What Liberal Media? Failure Of The Press to Question Authority in Run Up to War

Here’s a bunch of excellent questions asked by Gilbert Cranberg, former editor of the Des Moines Register. Cranberg is calling for an investigation by outsiders of the news media’s coverage of the run up to the war. Among his questions:

Q. Why did the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau’s “against-the grain reporting” during the build-up to war receive such “disappointing play,” in the words of its former bureau chief?

Q. Why did the press generally fail to pay more attention to the bureau’s ground-breaking coverage?

Q. Why, on the eve of war, did the Washington Post’s executive editor reject a story by Walter Pincus, its experienced and knowledgeable national security reporter, that questioned administration claims of hidden Iraqi weapons and why, when the editor reconsidered, the story ran  on Page 17?

Q. Why did the Post, to the “dismay” of the paper’s ombudsman, bury in the back pages or miss stories that challenged the administration’s version of events? Or, as Pincus complained, why did Post editors go “through a whole phase in which they didn’t put things on the front page that would make a difference” while, from August 2002 to the start of the war in March 2003, did the Post, according to its press critic, Howard Kurtz, publish “more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq”?

Q. Why did Michael Massing’s critique of Iraq-war coverage, in the New York Review of Books, conclude that “The Post was not alone. The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions. The occasional critical stories that did appear were…tucked well out of sight.”

Q. Why did the New York Times and others parrot administration claims about Iraq’s acquisition of aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons when independent experts were readily available to debunk the claims?

Q. Why did the Times’s Thomas E. Friedman and other foreign affairs specialists, who should have known better, join the “let’s-go-to-war” chorus?

Cranberg cites other periods in which the press failed to challenge authority and concludes, “The press response to the build-up to the Iraq war simply is the latest manifestation of an underlying and ongoing reluctance to dissent from authority and prevailing opinion when emotions run high, especially on matters of war and peace, when the country most needs a questioning, vigorous press.”

Posted in Iraq, News Media. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Secular vs. Theological Conservative Battle For the GOP

Andrew Sullivan doesn’t think Rudy Giuliani has a chance:

Giuliani is running as a secular, modern conservative to run what has become a religious, theological party. His fate is going to be a fascinating insight into what American conservatism can now mean. And the Christianists are not going to put up with secular, inclusive, reality-based conservatism.

The Economist disagrees, noting that McCain (who is hardly a liberal or even a moderate) and Giuliani dominate every poll. I could see scenarios win which Giuliani wins, but citing polls this long before an election has little predictive value. Ask Howard Dean about that, or go back and look at these numbers. If Giuliani can convince enough Republicans that he can win the election, that he is the man to fight terrorism, and that he will appoint conservative judges, he could still win in a race where several social conservatives split the vote. However to do so will still mean overcoming the opposition from the theological wing of the party which has more power in the primaries than is seen in these poll results.

Al Gore Calls on Richer Polluters To Do More To Solve Global Warming

Al Gore, while speaking on global warming in Madrid yesterday, said that the developed nations must take the lead on global warming:

Emerging economies such as China are justified in holding back on fighting greenhouse gas emissions until richer polluters like the United States do more to solve the problem, former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday.

The world’s top climate scientists warned in a report last week that global warming was very likely caused by humanity and would last for centuries.

Chinese officials said they would act after industrial countries such as the United States and others make changes themselves, Gore said, addressing a conference in Madrid on global warming.

“They’re right in saying that. But we have to act quickly,” said Gore, who was nominated last week for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in drawing attention to global warming.

“China’s reaction to the scientific report last week was disappointing, but it was instructive,” Gore said.

Posted in Al Gore, Environment. Tags: , . No Comments »

Dobson Accused Again of Distorting Research

In December I reported on a researcher who complained that James Dobson had distorted her research in writing his article Two Mommies Is Too Many for Time Magazine. DefCon reports on another researcher who is protesting the misrepresentation of his work. A video response from Dr. Kyle Pruett is available. Truth Wins Out has also released the following statement:

MIAMI BEACH, Fla., Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Truth Wins Out unveiled a new video today on YouTube featuring a Yale professor who claims Focus on the Family leader James Dobson “cherry picked” his research. Dr. Kyle Pruett’s testimony represents a growing trend where leading scientists are speaking out against manipulation of their work by right-wing political organizations. Pruett decided to respond after Dobson misused his research in a guest column Dobson wrote in TIME magazine debasing Mary Cheney’s pregnancy.

