May 1, 2007
Last Week That Man Tried to Run You Over. Why Are You Having Dinner With Him?
"Bush broke with the consensus that created the modern White House press corps. One small but highly symbolic part of the consensus was the Correspondents dinner, and this is why it matters that the New York Times has quit the event."
It’s good news that journalists at the New York Times will no longer participate in the bloated and compromised White House Correspondents Association dinner. Bravo. I await with some curiosity the explanation for what changed in their thinking. So far, nothing.
One possibility: the editors will evade the intricate cultural politics of the matter and settle instead on the dinner’s transformation into a celebrity event, where Hollywood producer Laurie David (guest of CNN) and singer Sheryl Crow (guest of Bloomberg News) can grill Karl Rove on global warming. Rove, who was himself an invited guest of the New York Times! “The entire evening had the surrealistic feel of a Salvador Dali movie,” said Arianna Huffngton.
It’s a lot easier to say the event has gone Hollywood than it is to engage with Frank Rich’s argument at TimesSelect: “for all the recrimination, self-flagellation and reforms that followed” from the collapse and ruin of the watchdog press under Bush, “it’s far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public’s faith.” The dinner, he wrote, “is a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era.”
“It wasn’t just this year’s entertainment that had the faint whiff of mothballs,” David Carr wrote in a Times column the Monday after. The dinner itself “only seemed to emphasize the distance between Washington and the rest of the country.”
I asked Carr if he thought Dean Baquet, the Times Washington bureau chief, was reacting to his column. Carr said no. “He attended, he did his own reporting, and he reached his own conclusions. He has been in the business in a leadership role for decades and he is in a position to make a judgment about the dinner’s appropriateness for our Washington bureau.” (UPDATE: The explanations from the Times came in. See this piece and this one. Bill Keller: “These events create a false perception that reporters and their sources are pals, and that perception clouds our credibility. It’s not worth it.”)
Two weeks ago, Jim Rutenberg, a Times correspondent in the Washington bureau, interviewed me about the upcoming Correspondents dinner and in particular the choice of 70’s-era comedian, Rich Little, after last year’s funny man, Stephen Colbert, held the press and president—and the dinner itself—up to extremely effective ridicule. This is not the opinion of the journalists who were there, of course, Rutenberg included. In his view Colbert “just wasn’t funny.”
Rutenberg’s article made me wish I had followed, in this instance, blogger Dave Winer’s policy. When asked for a phone or e-mail interview, he usually declines. “If you have a few questions, send them along, and if I have something to say, I’ll write a blog post, which of course you’re free to quote,” he said last week. Responding to Winer, and to this event with Jason Calacanis and Wired magazine, Jeff Jarvis wrote: “The interview is outmoded and needs to be rethought.”
I know I’m rethinking it. Rutenberg and I had a pretty detailed conversation about the put down of the establishment press under Bush, certain failures of imagination in Washington journalism, the interpretation of Colbert’s performance in 2006, and the “musty” feel that the invitation to Rich Little had. I pointed out, for example, that Little was at his peak at roughly the same cultural moment that the Washington press corps was at its peak in the afterglow of Watergate.
But what Jim needed me for was the bloggers vs. journalists debate. “In hiring an impersonator practiced in an old-school approach to comedy, meant to entertain but not offend, the White House Correspondents’ Association has, however, provoked left-leaning political activists, who see his assignment as a retreat from last year’s dinner.” (Subtext: Wow, the left is as angry with the press as the right was. Just listen to the so-called Net roots attack us for not carrying their message.)
Notice that it is “activists” who are upset with the White House press, and it is their conflict with civil, professional and reasonable journalists that creates friction enough for a story. I wanted nothing to do with that narrative. I told Rutenberg that I did not see the press as “in the pocket of Bush” (as many on the left do) but as overwhelmed by the phenomena of Bush-as-president, and by the radicalism of his Administration, especially the expansion of executive power. This included in one aspect the rollback of the press and its de-certification as questioner of the president.
But Rutenberg recruited me into his narrative anyway. Colbert wasn’t the first comic to insult the president, he wrote. “Imus angered the Clinton White House in 1996 when he made fun of Mr. Clinton as a philanderer at a Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner.”
