Noel Sheppard apparently hasn't had that talk we recommended he have with Mark Finkelstein -- you know, about selectively editing the transcripts he posts on NewsBusters. Because Finkelstein has done it again.
In a Jan. 19 post, Finkelstein claims that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund "had something of a nuclear showdown" with MSNBC's Chris Matthews:
Said Fund, speaking of the build-up to the Iraq war: "The administration said there were weapons of mass destruction. They never claimed the United States was in imminent danger."
Matthews: "They did make the claim they [Iraq] had a nuclear weapon."
Fund: "No!! They did not claim they had a nuclear weapon! Give me the statement!
Matthews had none. The most he could muster was an Iraqi claim of a delivery system -- not of a weapon itself.
Not quite. Here's the section of "Hardball" transcript that Finkelstein condensed down to what Matthews could purportedly "muster":
MATTHEWS: They explained – the administration – that they had a delivery system, an airplane that would deliver it to North America. That was a big part of the case they made.
FUND: One, if they -- if they developed a nuclear weapon, they said they had a delivery system. They didn’t claim Iraq had a nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: They said don’t wait for the smoking gun because there’ll be a mushroom cloud. They used all the language of fear and imminent danger.
That was a reference to Condoleezza's Rice statement in late 2002 that "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Further (but not noted by either Matthews or Finkelstein) the Bush administration did claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons. Vice President Dick Cheney said the following a few days before the Iraq war started, on the March 16, 2003, edition of NBC's "Meet the Press":
CHENEY: We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
After truncating that section, Finkelstein then resumed his transcript:
Fund: "Chris, do you believe North Korea has a nuclear weapon?"
Matthews, after some serious dead air: "I don't know."
Fund: "You don't?? We know they do! They've announced it!!"
Matthews: "OK. But what's the point? What's the point here?"
Finkelstein abruptly ends his transcript there, adding "Oh, I don't know: perhaps that Chris should get his facts straight before venturing into his next facedown with John Fund!" But the exchange continued, in which Matthews explained his point:
FUND: The point is –
MATTHEWS: OK, we’re not going to war with North Korea, I’ve noticed.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why are we going to war, even thinking about it with Iran, then?
FUND: We’re not thinking about going to war. We are trying to put --
FUND: -- diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran so they don’t even think about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that would be good. But I’m afraid that’s a threat that if it doesn’t work, we could go to war, that’s what I’m afraid of.
So, to sum up: Matthews' question of "What's the point?" applied not to whether North Korea's nuclear weapons actually existed, as Finkelstein implied by his selective editing of the transcript, but to why we're engaging in more aggressive postures toward Iran, which to our knowledge does not have nuclear weapons, than with North Korea, which apparently does. And more selective editing obscured the fact that Matthews did offer evidence (and that other evidence exists) for his claim that the Bush administration did link nuclear weapons to Saddam's Iraq.
Further, Finkelstein lets Fund off the hook for his claim that the Bush administration "never claimed the United States was in imminent danger." That is only true in a very narrow technical sense; in fact, President Bush did call Iraq an "urgent threat"; Vice President Dick Cheney called Iraq a "mortal threat"; and other senior White House officials assented when reporters applied the "imminent threat" characterization.
(And as to Fund's claim that "We’re not thinking about going to war" with Iran, Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily begs to differ.)
Finkelstein seems to be under the impression that he is free to distort with impunity the words of people with whom he doesn't agree (as he has done on previous occasions). But he also forgets that other people watch the same shows he does and can describe in detail his distortions.