Bob Woodward has often been frustrating in recent years as he repeats the establishment line far too often for someone who once helped force a corrupt president from office. If he had investigated the Bush administration as vigorously as he investigated Richard Nixon, perhaps recent history might be different. The lies of Donald Rumsfeld in his new book are too much even for Woodward, who has a column at Foreign Policy exposing many of them. Before getting to the specifics, Woodward wrote:
Rumsfeld’s memoir is one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others — including President Bush — distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away. It is a travesty, and I think the rewrite job won’t wash.
The Iraq War is essential to the understanding of the Bush presidency and the Rumsfeld era at the Pentagon. In the book, Rumsfeld tries to push so much off on Bush. That is fair because Bush made the ultimate decisions. But the record shows that it was Rumsfeld stoking the Iraq fires — facts he has completely left out of his memoir.
What a shock–Rumsfeld lied. It looks like both Bush and Rumsfeld (along with Cheney) are responsible for what is one of the most vile acts imaginable by a government–going to war unnecessarily based upon lies. I still don’t understand why the Tea Party people weren’t out on the street protesting this one. (Oh yeah, its because they are a far right wing movement which has absolutely nothing to do with the ideals of the American Revolution.)
I am glad to see Woodward exposing several of Rumsfeld’s lies. It is a shame that his lies, along with those of Bush and Cheney, cannot be investigated more thoroughly by a war crimes tribunal.
I was ambivalent about Fringe during the first season when there were primarily stand-alone stories, but have grown to love the show as it got more into its mythology and a continuing story line. Friday’s episode brought about one major change as we saw in Reciprocity that Peter’s connection to the Doomsday Machine has also changed Peter. Finding that Peter was the one killing the shape shifters was a surprise. It was also amusing to see the effects of Walter injecting the chimpanzee DNA and I was happy to see some movement on Peter’s relationship with Olivia.Dumping a boyfriend because he had sex with your identical counterpart from an alternative universe is the lamest reason since Rachel dumping Ross for messing around when they were on a break.
While an excellent episode, I do miss the alternative universe. We’ve been promised that the show will return there, and there was some more news on this last week. John Noble has hinted about his roles:
In a recent conference call, the actor told reporters that the brain-damaged scientist will begin to “put his life back together”.
“He finally comes to face up to his limitations, but also his strength,” said Noble. “[That is] more than enough to deal with the problems. It’s a wonderful journey for Walter this season and he gets to go through all the stages.”
Noble also promised that viewers will begin to see a more human side to Walter’s doppelganger, the sinister Walternate.
“You will learn more of what made Walternate what he is, and you will see some humanisation of the man behind that steel exterior,” he explained. “He has to make some difficult decisions. We’ve done some terrific things that don’t soften him, but help to understand that he is man, not a machine.”
He added: “I hope that there is a resolution between Walter and Walternate, because I don’t see either of them as bad men.”
I am especially looking forward to the February 25 episode which goes back to Peter’s abduction:
“Peter,” the season two episode that brilliantly chronicled how Walter Bishop accidentally abducted the alternate universe’s Peter, was such a fan favorite that producers are headed back to 1985 in an upcoming episode of “Fringe.”
Slated to air February 25, the installment will serve as a companion piece to “Peter,” according to star Jasika Nicole. “It’s going to pick up right where ‘Peter’ left off and it’s better than the first one,” she told PopWrap.
But unlike the season two edition, “this flashback is going to take place in the alternate universe as well as this universe. That’s why it’s so good, you’ll see the repercussions stealing Peter has for Walter and Walternate,” she adds.
A huge part of the fallout will involve Elizabeth Bishop. “As we’ve seen, Walternate is still with his wife and there’s a reason for that. You see all these consequences that happened as a result of that [abduction] and what that means for his relationship with Elizabeth. It’s a really heartbreaking story.”
The biggest Fringe news is that Leonard Nimoy has tweeted that he might be returning as William Bell. The actual tweet states, “Plans developing for a William Bell return to Fringe. Stay Tuned. LLAP.” As long as Nimoy is willing to return, it is hard to believe that the producers of Fringe will not take advantage of this.
