Frank Howard, the football coach at Clemson decades ago, once defined the college football fan as a 40 year old man who screams at a 20 year old for not completing a 50 yard pass, and after the game can’t find his car in the parking lot. Although the age angle doesn’t apply, I sometimes have similar thoughts about the MSM, some of whose mainstays criticize the administration for, say, not figuring out in advance the nature and intensity of the post-war insurgency in Iraq, while they themselves struggle to get the basic facts of a simple story right.
I had that thought again in connection with the piece in Sunday’s Washington Post by Rajiv Chandrasekaran about our efforts to reconstruct Iraq. In addition to the flaws in Chandrasekaran’s story noted here and here, Andrew McCarthy points out that the author couldn’t get basic facts right about the role and credentials of Simone Ledeen (the daughter of our friend Michael Ledeen). Chandrasekaran wrote: “The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator … [was] tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though [she] didn’t have a background in accounting.” In fact, though, Ms. Ledeen did not manage any budget in Iraq. As McCarthy notes, “she executed the budget, which was actually managed by her superiors.” Moreover, says McCarthy, she was well qualified to do this work, having an extensive background in accounting, including a master’s degree in business administration.
The Post issued a grudging correction. The correction acknowledged that Ledeen had a background in accounting but reiterated that she lacked experience managing the finances of a large organization. But, again, Ledeen did not manage finances in Iraq — she simply carried out the initiatives of those who did manage those finances.
Finally, according to McCarthy, Ms. Ledeen says that Chandrasekaran never called her to check on the [mis]information he was about to report. Had he done so, of course, he could have avoided the errors, both corrected and uncorrected, that appeared in his piece.
Part of Chandrasekaran’s criticism of the reconstruction is that our administrators were lazy and ill-informed. Can the same be said about an author who failed to check basic facts in his story and, consequently, got them wrong?