Friday, April 27, 2007

Slam Dunk or PowerPoint Dribble?

The news is full of revelations today from former CIA chief George Tenet, who claims that his comment that the case for the presence of weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk" was taken out of context, and that it actually referred to the efficacy of the administration's rhetorical presentation on the subject not to the actual evidence supporting the argument. Maybe I've said too much about the political uses of PowerPoint, as has my colleague Ellen Strenski, but I can't help but assume that the Microsoft product was the tool being used for the Iraq invasion pitch, apparently with unsatisfactory results in this particular case, according to Tenet. I also wonder if it was a trial run for the famed PowerPoint presentation of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N.

When General Jay Garner gave a PowerPoint presentation in 2003 about the need for more U.S. troops to police mean streets in Iraq, he was given a "rousing send-off" by the President after no questions were asked by his staff; later he was replaced by anti-Baathist ideologue Paul Bremer.

AP reports in today's New York Times the official admission that the "White House Held GOP Prospect Briefings" in which partisan PowerPoint presentations were shown to political appointees in the powerful General Services Administration, and the Office of Special Counsel is apparently investigating potential political cronyism. In an earlier editorial against "PowerPoint Politicking on the Job," the Times describes the electronic slideshow of an aide to Karl Rove via videoconference as "outrageous."

Correction: I read the key section of Tenet's book. Apparently the presentation in question simply involved conventional visual aids, which were presented by an assistant. Perhaps the form as well as the content may have spurred White House rejection.

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