I wasn’t paying any attention to the prospect of an other remake of Charlie’s Angels until Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights was cast in the movie last week.(Kelly also has a recurring role in Parenthood this season and played Autumn in 500 Days of Summer).
ABC’s Charlie’s Angels has its trio female leads: Former Friday Night Lights star Minka Kelly’s will play a former Marine and weapons expert and Transformers star Rachael Taylor will play a con artist.
The duo have been near-deals for the roles this week and are now official on the Sony Pictures TV project. Kelly and Taylor join the previously cast General Hospital star Annie Ilonzeh.
Friday Night Lights is down to only two more episodes. I won’t give any details as many are waiting until it airs on NBC this spring, but I think this was the best of the shorter, and lower-budget, seasons done jointly with Direct TV.
In other casting news, Henry Cavill of The Tudors will play Superman.
Colin Firth says he’d like to play a bad guy on Doctor Who or Torchwood, especially Doctor Who.
Keanu Reeves has created a stir in the blogosphere by stating two more sequels to The Matrix are in the works. Perhaps we could start a fund to pay them not to do this. I’m not sure where they would go after the two terrible sequels to a great movie. Would it be feasible to just pretend the two sequels don’t exist and remake a good pair to replace them?
Luke Pasqualino will play William Odama on the upcoming Battlestar Galactica prequel, Blood and Chrome. IO9 has a larger version of the above map of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.
Not only is this map a thing of great beauty, but it’s totally official — Grazier was science advisor for Battlestar Galactica from the very beginning, and helped to define a lot of the show’s concepts. And Espenson, as the original showrunner for the prequel series Caprica, had to do a lot of thinking about exactly how the Twelve Colonies were laid out. This info comes straight from the creators — and from the showrunner’s bible for BSG and Caprica. And Grazier, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, verifies that the info in this map is “scientifically plausible.” It was created by Hollywood graphic designer Geoffrey Mandel, who made countless adjustments as the technical data underwent scrutiny…
We asked Espenson and Grazier some questions about the map, and they ended up telling us a lot more about the science and backstory of Battlestar Galactica:
I didn’t realize there were four different stars in the Cyrannus star system. I had always wondered if there were just 12 habitable planets clustered around a single sun. Where did the idea of four different stars come from? Was this in the show bible someplace? I’m especially curious about Leonis, the “heart of the colonies,” which I don’t think we ever heard about. Also, Scorpion, the “playground of the colonies.” Is that the colonial version of Risa?
Jane: Even back before Caprica the show existed, I believe Kevin and I had talked a bit about the configuration of the colonies. All the work on that is his. I instinctively loved the idea of a star cluster. The idea of 12 habitable planets all orbiting one star just seemed unworkable. And crowded. This group of stars makes so much sense. Kevin was at work on the configuration of stars and planets long before we shot a single frame.
More on the “science” of Battlestar Galactica in the full post.
As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, if you want to reduce the deficit you should vote Democratic as, despite conservative rhetoric, it is conservative Republicans and not Democrats who are responsible for the deficit. James Fallows presented further evidence of this, taking data compiled by deficit hawk Chuck Spinney. Spinney compared the records of all presidents since Harry Truman, looking at both the change in the debt burden and how much overall federal debt grew, or shrank, as a share of gross domestic product during each administration. Here are his results:
The presidents responsible for the increased debt burden are in red: Reagan, Bush and Bush.
James Fallows – James Fallows is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. A 25-year veteran of the magazine and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, he is also an instrument-rated pilot and a onetime program designer at Microsoft.
James Fallows is National Correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for more than 25 years, based in Washington DC, Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and most recently Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford. In addition to working for the Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and has been an Emmy nominee for a documentary “Doing Business in China.” He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His two most recent books, Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards from Tomorrow Square (2009) are based his writings for The Atlantic. He is married and has two sons.
George W. Bush has the distinction of having a low approval rating of only 25 percent in the Gallup poll, just one percent above Richard Nixon who was forced to resign in disgrace. CBS News had his final approval rating even lower at 22 percent–which happens to be Sarah Palin’s current approval rating from the same organization. It appears that 22 percent might be the level of support a Republican politician can count on regardless of how incompetent they are.
