American pundits have an unusual profession; it is one of the only careers in which repeated, catastrophic, and humiliating failures seem to do nothing to prevent one from continuing to find work. Just ask Dick Morris.
The media’s tendency to forgive blown predictions and provide airtime and column inches to guests with little to no remaining credibility has become particularly offensive since the Iraq situation rapidly devolved into crisis. Despite the fact that those who made the case for the war helped end thousands of lives and waste trillions of dollars, many of those who have been proven to understand nothing of the country have been welcomed back as “experts” on the disaster.
Here are five of the worst offenders:
On Friday, Fox News contributor Judith Miller took it upon herself to criticize the media’s coverage of the situation in Iraq.
“There have been a couple of reporters who have stayed in Iraq, who have been covering the growing power of ISIS…but the American media are so busy playing the blame game, ‘who’s responsible for this debacle,’ that they don’t even pay attention to a story that was there, and available for all to cover,” Miller complained.
“Did the media buy the line from the administration?” host Eric Shawn later asked Miller.
“It’s really a failure — another, yet another — failure of reporting,” Miller said.
This is, as The Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson deftly put it, “a turn of events that could signal the departure of all irony from the world.” After all, through her catastrophically flawed reporting in the buildup to the war, Miller arguably did more than anyone alive to advance the myth that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. It would be almost impossible to find someone less qualified to criticize journalists for their Iraq reporting.
Douglas Feith, who served as the undersecretary of defense for policy during the Bush administration, ripped President Obama’s approach to Iraq in comments to Politico on Thursday:
“This is the education of Barack Obama, but it’s coming at a very high cost to the Syrian people, to the Iraqi people [and] to the American national interest,” said Doug Feith, a top Pentagon official during the George W. Bush administration.
“They were pretty blasé,” Feith said of the Obama team. “The president didn’t take seriously the warnings of what would happen if we withdrew and he liked the political benefits of being able to say that we’re completely out.”
While credulously quoting Feith’s opinion on the situation in Iraq, Politico declined to note that Feith was in charge of postwar planning after President Bush declared the fiasco to be “Mission Accomplished.” It did not go well.
Rather than being presented as an expert on how the president should manage the crisis in Iraq, Feith may be better remembered as he was once described by retired general Tommy Franks: “The dumbest fucking guy on the planet.”
On Sunday, NBC’s Meet The Press invited former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz to argue, essentially, that we should have stayed in Iraq for decades.
“We stuck with the Kurds through 20 years. Northern Iraq, Kurdistan’s a success story. We stuck with South Korea for 60 years. South Korea is a miracle story. But if we had walked away from South Korea in 1953, that country was a basketcase,” he said.
Wolfowitz is another odd choice for an Iraq expert, considering that — like most of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration’s Pentagon — he has a remarkable record of being wrong about almost everything related to the war.
It’s not like Wolfowitz doesn’t know that it was a catastrophe; when MSNBC’s Chuck Todd introduced him as the “architect” of the 2003 invasion during yet another talking-head appearance on Tuesday, Wolfowitz immediately pushed back.
“If I had been the architect, things would have been run very differently,” he insisted. “So, that’s not a correct label.”
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol has a long and well-earned reputation for being America’s least accurate pundit (non-Dick Morris division). But the nadir of his busted analysis centered around the Iraq War, for which he fully embraced the flawed case. Kristol claimed at various points that “American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators” and that “there’s almost no evidence” that the country’s Sunni and Shia populations might clash, among many, many other false assertions.
That still didn’t stop ABC’s This Week from inviting Kristol to analyze the current situation in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, he blamed President Obama:
“It’s a disaster made possible by our ridiculous and total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011,” he argued. Kristol added that President Obama was wrong when he declared the war was over.
“President Obama said two days before election day, in 2012, Iraq is on the path of defeat, the war in Iraq is over. That was enough to get him re-elected. Iraq is on the path of defeat. Neither is true. It’s a disaster for our country,” Kristol said.
Perhaps no supporter of the Iraq War has been more shameless in his criticism of President Obama than his opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
“Lindsey Graham and John McCain were right,” the Arizona senator boasted of himself and his South Carolina colleague on the Senate floor. “Our failure to leave forces on Iraq is why Sen. Graham and I predicted this would happen.”
“We had it won,” McCain later said during one of his many cable news appearances. “General Petraeus had the conflict won, thanks to the surge. If we had left a residual force behind, we would not be facing the crisis we are today. Those are fundamental facts … The fact is, we had the conflict won. We had a stable government … But the president wanted out, and now, we are paying a very heavy price. And I predicted it in 2011.”
As MSNBC’s All In with Chis Hayes recently illustrated, McCain doesn’t exactly have the best record on the topic. Much like Kristol, McCain was certain that Iraq had WMD, that Americans would be greeted as liberators, that the war would essentially pay for itself, and that sectarian violence in the country would never ignite:
Don’t expect the Arizona Republican to evolve on the issue, by the way; he’s too busy knocking the president to bother attending Senate hearings on the crisis.