Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thomas Ricks degrades his reputation on Fresh Air

Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks has tried to make up for his mediocre-if-better-than-the-Times reporting in the runup to the Iraq War with his book Fiasco, criticizing US policy in Iraq after the invasion. He never apologizes for his past failures in his current book, however.

Now he's on to new failures. On the NPR show Fresh Air, Ricks says of the "General Betray Us?" ad that he was "appalled," that the ad was "unfair and not accurate," and that his long personal knowledge of Petraeus as a "good soldier" meant the ad was wrong. He said the criticisms consisted of personal attacks, which is where he goes wrong.

The Move-On ad's headline was juvenile and counterproductive, but morally justifiable based on the ad's actual content. Ricks never once responds to the iron-clad proof that Petraeus has in the past sugar-coated his description of Iraq prospects for purposes of political advantage. Doing that yet again in the life-and-death context of Iraq can appropriately be described as betrayal.

Ricks is engaged in what I'd call a reverse ad-hominem - saying Petraeus is a good guy, therefore the criticisms about his previous statements are inaccurate. Going deeper, I think Ricks thinks Petraeus' policies might have worked if applied from the beginning, and that his policies still have a slight chance of working, and so criticisms shouldn't be allowed. That's bad journalism, and the bad journalism of Ricks and people like him is why we're in the fiasco that we face today.

UPDATE: For a contrary view of the Move On ad, see this baloney analysis in the Washington Post. Personally I don't think an advocacy ad consisting of about 100 words is obligated to discuss opposing views and opposing evidence so long as it doesn't imply no such views exist. But what do I know.

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