Thursday, June 22, 2006

Byron York on Senate Intelligence Committee's Investigation of Pre-War Intelligence

This is interesting, even if it does come from NRO.

Few quick points:

Note the initial Republican complaint: that the fact that they "don't have a majority" on the committee--because two of the Republicans in their majority sometimes fail to toe the party line--means that they are at a disadvantage. So this is what it's come to: Republicans are so used to holding every last one of the cards on Capitol Hill that merely having a majority actually counts as a disadvantage if some of the members of that majority aren't complete partisan hacks. The mind reels.

One can't, of course, trust The National Review about such matters, so I ignored his synopsis of the committee's alleged findings to date.

But the second really stunning thing reported here is that--and, again, we have to consider the source and take this with a grain of salt--the Democrats refused to evaluate statements about pre-war intelligence blind. That is, they refuse to assess the accuracy of statements (in light of then-existing intelligence) without knowing who made them. This refusal is absurd.

Of course that's the way this should be done. It's as close to doing a blind study as we can get in such matters. Democrats should jump at the opportunity to have blind evaluation, and the fact that they are opposed to this probably indicates that they are afraid of an objective assessment. Or, worse, that they plan to cheat by spinning the statements or the evidence.

Those of us who more or less count ourselves as Democrats should not stand for this. We should insist that the committee do blind evaluations of the relevant statements. What we want is a maximally accurate and maximally authoritative report on the use of pre-war intelligence. Unless there's something I'm missing here, the best way to do that is by having individual statements evaluated blindly.

I'm convinced enough that intelligence was spun that I have absolutely no fear whatsoever of a maximally objective inquiry into the matter. If I'm right, I want this confirmed, and if I'm wrong I want to know about it.

In fact, I hope I'm wrong. Otherwise these are dark, dark days for America.



13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with a blind assessment per se - I'm sure Clinton, Gore, Biden, Murtha, etc., all said at sometime that Saddam had had, or might still have, or currently did have WMDs. And from the standpoint of purely evaluating who said what when, they're purely as guilty as Bush, Cheney, etc.

However, I think the real problem with a blind assessment is that the initial pool of statements and the resulting analysis of the results could both be twisted to de-emphasize the administrations' mistakes. For example, let's say the initial pool of quotes is divided 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. Even assuming the blind analysis finds that the quotes coming from the Republicans showed significantly more bias towards overselling WMD claims, I have no doubt the resulting report would be written along the lines of "Congressional Report Shows Republicans and Democrats Were Both Mistaken about WMDs."

Would that be a true statement? Certainly. But the report will be flawed unless it spends most of its time on what the administration was doing and saying, because it was the administration was the one primarily responsible for overseeing the intelligence process, the one responsible for figuring out what got shared with Congress and what didn't, and most importantly, the one making the push for war to begin with. Any report that doesn't focus on that will be virtually useless as anything but another piece of fluff data "exonerating" the Bush admin.

Now, that said, writing the report that needs to be written isn't entirely incompatible with the idea of doing blind tests, if the initial pool of quotes is properly balanced to begin with, and if the investigators are clear on what they're supposed to be investigating in the first place. But absent those kind of assurances from the Republicans (and given Republican acquiescence to the White House as of late, the assurances themselves would have to be somewhat suspect) I can see why the Democrats would be wary about this one.

3:55 PM  
Blogger John Callender said...

Well, and it's really unreasonable to give Pat Roberts (R-KS), the chairman of the committee, the benefit of the doubt at this point. He's demonstrated many, many times that he's pursuing this investigation in the most partisan manner possible. While blind assessment of statements would be great in the context of a truly objective analysis, what we have here bears no real relationship to objective analysis. So personally, I have a hard time faulting the Democrats on the committee from treating it as an adversary proceeding, in which every step that might help Roberts to achieve a whitewash of the Bush administration's prewar statements (which is what Roberts' call for blind evaluations amounts to) should be resisted.

The only way the Senate intel committee, or congress generally, will do any real digging into the Bush team's dishonest case for war will be if Democrats get a majority in one or both houses. And I'm not saying that because I believe Democrats to be inherently more honest and trustworthy than Republicans; in fact, when you get to the level of the nationally elected leadership, I don't think that's true, or at least not dramatically so.

Democratic politicians are dishonest. Republican politicians are dishonest. But both sides have an interest in exposing and thwarting the worst excesses of the other side, if only to make their own dishonestly look better by comparison. The things the Bush team has gotten away with over the last 5 years are a really clear example of the evils of not having any meaningful checks and balances operating in the federal government, and Roberts' leadership of the intel committee is a case in point.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

We were talking about this same stuff last November on this very blog.

In the comments section, I wrote on what I found out about the "who screwed up Pearl Harbor" investigations during WWII. They were still at it in the 1990s.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

One can't, of course, trust The National Review about such matters...

You can't trust anybody on any matter. (Sometimes nobody thought of a key point.)

