This evening, Wingerdom is all aflutter about what they now see as the New York Times-CBS-IAEA international anti-Bush conspiracy. But they might do better to focus their anxieties elsewhere.
Like at the Pentagon, for instance.
Who over there is trying to stick it to the president?
Look at two big news stories on Tuesday, the Washington Post report that the White House plans to ask for some $70 billion more in Iraq spending just a week or two after the election and this USA Today piece reporting that the Pentagon is planning to add roughly 20,000 more troops to the force in Iraq in anticipation of the elections in January.
Just on the basis of logical inference, I’m gonna bet those leaks didn’t come from Scott McClellan.
More troops in the country is something that many administration critics have been pressing for. But, still, it’s not the news the Bush campaign wants to be talking about one week before the election. Combined with the al Qaqaa business, these two stories managed to create what one network news talking head called a trifecta of bad Iraq news to kick off the last week of the campaign.
Tom Squitieri, author of the USA Today piece, provides some possible guidance about who was behind the troop deployment story: “Four Defense officials with direct knowledge of troop planning for Iraq discussed what the Pentagon must do to meet the need for more troops at election time. They asked not to be identified because troop matters are highly sensitive and decisions have not yet been finalized.” The Post sourced its story to Pentagon officials and “Appropriations Committee aides.” But what Republican Appropriations Committee aides — who are the ones who’d know the best details — would have leaked this stuff to the Post this week?
Even in the al Qaqaa story, while Larry Di Rita has been working reporters trying to get out the White House’s storyline, there’s been a steady back-draft of off-the-record comments by Army officials that keep tripping him up.
I also couldn’t help but notice that both the Times and CBS managed to get lengthy and rather candid interviews with Col. Joseph Anderson, commander of the unit that came through al Qaqaa on April 10th with that NBC News crew. He completely upended the NBC/Drudge storyline that the White House had been depending on all day. And for CBS, Anderson even tossed in the bonus comment that he would have needed four times as many troops to secure all the weapons depots that his troops came across while sweeping into Iraq.
If it were appropriate, I might even note that one of the folks who received the ‘talking points’ di Rita sent out today describing how to spin the al Qaqaa mess decided to send them on to me.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the Army is trying to drive the president from office or that there’s anything coordinated about this. I’m simply pointing out that if you look at the Pentagon as a whole — and not just Larry Di Rita’s shop in OSD — in Bush-Cheney ’04 terms, it’s starting to look like part of the problem rather than part of the solution.