But that was pre-blogosphere, which is populated by people who “feel that the press was run over, and kind of told itself some story to avoid confrontation and lapsed into a phony kind of balance,” said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University.
It is enough to make some reporters bristle. “Some of them seem to want us to hate the people we cover,” said Ken Herman, a White House correspondent for Cox Newspapers and an association board member. “They don’t seem to understand that you can have a professional relationship with them where you don’t hate them, and you can sometimes talk to them, and maybe have dinner with them.”
Herman’s “bristle” has nothing to do with what I think. But I was not misquoted. I was used to make a point Rutenberg wanted to make before he talked to me. As Dan Froomkin wrote the same day, “Rutenberg creates a false conflict. Rosen and Herman are both largely correct. The press has been played by this White House — but that doesn’t mean reporters have to be jerks.”
Still, Rutenberg didn’t violate any of the rules for interviewing sources, and I knew what I was getting into when I called him back. Reporter and I talk for 30 to 45 minutes; he decides which twelve seconds he wants to use. If he has a pre-existing narrative that he wants me to ratify, chances are good I will say something he can use to do just that. Them’s the rules.
I would have been better off blogging about his e-mailed questions. As Scott Rosenberg observed last week, “In the online conversation, the reporter doesn’t get the last word. And the reporter doesn’t get to filter which parts of the conversation are available to the public. No wonder journalists want to stick with the phone. But I think it’s going to keep getting harder for them to get their sources to take the calls.” (See also Brad DeLong’s view.)
The most revealing moment for me came when Rutenberg allowed that rollback and the retreat from empiricism may have happened. “But don’t you think Bush is paying the price for that now?” he said. Here was a way of acknowledging press failure that allows the story to come out all right at the end. Presidents are supposed to pay a price if they diss the press, and look! …The system worked.
In fact, Bush broke with the consensus that created the modern White House press corps. One small but highly symbolic part of the consensus was the Correspondents dinner, and this is why it matters that the New York Times has quit the event.
But consider what Bush quit first. His chief of staff denied that there was any fourth estate role. “In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election,” said Andrew Card. “I don’t believe you have a check-and-balance function.” Bush told reporters the same thing at an August 2003 barbeque in Texas: “You’re assuming that you represent the public,” he said, “I don’t accept that.”
Back ‘em up, starve ‘em down, and drive up their negatives— that was the policy. Allies in the culture war were eager to help the White House marginalize and discredit the Washington press. In Scott McClellan, a stooge figure actually took over in the White House press room. Strategic non-communication became normal practice— itself an extraordinary break with the past. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney’s expansion of executive power meant there was way more to cover, but a weaker press to cover it. Just as there was weaker oversight, weaker opposition, and a fewer controls on cooking the books.
What happened with me and Rutenberg happened also with “Frontline” in its series, News War. I was interviewed for hours by correspondent Lowell Bergman. I wound up with one line in the film— okay two. “The way that the press was sold and spun and just fooled by the White House in the run-up to the war represents more than just a missed story,” I said in part one. “How can one say that we have a watchdog press after a performance like that?”
I was supposed to be gratified by those two lines. Well, I wasn’t. I was grateful that Frontline released on the Web an edited transcript of my interview. But watching the film that aired on PBS made me regret that I had cooperated at all. I told that to executive producer Louis Wiley in an e-mail exchange we had after it aired. I said my frustrations weren’t about seconds of air time; it was…
The way the film was edited to bring out one story: heroic press fighting against ownership and its budget cuts, a government that would like to silence it, and untrained bloggers and amateurs buzzing around, stinging like knats. This is the story Lowell wanted to tell. He’s been a part of it in his career and feels very passionate about it. He’s newsroom Joe himself, and he’s got newsroom Joe’s mindset. You let that perspective carry the day. You’re entitled to make that decision, which is an editorial decision, and I’m entitled to be angry about it. Because it’s inadequate. You had the materials to challenge it more, you just didn’t want to.
I always loved it when Victor Navasky, editor, then publisher of The Nation would explain to journalists or J-students that, in his opinion, there was an ideology of the left (journalists nod) an ideology of the right (more nodding) and an ideology of the center. Not so much nodding at that.
