Friday, June 04, 2004

Updated June 4 at 4:00 am, revised at 2:25 pm

Tenet jumps: Koppel tangles himself in yet another conflict by giving Bush basher Dick Clarke cover as an “ABC News consultant,” and Fox and Lowry get it right.

The political buzz, of course, is did CIA Director George Tenet jump or was he pushed. The consensus view among reasonable people is that he jumped. No. 1, President Bush genuinely likes Tenet and thinks he is loyal. If Bush has a major fault, it is that he is too loyal to those who are loyal to him. On the merits, Tenet should have been pushed long ago. No. 2, at this point, Bush is not going to get much credit, if any, for dumping the guy. No. 3, Tenet’s son, who was 10 years old when Tenet took the CIA job is now going into his senior year of high school, and Tenet seems genuinely concerned that he missed out on most of that key father-son relationship formative years stuff. No. 4, everyone, including Tenet, knows Tenet is going to get blasted by the final 9/11 report [Tenet has already seen and commented on the draft] and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, so why not leave now and let his successor take the heat. No. 5, as Fox’s Brit Hume said, Tenet is tired of taking all of that crap. Indeed, the above is pretty much the consensus view, along with some polish from Berkowitz, of Thursday night’s analysis on Fox’s Special Report news show with the, as always, fair and balanced panel of Roll Call's Morton Kondracke, the Washington Post's Jeff Birnbaum and the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes.

Of course, then there is the view from the not so fair and balanced Thursday night ABC Nightline with Ted Koppel and his guests: Dick Clarke, Senators Levin and Hagel and Washington Socialite Sally Quinn, which kind of gives you 3 ½ Ds and ½ R—pretty fair by current Koppel standards. When Koppel introduced Book huckster and [now] Bush basher Clarke, he told the audience, Clarke was “once the terrorism, anti-terrorism czar at the White House.” Koppel forgot to mention that Clarke is a paid consultant to ABC and that Clarke was a “player,” for Clinton and Clarke purported to be working for Bush while Tenet was at CIA. ABC did put, on the screen, for about three seconds, that Clarke is an ABC news consultant, but I don’t think ABC has disclosed how Clarke is paid by ABC for his “consulting.” This whole conflict of using Clarke this way seems to go unnoticed by ABC News or Koppel. Clarke, a participant in all of this stuff as recently as last year, sits there with Koppel as if he is some sort of neutral analyst and throws out barbs at Bush, Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld, et al. The fact that no media critics point to this peculiar display of media bias is truly remarkable.

Last night, Clarke threw out this gem (showing just how fair and balanced our boy Dick is), “I think what we have to watch now, in the next few weeks, is whether unnamed White House officials say that Tenet was pushed, or say that the President really appreciates him leaving right now, so that he can put somebody else in there before the Election. If they stab Tenet in the back like that, which I suspect they will, they will try to transfer blame from White House failures onto Tenet, then we will know this was not just a personal desire to leave.“

Rich Lowry of the conservative and thoughtful National Review gives a pretty straightforward analysis of Tenet and the broader, long term CIA problems, which of course you won’t read much of in the mainstream media, but you can find Lowry's thoughts, in their entirety, in Thursday’s column for

Excerpts from Lowry's online Townhall column:

CIA Director George Tenet has resigned. Good. Can Congress and the media resign next?

Tenet stacked up an impressive number of failures during his tenure, but pinning America's atrophied intelligence capabilities on him is a little like blaming Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade for Denmark's weak defense. The problem is the national material with which both have had to work. Led by Congress and the media, the United States has hobbled its ability to conduct intelligence operations throughout the past three decades with its squeamishness and its gotcha political culture.
Since the emasculating Church hearings of the 1970s, this has been the story of the CIA. It seemed that 9/11 would change all of that. Instead of picking ourselves apart with self-criticism, we would meet the dangers confronting us, even in the face of setbacks and mistakes. Alas, in the explosion of media and congressional attention to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and in the self-flagellating 9/11 Commission hearings, it has been the 1970s all over again.
One would think that the issues raised above by Lowry might be the kind of debate the Ted Koppel of old would bring to us. But, alas, that was not to be. Instead, Kopppe and his biased staff bring us the tired, self-promoting, pathetic prejudices of Dick Clarke. It is time for Koppel to pack up and say Good Night to Nightline. Most of his former fans, including this one, have already done so. Re-runs of Hunter might be more attractive to viewers than this stuff.