More numbers from the poll:
Palin is viewed favorably by just 22 percent of Americans, according to the poll – including less than half (44 percent) of Republicans. Twenty-one percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats view her favorably.
Forty-eight percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Palin. That includes 73 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of independents and 22 percent of Republicans.
Another politician has seen their support fall to the same ball park as the Bush/Palin level. A survey from Public Policy Polling found that only 24 percent plan to vote for Joseph Lieberman for reelection, although his approval rating remains barely over 30 percent:
Majorities of Democrats (72%), independents (63%), and Republicans (61%) alike say it’s time to swap out Lieberman for someone new.
Lieberman is one of the most unpopular Senators in the country, with only a 31% approval rating and 57% of voters disapproving of his job performance. He’s on slightly favorable ground with Republicans at a 46/41 approval rating. But he’s lost virtually any remaining support he had with Democrats at a 20/69 approval and independents are against him as well, by a 31/56 spread.
Right Wing News conducted a survey of conservative bloggers to find out who they thought were the worst twenty-five people in U.S. history. John Wilkes Booth beat out Nancy Pelosi, but only by one vote. Jimmy Carter leads, followed by Barack Obama. Both are well ahead of Timothy McVeigh, who also trails Ted Kennedy, FDR, and LBJ. The results:
23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)
It also appears that, in their view, we are living in really bad times considering how many of the worst people in American history are now living or were around in the not very distant past.
So far it appears that the release of reports on Afghanistan by WikiLeaks has no smoking guns and contains nothing which will harm U.S. national security or harm the troops. A comparison to the Pentagon Papers was inevitable, even if there are major differences here. The leaked papers do not demonstrate dishonesty on the part of either George Bush or Barack Obama regarding Afghanistan comparable to what was revealed about American leaders regarding Vietnam. The Obama administration might complain about the leaks (as we would expect any administration to) but we are not going to see the type of battle to suppress them which Richard Nixon engaged in over the Pentagon Papers.
This does not mean that the leaks will not have an effect. The publicity might still revive the debate over why we are in Afghanistan and whether it serves U.S. interests to remain. John Kerry, a leading critic of the Vietnam war (as well as an opponent of the Iraq war before it began, despite the attempt of 2004 primary opponents to distort his record), had this comment:
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released the following statement this evening in response to the New York Times story on the leak of classified documents concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan:
“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”
I doubt we will see open battle between the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Obama administration as there was been Democrats and the Nixon administration in the later days of the Vietnam war, although the committee might raise some uncomfortable questions for the administration. I suspect it is more likely that if Kerry turns against this war he might have some success in making Obama reconsider.
For those of us old enough to have lived through the Watergate era this is a huge loss. Daniel Schorr died today at age 93. Besides working at CBS during the Watergate era, Schorr worked at CNN in its early days and most recently has been a commentator for NPR.
Daniel Schorr made Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” and Nixon’s feelings toward Schorr can be seen from this excerpt from the Watergate tapes:
In White House recordings from 1971, Nixon and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman discuss a tax investigation of Schorr in the Oval Office.
“You take a fellow like this Dan Schorr, he’s — I notice — he is always creating something, isn’t he?” Nixon said.
“Oh … He incidentally is on — you don’t, shouldn’t get involved in this, but he’s on our tax list, too,” Haldeman said.
“Good,” Nixon replied.
“They’re going after a couple of media people,” Haldeman said. “They’re going after Dan Schorr and (Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Star columnist) Mary McGrory.”
“Good,” Nixon said again.
Schorr received three Emmy Awards for his coverage of Watergate in 1972, 1973, and 1974. He also won a Peabody in 1992 for “a lifetime of uncompromising reporting of the highest integrity” and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Society of Professional Journalists in 1991.
