Now that we have media confirmation that the leak of Plame’s identify was not a Bush/Cheney conspiracy to silence war critics, it might serve us well to examine the damage done by the media to this administration.
The media unquestionably provided a consistent drum beat of allegations of corruption surrounding this matter. I could provide innumerable links to examples, but you can google it yourselves just as well.
But what was the real damage and is it calculable? Interestingly enough, there are numbers that show what the damage was to the President’s credibility. Polling Report has a page devoted to the Plame leak case. Let’s review:
ABC/Washington Post asked in September of 2003:
"The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether someone in the White House broke the law by identifying a former diplomat's wife as an undercover CIA agent. The former diplomat claims this was done to punish him for criticizing U.S. policy on Iraq. Have you heard or read anything about this situation, or not?"
09/03 68% 32%
So over two-thirds of American’s had heard the allegation. Now compare that to the recent survey that indicated how few people could name two SCOTUS justices at only 24%. I bet Ford and Coca-Cola would love that kind of market exposure.
So how effective was the marketing of this lie? The same poll asked:
"Just your best guess, how likely or unlikely do you think it is that someone in the White House leaked this classified information: very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely or very unlikely?"
Very Likely Somewhat Likely Somewhat Unlikely Very Unlikely No Opinion
34 38 13 10 5
That’s right, the reporting was so damning that 72% of American’s indicated they believed the White House did it. Close to three-quarters of the United States populace were duped by the media reporting that the Bush Administration had done it in retaliation.
And it goes on; Pew Research in April of 2006:
"Last week, documents were released indicating that President Bush may have authorized his staff to leak pre-war intelligence about Iraq to the press in order to undermine war critics. How much have you heard about this: a lot, a little or nothing at all?"
A Lot A Little Nothing
32 46 22
So 78% of Americans heard that George Bush personally leaked documents to undermine war critics. Of course, the fact that it is not a leak since the President has de-classification authority was not included in the question. The really interesting part is now that we know for sure that the administration didn’t go after Plame, how did people determine that these documents indicated the President did it? In other words, they were all just going off media reports that were wrong.
It goes on: USA Today/Gallup:
"Which of the following statements best describes your view of George W. Bush in these matters? He did something illegal. He did not do anything illegal, but did something unethical. OR, He did not do anything seriously wrong."
A phenomenal 63% of the public believed the President acted at least unethically based on mainstream media reporting.
On it goes on and on from Bush to Cheney to Rove, poll after poll indicating a heavy majority of Americans were convinced by the media coverage that the Bush Administration had acted at least unethically. Another CNN poll reported that only a staggering 10% of the public believed the Bush administration was innocent on this matter.
Now contrast this to coverage of the Lewinski scandel in which President Clinton actually admitted to committing wrongdoing (eventually). Polling report
"As a result of his actions in the Monica Lewinsky investigation, do you think Bill Clinton should lose his license to practice law, or should he keep his license to practice law?"
58% of respondents indicated in May of 2000 that a lawyer should keep his law license even after committing perjury.
This is a phenomenal indicator of the power of the media to create a news story, form the reporting template, and hammer it in until it becomes ingrained as fact. Of course, it goes without saying the media owes some balanced coverage to offset the political damage the Plame affair created. Riiiiggghhhtttt.
A look at the President’s personal polling numbers show that they decline over the course of the unfolding Plame plot, but with other variables, such as perceived success in Iraq, we can not say for sure exactly what effect this story had. But we know enough to determine that the media promulgated a lie so hard and heavy that almost everybody heard it and absent any hard evidence, convinced the vast majority.
Thanks to The American Thinker for picking up this story. If you are new to my site, don't forget to check out my Fox News.com series, the Saddam Dossier.
Update: hearing that Rush picked up this article, thanks for reading it on the air. Is this a good time for a pledge drive? heh Also, thanks to mens news daily for featuring it on the front page, and the small time bloggers (like me) who are linking.
Update II: Here is the transcript from Rush Limbaugh.com. What can I say? It's pretty darn cool....