Good Thursday morning Fellow Seekers,Ã‚Â
Early distant warning: this will be a long post. When you get to the “read the rest of this entry” button, it will take you to a thoroughÃ‚Â FiskingÃ‚Â of a March 8 radio interview (that has only recently come to the Big QÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attention) in which U.S. Rep Michele Bachmann made several misstatements about her earlier claim that Iran had a plan to divide Iraq.
Frankly, the radio interviewÃ‚Â comes across as an effort toÃ‚Â blame the media in general andÃ‚Â your obedient ink-stained wretch in particularÃ‚Â for whatever problems her original insupportable claimsÃ‚Â caused for her.
So in addition to setting theÃ‚Â record straight on the substance of this Bachmannian tap dance, the full fisking is alsoÃ‚Â partly a point of personal privilege, since Bachmann made untrue claims about how the coverage of her Iran-Iraq statements wasÃ‚Â handled by the Star Tribune and this blog.
Bachmann has declined to be interviewed for this post, saying through her spokesperson that she will stand on her earlier statements.
For those who lack theÃ‚Â time and/or inclination for the full treatment, and who don’t care about Bachmann’s claims of media mistreatment or my rebuttals, here’s a summary of the most substantive aspect ofÃ‚Â Bachmann’s interview on KKMS, a Richfield-based Christian-themed radio station, in which she gave what I count to be the fourth version of what she believes Iran is up to in Iraq.
Without acknowledging that she is retracting her earlier claim (in version 1) that Iran had a plan with Al Qaida toÃ‚Â partition Iran and turn half the country into a haven for terrorists, Bachmann is repeating the claim from version 3 (an op-ed she wrote for the Strib) that the ultimate truth running through all of her statements is that Iran and Al Qaida have a joint mutual interest in partitioning Iraq.
The problem that remains, and about which Bachmann has never been asked (although I have posed the question publicly in this blog andÃ‚Â asked again in an email to Bachmann’s office Ã‚Â leading up to this post), is that she has presented no evidence that Iran wants toÃ‚Â partition Iraq.
The evidence that she presented in the best and most thorough of her versions (number 3, the op-ed) to back up that claim, simply doesn’t support it, nor is it widely reported in the media (as Bachmann claims in version 4), nor is it particularly logical that Iran wants to divide Iraq with Al Qaida.
Ã‚Â A full discussion of that evidentiary deficit appears near the bottom of the full version, which appears below.
Cong. Bachmann brought a brief cyclone down upon her head in February with her statement that Iran had an agreement (she didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say with whom) to partition Iraq and create a terrorism safe haven zone in northwestern Iraq from which attacks would be launched around the Middle East and against the United States.
The statements were originally made Feb. 9 in a taped interview with Larry Schumacher of the St. Cloud Times, which is still available for listening. (If you go to this link, look down on the right for Ã¢â‚¬Å“download Capitolcast.Ã¢â‚¬Â) A transcript of the excerpt in which she made this startling claim is in this Big Question post of Feb. 23.
The congresswoman has not backed up her statement in several important details, nor answered questions about how she came to make them. After the Big Question post was picked up by national blogs and talk radio shows, Bachmann first issued a statement that her remarks had been misconstrued. They had not been misconstrued, at least not here. The problem may have been that her statement was too clear.
Version 2, in the name of reconstruing, simply omitted any reference to the earlier claim that Iran had struck a deal with unnamed other parties to divide Iraq and set up a terrorism haven.
A week later,Ã‚Â with editorials appearing around the state urging Bachmann to clarify, or to explain how she came to make a statement she couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t support, Bachmann submitted version 3 in the form of an op-ed piece to the Star Tribune designed to put the matter to rest. She went further toward retracting her claim and replacing it with a new, more defensible but still problematic claim.
On March 2, the Strib published the op-ed , (which remains on the Bachmann congressional website here).
And a story by your obedient ink-stained wretch was published on the metro cover about the piece. On the blog, I accepted BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement that what she said to Schumacher was not was she meant, but wrote that there were still unanswered questions and left open my request for an interview. There matters stood as far as I knew except that it grew increasingly clear that Bachmann would not agree to be interviewed by me about this matter.
The fourth (and, so as I know, most recent) version
On March 8, Bachmann appeared on “Live With Jeff and Lee,” on Richfield-based KKMS (AM 980) a Christian-themed station. Jeff and Lee offered the congresswoman a chance to clarify the whole kerfuffle about her Iran-Iraq remarks. In the audio of the full show, the relevant portion starts between the 8th and 9th minutes.
