I am used to media bias, slant, selective editing, and all the rest. The treatment Vanity Fair gave to an election eve story about supporters of the Iraq War who are now disappointed with how things have gone there is beyond the pale though. Here are a few excerpts of David Frum’s comments on the way Vanity Fair chose to misrepresent the piece:
I have made these points literally thousands of times since 2004, beginning in An End to Evil and most recently in my 22-part commentary on Bob Woodward’s State of Denial (start here and find the remainder here.) I have argued them on radio and on television and on public lectern, usually in exactly the same words that are quoted in the press release.
“[T]he insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them.”
“I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything.”
And finally that the errors in Iraq are explained by “failures at the center.”
Nothing exclusive there, nothing shocking, and believe me, nothing remorseful.
My most fundamental views on the war in Iraq remain as they were in 2003: The war was right, victory is essential, and defeat would be calamitous.
And that to my knowledge is the view of everybody quoted in the release and the piece: Adelman, Cohen, Ledeen, Perle, Pletka, Rubin, and all the others.
(Not that it matters, but this fight is very personal for many of those people. Cohen and Ledeen have both had children serve in Iraq, Cohen’s in the Tenth Mountain Division, Ledeen’s daughter in the civil administration and his elder son in the Marines. As a civilian adviser in Iraq, Rubin displayed impressive personal courage living solo for long periods of time in the Shiite zones of east Baghdad.)
Vanity Fair then set my words in its own context in its press release. They added words outside the quote marks to change the plain meaning of quotations.
When I talk in the third quotation above about failures “at the center,” for example, I did not mean the president. If I had, I would have said so. At that point in the conversation, I was discussing the National Security Council, whose counter-productive interactions produced bad results.
And when I talked in the second quotation about “persuading the president,” I was repeating this point, advanced here last month. In past administrations, the battle for the president’s words was a battle for administration policy. But because Bush’s National Security Council malfunctioned so badly, the president could say things without action following – because the mechanism for enforcing his words upon the bureaucracy had broken.
In short, Vanity Fair transformed a Washington debate over “how to correct course and win the war” to advance obsessions all their own.Read it all.