Jon Stewart and former New York Times national security writer Judith Miller debated Miller’s controversial pre-Iraq War reporting in an extended two-part interview on the Daily Show on Wednesday:
Miller reported extensively and largely credulously before the war on the ultimately disproven allegations that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were building weapons of massive destruction, and her new book, The Story, discusses and defends that work. Stewart, well-known as a critic of the Bush administration’s misleading Iraq rhetoric, pressed her on that defense in a 20-minute-plus exchange that was respectful but contentious.
Miller continues to believe, it appears, that the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq was a genuine reaction to intelligence rather than, as many have said, a decision that was made very quickly after 9/11 and then retroactively justified by selective public discussion of questionably credible information. Her position might have best been summarized during an exchange over a prominent story about alleged Iraqi nuclear ambitions: “Jon, were we not supposed to report what it was that had the community, the intelligence community, so nervous about Saddam? Were we supposed to keep that from the American people?”
Stewart argued that Miller’s reporting conveyed only one side of the intelligence issue in a way that was consistently useful to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld: “The standard of proof in all this seems much higher on the side of ‘this is not an issue and [Iraq] is not a threat’ and much lower on the side of [the administration’s position]...you're being fed.”
Earlier in the interview, Stewart asked Miller if she thought she had been manipulated. “All journalists are manipulated and all politicians lie,” she said. But to this day, it seems, she does not believe that the Bush administration lied to her—or that she, and other reporters, were taken for dupes in the months and years before the invasion of Iraq.