Craig de-lurked long enough to vote “paranoia” on my earlier item about Barnett Rubin’s report that an anonymous source had told him Cheney was pushing the right-wing press to roll out stories building the case for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day. The substantive part of Rubin’s allegation went like this:
They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects.
So, as promised, I’m here with a report card on how faithfully the listed mouthpieces followed their alleged instructions:
- the American Enterprise Institute: AEI fellow Michael Ledeen’s latest book, The Iranian Time Bomb, is being pushed by the institute this week. They list an upcoming panel discussion on the book, though technically that discussion won’t be taking place until this coming Monday, so one could argue that the timing is a little off there. The institute’s home page currently lists the same book in its “latest books” section, though that item was posted the week before Labor Day, so again, the timing isn’t very good.
- Wall Street Journal: The Journal ran an excerpt from Ledeen’s book Friday. Otherwise, a quick check of OpinionJournal doesn’t turn up any obvious smoking guns.
- Weekly Standard – Bill Kristol chimed in with this item in the Daily Standard blog on Wednesday: Terrorist Training Camps in Iran: Should they be safe havens? (I’ll let you click through for his answer, in case you’re in doubt.)
- Commentary: The best I could come up with in a quick perusal of the magazine’s site was this item, posted in the magazine’s “contentions” blog on Wednesday, in which Emanuele Ottolenghi criticized Michael Slackman’s article in the Interntional Herald Tribune characterizing Hashemi Rafsanjani as a moderate by quoting from a December, 2001, press release in which Rafsanjani seemed to imply that a nuclear exchange between Israel and a hypothetical nuke-equipped Islamic power would leave the Muslim world damaged but still standing, while Israel would just be gone.
- Fox: Best I could come up with in a few minutes of clicking around on FOXNews.com was an AP wire story on the $2.65B fine over the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing.
- “Usual suspects”: Not sure who to go with here, but National Review Online has a nice example from Tuesday, with Andrew McCarthy offering up a hagiographic review of Ledeen’s book.
As long as we’re evaluating Rubin’s story, we should also check out Rubin’s own followup posting from Tuesday (in which he points to a Newsweek article from AEI fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht as the beginning of the “war rollout”), and also from Tuesday, Spencer Ackerman’s report of a conversation with Rubin in TPMmuckraker. That item said that “Rubin said he didn’t know specifically that Gerecht was part of the campaign, but he pointed to the argument as fitting neatly within the pattern.” Rubin also cited the AEI panel discussion on Ledeen’s book, and mentioned another event scheduled for that day, in which Newt Gingrich will give a speech on how “it has been almost six years since the attacks of 9/11, and the United States has yet to confront the threat posed by the irreconcilable wing of Islam.”
So, summing it all up, what’s the verdict? Did the predicted onslaught of pro-Iran-war items appear in the echo chamber? Well, sort of. Most of the listed outlets did indeed run something prominent in the course of the week. And to be fair, Rubin said this would just be the opening act, with the big push timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 next week. Playing devil’s advocate, though, a lot of this week’s activity seems to be coordinated with the rollout of Ledeen’s book, which would have been fairly predictable in advance, even without top seekrit inside information about Darth Cheney having instructed his minions to make a push at this time. But that predictability cuts both ways: knowing that the book was due to come out, Cheney could indeed have put the word out that now was the time to push the story. Or, knowing that a flurry of book-related activity was due to happen, Rubin could have pushed an invented story about Cheney being behind it, knowing that events would bear him out, at least in the eyes of the paranoid.
I guess I’m left pretty much where I started. Which is pretty typical for the real world, which only rarely reveals itself all at once, in dramatic fashion.