For several days before Comic-Con officially opened there has been lots of news, with much of it being dominated by Marvel. There has been the release of the above movie poster for Captain America, and now there is even some political controversy surrounding the movie. The shocking news is that Captain America isn’t going to be a flag-waver. The Los Angeles Times reports:
The director of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 2011 summer blockbuster that will coincide with the character’s 70th anniversary, says the screen version of the hero will be true to his roots — up to a certain point.
“We’re sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers,” said Joe Johnston, whose past directing credits include “Jurassic Park III” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He’s a guy that wants to serve his country, but he’s not a flag-waver. We’re reinterpreting, sort of, what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.”
None of that is surprising, of course — Christopher Nolan pared away significant parts of the Batman mythology (such as Robin the Boy Wonder and any super-powered villains) that didn’t fit his grim take on Gotham City, while Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. manufactured a version of Iron Man that is hard-wired for far more humor than the old-school Marvel Comics character…
“He wants to serve his country, but he’s not this sort of jingoistic American flag-waver,” Johnston said. “He’s just a good person. We make a point of that in the script: Don’t change who you are once you go from Steve Rogers to this super-soldier; you have to stay who you are inside, that’s really what’s important more than your strength and everything. It’ll be interesting and fun to put a different spin on the character and one that the fans are really going to appreciate.”
Some pundits will pounce on all of this as another desecration of an American touchstone, but how many of them have ever read the books? The character, created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, was certainly unconflicted about his country and its mission during the clear-cut days of the 1940s, but it didn’t always stay that way. In late 1974, for instance, in the months after President Nixon’s resignation, Steve Rogers chucked the star-spangled costume and changed his hero name to Nomad (although, by 1976, Cap and original artist Kirby had the hero in bicentennial mode).
In recent years, Marvel star writer Ed Brubaker’s work on the character has been exceptional and never two-dimensional. Brubaker (the son of a Navy intelligence officer who was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) came to recognize that Cap is a vessel that can contain whatever any generation or reader wants to put in it. In 2007, Brubaker told the New York Daily News: “What I found is that all the really hard-core left-wing fans want Cap to be standing out on – and giving speeches on — the street corner against the George W. Bush administration, and all the really right-wing fans want him to be over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam Hussein.”
How much of a flag-waver Captain America should be depends a lot upon the era in which the story takes place. If this is to be a World War II story going back to his origins, then James Joyner has a good point:
I’ve got no problem with rebooting decades-old comic book characters and tweaking their origins to fit modern sensibilities. After all, Marvel and DC have done this multiple times with their flagship characters.
But here’s the thing: They’re still setting Cap’s origins in WWII and having him as an American super-soldier fighting the Nazis (including, one presumes, the Red Skull). It would be incomprehensible for that character to be other than a flag-waving patriot, as that was simply the norm.
If Johnson were re-imagining the character with an origin in 2010, on the other hand, the change would be perfectly natural. American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, very much think they’re the good guys. But cynicism and ambiguity about the mission are part and parcel of their culture.
But a WWII Cap? It doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t completely make sense if it is to be a WWII Captain America, but I’m not certain that the entire movie deals with that era. Another consideration is that the movie is being made for modern audiences, not those of the World War II era. Just as M*A*S*H successfully took Vietnam era views and portrayed them during the Korean War, it is conceivable that a World War II era movie might be written with more modern cultural views. I think we need to suspend making a decision until we see what the actual story is and to what degree Captain America ceases to be a flag-waver.
Despite the paranoia and distortions from the right, actual support for socialism in this country seems pretty non-existent. For example, the health care reform which the right pretends is a radical proposal actually is designed to increase the number of customers for private insurance companies. Neither a government-run program or even a single-payer program was ever considered. Government ownership in General Motors was a result of a plea from a private company for assistance with plans to return it private ownership, and certainly not a step towards government nationalization of industry. Calls for true socialism are limited to people who are marginalized on the far left without any influence on public policy, and I bet their is a very small number of them.
In such an atmosphere I would expect a poll of capitalism versus socialism in this country to show a result with virtually everyone choosing capitalism. A Rasmussen poll shows socialism doing far better than I’d expect. Rasmussen both does real polls on elections which are of reasonable value, and does a number of less reliable polls between elections to promote conservative memes (and in this case to promote a book by Scott Rasmussen). Their poll shows, “Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. adults nationwide say that capitalism is better than socialism.” In contrast, 18 percent disagree and 21 percent are not sure.