“When people start spinning science you have to respond,” said Dr. Kyle Pruett, professor of child psychiatry, the Yale University School of Medicine. “Journalism used to handle this, but not anymore. So it’s bounced back to become increasingly the responsibility of the people doing the research.”

Pruett is the second acclaimed professor to criticize Dobson’s use of their work in TIME Magazine. New York University professor Dr. Carol Gilligan also appeared in a Truth Wins Out video saying she was “mortified” by the manner in which Dobson’s cited her findings. Both Pruett and Gilligan wrote letters to Dobson to express their concerns. So far, Dobson has ignored personally responding to their letters and refused to engage in a direct dialogue with the professors.

On Focus on the Family’s Web site, Dobson even defended himself by insinuating that these professors were “liberal” and “politically correct.” If this is true, it begs the question why Dobson quoted these researchers in the first place? “If ‘Double-Talk Dobson’ had been accused by only one professor of manipulating research, it might be a legitimate mistake,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “However, when six researches in three countries have stepped forward in less than a year, I think it is fair to say that a disturbing pattern of deception has emerged.”

In the same week Pruett and Gilligan spoke out, Angela Phillips, author of “The Trouble With Boys,” and professor at Goldsmiths College in London, said she was “incensed” to find she was misquoted in another Dobson article. Additionally, in the past year Dobson has been taken to task for distorting the research of Dr. Robert Spitzer, professor of psychiatry, Columbia University; Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, associate professor, school of nursing, University of British Columbia; and Dr. Judith Stacy, professor of sociology, New York University.

Edwards Doesn’t Give In To Right Wing Attacks–But Should Have Been Better Prepared

John Edwards has released a statement following the controversy raised over Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte’s and Melissa McEwan’s posts personally offended me. It’s not how I talk to people, and it’s not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it’s intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I’ve talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith, and I take them at their word. We’re beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can’t let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

Marcotte and McEwan also posted comments on this matter at the campaign blog. Amanda Marcotte wrote:

My writings on my personal blog Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact.

Melissa McEwan wrote:

Shakespeare’s Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don’t expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I’ve posted. We do, however, share many views – including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people’s individual faith, and I’m sorry if my words were taken in that way.

Edwards certainly made the right decision in resisting pressure from right wing hypocrits. He certainly had no choice if he had any desire to maintain his degree of support in the blogosphere. I do find it puzzling that this controversy was allowed to go on for so long considering that this should have been predicted. While I haven’t read Pandagon, having read Shakespeare’s Sister made me think that the language used there was going to become an issue. I would think that this is something the campaign should have considered and have been prepared for. While the comments of a blogger on their own blog hardly have any bearing on my views of a candidate, it is possible that others would see it differently. I would think that the campaign should have been aware of their writings before hiring them.

If it was a conscious decision to hire Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan despite their blog posts then they should have been prepared with a response the first time the question came up. If they were unaware of the situation they failed to do their homework raising questions as to how prepared they really are to launch a national campaign. That’s not a good situation for a candidate who many of us fear is a slick but empty suit who lacks the gravitas and experience to be considered for the presidency. Edwards has been insinuating that he would have made a better candidate than John Kerry. As much as I believe Kerry would make the better President, there were times in which he failed to respond quickly enough to attacks and lost control of the message. This situation was even more predictable than attacks based upon taking a joke out of contest to distort the meaning, and a quicker response should be expected from someone who will need to take on the right wing noise machine in a general election campaign.

Edwards made the right choice here and prevented potential disaster, but has also failed to reassure those of us who have doubts about him.

Seven GOP Senators Now Back Debate on Iraq War

It looks like Newsweek credited George Bush with a victory a little too early. This evening Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey had a column entitled Maybe The Duck Isn’t So Lame–Bush finds a way to win, or at least not to lose, a crucial showdown on Iraq. A few hours later The Washington Post reports that 7 GOP Senators Back War Debate. It appears they wish to vote to debate after they voted against it. The fact that five are up for reelection in 2008 may have played a part.

The seven Senators, including Hagel and Warner, wrote a letter to the Senate leadership stating their desire to debate despite their vote earlier in the week. Noting that the war is the “most pressing issue of our time,” the senators wrote, “We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate.”