Downing Street Memo Inflames Passions
On Friday, we posted a criticism of MoveOn.org’s biased interpretation of the so-called Downing Street Memo. Our main contention was that those on the left are inflating the meaning and significance of the memo (memo’s full text available here).
The line in the memo “but the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” does not necessarily mean that facts were being manipulated. When I first read the memo and every time since, I’ve read that line to mean “the facts were being put in place around the policy.” And that’s not, in-and-of-itself, too alarming. That is how most policy is made. The administration has a goal and then makes sure the facts back up the policy.
I thought I was presenting a legitimate, potentially more plausible interpretation to the one being offered up by MoveOn and other Bush critics Many readers thought otherwise. The general consensus was that I was being dishonest, trying to invent a meaning that isn’t there. I will admit that I was too quick to latch onto an “expert’s” remark that “fixed around” means “bolted on” in Britain. The turmoil this story has caused in the UK shows that there is no substantial difference in how Americans and Brits might use such a phrase as “fixed around.”
Nevertheless, I still feel my interpretation of the memo is as plausible as the interpretation of the far left. Despite what so many have said, fixed does not mean fixed. Fixed has multiple definitions. Pointing this out is not just playing with words. Knowing the meaning of “fixed,” more than anything else in the memo, is essential to understanding if this is a damning memo or just an overly opinionated communiqué.
But what I have learned is that many on the left are absolutely convinced that Bush lied us into a war and believe the evidence proves their conclusion. In short, they are convinced Bush is treasonous and they are finding facts to fix around that belief.
Here’s a sampling of a few comments I received…
Actually, the way I see it, The Yellow Line is the one being deceptive. I believe that the Right Wing wishes that the Left was as naive and gullible as they are. When they say "the results were fixed", it simply means that Bush and Friends lied their evil asses off. I mean, damn! This is simple sh**. – Anonymous
It *is* sufficient, I think, to initiate a full investigation, subpoenas, cross examination, etc. In any reasonable system of government that should and would be undertaken. While it is not sufficient for conviction, it doesn't have the status of a random unsubstantiated allegation either - it is far more serious than that. – Anonymous
Alan your views and points are eloquently pointed out but they have no merit. Your defense of a criminal who fabricated evidence to support his personal reasons, not for war, but for the removal of Sadamm (sic). -- Chris J.
Like it or not: Intrusive authoritarians like President George W. Bush and his cadre of primitive, licentious masters of deceit always lie. Even an occasional truth is intended only to cover up a bigger falsification and is therefore, itself, a deliberate untruth. -- Anonymous Retired Marine
Obviously I hit a nerve. Now I have always said the memo, taken as a whole, does raise some questions. But all we have is a memo, when what we need is the writer of the memo to tell us what he meant. Pressuring Bush for an answer is certainly within anyone’s right, but given that Bush was not in attendance at the meeting the memo covers, he can very legitimately point out that this is a British communiqué and something he can't comment on except to say he never “fixed” intelligence.
Nevertheless, I think the media should investigate the facts behind the memo. It’s probably not going to lead anywhere (after all, a Congressional committee already found no evidence that intelligence was manipulated—which is not conclusive enough for many but, to me, clearly puts Bush a few steps ahead of his critics). But maybe a robust investigation will satisfy some of those on the left who are clearly slipping past the edge in their anger over this. And, who knows, I could be wrong and this memo could be solid proof of something nefarious.
All I know for sure is that the media’s choice to ignore this story has been wrong—if nothing else, it’s left all the interpretation up to left-wing blogs and those who have a vested-interest in “proving” Bush is a liar. There has been, as far as I can tell, no unbiased interpretation of the memo by any expert. I think this memo has enough momentum and raises just enough questions to warrant investigation. But that investigation has to start with the writer of that memo. What did he really mean?
For a blog that has exceptional on-going coverage of this issue, check out A Little Left of Centrist.