October 25, 2004
POLITICS: The Big Story: A Fabricated UN Meeting
Powerline points us to the much-hyped story of the weekend, a Washington Times piece by National Review's State Department correspondent, Joel Mowbray:
U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.
This contradicts Kerry's assertion at the second presidential debate that he had such a meeting:
This president hasn't listened. I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable.
Kerry was even more emphatic in one of his big prepared foreign policy speeches:
Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, Mr. Kerry explained that he understood the "real readiness" of the United Nations to "take this seriously" because he met "with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein."
Kerry is now backing down:
When reached for comment last week, an official with the Kerry campaign stood by the candidate's previous claims that he had met with the entire Security Council.
But after being told late yesterday of the results of The Times investigation, the Kerry campaign issued a statement that read in part, "It was a closed meeting and a private discussion."
A Kerry aide refused to identify who participated in the meeting.
The statement did not repeat Mr. Kerry's claims of a lengthy meeting with the entire 15-member Security Council, instead saying the candidate "met with a group of representatives of countries sitting on the Security Council."
Asked whether the international body had any records of Mr. Kerry sitting down with the whole council, a U.N. spokesman said that "our office does not have any record of this meeting."
Great work by the bloggers who got this story rolling and by Mowbray for putting it all together. What does it all mean? This is a lot bigger deal, at a minimum, than Dick Cheney forgetting that he'd ever run into John Edwards; the problem with some of Kerry's fabrications is that they tend to be complicated, self-important embellishments that are hard to square with a simple trick of memory. That's how Roger Simon, who compares this to the "Christmas in Cambodia" fairytale, views the story. Jason Steffens is less impressed with the electoral significance of yet another "Kerry made stuff up" story, as apparently are some of Simon's readers.
I doubt myself that this will be a game-breaker, but then, anything that puts Kerry on the defensive for even a day at this late stage can be a big momentum-suck, and this is a legitimate question, and one that Kerry would have to answer if we had a press corps that demanded answers from Kerry, which it often has not. Of course, the ultimate test is whether other news agencies will pick up this story - as they would if it were a claim that Bush had lied and ran on CBS or ABC or in the New York Times - or if this will get buried in the right-wing media ghetto. This morning's Drudge Report is not encouraging: there's a small headline, totally eclipsed by the blaring coverage of Bill Clinton's triumphant, press-oxygen-sucking return to the campaign. We know which story Big Media would rather cover; Matt Lauer last week was worshipfully comparing a Clinton return to Willis Reed hobbling onto the court in the 1970 NBA Finals (which is a humorous analogy because it puts Kerry in the Clyde Frazier role). Stay tuned.
UPDATE: INDC Journal has more, including links to other commentary. Bill also considers a possible justification:
A commenter brings up a reasonable point - Kerry "meant to communicate" that he only met with the permanent members of the Security Council, not "all of them," as he specified on two occasions. I don't believe that this interpretation completely invalidates the significance of Kerry's statements, but in any case, I've been told that verification regarding the permanent five is in the works. We'll see. I await further detail with everyone else.
Captain Ed finds this unhelpful and telling of Kerry's attitude towards our allies in Eastern Europe:
[T]he reality of his paltry and meaningless diplomacy also shows what a lightweight Kerry is on the world stage. He went to the UN to meet with diplomats about Iraq, and who did he choose? Singapore, Cameroon, and France: two countries that could have no earthly effect on enforcing the UN resolutions, and one that Saddam had bribed into submission. He didn't bother with Bulgaria, one of the nations that Bush convinced to support the liberation of Iraq and one with troops on the ground helping to support its democratization.
Well, of the 2 big new stories I found when I checked around this morning, I think the 350 tons of high explosives that went missing in Iraq, and the Administration's efforts to keep that information from getting out, is more important than this Kerry misrepresentation. (I'm not calling it a lie because there's some elements of truth in it. Although if my only choices were lie or truth, I'd put it in the lie column.) Then again, I'm voting for Kerry on the grounds that he's not Bush.
"Big Story" was a reference to the fact that these guys had been hyping the story all weekend. As I indicated, I think this is a legit story, but not a huge one.
The explosives story looks, at first glance, like another chapter in the "it's hard to secure things in Iraq" saga; it's obviously a big concern as far as prosecution of the war is concerned, although it doesn't really change the nature of what's going on over there. Anyway, the first cut I saw was the NY Times story, and I tend not to put a ton of stock in the NYT until I see it examined elsewhere.
Oh my God, this is a shocking story. Almost as shocking as the incredible story Fox News broke this morning. See:
I thought the "baseball crank" would especially appreciate the enormity of the story on Fox. Stop the freaking presses!
I'm going to go back to reality now.
That is pretty funny. Kerry should just give up.
I see Jon Henke and John Cole have some tough words on the explosives story. We'll see how that plays out. But if the first two comments here are any indication, the sole response from Kerry defenders to the UN story will be to try changing the subject. Not impressive, for a guy who keeps saying that he's more trustworthy because he will tell us the truth and who trumpets his diplomatic finesse.
It's obvious Kerry was referring to the permanent members of the Security Council. It might not have been clear when he said it, but when you see who he did and didn't talk too, it's obvious what he meant. All this "outrage" about his "lie" is pure posturing by the Times and you guys on the right.
He should be more clear, so what he says is clear, but also because he should know any "nuance" in his statements will be jumped on. That's what his sin more than anything -- supplying the ammunition.
Speaking of supplying the ammunition... more news about the bang-up job running the war in Iraq today, eh? Gee, I can't understand how anyone could support changing Administrations during a conflict.
I can't wait to hear Cheney point to this story to justify the invasion and declare it "proves Saddam was a threat...he had all these exposives."
As far as he Sox fan-thing goes, Kerry should just trust that being from Boston is good enough, and he is allowed to root for the home team. That he needs to try and prove it and give specific details about games that he missed due to travelling on a plane is annoying, but hardly the stuff of scandal.
This is pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.
The ransacking of 350 TONS of explosives doesn't make the WT's front page....but this does.
And here is the heart of their arguyment:
"But of the five ambassadors on the Security Council in 2002 who were reached directly for comment, four said they had never met Mr. Kerry. The four also said that no one who worked for their countries' U.N. missions had met with Mr. Kerry either. "
This paper contacted 5 ambassadors? Mexico, Columbia, Bulgaria and a fourth that shall go nameless.
All three of whose memberships were expiring within 3 months of Kerry's supposed meetings with them.
Meetings with two of the five countries who are permanent members, France and the UK were confirmed, the US, China and Russia being the other 3 permanent members.
But this is so much more an important story than the further proof that the Bush administration mishandled the war offered by the 350 TONS of explosives that went unprotected and then unreported.
At least the Washington Times is immune to the O'Reilly/Limbaugh brand of hypocrisy.
Reverend Moon's views have remained static and all-too-obvious for decades. Much like that of the North Korean or Cuban leadership.
Hell of a place to go for news.
Mowbray's a good reporter. I doubt very much that Rev. Moon had anything to do with investigating or writing up this story.