I’m sure we will see some conservatives use this to argue they are on the right side per public opinion. Actually I would definitely be on the side of supporting capitalism over socialism–provided we have the necessary government regulations to keep markets functioning properly. The same is true of Barack Obama as well as the Democratic Party. On the other hand, many of the actions of Republicans I have opposed over the years, from Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls to George Bush’s use of Medicare funds to provide corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, are due to Republican actions which are contrary to free market principles. At other times my opposition to conservatives stems from their lack of understanding that some government regulation is needed for markets to function–a concept which even Adam Smith understood.
While I doubt many Americans currently support socialism, my bet is that some people who not actually support socialism are unsure about saying they oppose it because of the repeated Republican attacks on socialism. Some people might hear the false claim that Obama is a socialist and respond by saying they support socialism.
One question has tugged at my professional conscience throughout the year-long congressional debate over health-care reform, and it has nothing to do with the public option, portability or medical malpractice. It is this: Why haven’t America’s old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: “The American people do not want health-care reform.”
Fox repeats this as gospel. But as a matter of historical context, usually in short supply on Fox News, this assertion ranks somewhere between debatable and untrue.
The American people and many of our great modern presidents have been demanding major reforms to the health-care system since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. The elections of 1948, 1960, 1964, 2000 and 2008 confirm the point, with majorities voting for candidates supporting such change. Yet congressional Republicans have managed effective campaigns against health-care changes favored variously by Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton. Now Fox News has given the party of Lincoln a free ride with its repetition of the unexamined claim that today’s Republican leadership really does want to overhaul health care — if only the effort could conform to Mitch McConnell’s ideas on portability and tort reform.
It is true that, after 14 months of Fox’s relentless pounding of President Obama’s idea of sweeping reform, the latest Gallup poll shows opinion running 48 to 45 percent against the current legislation. Fox invariably stresses such recent dips in support for the legislation, disregarding the majorities in favor of various individual aspects of the reform effort. Along the way, the network has sold a falsified image of the professional standards that developed in American newsrooms and university journalism departments in the last half of the 20th century.
Raines proceeded to further discuss how Fox abuses journalistic standards:
For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party. And let no one be misled by occasional spurts of criticism of the GOP on Fox. In a bygone era of fact-based commentary typified, left to right, by my late colleagues Scotty Reston and Bill Safire, these deceptions would have been given their proper label: disinformation.
Under the pretense of correcting a Democratic bias in news reporting, Fox has accomplished something that seemed impossible before Ailes imported to the news studio the tricks he learned in Richard Nixon’s campaign think tank: He and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions — whether on health-care reform or other issues — they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting.
There are at least three answers I can think of (none of which are all that good) as to why Fox and the arguments they spread to the rest of the media are not challenged enough:
Far too many journalists are lazy. They don’t see any point in taking on Fox or those who repeat the GOP/Fox line. It is easier to put on a conservative who repeats their usual lies, a liberal who might be telling the truth, and not to bother trying to determine the actual facts.
Accusations of liberal bias. Conservatives whine about a mythical “liberal media” and the lazy journalists decide it isn’t worth fighting. Often this leads to putting on the lying conservative without even bothering to put on the reality-based counter arguments.
Journalists often stick together. Sometimes this might even be due to a misguided belief this is necessary to defend freedom of the press. In reality it is the abuse of journalistic standards by Fox which is harmful to the free press. Fox is essentially a propaganda arm of the Republican Party and it should be treated just as an official GOP press office would be treated, and not as a legitimate news organization.
