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(Update) Did Reid Really Say That?

8:10 PM, Jun 14, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Dissecting the controversy--ginned up controversy in the estimation of the folks involved--over Harry Reid calling Generals Pace and Petraeus "incompetent," a few unresolved questions jump out. First off, the "progressive" bloggers with whom Reid was speaking seem to have no idea exactly what was said on the call. A few of them say they don't remember the senator making any such statement, and one of them "flatly denies" it ever happened.

But if it never happened, why is it that Reid won't deny or confirm what was said on the call? He now says he's "lost confidence" in General Pace, but he refuses to repeat the charge of incompetence. Fortunately, Bob Geiger has produced what he claims is a verbatim quote of the senator's original remarks:

"I guess the president, uh, he's gotten rid of Pace because he could not get him confirmed here in the Senate… Pace is also a yes-man for the president and I told him to his face, I laid it out to him last time he came to see me, I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was."

So, now it turns out that Reid did, in fact, call Pace "incompetent," despite the denials of all the bloggers linked above, and Reid's own non-denial denial. Not only that, Reid claimed that he called Pace a "yes-man" and "incompetent" to his face. He claimed he questioned the man's competence AND his integrity. He might as well have slapped him across the face with a white glove! How could none of these bloggers have thought such a claim newsworthy? So which is worse: the unbelievably small chance that Reid did actually say those things to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or that he lied about doing so in a pander to lefty bloggers. The truth is that he was probably embellishing for his audience, given that his public comments paint the encounter as slightly less confrontational:

"I told [Pace] how I felt, that he had not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren't going right in Iraq. I told him that to his face."

As to why the bloggers didn't think the initial comment to be newsworthy...either they knew this to be such a ridiculous claim that they decided not to print it, or this type of rhetoric is so common on that side of the aisle that it just didn't stand out as exceptional. Again, I'm not sure which is worse. Also, we still have no idea what Reid said about Petraeus--whose confirmation Reid did support, and who has not yet even had enough time on the job to be judged one way or the other.

Another interesting undercurrent to this is the contempt of the left-wing bloggers for the Politico, and the Drudge Report, which often links to the site. The story was "based on unsubstantiated, third-party recollection," says Geiger, under the headline "The Politico Fails Journalism 101." "Politico, the online soul-mate to the Drudge Report, has gotten into the habit of creating news stories through innuendo, omission, outright error, and now today, out of thin air," was the line from Kos blogger BarbinMD (is that a professional opinion, doctor?). And the grand wizard of Politico haters once complained that Drudge and the Politico are "poisonously joined at the hip."

Well, for all that griping, it seems the Politico nailed this story, and Drudge just did what he always does--amplify it. Dr. Barbin still contends this is a non-story--though, apparently factually accurate despite protestations to the contrary--because it was just "a throw away line...that Harry Reid said to the unable-to-be-reconfirmed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's face." And Geiger puts off the outrageous statement Reid claims to have made to the senator's "tendency to speak like the straight-talking, former boxer that he is." If it's all true, then Reid's a brave man, but a jerk nonetheless. The other possibility, of course, is that he's full of it and never said any such thing to Pace--in which case, he's still a jerk, but not so stupid as to question the integrity of this nation's highest ranking officer to his face.

The lefty bloggers, for their part, have shown themselves to be totally inept. They failed to report the comments, then they denied Reid ever made them while making their own unsubstantiated allegations, and now they defend the comments as irrelevant--and without even the slightest doubt as to their validity. Which is worse?

Update: Dean Barnett is all over this as well.