“The press is full of ideologues of the center,” he would say, eyes twinkling, ice cubes clinking. “But they all deny it.” And that’s when the fun started.
For while it’s defensible to have a “centrist” ideology and be a reporter or editor, the journalists who would argue most strenuously with Navasky had a different proposition: theirs was an ideology-free zone. They wouldn’t defend their politics; instead they would proclaim their innocence. Instead of thinking about it… ideologues of the center: do I recognize the type?… they just reacted.
Over time I realized the genius in Navasky’s method of needling journalists. He was trying to show them a gap in their educations. They were unable to think politically about their own institution, but they could go on for quite a while about the separation between news and opinion sections.
Posted by Jay Rosen at May 1, 2007 1:11 AM
I think your bias is showing. No, I don't think you're particularly partisan or left leaning, but I do think your view of the media is hopelessly slanted towards the inside.
Many of us who are far more intimate with Iraq and our war against terrorists [not to be called the Global War on Terror] know better that the great failing of the media occurred after the war in Iraq started, not before. Today's journalists are woefully ignorant of military matters, refuse to think they need to learn about our enemies or the real threats against us. They clearly went along with public opinion at war's start against their internal biases against military action or the Bush Administration. I don't know if that's so much a failing as an inevitability. The media has some watchdog role, but it never needed to be antagonistic towards national interest. (Or some twisted conception of "neutral.")
Since the war started, media grossly misreported on everything from a one day sandstorm on the road to Baghdad, to what elements were fighting where and for what, through Abu Ghraib.
As the Democrats chose to posture against the war they supported, and public support flagged, then the media misreported everything from pre-war intelligence, state-CIA-Admin-DoD bureacratic infighting, and any positive accomplishments in Iraq. All in assist to defeat a President they disliked, often intensely.
Worst of all, the media constantly misreported -- lied -- about the infamous State of the Union speech, claims that the war would be quick and easy, justifications for the war, in short: completely fabricated the basis for "Bush Lied us into War" BS. Tenet's book, if little else, should put that garbage to rest, but it won't.
And the media continues to get it wrong. Oh, once in a while they'll hype some retired or disgruntled General who will harp on some deficiency or error in judgment or planning, all of course to back up a claim of "I told them so."
Meanwhile, military leaders today -- and thousand upon thousands of veterans who have served -- can't even make it into print or broadcast with any views contrary to the "civil war in Iraq" orthodoxy. Facts that refute the storyboard get dumped, if not by reporters then by editors. Only on the fringes of Conservative press can you find any semblance of balance in reporting on Iraq.
Perhaps most dishonest of all, the press continues to hype storylines that portray aggressive expansions of Executive Branch powers, when in fact these same expansions were widespread under Clinton, often in exactly the same or related ways. To suggest that the often hapless Bush Administration is somehow more nefarious in this regard vs previous Presidents suits the storyline, but does an injustice to the arch-Macheavelian Clinton.
Context. Background. Stop assuming that your world view is the only possible or logical one.
You touched a nerve, Jay. But I'm with other commentators here. If the media continues to ignore the true nature of their own role in coming obsolescence, you're all doomed to continue to slide into oblivion. And as much as you all may commiserate and blame that "bastard Bush," you sound to the rest of us like that loser boyfriend on Forrest Gump. The one who hits Jenny, and when confronted with his bad behavior, stammers out the excuse that "it's that bastard Johnson."
I count on you for better analysis and insight than this.
Unlike Roger, I will actually argue with Jason, as I think you raise interesting and valid points, which are a bit more nuanced then you imply.
I would like you to be more specific about which laws the Bush Administration has violated. I will assume you are referring to the wiretapping program, the use of presidential signing statements, the violation of the Geneva conventions, the faulty intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq, or War crimes in Iraq.
The wiretapping of Americans without a warrant may be constitutional, though arguments for such are very tenuous (but we will assume for the sake of argument that it is). On the other hand, it is in direct violation of the FISA act. While some republicans argue that the authorization for the war in Afghanistan over-rode the FISA act, this is very shaky. Nevertheless, even if this is accepted, it still does not give him cover, because any interpretation of the authorization that gives Bush the ability to wiretap without a warrant also gives him the authority to do clearly unconstitutional things, such as summary execution of American citizens. As the law gives the president carte-blanch authority, it is clearly unconstitutional. Therefore, the FISA law still holds.
