John Leo

Word for word. Another example of an easy-to-tell but misleading story is criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney for saying on "Meet the Press" back on March 16: "We believe (Saddam) has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Several commentators savaged Cheney. But as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh argues persuasively, if you look at the entire transcript, it's clear that Cheney was saying that Saddam would try to reconstitute his nuclear program.

If Saddam remained in power and the world looked the other way, Cheney said, we would have to assume he will "once again (be) reconstituting his nuclear program." Cheney made many references like this to the reasonable assumption that Saddam will again seek nuclear weapons. He misspoke once, saying "reconstituted nuclear weapons" instead of "reconstituting his nuclear program."

A good number of Internet commentators noticed this issue and called attention to the misreading of what Cheney was rather obviously saying. But several columnists on the left, who apparently did not bother to check the transcript, got it wrong and denounced Cheney for spreading false information.

Somerby's charge that reporters, after they make overall judgments, look for stories that illustrate their "global belief" is exactly what many Americans worry about. It is on our minds now as we receive a steady flow of unsettling news reports about things deteriorating in Iraq. The daily casualty reports provided by the Pentagon are real. But readers and viewers wonder whether the overall situation is as bad as some reporters are portraying it.

Many Vietnam-era reporters think the United States shouldn't be in Iraq and are drawn to stories that illustrate their feelings. To wit: A few Iraqi citizens angrily spurn the frozen chickens distributed by U.S. officials while an American soldier is interviewed saying he has lost faith in his military leaders and thinks Rumsfeld should resign. True stories. But is this news, or is it opinion by selective anecdote?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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