So many failures have occurred on President Bush’s watch and there’s no sign of them letting up yet (the latest being a massive Ponzi scheme that Bush’s SEC failed to investigate). So it’s understandable that the President would like to trumpet one of his successes while reporters are still nodding and pretending to care what he says.
Judging by his speech at the Army War College, Bush seems to have settled on the story that he “prevented another terrorist attack” on the country.
I doubt any reporter stood up and ask why he didn’t do more to prevent the first one (like, for instance, react somehow to the briefing he received titled, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US”). Those who ask such questions, of course, don’t go far as White House correspondents.
Taking credit for something that hasn’t happened is a tricky thing. If I’m at a bank and I stop a robber from holding it up, can I take credit? What if it’s because he already emptied his weapon into six people and he simply ran out of bullets? Or because the thug killed so indiscriminately that his own accomplice turned on him?
Then there’s the fact that terrorism by no means stopped after Bush began his “anti-terror” war — the incidents actually increased; they merely occurred in other places, farther away from the offices of ABC and the New York Times. How do you take credit for protecting Americans when you send them into the fire of a new war somewhere else, and then through cockiness and ignorance get more of them killed than died in the original terrorist attack which the new war was supposed to be about (but wasn’t)?
President Bush would have better odds getting people to remember him as Protector of America if he hadn’t shown such a lack of urgency in protecting one of its cities, New Orleans (which, by the way, was attacked by a natural, predictable threat that announced itself several days in advance).
Perhaps another concerted attack was not launched on America because the President delivered his people closer to the terrorists, letting them save on airfare and the risk of getting caught at the border.
But, President Bush would argue, though he got a lot of people killed he still protected our freedoms. By any measure he eroded those freedoms himself, through numerous executive orders and Patriot Acts one and two. Our freedoms were never at risk from terrorists, only from ourselves. But Bush would take credit for preventing terrorists from taking away our freedoms even as he surrendered them himself!
Somehow I don’t think military tacticians will be studying the brilliance of that strategy years from now.
“The best [President Bush] can hope for is to sit down in front of his computer once a week and make small edits to his entry on Wikipedia.”
And finally, there’s the intelligence finding that Al Qaeda plans attacks years in advance. Unfortunately, they may merely be in a planning phase rather than out of commission. There’s just no way to know. They could strike tomorrow, next year, or never again. If Bush’s Presidency had ended on September 10, 2001, could he have left office claiming he protected America?
Realistically, what President Bush asks the country to remember him by will have little effect on what appears next to his mug in the history books. Reality, denied by him for so long, is simply too heavy for him to move.
The best he can hope for is to sit down in front of his computer once a week while someone else writes his memoirs and make small edits to his entry on Wikipedia.
Just weeks after Americans rejected the Republican presidential ticket and its hard-to-buy “Country First” mantra comes this:
“… the President-elect [Obama] should immediately disclose any and all communications his transition team has had …”
So begins the Republican party’s efforts to disable another U.S. President, this one before he even takes office.
Those demands were recently beamed from the office of Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Mike Duncan. In short, he is calling on Obama to “come clean,” when there isn’t even a whiff of scandal on the not-yet-inaugurated President.
There is a scandal of course — Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (a Democrat) was arrested yesterday, accused of trying to sell the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Obama when he moves to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Rather than having offered anything to the disgraced governor, Obama seems to have foiled him at every step. Blagojevich was caught on tape saying that Obama and his transition team are “not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.”
“What principles are the RNC upholding by distracting the country from these problems and trying to rub Blagojevich all over the next American President?”
So the Republican National Committee’s insinuations about Obama were discredited before Duncan even made them. Yet it seems eager to create a “gate” to which it can connect Obama (I’m guessing they’ll dub it “Blago-gate”).
If this is a sneak preview of the role Republicans will play as the opposition party, this is bad news for everyone. The country is in the midst of a deep and likely prolonged recession, its soldiers are fighting two wars, reforms are desperately needed in health care, energy policy, and the Justice Department, and the U.S. is still a tempting target for terrorists.
What principles, then, are the RNC upholding by distracting the country from these problems and trying to rub Blagojevich all over the next American President?
Recall the breathless concern feigned by Republicans in 1994 over a failed land deal called Whitewater. The meandering investigation wasted $70 million, and the crime it uncovered was a product of the investigation rather than its target. But the bigger tragedy was that the Clinton administration was diverted from governing in order to appear at legal depositions. No one can know whether this benefitted a band of Saudis who, at the time, were planning a grand attack on the United States. But we do know that it forced the administration to waste enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources defending itself from flimsy charges thrown by fellow Americans.
Looking forward, not all Republicans will jump on board the RNC’s “attack Obama” strategy, if that’s what it develops into. Hopefully, these moderates will hold back because the country just elected the guy and there’s serious work to be done. But they might also remember that such tactics backfired on Bill Clinton’s enemies and helped ensure John McCain’s defeat, too.
They should also remember that when they smear an opponent on flimsy grounds, it shines a light on their own priorities. It shows they prefer an embattled and hamstrung president over a respected, successful Democratic one, that they’d rather have no government at all than one run by their opponents.
Their lawyers may speak about ethical standards and accountability, but what most Americans hear are insecurity and resentment.
Duncan is up for re-election as RNC chair next month, and if he wins America may be treated to another era of phony and expensive “gates.” Before the G.O.P. goes further down that road, its members should ask themselves whether their recent slogan “Country First” was anything more than just that.
