Sunday, May 26, 2002
Drudge's story is itself the story.
According to "one senior Bush official, who spoke to the DRUDGE REPORT on condition of anonymity", the "White House question[s] the timing and release of PARAMOUNT's new action movie SUM OF ALL FEARS ... a movie which depicts a nuclear bomb unleashed on an American sporting event!"
I'm inclined to believe it's true that a "senior Bush official" spoke to Drudge, simply because Drudge tries to cover his ass. He'll happily report rumors and anonymous statements from other people, no matter how far-fetched, but he is unlikely to fabricate a story out of thin air. Besides, the Bush Administration would be all over him if he actually made up the story, and Drudge has no reason to burn any bridges with a Republican administration.
That being said, I'm trying to figure out what the objective would be for a "senior Bush official" to make the statement in the first place. The Bush Administration obviously can't prevent the movie from being released, and it would be pilloried if it openly tried or even advocated such a blatant act of censorship. Leaking an anonymous statement to Drudge gives the Bush Administration plausible deniability, to deflect charges of censorship. After all, the Democrats and the liberal media can't make that big a deal over an anonymous unconfirmed statement, especially since they've so frequently attacked Drudge's credibility in the past.
But again, what's the point of the statement? What could the Administration hope to gain? Any substantial controversy will merely give the movie extra publicity, thereby boosting interest and box office receipts. Could that in reality be the goal? The Administration has been issuing a lot of terrorism warnings recently. (Bush opponents speculate all these warnings are merely to distract attention from other issues, like CIA / FBI pre-911 failures.) Could this be an attempt to focus public attention on the dangers of a terrorist nuclear attack, maybe to build up momentum for a war against Iraq?
If so, we should expect this Drudge report to trigger questions at Ari Fleisher's next press briefing, which Fleisher will respond to in a manner vague enough to maintain plausible deniability but couched in such a way as to feed the controversy.