The other day, two allies of Donald Rumsfeld spoke to US News, to trash the Pulitzer committee for awarding an investigative reporting prize to the New York Times’ David Barstow, for his story on the Pentagon’s use of retired military analysts to publicly cheerlead for the Iraq war.
“Does the Pulitzer give prizes for works of fiction? Perhaps they just got the wrong category,” scoffed former Pentagon Assistant Secretary Dorrance Smith.
A current spokesman for Rumsfeld, Keith Urbahn, told Bedard: “The Times’s reporting on DoD’s routine outreach to military experts didn’t merit a place in the paper, much less a Pulitzer.”
Referring to a report released in January by the Pentagon inspector general’s office, which largely exonerated the department, Urbahn added: “Between the New York Times and the Pentagon’s inspector general office, it’s pretty clear which is a more credible and non-partisan source.”
Indeed it is. Yesterday, as we’ve noted, the IG’s office withdrew that report, saying it had found “inaccuracies”, and that it “did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.”
We wondered whether that news changed the opinions of Smith and Urbahn. But neither one of them has responded to our requests for comment.
It’s also worth noting — especially since Bedard didn’t — that Smith’s shots at Barstow and the Pulitzer judges were in large part efforts to defend himself. That same IG report, which Smith refused to be interviewed for, found that Smith himself was a key proponent of the program, helping to strengthen and focus it after being named the head of the Pentagon’s public relations operation in 2006.
We’ll let you know if Smith or Urbahn get back to us, but we’re not holding our collective breath.
Urbahn still hasn’t responded to us, but he has to US News, telling the magazine:
Since the New York Times got a Pulitzer for its discredited reporting, perhaps the administration deserves Olympic gold for its latest backflip. Typical for the Obama administration, this is a ‘change’ we can’t believe in.
It’s hard to parse this, since it makes no attempt to address the substance of the issue and reads as if carefully written by someone in training for a job as a Republican campaign press secretary circa 2004. But we think that by “backflip”, Urbahn is trying to say this is a flip-flop by the Obama administration, though how this would work when the IG report was released before President Bush left office, we’re not sure. It’s also unclear in what sense the Times’ reporting has been “discredited,” given that the IG report has been withdrawn.