At the Associated Press Sunday evening, White House Correspondent Julie Pace's coverage of President Obama's Oval Office address was predictably weak.
One could cite at least a half-dozen problems with Pace's story, but two of them were particularly disingenuous.
The first howler concerned the President's advocacy, repeated in his Sunday address, that "Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun." The President wondered, "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?"
Pace went along with the Obama administration's line, making sure that readers believe that this is an entirely partisan, left-right issue (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Obama stands little chance of getting the Republican-led Congress to agree to any gun control measures. On Thursday, the Senate rejected legislation barring people suspected by the government of being terrorists from purchasing firearms. Gun rights advocates say such a ban would violate the rights of people who haven't been convicted of crimes.
Pace's contention, and Obama's feigned ignorance as to how anyone could possibly oppose the idea, are both fundamentally dishonest.
The ACLU, which is not exactly known as a bastion of right-wing or gun-rights advocacy, has strongly opposed using the no-fly list as a basis for denying a person a right to buy a gun for over five years. Its statement on the matter on May 5, 2010 could hardly have been stronger, as seen in this key paragraph from its "Written Statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs":
We write today about the use of terror watch lists to screen gun purchases. The ACLU believes that the current terror watch list process is deeply flawed. Evidence from numerous government reports document ill-designed and inaccurate lists with serious inadequacies in the process for placing and removing individuals from the list. Even worse, the lists are shrouded in secrecy: who is on the list, the standard for placement on the list, and the requirements for removal from the list are all secret. Given these problems, we do not believe that anyone should be deprived of the right to purchase a gun, or the right to fly, or any other benefit of membership in civil society based solely on placement on a terror watch list.
Opposition to using the no-fly list as a basis for denying gun purchases and/or ownership comes from across the political spectrum. Barack Obama knows this. Julie Pace should know this. The American people deserve to know this.
The second major problem with Pace's coverage was her attempt to limit the damage of a damning statement President Obama made several weeks ago, namely his contention that "we have contained" ISIS (or ISIL, as the President and him administration prefer to call it).
Pace's recall is ironic, given that her colleague Ken Thomas went out of his way to avoid reporting Obama's mid-November statement when he made it.
President Obama didn't repeat his haughty mid-November boast Sunday night, instead referring repeatedly to steps being taken with the objective of "destroying ISIL."
But Pace was still lined up on defense. Here's what she wrote Sunday night:
Obama has insisted that the Islamic State is contained in Iraq and Syria. However, the group has set its sights elsewhere in the world, launching attacks in Lebanon and Turkey and downing a Russia airliner over Egypt.
Pace wants us to believe that Obama was only referring to Iraq and Syria, where ISIS/ISIL is supposedly genuinely "contained," and that he wasn't referring to any other part of the world. So get off his back already.
That's not true, but beyond that, people in the know who are advising the President have told him that ISIS/ISIL isn't even "contained" in Syria and Iraq.
Julie Pace should have known that when she wrote up her coverage of Obama's speech. That's because on Sunday afternoon, former AP colleague Kimberly Dozier, who knows far more about what's going on in the Middle East than Pace will ever know, delivered the following damning bombshell at the Daily Beast:
U.S. Intel to Obama: ISIS Is Not Contained
A new U.S. intelligence report on ISIS, commissioned by the White House, predicts that the self-proclaimed Islamic State will spread worldwide and grow in numbers, unless it suffers a significant loss of territory on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast.
The report stands in stark contrast to earlier White House assurances that ISIS had been "contained" in Iraq and Syria. And it is already spurring changes in how the U.S. grapples with ISIS, these officials said.
It’s also a tacit admission that coalition efforts so far – dropping thousands of bombs and deploying 3,500 U.S. troops as well as other coalition trainers -- have been outpaced by ISIS’ ability to expand and attract new followers, even as the yearlong coalition air campaign has helped local forces drive ISIS out of parts of Iraq and Syria.
Pace's reliance on Obama's weeks-old statement and failure to relay what Dozier reported fits a pattern of overt and admitted cooperation with the White House to help it achieve its goals. This has become more obvious than ever in the past two years — for a reason.
We should never forget that the Associated Press willingly complied with Obama administration requests to keep knowledge of its secret talks with Iranian leaders out of the news for eight months in 2013. Pace went on Fox News Sunday in late November of that year to brag about what the AP had known all along but kept under wraps. This effort constituted a deliberate shielding of important news from the public the AP is supposed to serve until the Obama administration gave the all-clear. The wire service originally vehemently denied that it had complied with White House requests, instead claiming that it didn't have sufficient sourcing to justify reporting the news. Unfortunately for AP but quite fortunately for the historical record, a reporter at another publication confirmed that "we both had versions of it independently & were asked not to publish it until end of Iran talks."
The AP's acquiescence to administration requests concerning the secret Iran talks in 2013 has since given it a vested interest in portraying administration efforts throughout the Middle East in a positive light, regardless of the reality. It has arguably compromised the credibility of its reporting in matters relating at least to the region, and possibly to all matters relating to worldwide radical Islamic terrorism, for the remainder of the Obama administration's tenure.
This compromised status explains why the wire service, more properly referred to as the Administration's Press, delivered yet another example of awful journalism Sunday evening.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.