Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Editorial: It's all over now, Baby Bumiller

You don't get to be the squad leader of the Elite Fluff Patrol without having some instincts. Apparently Elisabeth Bumiller's instincts told her this wouldn't be a good morning for me (I'm under the weather). But in this non "White House Letter," Bumiller does some dance steps that truly have to be remarked upon (no matter how sick I feel).

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain presented a united front on Tuesday against a recently disclosed British government memorandum that said in July 2002 that American intelligence was being "fixed" around the policy of removing Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

So begins the "reporting." The article's entitled "Bush and Blair Deny 'Fixed' Iraq Reports" and it could only be penned at the Times by Bumiller. It's later noted that the memo was reported by the Sunday Times of London on May 1st (as all community members know). We're on June 8th, right? Recent?

It's not even recent since Douglas Jehl told Times readers about it. (May 20th for anyone who's forgotten.) The press has ignored this but it refuses to go away. (Bumiller notes that it has "dogged" Bully Boy -- from outside the mainstream press and outside the Times reporting in the main section. She also notes that 89 House Democrats have signed on requesting answers.)

So here's the thrust of the piece. This "recent" memo that's only seriously been addressed in one article (Douglas Jehl's)? Bully Boy and Blair, standing side by side, deny. They deny it.
Bumiller quotes a section of it (the same quote we've noted here when running The Third Estate Sunday Review's editorials) and then offers in the article the assertion by Blair that it's simply not true.


Thanks for clarifying, Bumiller. As you soar off into the clouds, be sure to dip a wing to the Bully Boy, I'm sure he's tipping his hat to you.

Maybe in a month, the Times will tell us about another "recent" revelation in the Sunday Times of London?

Let's quote it, then note it.

THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.
The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.
The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make "regime change" in Iraq legal.

You have to work awfully hard to fluff like Bumiller. It's hard work, Bully Boy would tell you that. But she's repeatedly proven she's up to the task.

Let's be really clear here, there's no excuse for any reporter covering the White House for the Times (New York Times) to be unaware of that above. It's from the May 29th Sunday Times of London -- Michael Smith's "RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war."

There's no excuse not to know. So unless Bumiller's soared so far into the clouds that her brain's been starved of oxygen, she should have mentioned it.

The Times (NY) has remained silent on this story. Here was the time to bring it up. They didn't want to before (ask them why), but here she is offering that a memo said this and Bully Boy & Blair said that. And hmmm, twiddle the fingers, what else can I write?

How about informing the readers?

How about letting them have access to information that would indicate this isn't a draw?

Is that too much for you to do?

This isn't a "White House Letter." This isn't what Bob Somerby has rightly deemed one of Bumiller's many tongue baths for the Bully Boy. This is supposed to be a news article.

The Times hasn't done anything on the memo other than Douglas Jehl's piece. They haven't explored Michael Smith's article. Do we need to purchase a subscription to the Sunday Times of London for the New York Times? Do we need to find someone to read the piece aloud to Bumiller?

Tell me, what is it going to take for the Times to report on this?

Bully Boy & Blair held a press conference. Steno pad in hand, Bumiller notes that. Is she kidding herself with this?

This isn't reporting.

What it is (my opinion) is shameful that our supposed great paper, our beacon of freedom of the press, can't tell the readers what's going on.

When you send Bumiller in, you're sending in the designated fluffer. Charlie: "She's ready to once again recite the infamous line uttered by Farrah Fawcett in The Substitute Wife," "I'm not just a whore, I'm a damn good whore." [Note: That link takes you to a previous entry on Bumiller, Juan Forero and Jodi Wilgoren. For the record, Wilgoren's found her way back to reporting -- my opinion -- and turned in some strong pieces. I fail to see how Bumiller ever can recover from today's nonsense. I would love to be proven wrong.]

Don't like that? Well what are you because you're not a reporter. And you're not in the safety of you "White House Letter."

Let's all stop kidding ourselves that Bumiller's a reporter. She elected to tackle the story. Where's Michael Smith's report? A reporter, a real one, would have included it. Instead it's a he-said/she-said piece. It's a real shame that bravery seems in such shortage at the Times.
And it's becoming a sad joke what passes for reporting from Bumiller.

I'd love to crack wise. I'd love to find some way to to make everyone laugh with this entry. Pin it on my feeling under the weather, if you'd like. But I see very little humor in the fact that when the opportunity is there, when the topic cries for it to be noted, Bumiller takes a pass on Smith's reporting.

