Saturday, May 31, 2008

After Scotty: The Tom Brokaws of the world ask, How could we have known?, while the Bush kooks crawl out of the woodwork to denounce the traitor

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"Regardless of whether McClellan is right about [the media] not pushing back hard enough or even, as my friend thereisnospoon says, what they reported after he stonewalled them (although it is an excellent point) . . . there are still so many abuses and lies and stories that they should be reporting on and are not."
-- clammyc, in his Daily Kos diary yesterday,
"While 'defending its honor,' MSM still dropping the ball"

"There's the loyalty trade-off for you: On the one hand, [Bernie] Kerik did a terrible job in a critical assignment in Iraq, allowed himself to be nominated to a hugely important post for which he was ill qualified and showed a stupendous lack of interest in ethical considerations when he served in New York City.

"On the plus side, he will never, ever write a tell-all memoir about any of the great men he has served."

"While the bracing effects of being pushed out of his job have helped [Scott] McClellan face reality, clarity might have come earlier if he'd just been more canny about personal relationships. His White House career could have been so different if, when Bush started babbling about W.M.D.'s in Iraq, McClellan reminded himself that this was coming from a guy who couldn't remember what drugs he had ingested."


-- Gail Collins, in her NYT column today, "What George Forgot"


It occurs to me that I may have been underestimating what poor Scotty McClellan's revelations have to tell us.

Oh, not poor Scotty's revelations themselves. I'm thinking of the reaction to them, in particular among the two groups who feel most challenged by poor Scotty's shocking revelation of, well, stuff we've known for some time now.


(1)
FIRST, THERE ARE THE MEDIA HORDES WHO SCREWED
UP BACK THEN -- JUST LIKE THEY'RE SCREWING UP NOW


Even some of the media mensches who actually got the story right are up in arms about poor Scotty pointing a pudgy finger at them. How dare he? they seem to be asking. Why, why (note how they're reduced to spluttering), by his own admission, he just stood up there and lied to us!

Is it really necessary to explain how fatuous this is? Of course the Bush regime's relentless propagandizing and lying made the media pigeons' job harder. But wasn't it still their job to get at the truth? There were lots of media people who weren't fooled, and who tried to do honest reporting -- and a bunch of them did a splendid job. Of course nobody paid any attention to them, in large part because the fat and lazy big-time media, with their suspicious big-corporate ties, tanked on the job.

But even within those organizations, I think it's safe to say there were people who knew better. I have no inside sources at the New York Times, but I know enough about the organization to venture with confidence that inside the Times building there were a lot of reporters and surely lower-level editors as well (we saw the way it worked in the last season of The Wire) screaming bloody murder about, for example, how Judy Miller had become a shill for the Bush regime.

The depressing thing is that the infotainment media don't seem to have learned a bloody thing. NBC's Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams put their heads together, combining their two generations and years beyond counting (albeit mostly wasted years) of Nightly News managing-editor experience to figure out whether "the right questions were asked, the right tone was employed and should it be viewed in the context to that time?" (That's Brian doing the asking.)

And here's the wisdom of Graybeard Tom:
Look, I think all of us would like to go back and ask questions with the benefit of hindsight of what we know now, but a lot of what was going on was unknowable.

Except, of course, that lots of people knew, and were jumping up and down trying to get the attention of the stonewalling infotainmenteers. "Well," as our pal John Amato notes on Crooks and Liars, "he should have watched Bill Moyers special on the media as a refresher course."

Meanwhile, as our friend clammyc pointed out yesterday in the terrific Daily Kos diary from which I've quoted at the top, those media slugs are providing essentially the same caliber of performance now that they did back then (I should warn that I haven't attempted to reproduce the scads of links embedded in the text -- you can check them out on Daily Kos):

While "defending its honor", MSM still dropping the ball
by clammyc

For starters, I only use "MSM" in the title because "corporate media" or "infotainment media" wouldn’t fit. That being said, the sad irony of the press corps which once again shows how out of touch the village idiots are with reality is that, despite all of the huffing and puffing about how Scott McClellan wouldn’t let them do their jobs, they still are falling flat on their faces at every turn.

I’d use the term jumped the shark (hyperlinked for those who don’t know what it means) to describe them and their role in the whole "reporting the news and professional journalism" thing that they clearly have long given up but I think the term "jump the shark" has kind of jumped the shark...

When news reporters say that their corporate bosses pushed them to take out their "America, Fuck YEAH!!!" pom poms, that is bad enough. But when the same reporter complains about how unfair McClellan was being to criticize them was not only the same one to share a stage with traitor Rove in one of the most eye-burning dances ever and is STILL, to this day the NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, and is not doing the job that McClellan accused him of not doing, well, sorry, I have no sympathies there.