Dear Ms. Manners: How long is it appropriate to wait before attempting to rewrite history?
Â -Wounded in Washington
Barack Obama won the presidency because the media have a liberal crush on him. Poor John McCain never had a chance.
That’s the conclusion of many in the media (and, oddly, of Howard Kurtz, media watchdog for the Washington Post). To be fair, Kurtz and others usually don’t come right out and say, “Biased coverage delivered the White House to Barack Obama.” Kurtz, for one, just parrots the conclusions of particular studies, which rate and compare the news coverage of McCain and Obama.
For example, “Obama had a 2-to-1 lead in evaluations of the candidates’ policies and proposals.”
The implication of these stories is that the media were unfair to McCain and infatuated with Obama.
The assumption — never admitted, or even stated — is that the media should cover both candidates equally positively and equally negatively. By this logic, if CBS is going to criticize one of McCain’s policies, they should attack one of Obama’s, and vice-versa.
Think about what this would mean.
It would mean that a network’s analysis of a candidate shouldn’t be based on what that candidate has actually said or done, but on what the network has already said about the other candidate. If MSNBC’s Chris Matthews praised Obama’s energy policy, he should praise McCain’s energy policy too, or even the score in some other way — by lying and saying his choice of running mate showed courage and good judgment, for instance.
“…McCain could have proposed a tax cut on Hummers, and criticism of this too would have been unfair…”
When gas prices were skyrocketing and John McCain proposed a “gas tax holiday,” the media did what they’re supposed to — they interviewed economists, energy analysts, environmentalists, conservatives, and so on, and reported what they said. And most of these sources happened to be critical, saying it seemed like a political maneuver inconsistent with McCain’s past positions on energy, that it would be expensive and counter-productive, that it wouldn’t reduce fuel prices much, and so on.
(They also interviewed those who thought it was a swell idea, and if anything, gave these voices more airtime than their numbers warranted.)
But criticism of McCain’s gas tax holiday would count as unfairly negative coverage to Kurtz’s crowd. McCain could have proposed a tax cut on Hummers, and criticism of this too would have been unfair, unless they pretended Obama’s plan was equally dumb.
On the other side of the coin, in this la-la land of identical grading, the positive coverage Obama received was also unfair. (I’ll put aside, for now, all the negative coverage Obama did get, for the sins of others like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.) To some, who may have progressed past overt racism to a more masked kind, Obama’s success is evidence of some sort of “affirmative action” rather than anything he himself has achieved. At best, they’ll grant that he ran a good campaign — i.e, he was tactically shrewd. But they can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the intellect, composure, reason, and moderation that the majority of voters saw in Obama. (And which reporters were simply reflecting in their coverage.)
So when the economic crisis set in and Obama rose in the polls (largely due to McCain’s demonstrated incompetence about — and admitted ignorance of — all things economic), what should reporters have done, according to this equal-grading rule?
After reporting Obama’s eight-point average lead in the polls and the fact that voters trusted him on the economy, were they obliged to say something positive about McCain? Should they have said that the majority of voters also trust McCain to do a better job on the economy? Should they have found and reported some positive numbers for McCain, too, just to be sporting?Â Should they have reported that a hundred percent of the McCain household trusts John McCain to end the banking crisis?
If the media gave equal grades to everyone, they’d utterly fail in their job to report what’s happening. Imagine if they actually operated like Kurtz et al. want them to.
After the Bay of Pigs debacle, they’d have had to find a line of commentators and analysts to say with a straight face that Kennedy made the right call, despite the invasion’s failure.
And in their coverage of global warming, they’d have to give equal time to the miniscule percentage of scientists who deny that it’s happening or say humans have nothing to do with it.
Oh wait, they do give equal time to the global warming deniers. Media — especially TV news outlets — consistently cave to those who demand equal time for Exxon-supported scientists who conclude whatever Exxon wants them to. The result has been eight years of official government inaction and negligence over one of the biggest threats of our time.
And when it came to the Iraq war, and voters were divided, when “equal time” to war boosters and war critics would actually have been appropriate, the war skeptics got the short end of the stick, getting airtime far shorter than their numbers deserved. And now the media pretend these war opponents never existed in the first place, repeating the mantra of the war backers: “we all got it wrong.”
If there’s a bias in the media, it’s not towards blacks or Democrats (just ask Al Sharpton or Jeremiah Wright). It’s towards the interests of those who pay the bills — the advertisers and the corporate values they reflect, and the readers and viewers, who are more likely to stay tuned if sex or scandal is involved, whichever party is to blame.
Yeah, the media should be more objective, but they won’t get there by pretending everything’s equally good or equally bad.Let’s not be too gullible about these feigned concerns over fairness. Imagine for a second that the tables were turned.
If McCain had lived up to his reputation for being politically independent and had won the voters’ confidence in his fitness to be President, and it was Obama who couldn’t speak knowledgeably about the economy and who whipped up the extreme elements of his party, commentators like Howard Kurtz wouldn’t be crying foul. They’d be saying in all earnest that McCain won because of his experience and his ability to appeal to moderates and independents. And they’d write off anyone who blamed Obama’s defeat on media bias as sore losers.
It’s not about a new-found concern over media objectivity. It’s about finding someone to blame for McCain’s loss, someone outside the party that held the White House, governed badly, and then lost it.
Dear Wounded in Washington,
It’s never too soon to start re-writing history.