Nothing in American politics is quite so intriguing as the Central Intelligence Agency. There is a certain mystique surrounding this agency, almost wholly because it has proven to be quite good at keeping secrets.
Thus, whenever the actions of the CIA are widely reported in the media, the story typically becomes a fixation for many news outlets - and any former agent who is able to shed light on these actions are usually well-received. But even here, the media has limits.
But while Scheuer is an equal-opportunity critic of missteps by Democratic and Republican administrations, the broadcast news media seem to draw the line at allowing him on air to find fault with President Obama.
Scheuer wrote a column in Sunday’s Washington Post, daring to claim that the president’s actions in publishing the so-called CIA torture memos were morally reprehensible:
Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh says the mainstream media attitude on President Barack Obama is that he is too big to fail. What CNN has planned for the night of April 29 is one of several signs that could be the case.
"CNN is marking President Barack Obama's 100th day in office with prime-time coverage that will recall last year's primary and general election nights, right down to John King's magic wall," the AP article said. "The network says it will compile a national report card of Obama's performance, using opinion polls and a series of viewer surveys. The big night is April 29, a week from this Wednesday, pre-empting regular programming."
As was usually the case during Bill Clinton's presidency, the ascendancy of Dear Leader Barack Obama means that we will often have to consult the output of center-right commentators, and of course the Media Research Center and its affiliates, to cut through the establishment media's puffery to pick up even the most basic pieces of news.
I have bolded items in the excerpt below that represent news that was either not reported or vastly under-reported by what's left of the establishement media (there are even more examples at Krauthammer's full column):
President Obama might be at risk of losing MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, though it could be worse for him. Instead, she might remain a reliable shill.
After Obama unveiled details of his strategy against al Qaeda on Friday, Maddow played clips of Obama's remarks during her show that night, juxtaposed with similar comments by George W. Bush while he was president --
MADDOW: First, though, superficially, I think it has to be acknowledged that in today's speech, there were some George Bush-ish moments.
BUSH: These terrorists must be pursued ...
OBAMA: They must be met with force ...
Bush and Obama are then heard to say, in unison though years apart, " ... and they must be defeated."
On Thursday’s Countdown show, while recounting the story of shoddy electrical work done by Halliburton subsidiary KBR which has resulted in several American troops being electrocuted while taking showers in Iraq, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann referred to the dangerous showers as "Dick Cheney electrocution showers," and stated as fact his absurd opinion that the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq partly to provide "no bid sweetheart contracts" to Halliburton.
As he ended his rant during the show’s regular "Bushed!" segment, Olbermann repeatedly referred to KBR as "Dick Cheney’s old pals" as he complained that the Defense Contract Management Agency plans to get KBR to repair the electrical problems. Olbermann:
Dick Cheney`s old pals get billions of taxpayer dollars from a war Dick Cheney helped foment. Then Dick Cheney`s old pals do a criminally negligent job and they kill some of the soldiers who are not killed in Dick Cheney`s phony war. Now, to prevent Dick Cheney`s old pals from killing even more Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has assigned the urgent, essential, life or death repair work to Dick Cheney`s old pals.
During the 10am hour of "MSNBC News Live" on Monday, host Tamron Hall completely skipped the ideology of a left-wing documentarian as she talked with him about his new movie "Rethink Afghanistan," which claims that "troops are not the answer" in that country. Hall never identified Director Robert Greenwald, who has made documentaries such as "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," and "WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price," as a liberal. Instead, she simply described him as a "documentary filmmaker."
Additionally, Hall offered almost no tough questions, instead tossing softballs such as "What is your observation, having been [to Afghanistan] recently, regarding the Obama administration's plans?" Uninterrupted, Greenwald was allowed to later assert, "Well, again, remember that many people there believe that troops are not the answer. Troops contribute to the problem." He also instructed that the U.S. should send 17,000 teachers instead of soldiers. At the close of the interview, he complained, "But, I think we all get trapped in, as one of my friends in Afghanistan said, 'Shoot first. Think later.'"
In contrast, on January 9, when MSNBC host David Shuster interviewed John Ziegler about his movie on the media's treatment of Sarah Palin, the anchor got into a heated argument with the filmmaker, repeatedly challenging the "conservative documentary's" thesis and deriding, "John, you and Sarah Palin can't take any responsibility for the fact that she wasn't prepared to run for vice president."
CBS's Bob Schieffer devoted about half of his Face the Nation interview, with President Barack Obama, to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but on Iraq he failed to point out Obama's opposition to the surge as he hoped: “Are things going well enough there now that you may consider speeding up the withdrawal of troops from Iraq?”
On violence in Mexico, Schieffer pushed a blame America first line, suggesting more regulations on guns: “It's my understanding that 90 percent of the guns that they're getting down in Mexico are coming from the United States....Do you need any kind of legislative help on that front? Have you, for example, thought about asking Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons?”
Schieffer concluded by wondering if, like Thomas Jefferson, Obama is finding the presidency to be a “splendid misery” and quoting Jefferson, who once said “the presidency had brought him nothing but increasing drudgery and a daily loss of friends,” commiserated: “Have you lost any friends yet?” Certainly not in the news media.
The new policy, according to a senior State Department official, places elevated priority on standing up the Afghan government's fledgling civilian capabilities to deliver public services and establish its authority throughout the country.
Here's how award-winning British cartoonist Peter Brookes depicted this new strategy at the Times:
The Washington Post's Friday and Saturday front-page reports by Karen DeYoung on President Obama's escalation of war in Afghanistan are curiously missing one political element: objections from the strident anti-war groups on the left. Whatever happened to the protesters that treated Bush as a reckless warmonger?
Answer: they're either being marginalized, or they were more interested in getting a Democrat in the White House. The real story wasn't unearthed on the front of the Post, but in liberal blogger Greg Sargent's post on Friday at the Post-operated website WhoRunsGov.com:
Don’t look now, but President Obama’s announcement today of an escalation in the American presence in Afghanistan is being met with mostly silence — and even some support — from the most influential liberal groups who opposed the Iraq War....
On Friday’s CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith interviewed Afghanistan war veteran and Obama campaign volunteer Craig Mullaney, author of "The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education," and praised the book: "What a wonderful story, the arc, blue-collar kid decides to go to West Point, even ends up in Oxford before he ends up in Afghanistan. Ranger school...And look at you, receiving your diploma from Al Gore, no less....Such a pleasure to meet you. It is such a wonderful, wonderful read. So thoughtful and so articulate. And such good writing. Really appreciate it."
Smith did make vague mention of Mullaney’s political connection to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign: "Fast forward, you come out of the service, decide to become involved politically. You're involved with President Obama now. He's going to announce this in -- another increase in troops in Afghanistan. The thing that people whisper about, the concern they have for this president, will Afghanistan be this president's Vietnam? Does that worry you?" Mullaney replied: "I worry about a lack of patience in the American public. It's been a long time since we've focused on Afghanistan. And we've lost a lot of ground over the last seven years. And it's going to take a big effort to garner the resources necessary to really turn the situation around."
It's enlightening to see what topics New York Times editors find disturbing and newsworthy and which ones they shrug off or ignore.
New York's new senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is a Democrat who is nonetheless under strong suspicions at the liberal Times for her support of gun rights and her previous representation of a white conservative district. On Friday's front page, she came under fire via a stash of old ammo in a story by Raymond Hernandez and David Kocieniewski. "As New Lawyer, Senator Defended Big Tobacco." Gillibrand is in trouble for defending Big Tobacco as a lawyer representing Philip Morris back in 1996.
The Philip Morris Company did not like to talk about what went on inside its lab in Cologne, Germany, where researchers secretly conducted experiments exploring the effects of cigarette smoking.
So when the Justice Department tried to get its hands on that research in 1996 to prove that tobacco industry executives had lied about the dangers of smoking, the company moved to fend off the effort with the help of a highly regarded young lawyer named Kirsten Rutnik.
Ms. Rutnik, who now goes by her married name, Gillibrand, threw herself into the work. She traveled to Germany at least twice, interviewing the lab's top scientists, whose research showed a connection between smoking and cancer but was kept far from public view.
Left-wing pundit Rachel Maddow wants everyone to remember -- President Barack Obama did not start the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Got that? This is so important, Maddow felt compelled to repeat it during a recent broadcast.
While doing so, Maddow engaged in unsubtle revisionism on what led to the wars.
Here's what Maddow said on her MSNBC cable show Monday night (the remarks that follow comprise the first part of the embedded video, with two other segments in the video also described in this post) --
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's “Morning Joe”, showed her father's aptitude for foreign policy this morning.
The daughter of one of the Carter administration's chief foreign policy wonks started by scolding Robert Gibbs' knee-capping response to former Vice President Dick Cheney's CNN interview, saying that:
BRZEZINSKI: I would have probably wanted to take that on in a big way because many would argue that Cheney made the country more dangerous. Cheney is the one who put us in the position we're in and now has al Qaeda reconstituting around the world. There's some good answers to what Cheney said.
Many would, and they would be proven wrong by that very statement. It was Cheney's policies that destroyed Al Qaeda to the point that they had to “reconstitute” at all. It was Cheney's policies that stopped a long string of al Qaeda attacks. It was indeed Cheney's policies that put us in the position we're in - winning, and safe at home. Apparently, Brzezinski's idea of a better response would have been to attack the policies that have made us safe in the first place.
The current cover of Newsweek advertises a story on "Taliban Chic" in London, and it’s natural to assume it might be another story lauding the "burqini." Instead, it’s a chilling look at how the openness of London (and Western society) can create space for Islamic radicalism.
Newsweek reporter Sami Yousafzai clearly wrote in the spirit of the new Newsweek: a first-person account with no real objectivity or detachment. But it was gripping, as he began by describing how he came to London after being shot by Islamic radicals in Peshawar, Pakistan. Hoping for a safe environment, he was disturbed to discover London youths dressed like the Taliban: "I saw a tall young Afghan who reminded me of my would-be assassin, striding down the street like a bad dream."
It’s not even April 1 yet, and Keith Olbermann is already expressing fears that President Obama "is acting disturbingly like President Bush," because of a number of recent decisions by the Obama administration to continue policies similar to those of President Bush, which Olbermann recounted on Monday's Countdown while the words "Four More Years?" displayed at the bottom of the screen. The MSNBC host then introduced his guest for further discussion: "Here to help us tell the two men apart, Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post."
Responding to Huffington’s hope that Obama’s decisions would only be temporary, Olbermann queried that if, "after one of these six-month reviews – renditioning, for instance – continues on or other detentions without legal rights? What happens then?" prompting Huffington to convey her willingness to oppose Obama: "Well, everybody who cares about what are the fundamental American values of fairness and justice and due process needs to vociferously and unambiguously oppose the Obama administration. I don`t think there is any alternative to that."
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered his latest "Special Comment," in which he called on President-elect Barack Obama to prosecute President Bush and administration members on a charge of torturing prisoners, and invoked extreme examples such as slavery leading to the Civil War, and the handling of Germany after World War I leading to the rise of Nazism and World War II, to illustrate that "this country has never succeeded in moving forward without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past," and that Obama must try to prosecute Bush for the sake of the country’s future. After quoting Bush’s recent words about the interrogation techniques he authorized against 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and statements by Obama expressing reluctance to pursue prosecutions against the Bush administration, Olbermann began invoking extreme examples from history.
This country has never succeeded in moving forward without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past. ... We compromised with slavery in the Declaration of Independence, and, fourscore and nine years later, we had buried 600,000 of our sons and brothers in a civil war. After that war’s ending, we compromised with the social restructuring and protection of the rights of minorities in the South. And a century later, we had not only had not resolved anything, but black leaders were still being assassinated in the cities of the South. We compromised with Germany in the reconstruction of Europe after the First World War. Nobody even arrested the German kaiser, let alone conducted war crimes trials then. And 19 years later, there was an indescribably more evil Germany and a more heartrending Second World War.
Look no further than New York Times columnist Bob Herbert's recent appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" for why its namesake should invite guests who don't share her worldview more often than the current once-monthly clip, the better to sharpen the discourse.
Herbert appeared on Maddow's MSNBC program Jan. 13 to describe why he opposes President-elect Barack Obama's plans to double US troop strength in Afghanistan from the current 30,000 soldiers.
What follows is a transcript of the conversation between Maddow and Herbert, with my criticism afterwards. Words that are italicized indicate emphasis by the speaker, words in bold represent my emphasis --
At a time when the United States is fighting two wars and faces a severe recession and huge budget deficits, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president is estimated to cost $45 million. Bush's 2004 inauguration cost roughly $40 million. But though the figures are similar, there's been a major shift in the tone of coverage at the New York Times.
While the Times spent much of January 2005 making clear its disapproval of Bush extravagantly celebrating his inauguration during wartime, that concerned tone is conspicuously absent from the Times in January 2009, although the country is not only still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in danger of a deep recession. The difference? Perhaps because this time, it's the Times's favored candidate who is readying to assume the highest office.
A January 11, 2005 editorial on Bush's second inauguration, "Victor's Spoils," sniffed:
At the rate President Bush's supporters are giving money, his second inauguration threatens to stand out in the history books like the common folks' muddy boot prints on the White House furniture at Andrew Jackson's gala. The $40 million record for inaugural partying set four years ago for Mr. Bush is expected to be shattered this month....Ordinary citizens might have hoped that the overriding issue in Washington -- the perilous Iraq war, with its drain on the nation's blood and treasure -- would dictate restraint. But plans for the four-day extravaganza roll forward with nine celebratory balls being underwritten by the usual corporate and fat-cat supplicants in the political power mill. There's nothing new in Washington's triumphalist celebrations, festooned with price tags for access, but war usually mutes the singing and dancing. Not this year.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Pres.-elect Barack Obama and VP-elect Joe Biden meet in Washington January 14, 2009, after Biden and Graham's recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
When historians look back in wonder at how a long-established publication like the New York Times could have declined from its virtual king-of-the-world status in mid-2002 to its Bush-deranged, 85%-devalued shadow of its former self, they will surely make a few stops at Maureen Dowd's twice-weekly, lost-in-another-world columns (the Dowd picture is from the Times's web site).
Today's offering from Dowd (HT Hot Air Headlines) is intended to be a final figurative kick in the shins at George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, something she admits to fantasizing about having done to the Vice President this week when she had opportunities.
But the Dowd diatribe really ends up as a self-portrayal of someone who deeply imbibed the kool-aid her paper dished out over the past seven years and is beyond ever letting go, and serves as a microcosm of what the Old Gray Lady has done to itself in that same timeframe:
Well, it seems that the folks at Vanity Fair realized that they won't have George W. Bush to kick around any more. So they decided to launch the journalistic equivalent of thermonuclear war against him in an attempt to get its shot at a "draft of history."
In a 14 web-page tome (the photo at the top right is at its beginning) that fancies itself an "oral history," the magazine hauls out every criticism, real or imagined, hurled at the president during the past eight years. It reminds everyone that the media's favorite stereotype of conservatives and Republicans is that they're dumb (I guess Ike's orchestration of D-Day was some kind of accident, and George W. Bush's MBA -- he is the first president to hold one -- was some kind of gift from Poppy).
Sadly, the magazine finds a few former administration officials to pile on. One of them likens Bush to Sarah Palin (that's supposed to be an insult). We're left with the long-discredited meme of Dick Cheney as puppet master and Bush as impotent since Katrina (then how did Bush get that Iraq Surge past everyone and make it stick anyway?).
All you really need to know to spare yourself a truly painful read is what is in the tease paragraph after the headline. Brace yourself:
Short of going full Ninja hero and snatching the shoes in mid-air, it's hard to see how Pres. Bush could have been any cooler in his handling of the Hush Puppy Hurler. I figure W's feeling pretty good about things this morning. But that didn't stop ABC and NBC from declaring the incident "embarrassing" for President Bush.
For good measure, on Today, Doris Kearns Goodwin discounted Bush's blithe reaction, saying he wouldn't have been that cool a couple years ago, strangely intepreting his nonchalance as evidence of how anxious he is to leave office. And not to leave CBS out of the mix, on the Early Show Richard Roth described the president as being "nonplussed" in reaction to the incident, when he was in fact just the opposite.
Of the broadcast network newscasts Thursday evening, only the NBC Nightly News took a few seconds to note some more good news from the war front as fill-in anchor Lester Holt reported “combined deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in November” stood at eleven, “the lowest total since the U.S. invaded Iraq.”
ABC's World News devoted more than two minutes to LBJ tapes, which showed him “anguished about the Vietnam war,” while the CBS Evening News also had no time for the improving news out of Iraq and Afghanistan as the program aired a full story on how the recession is impacting the rich in Beverly Hills who, in Katie Couric's formulation, are being “forced to hawk what they own to pay what they 90210.”
And here's another "surprise," considering how we were told during the presidential campaign that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating: Combined November coalition deaths from all causes in Afghanistan and Iraq were the lowest in over 4-1/2 years, and the two-month total is by far the lowest ever:
On Sunday's episode of "60 Minutes" (11/30/08), Lara Logan profiled Army hero Private Monica Brown, an 18-year-old medic who was awarded the Silver Star. Yet as wonderful as Brown's heroics were, Logan's profile could not shake the impression that it really wanted to get in some cheap shots at the United States military. Here's how Logan opened her piece:
Private Monica Brown is only the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star since the Second World War. She’s an Army medic who risked her own life to save two critically wounded paratroopers of the 82nd airborne division in Afghanistan.