On the other hand, Clinton and Reagan also engaged also wiretapped without warrants, though not anywhere near as often. If we were to jail Bush for this reason, we would need to arrest Clinton, and several hundred military and intelligence officials who were complicit. I personally support this position, but I doubt many others do.
Basic knowledge of 7th grade civics dictates that signing statements are clearly illegal, as the president dictates that he refuses to enforce a law in a certain capacity, a clear violation of his constitutional duties. George Bush has used signing statements, but so has Bill Clinton. It is true that George Bush has signed far more than Bill Clinton has, but this is irrelevant. Both of them are criminals, and if we are to arrest one, we should arrest the other.
It is questionable whether the US violated the Geneva Conventions, in a strict legal sense. The US ratified the third Geneva Convention in 1949. To my knowledge, this convention contains no reference to insurgencies or terrorism. Additions to the protocol to give rights to “non-conventional fighters”, “Non-enemy combatants” as the US likes to call them, were added in 1979, additions that the US has refused to ratify. While I personally support the ratification of these provisions, they are not in legal force in the USA. By all accounts, the US treated the Iraqi army well. This was the only party the Geneva conventions applied to. While you may be able to pin Bush on violating national laws for Army conduct, these are usually ridden with “national security” holes he can hide behind. While Bush’s actions regarding were clearly wrong, they were most likely not illegal.
In a similar vein, the Bush administration probably lied to the American people in order to trick them into going to war, the documentary evidence for such is rather overwhelming. But lying is not illegal if it was not done under oath. It might be possible to prosecute Bush on something akin to Slander, but any lawyer worth their salt could squirm their way out of that.
The last respite is international law. George Bush’s actions in Iraq arguably targeted civilians purposely; the Shock and Awe campaign is a good example of this. This is a war crime, under both The Hague and Geneva conventions. War crime law is rather expansive, if poorly enforced, so if needed we could most likely find many violations. The problem with this is that there are many far worse war criminals in the US who would be implicated by this standard. These include but are not limited to Russia, Israel (I am a second generation Israeli Jew, I am allowed to say this.), Hezbollah, Belarus, Burma, China, Sudan, and Iraqi insurgents themselves. I am not placing these groups on the same level, I am simply pointing out that all of them are more worthy of war crime prosecution than the United States. It would be hypocritical to prosecute the US and to leave these other groups untouched by international law.
Even if such a trial were to happen, it would cast a wider net than Bush. Under the Nuremburg standards set out after WW2, most members of congress who continued to vote in favor of the war and its funding would be considered co-conspirators to crimes against humanity. Thousands of military and civilian employees, and nearly all of the intelligence service, would face the same fate.
As you said yourself, impeachment is not a “vote of confidence” procedure. The case for Bush’s criminality is not clear-cut. Many other politicians have done every crime that he has unquestionably committed with impunity, and it would be impractical to prosecute the entire political elite.
Well, thanks for taking the time, then, Richard. And if you're using Leviticus as your guide, it's not me that's detached from reality. (What's BDS?)
There are mountains of evidence on my side, almost all of it provided openly by the shameless Bush administration itself. They don't seem to know right from wrong, so they don't even bother to cover their actions to any great extent.
Their violations of FISA are probably the best current criminal case. And while it's certainly true that other presidents and officials have committed similar crimes, the sheer volume of the Bush assault on the Constitution and various other laws is breathtaking.
Here is a president that arrogantly and openly refuses to abide by laws he doesn't care much for, and practically dares anybody to do anything about it. If that isn't a violation of his oath of office, pure treason, and clear cause for impeachment, then impeachment is meaningless, and in fact, we have a new monarchy, if only partially hereditary.
I agree with David Shor that Bush has a lot of wiggle room on any particular charge. But again, there are simply so many to choose from, and so many counts of each, it's hard to imagine that articles of impeachment would be either short or wholly unsuccessful upon adequate investigation. David's list pretty much captures the charges I have in mind, though I suspect a review of the UN Charter on Human Rights would net a few more.