And when someone like Tom Brokaw is shocked, SHOCKED, that his profession were either dumb or complicit or unfit to do the jobs they are supposed to do, it is time to not only call him on this, but to push back forcefully.

When Brokaw says that "all wars are based on propaganda", he misses the point. Propaganda means the spreading of ideas or rumor to further your cause or to damage an opposing cause. This was not propaganda. It was lies.

Period.

Hell, even Speaker Pelosi calls it a lie, although that apparently is still not grounds for impeachment.

What makes this worse, and what all of the whiny whiners are missing is that regardless of whether McClellan is right about them not pushing back hard enough or even, as my friend thereisnospoon says, what they reported after he stonewalled them (although it is an excellent point), is that there are still so many abuses and lies and stories that they should be reporting on and are not.

Where to even begin here? Even equating McCain’s total cluelessness about the troop levels and the violence in mosul with Obama’s minor "gaffe" (if it can even be called a gaffe) about a personal story that happened to be accurate in every meaningful way is a great disservice to what Americans should know when judging who should be their next President. Or the way that the Wright/Hagee/Parsley stories were reported -- if they should even have been covered at all in the first place.

And it doesn’t stop there, of course. There are real serious things -- things that should be covered and reported to the American people that we deserve to know about. Things that are imperative -- things that are both accurate but ignored and things that are inaccurate yet covered non-stop as if they were gospel.

Things like the number of troops that are committing suicide and have PTSD. Things like telecom immunity really being about protecting Bush and his illegal programs. Things like the GAO report that shows how unprepared we are to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan. Things like the Pentagon propaganda campaign. Things like FISA. Things like fake "evidence" that overblows the threat that Iran is to the United States (or Israel for that matter). Things like the continued devastation in the Gulf Coast, almost three years later.

Things like Rove and Miers ignoring Congressional subpoenas for no good reason. Things like the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised voters from voter ID anti-voter laws and other voter suppression tactics. Things like the same voting machines that were unreliable in 2002, 2004 and 2006 are still being used, despite many not being certified. Things like asking what exactly happened to the millions of dollars in cash that were "lost" in Iraq. Things like why the US was arming both sides of a civil war in Iraq, or exactly what the role of our troops is or the desired end game is in Iraq or the reason we should still be spending billions of dollars every month there.

So many more things. Even things like why Cindy McCain gets a pass when Teresa Heinz Kerry didn’t. Or why McCain still calls himself a "straight talker" when he is either lying, stupid or just losing it. And even bringing it back to McClellan’s bubble bursting smack in their faces, why they STILL aren’t saying that they were lied to.

All the handwringing and finger pointing and blame gaming in the world won’t change the fact that McClellan passed along (either willfully or not) lies and they were not challenged or questioned at the time. And nothing will change the fact that the independence and integrity of those who are in the corporate media were sacrificed to become "buddy buddy" with the very people that lied and destroyed national security secrets and pissed all over the Constitution and made them out for the damn fools that they proved to be.

Regardless of whether it was their choice or the choice of their corporate puppetmasters bosses.

But instead of this "woe is me" nonsense, how about a bit of reflection and actually using it as a learning experience. There is so much that needs to be reported, so much that needs exposing, so much that a bit of research can lead to a huge story that the American public will be interested in.

The sad thing is that instead of doing the job that McClellan said you didn’t do a few years ago, you choose to keep crying that it just isn’t fair.


(2)
THEN THERE ARE THE REGIMISTS AND THEIR GROUPIES
WHO ARE SIMPLY SHOCKED BY SCOTTY'S DISLOYALTY


Here's where it gets hilarious. Presumably on the old theory that there's honor among thieves, the most astonishing people are crawling out of the woodwork. Mary Matalin? Bob Dole? And . . . and . . . Bernie Kerik???

When we venture into the land of the kooks, there's no better tour guide than the Times's Gail Collins:

Op-Ed Columnist
What George Forgot
By GAIL COLLINS

"DISLOYAL, SICKENING AND DESPICABLE DISLOYAL, SICKENING AND DESPICABLE," wrote Bernard Kerik in an e-mail that he was circulating around this week. Kerik, you may remember, was the former New York City police commissioner who George W. Bush once tried to make chief of Homeland Security. This was during Kerik's happier, preindictment era.

Kerik's outrage was directed at Scott McClellan, the former Bush press secretary whose much-discussed memoir, "What Happened," reveals that the Bush White House put politics ahead of truth and openness with the American people.

I know it's a shock, but try to be brave.

The administration's defenders have not really attacked the book's thesis -- really, what could you say? But they've been frothing at the mouth over McClellan's lack of loyalty. "This will stand as the epitome, the ultimate breach of that code of honor," said Mary Matalin.