The Times didn't inform their readers of the memo in any detail until May 20th (a mention during the election, in passing, doesn't count -- nor does Paul Krugman's op-ed which is on the opinion page -- though credit to Krugman for getting the first serious discussion of the memo into the Times). And apparently as long as we have the Elite Fluff Patrol squad leader on the White House beat, many things never will go into print.

A lot of times I make a note that the piece may or may not be the responsibility of the writer credited. Bumiller's blown the right to such a disclaimer. Which is too bad, because for all any of us know, she included it in her draft and an editor came along and cut it. But when you've fluffed nonstop for the Bully Boy, you're left with walking it like you talked it. I can note, for instance, that the piece appears to be stilted (especially near the end) but I can picture the e-mail response, "When isn't her writing stilted?" More importantly, if she did include it, she should have fought to have had Michael Smith's article's revelations kept in. She should have known how important they were to the topic and, indeed, her own image.

Susan e-mails on the story a Carole King quote (from "Chalice Borealis" off Speeding Time): "How you gonna explain it to your grandkids?" How indeed?

What's in the future for Bumiller? A tawdry tabloid cover, possible book deal, "I fluffed for the White House!" I don't think any of us are seeing reporting because so much of the work is not reporting.

In fact the problem is what she's NOT reporting.

This is a news article, not a White House Letter. If you're in the new business, get in the news business. If you're not, change the printed slogan to "All the Fluff That's Fit to Print."

Bumiller closes with:

The White House has always insisted that Mr. Bush did not make the decision to invade Iraq until after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented the administration's case to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, which relied heavily on claims, now discredited, that Iraq had illicit weapons. But as early as Nov. 21, 2001, Mr. Bush directed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to begin a review of what could be done to oust Mr. Hussein.

Yes, that is what they've always insisted and we can always, apparently, count on Bumiller to remind us of that. She just won't inform us that in 2002 we apparently increased bombing of Iraq in an attempt to goad a retaliation with the hopes of starting a war.

That would be while Bully Boy and his lackeys were in the midst of informing us of the grave danger Iraq posed to the United States. Back when we were being told that assorted weapons (chemical, et al) could be unleashed on the United States.

A real reporter would have noted Smith's article. A good one would have brought up the fact that if the statements by Bully Boy, et al were true, they put the nation at risk. If they truly believed that WMD existed, they put the nation at risk by increasing bombings. A good reporter would have noted that.

Bumiller's not a good reporter. She's proving, with pieces like these, to not even be a reporter. Put her on the op-ed pages already because there appears to be no redeeming her. This is not unlike when they continued to pimp Judith Miller's grudge f**k against the U.N. Not many cared. Not many saw the Miller byline and thought, "Oh wow, real reporting in here." Bumiller's trashed her own reputation.

Whether that was at the urging of the Times or her own decision, she's the one who'll have to live with it. Awhile back, she showed a glimmer (to me anyway) and there was hope for her. (It was noted here.) But I'm not Vanna White. I'm not going to cheer everytime someone steps up to the wheel.

Bumiller's demonstrated something that goes beyond bad reporting or even bad writing today. It's a willingness to obscure the truth (my opinion). It's not mere fluffing, it goes far beyond that. It's shameful and it's embarrassing. My apologies to members for not being able to think of a funny wise crack. But, as we noted before, sometimes you're a joke. Sometimes your a dirty joke. Bumiller's work has made her an old joke. America, hopefully, is tired of laughing.

Hopefully, we see the article today and our jaws just drop in disbelief because this isn't just a record low for Bumiller (or the Times, for that matter), it's probably the lowest any mainstream paper can go. It's shameful and it's embarrassing. You don't want to look. But it's so horrid that you can't help but look.

Maybe she can talk hot-rods with Timmy Russert or make small talk with Andrea Mitchell, but how she'll hold her head up high when she's not running in those gilded circles, I have no idea.
A democracy depends upon an informed public and, when given the chance to inform, Bumiller takes a pass.

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[Note: This post has been edited for clarity -- "picture hear" has been reduced to one choice -- as it should have been all along. Also the Farrah Fawcett quote was not correct. The correct quote was "I'm not just a whore, I'm a damn good whore" -- from The Substitute Wife. The quote was correct in the entry linked to but not correct in this post where it read, "I'm not just a whore, I'm a damn good one."]