Also, the PATRIOT Act, itself clearly unconstitutional in most provisions, has been something the administration is proud of using. As it overturns the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments (at least), it seems pretty clear that almost any use of it against a US citizen violates Bush's oath of office.
While I'm sure Bush/Cheney think they are working in the best interests of the United States, it's hard to understand how any results-based review could conclude that they are not, in fact, working against the best interests of the United States. Isn't that the definition of treason?
They're getting US troops killed in a way that only serves to create additional terrorists from people who would otherwise not take that course. They're isolating the US from our friends and allies around the globe. They're embracing the tools of dictatorship, such as "disappearing" people, torturing people, imprisoning people without charge or counsel for indefinite periods. These are all profoundly unAmerican activities. Our traditional abhorrence of these things has always been the basis of our moral authority in the world. Take them away, and we're no better than the regimes we oppose.
It's true, as Roger Rainey pointed out, that I and others like me are still free to spout our opposition to the administration, but I prefer to see that as speaking out while there's still time to make a difference. If we wait until the fascists finally resort to brutal suppression of dissent, then it's far too late.
Besides, why brutally suppress the opposition when you can use propaganda to brand them as crackpots? This strategy seems to be persuasive to at least some on this thread.
The bottom line is that I don't want to live in a police state. George W. Bush has done far more harm to the fabric of America than Osama bin Laden could ever hope to. Bush is bin Laden's unwitting tool in the destruction of American ideals.
And thanks to Graham Shevlin for the defense. I reread my comments above and also can't quite figure out how they were so interpreted by Messrs. Aubrey and Rainey.
The general disgust I feel for the White House Correspondents' Dinner--which is accurately reflected in Jay's discussion of the bizarre inability of the DC Press Corps to cope with Stephen Colbert in a manner recognizable to anyone other than themselves and the even more pathetic programming of Rich Little--is largely a product of what I consider to be the press's consistent failure to do their job over the last thirty years. This is certainly a failure that has risen to newly catastrophic levels over the last six years of a self-proclaimed unitary executive essentially attempting to proclaim democracy unconstitutional.
If the press could ever reestablish credibility, a passing interest in actual truth rather than he said/she said journalism, whether or not they went to the dinner really wouldn't matter much would it?
Sadly, there is no imminent danger of that happening. Unless and until the DC press can swear off White House courtier practices such as continuing to protect anonymous administration sources who have demonstrably lied to the American people, perhaps ceasing to pay court in public is an appropriate cosmetic adjustment. If not truly satisfying or particularly furthering the people's business in the way that doing their jobs better would be, it is at least a minimal recognition that something is wrong somewhere. I suppose cosmetic baby steps are better than no steps at all.
A small example that has recently been reported on the mainstream networks illustrates the point and largely confirms what Media Matters among many others have been blogging for years:
Bill O'Reilly claims he never makes ad hominem personal attacks on people. A recent study at the University of Indiana reviewed dozens of episodes of his talking points memo segment and discovered that he insulted a group and referred to them as bad Americans approximately every seven seconds he is on the air. Why does the University of Indiana have to issue a study for the issue of fact to arise in journalistic coverage of our world?
A great number of the screaming falsehoods spouted by this administration are really at this very basic level of true or not true. Journalism that routinely commented on facts based on Google searches or what their own eyes tell them would be a revolution in integrity from what we have now.
Sadly, the average DC press equivalent of the above story on Bill O'Reilly if it had been written about the White House goes, "Democrats have recently claimed the White House personally insults opponents and cries treason dangerously demonizing others, but when reached for comment, the White House firmly denied the charge, stating without qualification that they never speak of anyone in a personally disparaging way."
The reporter could, on their own, ask the question: Who is telling the truth here?
It's not very hard for to look at video of Bush administration pronouncements (such as when Dana Perino claimed the other day that they've never played the patriotism card!) and tell that they patently contradict themselves on a daily basis (hence the Daily Show), but for some reason it is very difficult for many reporters to realize it or to get printed when they do.
Why is the truth of the Daily Show so difficult for reporters to understand? When did a healthy attention span and rudimentary logic and self-respect become partisan virtues the press must keep at arms length?
