National Review: WashPost Baghdad Bureau Chief Full of Errors, Bias

Over at The Corner, Andy McCarthy goes on the warpath against Rajiv Chandasekaran (who later appeared on MSNBC's Hardball), the Washington Post's Baghdad Bureau Chief, in particular a Page One excerpt on Sunday from his anti-war book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" dealing with Simone Ledeen, the daughter of Michael Ledeen of AEI and National Review: 

Chandrasekaran writes: “The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator … [was] tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though [she] didn't have a background in accounting.”

This is just disgraceful.

Simone did not manage any budget in Iraq. She executed the budget, which was actually managed by her superiors. Moreover, Simone was highly qualified to do this work. She had an extensive background in accounting, including a master's degree in business administration.

And now, even after having been set straight, Chandrasekaran is still unwilling or unable to get his facts right. Today, the Post grudgingly concedes error:

A Sept. 17 article incorrectly said that one person who helped manage Iraq's budget had no background in accounting. The woman, described as the daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator, has a background in accounting but lacked experience managing the finances of a large organization.

Great … except the self-justification offered by Chandrasekaran for his scew-up is just as wrong as the screw-up was. Again, it was not Simone’s job to “manage the finances of a large organization,” but rather to carry out the initiatives of those who were managing the finances. Why, under the circumstances, should it have mattered that this woman with accounting skills and an MBA had never managed the finances of a large organization? Would it be worth a moment of the Post's attention if she were not the daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator?

But let’s leave transparent bias and rudimentary error aside. Although Chandrasekaran is actually a year behind Simone in the sense of having graduated from college the year after she did, he was elevated by the Post to the position of Baghdad Bureau Chief. That is, while Simone was serving her country, in that same dangerous place, by doing such scut work as making sure officials there got paid, Chandrasekaran was given the awesome responsibility of shaping world opinion against the war.

I wonder what Chandrasekaran would say if someone had the temerity to suggest, in a page-one extravaganza for a famous, widely-read publication, that, regardless of his qualifications, family or political connections must have been why he got his more glamorous job at such a young age. I imagine he would indignantly insist he was there based on merit and experience.

On that score, Simone tells me that Chandrasekaran never called her for comment or to check on the accuracy of his story. I don’t pretend ever to have been a reporter, but isn’t that pretty basic reporter work? And if he didn’t want to pick up the phone for some reason, a simple Google check would have turned up Simone’s background credentials. Isn’t that pretty basic reporter work?

Chandrasekaran’s scurrilous suggestion is that Simone was not sufficiently steeped in the background skills required for the job she very ably performed. Exactly what skills is one supposed to master before being made a bureau chief at the Washington Post?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis