Assume for a second that it is 1945, and it has just been learned that Adolf Hitler is dead. Would America’s media offer this madman the respect of referring to him as “Mr. Hitler?” Well, if the newspaper in question was the New York Times, the answer might definitely be “Yes,” for in a New Year’s day article about the supposed “rush to hang” the former genocidal leader of Iraq, the Times regularly referred to the now demised despot as “Mr. Hussein” (emphasis mine throughout):
With his plain pine coffin strapped into an American military helicopter for a predawn journey across the desert, Saddam Hussein, the executed dictator who built a legend with his defiance of America, completed a turbulent passage into history on Sunday.
Like the helicopter trip, just about everything in the 24 hours that began with Mr. Hussein’s being taken to his execution from his cell in an American military detention center in the postmidnight chill of Saturday had a surreal and even cinematic quality.
Fascinating. So, in the Times’ view, “Mr. Hussein” is a legend? How marvelous. The article continued:
It should never amaze media watchers when a press member finds fault in justice being doled out to the clearly guilty, even when the party in question is a genocidal despot. With that in mind, it didn’t take long for NBC to question the integrity of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, and espouse to viewers a downside for America as well as the country the tyrant once ruled with an iron fist.
Adding insult to injury, correspondent Richard Engel so editorialized on the final “Nightly News” of 2006 (video available here):
It was a major public relations blow for the US administration and the Iraqi government which have been trying to show the world that Saddam Hussein received impartial justice. Now with this brief video, that's being called into question as today Saddam was laid to rest.
At the site of Saddam’s burial, Engel chose to first interview a grieving Hussein loyalist even though Iraq is dominated by Shia Muslims who passionately despise the former dictator:
Time’s Cartoons of the Year for 2006 certainly have a liberal tilt. None of them mock American liberals. Two promote them. The list starts with a Kerry-defending serious cartoon, "I’d rather be insulted by a botched joke than die in a botched war." It ends with Nancy Pelosi arriving in the Capitol to "Clean the House."
Republicans and conservatives are mocked. A joke mocks that Dick Cheney should invite Valerie Plame on a hunting trip, that Dennis Hastert is getting his "just desserts" in Foleygate for pursuing the Clinton sex scandals, and the Verizon guy is on the line with an NSA wiretapper who’s thrown the Constitution in the garbage can. John Wayne seems to be in cardiac arrest in Heaven after learning the plot of "Brokeback Mountain."
Washington Post arts writer Sarah Kaufman, who just two weeks ago celebrated the new ballet where George W. Bush assaults women and kills them, mentioned that and other "anti-war" (not "Bush-hating") dance works as her highlights of 2006 in the Sunday Arts section:
In the past year dancers have given the term "antiwar movement" new meaning. One legacy of the bloody, intractable Iraq war may well be its role as an artistic inspiration.
Starting with American Ballet Theatre's revival of Kurt Jooss's "The Green Table" at the Kennedy Center last February, protest works have made an impact, as company directors have put uneasy -- even brutal -- views of war onstage.
Two of the works felt especially political. ABT performed Jooss's 1932 treatise on bureaucrats with blood on their hands the very night that President Bush was delivering his State of the Union address. A coincidence, probably, but a particularly delicious Washington moment nonetheless.
It was artistically rich as well. This work, a historical treasure of enduring relevance, is full of drama and outsize characterizations: the stuffed-shirt politicians who drive the conflict but remain at a safe distance, soldiers in battle, mourning women and the magnetic figure of Death, which dancer David Hallberg injected with arrogance, charisma, menace and seductiveness. He was a stalker and a lover: the ultimate predator. This work makes its point with eloquent economy: What begins at a conference table ends in hell.
They also followed that party line in Kansas City. But Googling also found that Sarah Kaufman also whacked at Bush and the oblivious people who voted for him on December 9 in telling readers what to go out and see:
IF THE SEASON IS getting too predictable -- too many Sugarplum Fairies, too much "Messiah" -- the Paul Taylor Dance Company offers a tempting antidote. Never sweet, sometimes sour, often sardonic, Taylor puts a refreshingly clear-eyed spin on things in his upcoming program of four works. His 2005 work, "Banquet of Vultures," takes on the cruelties of war, dogmatic leadership and an oblivious populace. (Hmm, what could have inspired that?)
sic: thus; so. Used to indicate that a quoted passage, especially one containing an error or unconventional spelling, has been retained in its original form or written intentionally. - Answers.com definition
Adding religious insult to mortal injury in its coverage of the 3000th US service-person to die in Iraq, ABC seemed to suggest that there was something odd or erroneous in the expression of a traditional belief in the afterlife.
Today's "Good Morning America" focused on the death of Army Specialist Dustin Donica of Texas, believed to be that 3000th serviceman lost in Iraq. Narrating the segment, ABC's Jonathan Karl stated: "The MySpace page he left behind bears the tributes of those whose lives he touched." The screen then displayed the message [shown larger-than-normal here for clarity's sake] from one of those friends:
"You were one of my best friends and I'll never forget you. All my prayers go to your family and I'll see you again." (sic)
On January 1, 1989, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev wrote a shared New Year's message to the citizens of their respective countries. On the eve of 2007, their words have just as much meaning as they did eighteen years ago:
President Reagan's Message
On behalf of the American people, I send you greetings on the coming of the New Year.
In your country and mine, the New Year is a time of hope and renewal. Never have these qualities of the spirit been more necessary than now, as Soviet Armenia begins to heal from its wounds. You have our deepest sympathy. You have our prayers. And you have a personal hope from my wife, Nancy, and me that in the effort to rebuild what was shattered you will find your solace.
On Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Time magazine Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney called “unpardonable” the late President Gerald Ford's failure to share with the nation, as well as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld -- who worked for him as Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense, respectfully -- his discomfort with the decision to go to war in Iraq. "Had he spoke out at the time,” Carney sighed, “it would have had an impact.” This Week opened the roundtable with audio of Gerald Ford in a 2004 interview with Bob Woodward: "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraqi war. I can understand the theory of wanting to free people. I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people unless it is directly related to our own national security."
Carney's wife, ABC's Claire Shipman, echoed what she expressed on Thursday's Good Morning America (NewsBusters item by Megan McCormack) as she scolded Ford for cowardice since “he could have made a real difference” if he had spoken out: “If this was a man who was unafraid to take the hit on something like the pardon [of Nixon], this was a man who had the experience of Vietnam, presiding over the end of the Vietnam war, he clearly felt strongly about what was happening in Iraq, he could have made a real difference if he had decided to speak out."
He writes: "Everything was in place for Gerald R. Ford's state funeral last night -- everything, that is, but the statesmen."
The third paragraph continues:
"President Bush sent his regrets; he was cutting cedar and riding his bike on his ranch in Texas. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his deputy, Richard Durbin, couldn't make it, either; they were on a trip to visit Incan ruins. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a pass, too -- as did nearly 500 of the 535 members of Congress."
Reading this, one might conclude that while the lack of interest in paying respects to the late President is bipartisan, the failure of the current President, a man of the same political party as Mr. Ford, is particularly egregious. How dare Mr. Bush opt to cut cedar and ride his bike rather than participate in a state funeral for another Chief Executive?
Well, this morning comes a report from a certified MSM source lending credence to W's assertion. NBC's Richard Engel, who nobody would confuse with a Bush administration defender and who only yesterday was deploring the execution of Saddam as "primitive and vindictive," appeared on this morning's "Today" to discuss the aftermath of Saddam's death.
Asked host Lester Holt: "Lots of concern that there would be a violent response to the execution from Saddam loyalists, supporters. What has the reaction been so far?"
The passing of President Ford has New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof fantasizing about the ignominy that President Bush's obituary will heap on him for his handling of Iraq. In what Kristof claims to be "the holiday spirit," he offers W ten suggestions to rescue his legacy. After all, what says "holiday spirit" more than dreaming about someone's death?
You can read all ten suggestions here if you've anted up to the Times, but for those loath to lard the Times' coffers, let me focus on two of Kristof's recommendations:
"Seriously engage Iraq’s nastier neighbors, including Iran and Syria, and renounce permanent military bases in Iraq. None of that will solve the mess in Iraq. But these steps will suggest that you are belatedly trying to listen and are willing to give diplomacy a chance."
We haven't listened to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Sure we have: he wants to develop nuclear weapons and erase Israel from the map. For starters. And just why should we renounce the prospect of bases giving us the ability to defend American interests in the most volatile region of the world?
There were more guess-what-I'm-liberal picks of the Washington Post arts writers in Friday's Weekend section, so since it's a slow Sunday morning, here's the others. The movie critics listed their favorite actors of the year. Ann Hornaday closed out her list with this flippant pick:
5. Ted Haggard in "Jesus Camp." In this documentary, the evangelical preacher leers at a camera operator and says, "I know what you did last night." Well, it turned out what he had done last night was score some crystal meth and get together with a male prostitute. Meanwhile, this prevaricator and moral hypocrite had thousands of followers convinced he was a straight and sober man of God. Well played, sir!
Like a mother hen jealously guarding her flock [less flattering but unmentionable metaphors also come to mind], the New York Times is loath to see any government program escape the clutches of the state. And even if Social Security is a sick chick, the Times zealously holds her close because she is the biggest money-pot of the bunch.
For the Times, the fox stalking the social security henhouse has been privatization, epitomized by the social security system of Chile, which was privatized more than 25 years ago and has served as a model for many other countries. Even Borat has more Social Security freedom than Americans. His Kazakhstan is among at least twenty countries, including the UK and Sweden, that have implemented a variety of privatized plans.
Journalists just can't resist highlighting how the late President Gerald Ford expressed disagreement with President George W. Bush's Iraq policy and with Vice President Dick Cheney's adamant pursuit of it. A fresh example: Barely two minutes into MSNBC's Saturday coverage of Ford's funeral, Newsweek political reporter Howard Fineman ruminated about how “the interesting thing is that Gerald Ford himself, toward the end of his life, in conversations with Bob Woodward...said basically I disagreed with the idea of going to war in Iraq and he wondered about Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld,” who “were known for their probity and caution and for their lack of ideology, for their realistic view of the world. How was it, Ford wondered toward the end of his life, that those two guys, part of that all-star team of realists, had gotten hooked up in what Ford regarded as a mistaken war?"
Tom Brokaw took the occasion of the ceremonies attending the death of President Ford to take shots at the foreign policy of both Presidents Ford and Reagan. Speaking with Chris Matthews on MSNBC during the 6 PM ET hour, Brokaw observed: "President Ford and Henry Kissinger, fairly I think you can say, were over-infatuated with the Shah of Iran. Iran was an important launching pad for the United States should a war with the Soviet Union break out. It was also the source of great oil [sic], but there was already at that time very strong evidence in Iran that there was an Islamic uprising that eventually overthrew the Shah of Iran."
The Shah fell largely because Jimmy Carter abandoned him. Is Brokaw saying the US should have jumped earlier on Ayatollah Khomenei's bandwagon?
Entertainment Weekly TV critic Ken Tucker put both Keith Olbermann and Rosie O'Donnell on his Best of TV List for 2006.
6 Countdown With Keith Olbermann MSNBC The best anchor in the biz right now books off-the-beaten-pundit guests, refuses to maintain the ridiculous pose of ''objectivity,'' and is funny as hell. Which is where some of his competitors wish he'd go.
7 The View ABC Detonate the small nuclear bomb called Rosie O'Donnell and watch a mere chitchat show explode with barbed wit and fierce sociopolitical debate. She's forced Elisabeth Hasselbeck to try to learn how to form coherent thoughts, made a revitalized Joy Behar her ally in common sense, and frequently left her boss Barbara Walters speechless.
Newspaper cultural critics often seemed to be bringing their politics and not just their artistic senses to the table when judging the "best" products of 2006. Friday’s Weekend section of The Washington Post compiled a set of lists of the best in art, music, and movies, and some of the Post critics were dropping some liberal (and radical, even Marxist) politics into their choices. The music critics were the most political. Curt Fields had two liberal/radical Bush-hater favorites on his Best list:
7. Dixie Chicks. The trio had several quality moments, including its defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice" single and the intriguing "Shut Up & Sing" documentary. But best of all was the way the Dixie Chicks appeared onstage at some of their live shows to the strains of "Hail to the Chief."...
9. The Coup, "Pick a Bigger Weapon." This Oakland, Calif.-based act mixes revolutionary politics, humor and sweet beats. Smart and catchy, a rare double. Plus, it has the song title of the year, "Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy."
The Times may have taken it too far this time. I would think more than a few in the Manhattan wine-and-cheese set, even those who oppose the war, will be astute enough to substitute the name "Osama bin Laden" and his "orchestration of the 9/11 attacks" for "Saddam Hussein" and his "vile and unforgivable atrocities" in the Times' Friday editorial. Here are a couple of easy examples:
Atheist activist Sam Harris recently proclaimed on National Public Radio that America needed a lot more mockery of religious belief. "I think the criticism of irrationality just has to come from 100 sides all at once,” he declared. “In the entertainment community, maybe you'll just have people making jokes that are funny enough and true enough so as to put religious certainty in a bad light."
Harris said he’s been trying hard to make contacts among the mind-benders in the news and entertainment media to find those God-scorning people who feel “a profound sense of relief that comes with hearing somebody call a spade a spade.”