O.K. so far. But then Logan abruptly switched gears:
Under Army regulations, women cannot be assigned to front-line combat units, but in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq today, that’s exactly where they often end up. Some male soldiers aren’t so happy about that, including members of Private Brown’s own unit. But her superior officers say she’s a hero, a hero who earned one of the military’s highest awards for exceptional valor when she was only 18 years old.
That women "cannot be assigned to front-line combat units" is a theme that Logan hammered throughout her piece. The problem? Private Brown was not on a front-line combat mission. As Logan's own story indicated, Brown was a medic in a unit that had been "searching for weapons in a village" when it was ambushed while returning to base. (By the way, Logan identifies those who ambushed our men and woman simply as "hidden enemy fighters.")
“The KGB, I think, was an honorable place to work” with “worthwhile” achievements, CNN founder Ted Turner contended in an interview aired on Sunday's Meet the Press in which he blamed the U.S. for starting the battles with Vladimir Putin “by putting the Star Wars system in Czechoslovakia and Poland” and, when host Tom Brokaw recalled that Leonid Brezhnev reacted to Jimmy Carter's outreach by invading Afghanistan, Turner retorted with moral equivalence: “Well, we invaded Afghanistan, too, and it's a lot further -- at least it's on the border of the Soviet Union.” Brokaw called it “naked aggression on the part of the Russians at the time,” prompting Turner to charge: “Well, going into Iraq was naked aggression on the part of the United States.”
Turner, who did the sit-down as part of the media tour for his new book, Call Me Ted, defended Putin's KGB background by comparing it to someone who worked for the FBI:
We have an FBI and, and, and, and, and we're not prejudiced against somebody who's worked at the FBI. It's an honorable place to work. And the KGB, I think, was an honorable place to work. And it, it gave people in the former Soviet Union, a communist country, an opportunity to do something important and worthwhile.
Yeah, like oppressing people in captured nations and running gulags to suppress political dissent.
As Barack Obama appears to be appointing less than totally pro-surrender officials to his inner circle, far leftists are feeling constrained in their criticism by Obama Mania.
A Los Angeles Times article by Paul Richter with an amusing title ("Antiwar groups fear Barack Obama may create hawkish Cabinet") notes that Obama has appointed or is considering many people who originally supported the war in Iraq (this apparently automatically makes them "hawks").
Richter's hawkish characterization of the likes of Richard Holbrooke, Hillary Clinton, Vice-president Elect Joe Biden, and John Kerry is inadvertently amusing to any reader who has followed the machinations in Washington since the 110th Congress began in January 2006.
Richter goes to one peace activist, Kevin Martin, to "prove" that Obama is a "centrist." But in the process, as noted in my bold, we see an antiwar zealot acknowledge that Obama Mania has gone over the top:
How is it that in this time of historic change and euphoria, the media can remain so pessimistic?
The messiah has been elected, ACORN and Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie are stealing an election in Minnesota, conservatives are going to be silenced via the Fair-Less Doctrine, and gay marriage activists are assaulting the elderly. It is a time of hope and optimism in this, our liberal country.
So, why so negative?
The answer of course is, certain news might be perceived as a positive point in the waning days of the Bush Administration.
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez discussed Barack Obama’s foreign policy goals with foreign correspondent Lara Logan and asked about Logan’s July interview with the president-elect: "...he said many times during the campaign, that Afghanistan, and not Iraq, needs to be our central focus in this war on terrorism. And this morning in the Washington Post we're seeing that's he's already tackling strategies in Afghanistan. What do you think? How important will this be for him?" Logan replied: "Well, there's no question that Afghanistan is a very pressing and immediate problem because the gains the U.S. made during the invasion seven years ago have been slipping away more...You really cannot separate Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Obama understands that, that's one of key things that he said to me."
Later, Rodriguez asked about Obama’s policy towards Iran: "...what I thought was interesting in this article in the Washington Post, is that President-elect Obama is reportedly considering talks with Iran as part of this new Afghanistan strategy. Do you think the two will go hand in hand?" Logan followed Obama talking points: "Well, he said from the beginning he has no problem sitting down with Iran if it is in the United States’ best interest, because he believes that dialogue is important...it's absolutely critical that the United States reaches some kind of understanding. They've been losing ground to Iran inside Iraq since the invasion of Iraq and that is really a very, very serious problem that has not been dealt with to date."