The goal in taking on Fox is not to prevent them from airing propaganda shows but to ensure that people realize that Fox is pure propaganda and does not air true news shows. The best thing to do is probably to mock them, and perhaps Democrats should refuse to appear on some of their shows. Some on the right have responded to criticism of Fox with unsubstantiated comparisons to Nixon’s enemies list or to claim First Amendment issues are in play here. The reality is that nobody support taking the types of actions against Fox which Richard Nixon took against members of the press. Dan Rather is one of many examples of liberal critics of Fox who do not support any restriction of their right to air their views. From The Dallas Morning News:
At a journalism awards luncheon at the Headliners Club in Austin, Rather was asked about cable news programs that have devolved into shows where hosts quiz opinionists about other opinionists (The question posed a Fox News trifecta: Glenn Beck quizzing Ann Coulter about Rush Limbaugh). Said Rather:
“One entertainer interviewing a second entertainer about a third entertainer isn’t my definition of news.”
Rather called the press “the red beating heart of freedom and democracy” and lamented that consolidation and corporate influence have encroached on journalism. He said four or six corporate entities control much of American journalism today – a trend that militates against its fundamental responsibility of holding powerful institutions accountable.
Rather said he’s confident Americans know the difference between the news and the infotainment on some cable news shows. And he said he would oppose any effort to curtail Fox News or any other opinion outlet on radio or TV. He said even if there were a cable station of pure propaganda – “and we may be near that now” – he would oppose censoring it in any way. Sounds like Fox News and talk radio – who warn the Obama administration wants to do them in – has a First Amendment friend in Dan Rather.
I generally agree but he might be over estimating the ability of some Americans to differentiate from real news and the propaganda presented on outlets such as Fox. We have seen too many examples which show that the more someone watches Fox, the more poorly informed they are about the issues. This even extends to Dan Rather himself. I’ve seen many blog comments from conservatives who believe that Dan Rather himself make fake documents about George Bush’s avoidance of his National Guard obligations–which is quite a distortion of the actual controversy.
The Obama administration must walk a fine line in their response to Fox. It is perfectly legitimate for them, as it is for any person, to point out the fact that Fox is not a legitimate news organization. Suddenly conservatives who ignored real civil liberties issues under George Bush, and who never seemed to realize the Bill of Rights contained anything other than the right to bear arms, are making unjustified claims of civil liberties issues here. With conservatives trying to make a false equivalency between this and Richard Nixon’s enemies list, as well as falsely claiming there are First Amendment issues, it would be counterproductive for the Obama administration to risk going overboard in their treatment of Fox.
Fox is an organization established to promote conservative views, often using the format of news shows which are actually promoting their viewpoint. To honestly state the facts about Fox is permissible. Obviously to act to suppress their right to express their views, including making false statements or falsely claiming to be “fair and balanced,” would be a violation of the First Amendment. Taking too hard a line against them verbally runs the risk of giving the appearance of violating the First Amendment.
David Corn has a good response to this dilemma. He has experience in dealing with Fox:
I’m watching this fight as no disinterested observer. For years I was a rare commodity: a liberal commentator on Fox News. I enjoyed working with the bookers and producers at Fox’s Washington bureau. But the place often felt like a foreign territory. On air, I was always the visiting team. The routine usually went something like this: A right-wing host (either an out-in-the-open conservative or barely veiled one) would turn to the conservative guest and ask, “You think the war in Iraq is a stunning success. Please tell us why it’s going so well.” Then s/he would introduce me and say, “Now, I understand you’re against fighting for freedom. Can you explain to our audience why that is?”
Context is everything. While there have been decent, hardworking journalists at Fox, the enterprise is indeed colored by its far-right opinion-masters, most notably those on-air: Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Even its supposed straight-news shows tilt right, with panels loaded with more arch-conservatives than strong liberals. (Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, has convincingly chronicled how the far-right views expressed on Fox’s opinion shows shape the network’s news coverage.)
Rather than react in a huffy manner to Fox — which provides an alternative reality to outraged conservatives who feel lost in Obama’s America — the White House ought to opt for what I’d call strategic derision. Good-natured belittling — but belittling, all the same — would go further than indignation, even if the indignation can be justified. That is, don’t demolish Fox, demean it. Gibbs should chuckle when a Fox correspondent asks a Foxian question. After all, if Fox is not to be taken seriously, don’t take it seriously. And by all means, don’t send Obama officials on Fox shows. But if a White House official is asked about this, he or she should reply with dismissive humor, not anger. (“We’d rather be reading the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill.”) Obama is well-skilled when it comes to deploying a light-but-cutting touch. That ought to be terms of engagement for his aides involved in the Fox skirmish. Fox is not important enough to be treated as Public Enemy No. 1.