What follows is my transcription of what she said. BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statements are in bold. The parenthetical insertions in italics, are by me, where there are Is That a Factual problems. It starts with Jeff and Lee offering her a openÃ‚Â shot at explaining how the whole came to be:
Bachmann: “I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it and clear it up. Actually, I was downtown Minneapolis, about to be the luncheon speaker at Thrivent Financial Services..
And I got a call from the Star Tribune asking me about comments I had made in a previous podcast out of St. Cloud, regarding Iran-Iraq.”
Is That a Fact? (It would have been unprofessional and wrong of me to have written my piece on this if, as Bachmann asserts here, I had given herÃ‚Â only a few minutes to clarify her earlier statements.Ã‚Â Actually, my requests for an interview had begun at about 4 p.m. the previous day, soon after I had become aware of the Schumacher podcast. I was told Bachmann was unavailable, but might speak to me the next morning. In the morning, it was no, but maybe in the afternoon. I told BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spokeswoman, Heidi Frederickson, that I would post over the lunch hour and add BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response as soon as I got it. I also told her precisely what I wanted to ask about.)
Bachmann: “They had said that I said the United States had an agreement with Iran to partition Iraq, which is not at all what I said. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what they wanted to talk about. I just thought, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwell thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crazy.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢”
Is That a Fact? (Yes, that would be a pretty crazy thing to say, but, they, which is presumably me,Ã‚Â never said it. In my email to Frederickson, I cited the quote from the Schumacher interview about the existence of an agreement involving Iran and unspecified parties to divide Iraq. I wrote: “Here are the questions: How does she know about this plan? With whom has Iran already made this agreement and is she saying itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the government of Iran?”)
Bachmann: “I had to go in and make my speech and I said Ã¢â‚¬ËœweÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll call the Star Tribune reporter back when I make my speech.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢”
Is That a Fact? (Actually, before noon, moments after I posted on the blog, I received an email from Frederickson informing me that: “A call this afternoon is not going to work.”)
Bachmann: “I came out of my speech about 90 minutes later and when I checked my email. I had an email from a girlfriend in California saying that she had heard Rush Limbaugh talking about my Iran-Iraq commentsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦”
(The radio hosts interject here that, yikes,Ã‚Â that kind of thing would get your attention)
Bachmann: “And I said: What!? In 90 minutes to go from a reporter initially questioning me to now itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on Rush Limbaugh?
And what the Star Tribune did, which I think is wrong, is they went ahead and they posted a story without talking to me, on the internet. It had gotten onto the Drudge Report. Drudge had gotten onto Rush. And all of a sudden you had a national story.
The thing that is awful, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult for people to understand is that once the media, the major media puts a spin on a story, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change it. I mean itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s impossible. It gets repeated over and over.
The suggestion was made that I had suggested that there was a written agreement that Iran was going to divide Iraq. I did not say that.”
Is That a Fact? (If sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s talking about me, what I wrote was: “Bachmann claims to know of a plan, already worked out with a line drawn on the map, for the partition of Iraq in which Iran will control half of the country.” HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the statement from BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Feb. 9 podcast interview, on which I based that:
“TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already decided that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to partition Iraq. And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be calledÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. the Iraq State of Islam, something like that. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sorry, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the official name, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already an agreement made. They are going to get half of Iraq.”)
Bachmann (back to the Jeff and Lee show): “There was suggestion that I had revealed classified information. I did not. There was a suggestion that I was pretending that I had secret information that I was revealing. I did not.”
(Perhaps Bachmann is referring to this quote, from U of M political scientist Kathryn Pearson, that ran in my story the next morning: “Members of Congress are privy to intelligence that the rest of the public isn’t. So when a member of Congress says something of such significance, the first assumption is that she knows something that the public doesn’t. So on that basis, people are going to take it seriouslyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Either this is top secret information that she’s leaking, which is a problem. Or she’s presenting her thoughts on a very serious topic as if they were established fact, and that’s a problem for other reasons.”)
Bachmann: “What I had said quite simply — I could have been more precise, I should have given specific examples, but my underlying statement was true. It was correct. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s adversaries agree that a divided Iraq benefits them. So Al Qaida and Iran, it is to their advantage to have a divided Iraq. Because a divided Iraq means that America will probably not be successful. And much of Iraq could turn into a safe haven for terrorists.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s absolutely true. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have secret information on that. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been widely reported in the mediaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦”
Is That a Fact? (All alleged issues of alleged journalistic malfeasance aside, hereÃ‚Â are the main substantive problems with the radio interview and the current state of BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Iran-Iraq position. Bachmann has abandoned the what-I-said-was-not-what-I-meant tone of the op-ed piece, and returned to her earlier claim that what she said in the first place was true and correct, except for a lack of precision and failure to give examples.
