Friday, December 10, 2004

Reporter fed Q to soldier: So?

The "dramatic town-hall encounter between" Secretart of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Specialist Thomas Wilson, "an Iraq-bound soldier who worried about his unit's safety took a new twist" 12/9 when Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts said he "helped the soldier devise the question" according to Bandler for the Wall Street Journal. "Since mid-November," Pitts "has been 'embedded' with a unit" of the TN National Guard. His "role came to light after an e-mail he sent to a colleague was forwarded" 12/9 "to a Web site produced by the Poynter Institute. In the e-mail, Pitts wrote that he and two soldiers 'worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have." Pitts "wrote that he 'found the (sergeant) in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd." Pitts added it was "one of my best days as a journalist." I'll bet.

Pitts' editor, Tom Griscom, "'was asked' to include an account of his actions" in 12/9's story, "but it didn't get included, and (the omission) didn't get caught in the editoring." Griscom "said he would publish a letter to readers on the front page of today's newspaper explaining Pitts' role in the event" according to Memmott of USA Today.

Griscom defended Pitts' actions saying "the soldier asked the question" and "could have rejected Pitts' idea." Griscom: "Because someone's in the media who's embedded with them, does that mean they don't have the same opportunity to at least make a suggestion of something that might be asked? Is that what makes it wrong, because a journalist did it? That response from the troops was a clear indication that this is an issue on their minds" (Thanks Howie, you Media Whore)

Of course, Rush Limbaugh is deeply offended, equating Pitts' actions with those of Dan Rather. I am sure or other conservative blogs are going Ape about this "news" because it supposidely validates their "liberal" media conspiracy theory.

In reality, the soldier trusted this guy, and knew him to be good with words, which presumably he was not, otherwise he wouldn't have asked for Pitts' help crafting the question. Maybe the soldier was just not confident, and Pitts helped him find his strength to stand up to Rumsfeld. There were other questions asked that wheren't "prompted" by a reporter, which were along similar critical lines, are they disingenious?

Bush and almost all politicans these days have speech writers, does that mean those politicans don't believe what they are saying and it is just put in their mouths? Maybe for some, but I bet most of them believe what they say but just couldn't craft their words and thoughts as elequently as these writers could. That's why you hire them.

Of course, this begs the question: Should a reporter be a speechwriter? I say, if this is the only way these questions are going to be answered by folks like Rumsfeld, the media should try everything they can to get their questioned answered. The soldier wasn't his puppet, but his willing and likeminded conduit.

I love how people like Howard Kurtz get into a huff about this, but never about folks like Judith Miller who just parroting some dubious unnamed sources with dubious motives. Or the political reporters of the New York Times, who care about nothing but process and internal leaks of disgruntled staffers, who take their disagreements out into the press when they cannot convince their candidate/elected official to go their way. This is interesting, but not nearly as important as the underlying fact that there isn't enough armor. This is a classic media distraction, manufactured by the Right/Bush Administration to get them off topic into their own navel gazing instead of pounding the real story for another couple weeks.

NBC's Miklaszewski: "as of today, only about one third of the military's 20,000 Humvees in Iraq are fully armored. When American troops first took Baghdad, only US military police had the fully armored Humvees. But when insurgents turned up their attacks with roadside bombs, Americans started taking heavy casualties, and Congress came up with additional funds to turn up production of the heavily armored vehicles" ABC's Moran: "The army revealed today that of 30,000 military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 8,000 are still waiting for armor. ANd the Army's schedule does not call for all Humvees in Iraq to be armored until next March" Operation Truth founder Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, asked if the shortage of armor was a well-known problem: "Absolutely, sir. I spent just under a year in Iraq in central Baghdad, and commanded 38 soldiers on the ground who were poorly equipped. We did not have armored humvees; we were reduced to duct taping old flak jackets to the side of our Humvees to provide protection. We put sandbags in the floors of our vehicles. ... it cost soldiers their lives and it wounded soldiers as a result, and it was absolutely inadequate" Now that is the news, that is the story. Press, I beg of you, run with that.

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