I agree with p.lukasiak the correspondentï¿½s dinner should be a cease-fire. Instead it has become yet another opportunity for each side to count coup. A little more ï¿½what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegasï¿½ type of attitude would go a long way to restoring the event. Of course that goes to the heart of recognizing ï¿½the essential humanity of ï¿½the other sideï¿½ï¿½.
Take Jason Spicerï¿½s belief in the fascist nature of the Bush Administration. He was presented with information that maybe America in not quite as fascist as he wants to believe. This leads to the following statement by Mr. Spicer.
ï¿½It's true, as Roger Rainey pointed out, that I and others like me are still free to spout our opposition to the administration, but I prefer to see that as speaking out while there's still time to make a difference. If we wait until the fascists finally resort to brutal suppression of dissent, then it's far too late.ï¿½ (Speaking of the suppression of dissent, how about that PBS documentary on moderate Muslims?)
Mr. Spicer seems to be saying he knows the evidence does not support any transformation to a fascist state, but prefers to believe something else. Believing Bush is a fascist justifies all sorts of excesses in opposing his administration, plus it makes a nice label. If the other side is so bad, anything done, said or believed in opposition must be true and good, right? In the end Mr. Spicer becomes another shrill voice in the chorus of Bush and Clinton haters.
I disagree with p.lukasiak , however, on his views concerning the narratives of the press and ï¿½roll backï¿½. The two are the same.
ï¿½What Jay describes is the practice of journalists spending a significant amount of time interviewing someone in order to get a quote to suit their pre-determined narrative -- while treating the rest of the interview as non-existent.ï¿½
ï¿½The administration's ï¿½roll backï¿½ isn't because of fear that quotes will be cherry-picked, its an effort to restrict the flow of information to Americans via the press -- to impose its own pre-determined narrative on the public ...to "fix the facts" to conform to the policy.
Once a narrative on a story has been chosen, whether by the press or by the administration and information is restricted, whether by restricting its flow or treating it as non-existent, the net effect is the same. Should an advocacy press that suppresses or ignores information not in keeping with its narrative be trusted any more than an administration that does the same? Fighting a fascist administration or even an administration of miscreants might justify this, but if it eventually exposes the press as dishonest too, I do not see this as good for anyone.
Jay Rosen argued a while back that the predominately negative coverage of the war by the press was a function of the coverage being too narrow not biased. It is not very far conceptually from coverage that is too narrow to ï¿½roll backï¿½ by the press. You donï¿½t pay for half a shoe, why should you pay for half( if that)of the news. They canï¿½t even get quotes right, ï¿½ï¿½recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.ï¿½ has a different meaning than, tried to buy uranium in Niger. Is simple competence too much to ask for?
The title of the post could be asked by either the president or the press. Indeed, rather than bravo, how puerile of the NY Times. I blame Bush we have lost the publicï¿½s trust, (or am I reading your snippet of Frank Rich wrong)? Slink off, suck you thumb and wait until someone you like better as President throws a party. This is not taking a stand it is making a pose.
Richard, I'm genuinely confused by your posts. What, precisely, don't I get? What vile and unnatural things am I doing to the English language? Vague references to the second wackiest book of the Bible are not exactly enlightening me.
I don't think I'm lying, but neither do I think I'm delusional. I'd go as far as describing myself as idealistic, but I certainly don't want to be delusional. If you mean that I am overreaching in applying the word "fascism" to this White House, perhaps you're right. (I certainly hope you don't mean that we've had a fascist government for ages now and I should just grow up and accept that.) From www.wiktionary.org:
1. A political regime based on strong centralized government, suppressing through violence any criticism or opposition of the regime, and exalting nation, state, or religion above the individual.
2. A system of strong autocracy.
1. (often capitalized) a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control
I don't believe that any one dictionary's definition is definitive, but Webster's has a certain authority.
I concede that there has been little, if any, outright violent suppression of domestic opposition by this administration. But each of the #2 definitions seem to fit, and subtracting the violent element, the #1 definitions seem to fit. In any case, in these Orwellian times, propaganda, flackery, and marginalization of opponents as crackpots is arguably more effective than outright thuggery. It's certainly more amenable to dismissal of complaints as "delusional". As to the press, why suppress when you can co-opt?
