Monday, January 07, 2008

The Mainstream Media In An Election Year

If we are to judge 2008 by its beginnings, chances are it is going to be a pretty dismal year, at least as far as the mainstream media is concerned. This is particularly bad in such an important election year.

First, the decision by ABC in New Hampshire to exclude Dennis Kucinich (D), Mike Gravel (D), and Duncan Hunter (R) from the Saturday New Hampshire debates. As Kucinich aptly pointed out, the airwaves do not belong to the networks, they belong to the public and it is not up to a network to decide which candidates can or cannot participate in a debate, or which candidates are viable. He promised to sue ABC for his exclusion and I hope he does real damage to the network’s power.

Then, just a few days ago, the NY Times announced that it has hired Bill Kristol to write op eds for a year, beginning on Jan 7th. Let me refresh your memory: Bill Kristol is the editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard, a regular contributor on Fox News Channel, and hear hear, the leader of PNAC (Project for the New American Century). You may have heard about this little gem of a think tank in the lead up to the war in Iraq. In fact, it started rattling the sabers and banging the drum for the removal of Saddam Hussein when Bill Clinton was still president, in 1998, and 9/11 was only the number you dialed when you had an emergency. To put the role of PNAC in perspective for you, let me quote from a year 2000 PNAC report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses":
[T]he process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."

Need I add more?

Before 1998, Kristol led the war against Bill Clinton's attempt, captained by then First Lady Hillary Clinton, to reform healthcare in the United States. He did so not because he disagreed with Clinton's plan in principle, but because Clinton's proposal for reform had the potential to "re-legitimize middle-class dependence for ‘security’ on government spending and regulation”, and 'revive' ... the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests.” In other words, he wanted to derail the plan not because it was bad for America, but because it was bad for the neo-cons.

David Corn of The Nation came up with a useful list of Kristol missteps in judgment in January of 2007, in an article that expressed bewilderment at Time magazine's decision to hire Kristol as a contributor. For your (my reader's) convenience, I am going to quote the list below:
On September 11, 2002, as the Bush administration began its sales campaign for the coming war, Kristol suggested that Saddam Hussein could do more harm to the United States than al Qaeda had: "we cannot afford to let Saddam Hussein inflict a worse 9/11 on us in the future."
On September 15, 2002, he claimed that inspection and containment could not work with Saddam: "No one believes the inspections can work." Actually, UN inspectors believed they could work. So, too, did about half of congressional Democrats. They were right.
On September 18, 2002, Kristol opined that a war in Iraq "could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East."
On February 2, 2003, he claimed that Secretary of State Colin Powell at an upcoming UN speech would "show that there are loaded guns throughout Iraq" regarding weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, everything in Powell's speech was wrong. Kristol was uncritically echoing misleading information handed him by friends and allies within the Bush administration.
On February 20, 2003, he summed up the argument for war against Saddam: "He's got weapons of mass destruction. At some point he will use them or give them to a terrorist group to use...Look, if we free the people of Iraq we will be respected in the Arab world....France and Germany don't have the courage to face up to the situation. That's too bad. Most of Europe is with us. And I think we will be respected around the world for helping the people of Iraq to be liberated."
On March 1, 2003, Kristol dismissed concerns that sectarian conflict might arise following a US invasion of Iraq: "We talk here about Shiites and Sunnis as if they've never lived together. Most Arab countries have Shiites and Sunnis, and a lot of them live perfectly well together." He also said, "Very few wars in American history were prepared better or more thoroughly than this one by this president." And he maintained that the war would be a bargain at $100 to $200 billion. The running tab is now nearing half a trillion dollars.
On March 5, 2003, Kristol said, "I think we'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq."

Enough? I’d say. Yet, the editor of the NY Times editorial page has feigned distress at the “weird fear of opposing views” expressed by those who have protested the Times’ decision to hire Kristol. Let’s be clear, Mr. Rosenthal: It is not a "fear of opposing views" that leads us to protest. It is bitterness at seeing that a newspaper like the New York Times, which was instrumental in selling the war in Iraq to the American public through the incompetent articles of Judith Miller, has chosen to reward incompetent judgment, with a weekly column. Jon Stewart summed it best when he discussed the war in Iraq with Kristol in the summer of 2007:
Can you see how someone who is skeptical [would have trouble with you saying] “Trust us to undo the terrible things we did”?

One of these days Rupert Murdoch might well set his sights on the New York Times. Oh, wait: He does not need to!

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