But, WS, you asked a long time ago for a reliable voice from the right, and I can't think of anything else that has survived the trial by fire that NR has over the last 50 years. Everyone outside their choir was (and is) gunning for them. With that in mind, getting the facts right is paramount.

I'll put their record on accuracy up against that of The New York Times' anyday, by a factor of 10, and that of National Review Online above anyone in the blogosphere.

I realize that to the unsophisticated mind that means I'm putting them forth as infallible and divine authority.

Nah. I disagree with 'em all the time. But I do believe they fact-check and back-check on the epistemology part. They're too vulnerable in literate society not to.

Remember, these were the guys who fired Ann Coulter.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Oh, man, I couldn't disagree more. Most of what I read in NR strikes as being fairly pure ideological hackery. I've given 'em lots of chances, too...

Firing Ann Coulter hardly gains you any points in my book... She's such a psycho that only the most shameless hacks would hire her. So I guess that puts NR above, say, The Weekly Standard...but that's nothing to crow about...

Reason is actually pretty damn good...but it's more libertarian.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone wanting a clear measure of "accurate" the analysis at NR or NRO is, particularly on economic matters can google "National Review" and "Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal" and see what you get.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I was speaking of epistemology, of NR's record with the facts. They try very hard to get 'em right.

Analyses will vary.

Brad DeLong? He's a nobody with a blog. The least you could do is quote Paul Krugman.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

well, their analysis makes no effort whatsoever to get things right. It's all spin all the time. That chunk of the political spectrum has always had an exceptionally difficult time admitting error...and that makes good analysis almost impossible.

As for just getting the descriptions right...well, maybe but I doubt it.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try, but you're going to have to at least learn some rudimentary economics in order to judge for yourself, not crib from some half-baked critique of DeLong, a *nobody* who was an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, research associate of the NBER and an editor of The Economists Voice.

Incidentally, your friends at NR gave away the game when they said it was "a matter of accounting, not theory". Accounting standards bear no necessary resemblance to international trade balances. Hell, they don't even necessarily bear any resemblance to price, earnings and share valuations.

"When the consumer borrows to buy the car.." somehow becomes a funding source for savings. How does this pass even the most elemental laugh test? I guess by this logic, if I run up the Visa card to its limit, I'm actually somehow contributing to my retirement fund because I'm "saving". Yes, they are trading us an item, but it's a consumible, and they're lending us the money. So consider this: if I lend you a sum of money, and secure the promise that I will be repaid WITH INTEREST, who exactly is doing the saving, and who is doing the spending?

Furthermore, these peoples' definition of national savings = private savings (from the prior, referenced article) makes sense ONLY IF no one will ask the government to honor its debt. Their ignoring of the fact that the Germans have sold us the car for an IOU makes sense if they intend to shred the dollar receipts after we drive off with the Mercedes. *National savings* is properly defined as private savings =/- government surplus/debt. We're all responsble for that government debt; therefore government debt lowers overall *national savings* if it isn't replaced with corresponding private savings, which is the case when it's financed by foreign loans.

You can either bone up on actual economics or continue to just cite NR in an attempt to score economic points, a losing proposition if ever there was one.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Nah. I don't vouch for all their analyses, just that they try to be straight-up with the facts.

That's it. That's all I was saying, OK?

Brad DeLong admittedly has a few credentials. But as an influential economist, he's just a blogger, and one with some very poor manners.

Using him as some sort of authority to discredit NR is meaningless.

And neither do I necessarily put NRO forth as an authority on economics. Everybody's got a few credentials and a lot of opinions.

In fact, the economists on my groupblog, Alan Reynolds and Ben Zycher, make 'em all look sick. They're actually in the game, not on the sidelines.

2:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't need Brad DeLong or any other economist to discredit NR; it does that all by itself.

It could enlist reputable economic thinkers of the right like Greg Mankiw, Glenn Hubbard and Paul Craig Roberts. But instead, it more often relies on economic illiterates like Larry Kudlow and Donald Luskin.

Given that, it adds little or nothing to the economic conversation.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Perhaps true. The great gain in tax revenues from Reaganomics could be attributed to a Keynesian effect of the accompanying large deficits.

I see Mankiw is a "neo-Keynesian." In that case, I suppose the tax cuts work either way.

Hubbard and Mankiw have both served in the Bush admisnistration, so NR is apparently not the last word in GOP economic politics. (Since he called for Bush's impeachment, I don't expect Roberts will get an invite.)

But I have noticed that economists on the whole are, to use my word of the week, a little bit wack.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes, that great gain in tax revenues from Reaganomics:

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/TaxFacts/TFDB/TFTemplate.cfm?Docid=203

Where, exactly, is that mythical "gain in tax revenues from Reaganomics? Hm? Taxes were cut in 1981 (except for the payroll tax, which was increased), and raised in 1982 and 1984. Changes were also made in '86 which were in theory "revenue neutral". What exactly is *Reaganomics* then?

And I know spending increased as well, but this pretty much speaks for itself:

http://maxspeak.org/mt/archives/002309.html

11:15 PM  

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