What label would you prefer I use in describing an administration with these traits? That the administration routinely demonstrates these traits is simply not in question, and if you think it is, then again, it's not me that's delusional.
Have most administrations since the 1920's demonstrated these traits? Hard to argue with abad man there, so yes, though I'd say to a much lesser degree. And that's what I'm complaining about. The Bush administration has simply taken this outrageous behavior farther than any other administration (with the possible exception of FDR, though he had a plainly more dire crisis to contend with).
I agree that keeping government honest, open, intelligent, effective, and noble is an ever-receding horizon. Does that mean we should stop chasing it? I guess I don't understand why somebody with that level of pessimism (and this isn't just directed at Richard) would even bother to post a comment on a thread like this. You have to keep the positive pressure on, or things just get worse, as history has shown time and again.
Aside from deriding my posts, what is it that you would like to see happen in the government/press interface, Richard? The fact that I'm posting my opinions doesn't mean you can't expand on yours.
For example, I wholeheartedly agree with your post above:
"If the press were more trusted by the public, the WH's efforts would be less effective.
Work on the trust. Complaining about the WH's treatment of the press is useless because there's nothing you can do about it from that end. You can only make it useless by proving yourselves to the public end of the discussion, by regaining trust."
I personally think that one step toward regaining the public's trust in the press would be for the press to not engage in such cozy relationships with the government. Thus, not attending the dinner is a good thing.
This being my introduction to Mr. Aubrey, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Having said that, I think about 25% of the human population is given to autocratic tendencies. I'm not out to convert them. But I think it's important to speak up in opposition for two reasons. First, to let the autocrats know that they are not in the majority and do not have the vast support they think they do. (There's a reason Nixon's silent majority was silent--it didn't exist.) Second, to let everybody else know that they're not alone, and they shouldn't let the autocrats get away with it.
The problem is, of course, that autocracy and zealotry go together well, and the tendency to question authority doesn't often make for a unified front. So autocrats tend to exert about twice as much political power as their numbers would suggest. It just takes a lot more work to get the live and let live folks to pull in one direction and put their collective foot down.
And of course, I do hold out some hope that occasionally an authoritarian will finally recognize the sheer futility of attempting to force other people to think their way. Eventually, never getting the results you expect has to wear a person down.
And qcexaminer, the word you were looking for is "renowned". Keith Olbermann has renown. He is renowned. (I wouldn't harp on it, but this is one of my pet peeves, like nucular.) From wiktionary.org:
Noun, (Singular: renown, Plural: uncountable)
fame; celebrity; wide recognition
Olbermann is one of the very, very few opposition journalists bold enough to state that the emperor wears no clothes. For this, he is widely and justifiably recognized.
That doesn't make Olbermann objective or unbiased, but in the human institution of journalism, you'll never get that. What we do want in journalism is an arm's length relationship with the subjects they cover. Incestuous professional relationships are always unseemly. I think it's safe to say that Bush will never invite Olbermann to drop by for tea.
It is not relativism. Take the AG firings, by your standards of evidence I can easily say Clinton fired the 93 some odd attorneys to save himself and two or three of his cronies. I did not believe a crime was committed then nor do I believe one was committed now. I am consistent in my belief AG are political appointments subject to the whims of politicians.
In 1998 I believe Clinton overruled the contracting process and gave the contract for the Balkans to Halliburton, cost plus 5% by the brown and root guy I talked to at the time. Pretty sweet deal. Perjury, soliciting perjury- (not a lot of proof but when did that stop you?) sexual harassment, campaign finance violations, something about Chinese and nuclear secrets. The Oslo accords they worked out well huh? No messing up the Middle East there.
But then again, they were only criminal acts no assault on the constitution like the NSA wire taps. Oh wait that is Jason's stick. Well Clinton did do them too, only not as much as evil Bush. Relativism and scoundrels? I am sure Clinton felt bad about doing the wire taps, not like Bush who enjoys trampling others rights. Why Bush even got FBI files on his political opponents, no wait that was Clinton... sorry my bad... never mind. Why Bush even fired people in the travel office to install his cronies, oh shoot that was Clinton again.