Bashing the conservative network could rally Obama’s base. But Obama, for good or bad, did promise to rise above partisan sentiment and the game playing of the Washington political-media circus. With a clever use of strategic derision, Obama and his aides could do this and still stick it to the network. Fox is just not worth a game of chicken.
The natural reaction to finding that our president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize would seem to be an expression of gratitude, and perhaps even pride. Instead the far right used this to attack Obama, ironically making statements sounding little different from those of the Taliban and Hamas. Steve Benen notes that CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid questioned if “that this is going to widen the partisan divide and make things even more difficult to accomplish on every front.”
Hearing such an absurdity makes me miss once again the days when White House correspondents such as Dan Rather confronted Richard Nixon on Watergate as opposed to raising such a ridiculous right wing meme. Steve pointed out the absurdity of Reid’s question:
Reid’s fears that a Nobel prize the president did not seek might “widen the partisan divide and make things even more difficult to accomplish on every front” are almost comical. It reminded me of the scene in “Life of Brian” when Matthias says, “Look, I don’t think it should be a sin, just for saying ‘Jehovah.’” Shocked, the official overseeing his execution says, “You’re only making it worse for yourself!” To which Matthias responds, “Making it worse? How can it be worse?”
At this point, Republicans reflexively oppose every single policy Democrats embrace. The GOP has even decided to reject ideas they originally came up with. They’re running a scorched earth campaign … and Chip Reid thinks an unsolicited Nobel Peace Prize will make it “even more difficult” for the parties to find common ground?
Making it worse? How can it be worse?
If anything this can only make things better.
As Steve says, with current conditions there is no way to make matters worse, at least with respect to Republicans in Congress, as well as Republicans in leadership positions, talk radio, and Fox.
Fortunately these are not the only Republicans. When Obama strives for bipartisanship, he is looking beyond these people and considering all the people who have voted Republican in recent years. This includes both those who crossed over and voted for him, and Republican voters who voted against him but are open to supporting his positions based on the merit.
There are Republican voters who do like Obama. While I have no numbers on this nation wide, I do know people who voted against him but believe he is doing a good job. It probably does help when Obama points out that he is considering Republican ideas, such as on health care reform, even if he does not pick up any Republican votes outside of the state of Maine. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is also likely to improve how such people see him.
This may or may not help much, but I cannot see any way that it can hurt.
Sure, talk radio will attack him over this, but things couldn’t get any worse here. Even this might help us if it helps demonstrate to rational people just how nutty the right wing noise machine and conservative movement is. This will show that, while liberals criticized Bush over real matters of policy, the fanatics of the right simply hate him. Besides hating him as a person, they hate the American values he represents, and the conservative movement which would oppose such a man under any circumstances will never tolerate the thought of having a black man in the White House.
For the authoritarian right, to have a president who supports diplomacy and international cooperation as opposed to preemptive warfare and torture is unthinkable. Historian Douglas Brinkley, who has worked on books about Americans including Theodore Roosevelt, John Kerry, and Ronald Reagan, has this impression of the award:
No matter how his presidency develops or the planet evolves, he has already confirmed his place of greatness. For he didn’t just write “The Audacity of Hope,” he actualized it on the campaign trail of 2008. We spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to win over hearts-and-minds to the American Way. President Obama has done the same service on the cheap.
Many will appreciate this accomplishment world wide, perhaps including some Americans who have voted Republican.
