Monday, August 07, 2006

Cabooses Follow Engines

On CNN's Reliable Sources the other day, Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks told Howard Kurtz another reason why the corporate media didn't ask a whole lot of questions before we got ourselves back in Iraq.

Ricks explained that "Congress is kind of the engine of Washington, the engine of government," meaning that the caboose tends to follow the locomotive instead of the other way around.

Intrepid journalists, of course, can get the story without hopping on the train, but their editors prefer to remain snug, cozy and reasonably safe as they ride in back. The train might crash but no one ever points to the ass to blame the engineer.

Excerpts from Transcript:

KURTZ: Tom Ricks, your book, "Fiasco", has rocketed to No. 1 on the bestseller list. You argue that the administration is to blame, for not foreseeing many of the problems that are affecting Iraq today and 130,000 U.S. forces there?

RICKS: Well, not just the administration. Yes, the administration made huge mistakes, but the argument of the book is you don't get a mess as big of Iraq just through the mistakes of the Bush administration. That the U.S. military also bungled the occupation, and that other players also helped create this mess, including the media.

KURTZ: Including the media. In fact, you write, quote, in the run-up to the war, quote, "The media didn't delve deeply enough into the issues surrounding war, especially the threat of Iraq and the cost of occupying and remaking the country. We're seeing those costs right now."

Why didn't the media delve more deeply? Was there a certain level of intimidation?

RICKS: I don't think it was so much as intimidation as partly a lack of information, credible information. Congress didn't hold hearings in which credible information was presented that said, no, the administration's case is wrong.

KURTZ: Since when do reporters have to wait for Congress to hold hearings?

RICKS: They don't. But Congress is kind of the engine of Washington, the engine of government. And if Congress is asleep at the wheel, if war seems inevitable, at some point your editors say, why do you keep writing about doubts about this war, when it's going to happen?

KURTZ: Do you include yourself in this indictment? Did you run into that kind of skepticism from your "Washington Post" editors?

RICKS: Absolutely. There was a sense that, look, this thing is going to happen. You've written a lot of stories about the doubts about the war. Give us more stories about the war plan, because it is going to happen, whether or not all these generals oppose it.


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