Mark, saying the democrats cannot hold a candle to bush in the corruption depart is the very relativism you accuse me of, can you at least be consistent within the post? You rascally scoundrel you.
One of the reasons Clinton escaped Whitewater was that Jim McDougal died, under what some people consider suspicious circumstances. In fact a lot of people associated with Clinton died. Goggle Arkansas sudden death syndrome for a complete list. It is even a progressive site, I believe, so it must be the truth. People died what does Clinton know? Murder! How can we allow that man to walk free? Remember the 90s, and all the Clinton hate?
You hate Bush. This leads to all sorts of intellectual dishonesty and contortions on your part that are, ultimately, easy to mock. Bush may be a radial as Jay says, but that has does not make him a criminal. He may be taking the country in a direction you do not want it to go, but after 9/11 the country and congress seemed willing to go in that direction. Might I even suggest the country wanted to go that way.
Bush did not create Saddam as a boogie man, the Clinton Administration perpetuated the myth in the 90's. After 9/11 the perfect storm existed. I do not feel invading Iraq was wrong, but underselling the difficulty and cost it would entail was. Look at Kosovo and the folly of believing we would be in and out quick should have been apparent to even the most casual of observers. The Bushies played hardball and won then, boo hoo, it is coming back to bite them now. The country is catching its breath and looks to be pulling back from the path Bush stated us down. Hopefully, not all the way because I believe a significant number, (even 1/10 of 1% of a billion is a huge number) of fanatics despise us. Not for who is in the White House but more simply for what we are, freedoms we enjoy, and what our country represents. They are more than willing to kill to achieve this and cannot be reasoned with. Hell, I cannot even get you to see my point of view as valid. I have seen evil and please believe me, Bush is the Diet Coke of evil (obscure Austin Powers reference) Balancing freedoms, rights, and security are serious and important issues for this time. They require serious, rational discussion by serious rational people.
Your rants may play well with fellow zealots, but are shrill and sanctimonious to me. I am sure my opinion means a lot to you and will result in a drastic change in your behavior.
As a pre-emptive strike I see your point of view as valid, just grossly overstated and the wrong conclusion based on available facts.
Jason, I read a book a few years ago about paradigms. The long and short of the books was that in most professions, there are paradigms that are developed to solve problems and then are passed on to succeeding generations in that profession. These paradigms are ways of thinking, ways of problem solving, etc. While these paradigms solved some problems in the past, they effectively prevent solving new or different problems in the field in the future. This is most clearly seen in science, research and development. The book builds a case that in order for future problems to be addressed and solved, there needs to be a new way of thinking (a new paradigm) developed. This seldom, if ever, can be achieved from those that have been taught and influenced and trained in the present paradigm (because they have been taught to look at a situation a certain way, they have become ingrown and inbred and they have too much invested in the present system). As a consequence, most significant steps forward (not simply refinements, but steps forward) come from people outside of that discipline, who do not have a lot invested in the present status quo.
It seems to me that journalists have a paradigm that they are taught and in which they are heavily invested. They may very well be unable to think in new paradigms and perhaps not even know it. They have been taught to think a certain way (usually adversarial—and seeking the truth and communicating the truth is not necessarily adversarial). They too often view themselves as crusaders fighting for the rights of the uninformed—often not by simply informing, but editorializing and telling others how they should ‘feel about an issue.’ They too often are prima donnas, thinking their role is something the public neither has granted them nor desires from them. They seem to have an iconoclast mentality—while the public does not.
Obviously, that is painting with ‘too broad a brush’. I am sure, that in their eyes, they are truth seekers, prophets without honor, banding together for mutual support and encouragement. But as idyllic as that they would like that view to be, is not the view of the public. So, which one is true? As long as journalists either refuse or are incapable of seeing themselves as the public sees them, of understanding how the public feels towards them, they adopt a paradigm that will increasingly guarantee that fewer and few listen.
The obvious truth is that in order to effectively communicate ‘truth’ you have to know ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ (which cuts across political lines) and then know your audience. They spend so much time in their paradigm invested communities, they really do not know the people that they are wanting to speak to.
Anyway, those are a few thoughts I had this week.