Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Why do we need to see the tape?

Several prominent bloggers have written that they want to reserve judgment on Eason Jordan's Davos comments until they see the tape. Although it now appears that the tape will never be made available, I don't understand why we need it. Eason is obviously guilty be his own actions (or rather lack thereof).

The various witness reports are all consistent on what happened with the exception of Jordan himself (whose story keeps changing) and one of his allies who was apparently actively supporting him during the conference when the comments were made. But we really don't need to worry that much about the exact words Jordan used. We only need to look at what David Gergen did and what Barney Frank asked for.

Everyone agrees that David Gergen shut down the discussion because the US military was not there to defend itself. What more does anyone need? Whatever rowback Jordan alleges he made after his initial inflammatory charges, it obviously wasn't enough to clear the air. After a lot of discussion, it was still Gergen's impression that Jordan was making such serious charges that the military should be afforded a chance to defend itself. And of course, no one has denied that Jordan was treated as a hero by the anti-American contingent after Gergen shut down the panel.

Second, after Jordan had finished his remarks (including his alleged rowback) Barney Frank expected him to provide evidence to substantiate the charges. Obviously, Eason's rowback hadn't taken very much back.

Our justice system asks jurors to determine the facts every day in cases which have no tape to go back and inspect. Just like a jury, we have a sizeable group of witnesses (many of whom are liberal and Jordan friends) who agree on the pertinent details. More importantly, we have the uncontroverted fact that the panel was shut down because the military wasn't there to respond.

What more do you need to know? Eason Jordan cannot hide behind an explanation that he was misunderstood. Because the fact of the "misunderstanding" was obvious to him the moment that his friend David Gergen shut down the panel. The anti-American crowd was telling him he's a hero. Gergen had made it clear that he had put allegations out on the table that demanded a response from the military. And Barney Frank was demanding that he provide the evidence.

If Jordan had truly been misunderstood, he had to be aware of it right then. It was clear to everyone, including him, that he had been understood to have accused the military of targeting journalists. If this really was a misunderstanding, and he did not want the crowd at Davos to believe that he was making that accusation, he would have immediately put out a statement correcting the misunderstanding. He would have contacted Gergen and Frank to set them straight. But he didn't.

And the fact that he didn't correct the alleged "misunderstanding" is every bit as damning as the original accusation. Regardless of whatever words were actually used during the panel discussion by Eason Jordan, there is no question that he left Davos knowing that listeners from around the world understood that he had accused the US military of atrocities. And he didn't bother to try to correct that understanding.

Even if we were to believe everything Eason Jordan has said about being misunderstood (which I don't), he stands convicted by his own inaction.


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