The real October surprise may have taken place in November — on November 3, to be exact, when Vanity Fair issued a press release from its January 2007 issue detailing a neoconservative blame game. That’s right: January 2007. That kind of detail was lost in the uproar; after all, here was definitive proof that leading neocons were (a) souring on the Iraq war and (b) blaming George W. Bush. I must confess, when I read the Agence France Presse story, that I took the bait willingly and completely. It sounded like a rattling good read. Except, as it turns out, there was as yet no story. There was only a press release.
And a promise: the subjects that Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose interviewed for the story were promised the story would come out only in January — that is, after the elections. They have since denounced the magazine’s transparent attempt to influence the mid-term vote, in an online symposium conducted by another, more congenial magazine.
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, who had perhaps the most controversial quote, fulminated:
There has been a lot of talk this season about deceptive campaign ads, but the most dishonest document I have seen is this press release from Vanity Fair, highlighted on the Drudge Report. Headlined “Now They Tell Us,” it purports to offer an “exclusive” access to “remorseful” former supporters of the Iraq war who will now “play the blame game” with “shocking frankness.”
He repeats the offending quote (among others), which reads:
"I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."
Then he sketches in the context he said Vanity Fair left out completely:
And when I talked in the second quotation about “persuading the president,” I was repeating this point, advanced here [in the National Review] last month. In past administrations, the battle for the president’s words was a battle for administration policy. But because Bush’s National Security Council malfunctioned so badly, the president could say things without action following – because the mechanism for enforcing his words upon the bureaucracy had broken.
In short, Vanity Fair transformed a Washington debate over “how to correct course and win the war” to advance obsessions all their own.
P.S. Frum does not exactly let his president off the hook, does he?