2003, the Administration was making the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. 'The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top -- at the insistence of the White House -- and not being analyzed at all, or scarcely,' he said. 'It's an awful policy and violates all of the N.S.A.'s strictures, and if you complain about it you're out,' he said. 'Cheney had a strong hand in this.' "
Hersh's unauthorized version of how the White House consumes intelligence these days would seem to conflict with Evan Thomas 's authorized version. Thomas writes in Newsweek: "Have we learned anything since 9/11? President George W. Bush has apparently learned not to overreact. In the panicky days after the September 11 attacks, the president wanted to see any scrap of information, no matter how thinly sourced. As a result, raw and unfiltered intelligence gushed into the Oval Office. . . .
"Bush now 'trusts his team' to weed out such 'speculative' intelligence, said a senior Bush aide."
The two version sync up, of course, if you consider the possibility that all that unfiltered intelligence is going not to Bush's office, but to Cheney's.
The job of Washington journalists should be to expose and challenge spin, not relate it admiringly. And yet the White House talking points on the foiled British terror plot have been repeated much more than refuted these past few days.
The marching orders were clear. The Chicago Tribune Web-published a National Republican Congressional Committee memo which stated: "In the days to come, you should move to question your opponent's commitment to the defeat of terror, and in turn, create a definitive contrast on the issue."
Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times that "Republican disunity eased dramatically this week with the defeat on Tuesday of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut and the news on Thursday that Britain had foiled a potentially large-scale terrorist plot.
"The White House and Congressional Republicans used those events to unleash a one-two punch, first portraying the Democrats as vacillating when it came to national security, and then using the alleged terror plot to hammer home the continuing threat faced by the United States. . . .
"The entire effort was swiftly coordinated by the Republican National Committee and the White House, using the same political machinery that carried them to victory in 2004. It began in the days before the anticipated loss of Mr. Lieberman, a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, to Ned Lamont, a vocal war critic whose victory Republicans used to paint Democrats as 'Defeatocrats.'
"That word originated in a White House memorandum by Mr. Bush's press secretary, Tony Snow, suggesting ways to frame the debate, that was shared with officials, including Ken Mehlman, the Republican chairman, and Karl Rove, the president's top strategist."
Kenneth T. Walsh writes for U.S. News: "The uncovering by British authorities of the terror plot is expected to strengthen President Bush's hand in campaigning for Republican candidates this fall.