After pronouncing in the strongest possible terms that the 9/11 commission had declared no ties between Saddam and al Queda on the front page and ignoring for days the fact that the commission Chairs were taking the administration's side against the press -- the New York Times is finally forced to admit that the commission Chairs have weighed in against the press. And so they do. On page A-11.
You just can't make this stuff up. And the headline? "9/11 Panel Members Debate Qaeda-Iraq 'Tie'"
(From my notes of the Chairs' appearance on This Week, "We looked at those statements from the administration quite closely . . . on the core statements . . . I don't think there's a difference of opinion. If there is, someone needs to spell it out for me." That sound like a debate to you?)
And note the scare quotes still around the word "tie." Still can't quite let go, can we?
But the Times has to start with what's most important to them:
Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, reiterated Sunday that the inquiry turned up no evidence that Iraq or its former leader, Saddam Hussein, had taken part "in any way in attacks on the United States."
Of course, since that point isn't in contention, they're also starting with what's least important.
But look at what the reporter does next. Second graf:
But Mr. Kean said that conclusion, made public last week, did not put the commission at odds with the Bush administration's contention that links existed between the terrorist group Al Qaeda and Iraq.
True. Now, where's the textual evidence in support of the Times' claim that Kean is arguing there's no difference?
In an interview on the ABC News program "This Week," Mr. Kean said, "All of us understand that when you begin to use words like `relationship' and `ties' and `connections' and `contacts,' everybody has a little different definition with regard to those statements."
Kean did say that. But as proof for the claim that Kean believes there's no difference between the commission and the administration, that's a damn weak quote. Kean says things much closer to the claim, and Hamilton of course, on many occasions, has just come right out and said exactly that there was no difference between the commission and the administration and that the press was wrong over and over and over ever since the controversy has begun.
The Times then turns to the question of whether Cheney knows more than the commission does (Wouldn't you hope that was the case?) and includes a quote from Sen. Levin shocked that the administration's "exaggerations" are continuing (although not noting which exaggerations he's talking about, by the way.)
Then the reporter notes this:
Another Republican member of the commission, John Lehman, said Sunday that new information — not yet confirmed — suggested that a lieutenant colonel in Mr. Hussein's Fedayeen fighter force was a "very prominent member" of Al Qaeda.
"We are now in the process of getting this latest intelligence," he said in an interview on the NBC News program "Meet the Press."
I assume this is a reference to this Iraqi who was, if not an employee of the Iraqi embassy in Malaysia, was apparently under their direction, and was working at a "greeter" at the Kuala Lumpur airport, met two of the hijackers when the arrived to attend the now famous meeting there in 2000 which it is believed was a final planning meeting for the Cole and a major planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks. He left with them and was apparently in attendance at the meeting. His name has now turned up on a number of roles of Iraqi Fedayeen officers. All of that detail would have been easily available to the Times, had the reporter wanted to include it, by the way.
And they end with some quotes from Lehman about the future of the intelligence community.
So they finally admit that the commission chairs don't see a discrepancy between their position and the administration's on al Queda's links to Iraq, but they bury that admission by choosing very weak quotes to that effect, by burying the admission in a round-up article on what was said about the commission on the Sunday shows, and then by burying the article -- and by never admitting that this was a controversy in the press or about the press.
What kind of idiots do they take us for?
But it isn't about that, is it? It's about the fact that most people can't afford to spend their time reading the news this closely, because they read the news because they feel it's a responsibility, a duty, but they're reading the news while they're trying to get ready for work, and get the kids off, or while commuting, and then again at the end of the day during that small window after dinner but before it's time to put the kids to sleep.
So this way it skates past people's attention, but the Times gets to say they did in fact cop to it, they did what it was that people wanted them to do. When the Times public editor responded to concerns expressed here and elsewhere about stories later proven wrong he defined "rowback" in the column he subsequently wrote about the episode as:
A couple of weeks ago, New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent defined "rowback" as publishing "a story that attempts to correct a previous story without indicating that the prior story had been in error or without taking responsibility for the error."
It doesn't look as if he's had the impact on the newsroom we would have hoped.
Update: Well, I beg your pardon. I was fairly rushed yesterday in my reading of the Week in Review section. Otherwise I surely would have noticed that in the first pop-up graphic of an article the Times says that the evidence "seems to bear out" administration claims that they aren't lying about the link (and therefore the convergence between the commission and themselves.) What more could you ask for! (Via Instapundit.)