What she said in version one was that Iran had a plan with another party — it’s now clear she had Al Qaida in mindÃ‚Â – to divide Iraq in half between them and set up a terrorism zone. That statement disappears in versions two (the I-was-misconstrued press release) and four (the radio interview), except for the vestigial assertion that the missing piece was true all along.
But even if we give up on Bachmann making a straightforward retraction/clarification and sticking by it, there remains a fairly serious problem with all of the versions: All of them include a statement that Iran wants to see Iraq partitioned.
But is that a fact? Bachmann says that this fact has been widely reported in the media. But it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been widely reported and Bachmann has offered no evidence that this is so.
In the op-ed that ran in the Strib under BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s byline, the third and best version of her position, she adduced some evidence (a Reuters story) that something called the Mutayibeen Coalition, which Reuters described as linked to Al Qaida, had posted a video online in October of 2006 in which the coalition “called for a separate Islamic state in Baghdad and other areas with a large Sunni Arab population.”
This evidence is not overwhelming. But personally, from what I know of the situation, it is not far-fetched that elements of Al Qaida would hope to control the Sunni Arab portion of Iraq (nor that if Al Qaida did control such territory, it could becomeÃ‚Â a base for terrorism).
But the Iran piece of BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s case for “America’s adversaries are in agreement that a divided Iraq benefits their objectives” is much weaker. And bear in mind, this piece was written to redeem an original claim that Iran had a plan and an agreement to divide Iraq.
The op-ed cites a statement from August of 2005 by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful Iranian Guardian Council (and a confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).
Jannati told worshippers in Tehran: “Fortunately, after years of effort and expectations in Iraq, an Islamic state has come to power and the constitution has been established on the basis of Islamic precepts. We must congratulate the Iraqi people and authorities for this victory”, he said.
But Jannati is in not advocating or referring in any way to the partitioning of Iraq. On the contrary, he is congratulating the Iraqis on establishing the new U.S.-blessed state, under a U.S.-blessed constitution that refers to Islam as “a fundamental source”of all laws.
This constitution and this new government are for the entirety of Iraqi territory and have nothing to do with any division of Iraq.
So BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s watered down statement Ã¢â‚¬â€œ- what she claimed on KKMS was the one true thing that she has been trying to say all along — that Iran and Al Qaida agree that a partition of Iraq is in their mutual interest, is untrue, or at least unsupported.)
(At this point in the KKMS interview, one of the hosts observes that Eric Black has written in his blog that he accepted her op-ed as a clarification of her previous statements, which I thought was fairly sporting of me. But Bachmann chooses to treat this as if it was anÃ‚Â acknowledgement by me of errors or of the wrongs I had done her.)
Bachmann: “ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nice that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clarifying it on his blog, but it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t front page news either.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very interesting with the media. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll put their wild assertion on the front page and then itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll go from there and then when they correct themselves, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be buried in small print on page 18. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the way it goes. And unfortunately, if someone asks me:
Is there media bias? You bet thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s media bias. Unbelievable.”
Is That a Fact? (Yes, unbelievable. The first newspaper story on this controversy ran on the front page of the Strib on the morning of Feb. 24. The deadline for it was more than a full day after I had first sought her comments and about 10 hours after BachmannÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s luncheon speech Ã¢â‚¬â€œ remember she was going to call and straighten things out after the luncheon speech. She never called, but she did put out the written IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m-sorry-if-my-words-have-been-misconstrued statement, and that statement was quoted and well-represented in the article.
The second (and so far only other) article in the Strib about it was published on the same day as her op-ed, was based upon the op-ed, and appeared on page B1, the cover of the metro/state news section. No small print, no page 18, and no correction unless one means that the second story reflected her effort to correct what she had said wrong in the first story.
Okay, this is the longest post IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever written and perhaps IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotten carried away with my ardor for keeping the record straight on this matter and for defending my own actions when they have been unfairly and inaccurately described. In recognition of same, I will fade into the background and allow Rep. Bachmann to complete, without further interruptions from me, her comments to KKMS listeners about about what they should learn from this incident.)
Bachmann: “ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one thing I would just say to your listeners, When they hear wild accusations like that, try and go back to the source. And ask the person.
I have an opinion piece that I wrote on this Iran-Iraq question, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on my website, Michele Bachmann, people can go to my website and they can read my statement.
What I do is I cite the sources for my remarks. And the sources establish, like Eric Black apparently said in his blog, that there is source material to back up what I was saying.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an interesting thing. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a reason why a lot of politicians donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say anything or are very unwilling to speak up. Especially if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a conservative, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just slapped up mercilessly in the press.
That being said, I have to be extremely careful what I say and how I say it.”