We've heard a lot about loyalty this year. Remember when Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama and James Carville compared Richardson to Judas Iscariot? And the whole Jeremiah Wright drama was mainly about Obama's coming to grips with the sad fact that presidents do not have the luxury of being loyal to anybody outside of their immediate gene pool.

"Having been through all I have been through in the past four years, disloyalty and betrayal seem more prevalent today than ever before in my lifetime, and that in itself, to me, is sickening," Kerik wrote in his e-mail, which also suggested that writing unflattering memoirs about working for the president "should be a crime."

Currently under indictment for multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion, Kerik is not, at this point, a person the administration calls upon when it wants to be defended. But he is a perfect example of what a worthless quality loyalty is in high government officials.

Kerik is stupendously loyal, which is what endeared him to Rudy Giuliani, his great patron. The Bush administration, which also prizes loyalty, shipped him off to Iraq with the critical job of supervising the rebuilding of the Iraqi police. Kerik stayed only three months, during which he devoted himself to giving interviews and being gregarious, the two things he does very well. Management, however, turned out not to be a strong point.

Back home, Bush was embarrassed when Kerik's Homeland Security nomination immediately ran aground on reports of his ethics issues. His downfall was a terrible blow to Giuliani's presidential candidacy -- although given Rudy's multitudinous deficiencies as presidential timber, it's hard to pick the one that made the difference.

Anyway, there's the loyalty trade-off for you: On the one hand, Kerik did a terrible job in a critical assignment in Iraq, allowed himself to be nominated to a hugely important post for which he was ill qualified and showed a stupendous lack of interest in ethical considerations when he served in New York City.

On the plus side, he will never, ever write a tell-all memoir about any of the great men he has served.

Whoever the next president is, I hope he-she picks incredibly well-qualified people who are strong enough to speak their minds and cynical enough not to assume the chief executive knows what he-she is doing. Loyalty does not tend to be a great virtue in these types, and the goal should be to wring as much accomplishment as possible out of them before the inevitable betrayal.

My favorite moment in "What Happened" was from 1999 when George W. Bush was deeply irritated about questions from the press on his past drug use. "The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors," the future president said. "You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not."

"I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? It didn't make a lot of sense," McClellan wrote.

While the bracing effects of being pushed out of his job have helped McClellan face reality, clarity might have come earlier if he'd just been more canny about personal relationships. His White House career could have been so different if, when Bush started babbling about W.M.D.'s in Iraq, McClellan reminded himself that this was coming from a guy who couldn't remember what drugs he had ingested.

Even now, McClellan still appears to have trouble with the critical concept that deeds matter more than words.

"Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake," he writes. "But in reflecting on all that happened during the Bush administration, I've come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made -- a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed."

Personally, I'm a huge fan of candor and honesty. But when it comes to fundamental mistakes, I'll start with the unnecessary war.

Man, you can't make this stuff up. Sometimes I wish you could, but when it comes to these people, trust me, you really can't.
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4 Comments:

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unbelievable that Tom and Brian are still missing the point. Todays coverarge of the DNC rules committee includes coverage of Democratic protesters carryin' signs ("There's somethin' happenin' here...."). Why now? There have been demonstrators with signs outside the halls of Washington for years. They were never covered. You could even hear their voices during some reporters' news spot, and still, NOT A WORD. But today, well, that's a different story. They are still in the Regimes pocket and probably "preying" for some sort of riot. Their CYA behavior is so dispicable. Maybe we should goad them into covering all the other protests and demonstrations that are going on......and not just Code Pink. IVAW comes to mind. Sure didn't see Tom or Brian talking about the Winter Soldier gatherings. Hey Tom! Is the word whore coming to mind. No telling what these press people will do for access to the throne.

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger keninny said...

Maybe we're looking at this backwards. Considering how hard you'd think it would be to keep missing the point, maybe we should be admiring the achievement of Tom and Brian and their brothers and sisters to manage to keep right on missing it.

Which raises a question we might want to kick around: Do we really believe that they're all that clueless? Or is this perhaps what they have to say to keep their, er, self-respect, or at any rate to keep their cushy gigs going?

Ken

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger tech98 said...

Network anchors pull down immense amounts of money and prestige by not understanding certain things, ignoring others and closely adhering to a specific worldview designed not to offend their corporate bosses and advertisers.

They long ago ceased being journalists; they are blow-dried actors playing the part of worldly knowledgeable journalists, chosen for their corporately-bland looks and manners -- Vanna Whites of the 'news' division of corporate PR.

I would no more expect enlightenment and insight from them than I would from the spokemodels on The Price is Right.

 
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