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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

SpiceWatch: The Flub That Wasn't

I don't think I'll send McIlheranWatch on vacation for the summer, or anything, but here's an extra-special Russ Feingold-related edition of SpiceWatch.

The Spice Boys (who read local blogs "so you don't have to") branch out to read a national blog about a local guy. In a post titled "Feingold Flub," they write,
The good news is that Feingold has liberal bloggers from coast to coast singing his praises during his quixotic run for the White House. On top of that, he gets real face time on Meet The Press.

The bad news is that conservative bloggers also are hanging on Feingold's every word, looking for him to step in it.

The result: The National Review Online may have caught the junior senator from Wisconsin making a factual mistake during his recent appearance on Meet the Press.
When (if, since the whole point is "so you don't have to") you click through, you find, in fact, that Feingold did no such thing.

The NRO blogger tries to spin it that way, though, and Spivak and/ or Bice have bought it. Here's what Feingold said on "Meet the Press":
You know, Tim, today it was announced that a guy named Hassan Dahir Aweys is now the head of the government that has taken over in Mogadishu in Somalia. He is on the State Department’s terrorist list. He is known as an al Qaeda operative, or somebody that is connected with al Qaeda. While we were asleep at the switch, while we were bogged down in Iraq, while we were all focused on Iraq as the be all and end all of our American foreign policy, we are losing the battle to al Qaeda because we’re not paying attention. I asked [Coordinator for Counter Terrorism in the State Department] Ambassador [Henry] Crumpton at a hearing the other day, how many people in our federal government are working full time on the problem in Somalia? He said one full time person. We’ve spent $2 million in Somalia in the last year while we’re spending $2 billion a week in Iraq. This is insanity if you think about what the priorities are of those who have attacked us and those who are likely to attack us in the future.
None of that, based on the transcript of the Senate hearing that NRO quotes extensively, is untrue. The NRO is trying to pretend Russ said something more than he did. Here's the Senate hearing:
SEN. FEINGOLD: How many people does the State Department have working on Somalia full-time? I just want the full-time figure.

MR. CRUMPTON: Yes, sir. There is one dedicated Foreign Service officer in Nairobi that looks at Somalia, but there are a multitude of others, not just in the State Department but across the U.S. government, that work the issue.
When Feingold says there is one full-time person on Somalia, that's exactly what he was told by the ambassador. Full-time staff is a measure of how seriously the feds take the problem; clearly, a decade after "Blackhawk Down," Somalia has essentially slipped from the radar screen, despite the occasional task force. We're letting terrorists have a safe haven while we fritter away Iraq--and, as Russ has been talking about all along, that's not the way to run our foreign policy or our national security. We need to be where the terrorists actually are, doing everything we can to stop them. The nonsense notion that we're fighting them in Iraq so that we don't fight them here is belied every time al Qaida hits a Western target or we bust a terror cell on US soil.

When will the Bush administration start fighting the "war on terror" they so care about?

And when will the Spice Boys learn that passing off half-assed insinuations is about as close to real journalism as I am to winning "American Idol"?

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