Republicans hope to capitalize on any dissatisfaction with Obama, and place the blame on him for problems created by the Republicans, in order to return to power. Andrew Sullivan explains the absurdity of this:
Charlie Cook and others are predicting a sea-change in public mood, with support for the GOP rising because of deficits. This strikes me as an amazing thing. It makes Charlie Brown, the football and Lucy look like the model of intelligent interaction. If you believe in fiscal conservatism, the last place on earth you should look for salvation is the GOP. They have single-handedly destroyed America’s finances since the 1980s, with the sole exception of George H W Bush, who was rejected by his own party precisely because of his fiscal sobriety. The current debt is overwhelmingly inherited by Obama, and it would have been nuts to enter office in the downdraft of the sharp recession and set about cutting spending. Bush had eight years to restrain it and he didn’t. He let it rip. Think of the GOP’s phony concerns about the cost of the current healthcare bill and compare it with the GOP’s prescription drug entitlement that Rove rammed through the Congress when the GOP held total power. The costs then were about eight times as great as the proposed costs now. But that was a Republican measure and so it doesn’t somehow count as evidence of fiscal irresponsibility. But Nancy Pelosi only has to raise an eye-brow and the alarms go off.
Sullivan also notes this comment to a column by Bruce Bartlett:
The last Republican who left the office of the presidency with the federal public debt as a percentage of GDP less than when he entered was Richard Nixon (FY 1975). The last Republican who left the office of the presidency with a federal deficit less than 2.7% of GDP was Dwight Eisenhower (FY 1961). Since WW II no Democratic president has ever left office with the federal public debt as a percentage of GDP more than when he entered. And since WW II no Democratic president has ever left office with a federal deficit more than 2.6% of GDP.
We already have at least one party of fiscal responsibility. It’s called the Democratic Party.
I find it amazing when I read the right-wing blogs and they talk about fiscal conservatism and fiscal responsibility. It is just too damned funny. But what is kind of creepy is that they sincerely believe their own bullshit- it is like the last several decades never happened. In their minds, the Republicans really are responsible stewards of the nation’s finances. It is mind-boggling.
…there are only two presidents in the past 50 years who took the national debt seriously after it exploded when Lyndon Johnson refused to fund the Vietnam war–George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The Clinton experience is particularly important: he raised taxes to address the deficit. The Republicans said it would throw the economy into recession. It didn’t. Clinton’s 1993 economic plan threw the economy into…a massive expansion and budget surpluses that reduced the national debt significantly. (I remember reading pieces at the turn of the 21st century about the consequences of eliminating the national debt.)
George W. Bush wiped out all that. His tax cuts, overwhelmingly for wealthy Americans were bad enough. Then he passed a major entitlement–prescription drugs for the elderly–without paying for it. That’s what created the hole we were in when President Obama, acting to ameliorate a major economic meltdown, widened the deficit with his stimulus package…which, by the way, deserves some credit for preventing us from going off an economic cliff last winter.
Furthermore, Obama has promised that the health care reform plan will be revenue neutral. It may cost $1 trillion over 10 years, but he will raise $1 trillion to pay for it. Of course, Republicans are blocking most of the pathways to raising the revenue…and Democrats are blocking one important revenue sour (eliminating the employer-provided health care deduction), which, ironically, is the surest
But make no mistake: If you believe the national debt is a big problem, don’t blame the Democrats. Without question, they have been far more responsible–and, dare I say, conservative–party when it comes to balanced budgets for the past 30 years.
There is one necessary correction to Klein’s post. Bush’s Medicare D plan did provide some benefits for the elderly, and certainly was fiscally irresponsible, but it was primarily a program of corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to reward them for their support.
Charles Gibson has announced he will be stepping down as anchor at ABC’s World News. Diane Sawyer will be replacing him. With the tendency of many on the far right to ignore any information presented by the mainstream media which does not support the imaginary world view which is necessary to hold the views currently held by the conservative movement, I wonder how long it will be before Sawyer is attacked as another representative of the mythical “liberal media.”
Once the attacks against Sawyer as a member of the “liberal media” begin, keep in mind that Sawyer has worked for both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. It is actually quite common for many in the media to have some partisan ties in their past. The most obvious such example at ABC is George Stephanopoulos, who worked for Bill Clinton. There are many others working in broadcast news with ties to both the Democratic and Republican Party, with far more Republicans in such positions for it to make sense to see the mainstream media as having a distinctly liberal bias.