Thursday, June 14, 2007

Treat yourself

To some of my favorite regular columnists, none of whom is likely to go gaga over Ron Paul. Columnists like these remind us of what American journalism could be. But definitely isn't today. Aside from the Cheney-Bush administration's torture policy, I'm increasingly coming to believe that the biggest danger for American democracy today is the pitiful state of the national press, especially TV.

Gene Lyons explains how Republicans have locked up the pundit vote Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 06/13/07:
Nobody knows who next year’s presidential candidates will be.

This column has no particular favorite and will make no predictions. Even so, it’s not necessary to be a prophet to know how Beltway pundits will handle the so-called character issue. The Republican nominee will be a virile, decisive straight-shooter who’s 100 percent "authentic" and "comfortable in his own skin." The Democrat will be an indecisive phony, uncertain of his/her identity, but willing to strike any pose or pander to any constituency in a self-serving bid for power. That was the basic script for the media’s astonishing "War on Gore" in 2000, the campaign of falsehood and vilification that helped elevate George W. Bush, an ex-preppie cheerleader and bicycling enthusiast dressed up in rugged "Texas Rancher" costumes, to the presidency over then-Vice President Al Gore.

... Mention a prominent Republican and the courtier-pundits swoon like 12-year-old girls at a boy band show.
This is also quite a quotable passage from Lyons:
By now only cultists impervious to facts expect anything but clueless, arrogant bluster from this president.

In short, there’s no evidence that the "Sabbath Gasbags," [i.e., Sunday morning talking heads] in Calvin Trillin's immortal phrase, have any more insight into the candidates' character than a trailerpark palm reader and somewhat less than my basset hound Fred, who could at least sniff their hands and figure out whose ears they’d been scratching.
Robert Scheer eons ago was editor of Ramparts, a leftie magazine (if I'm remembering right, it started as a Catholic leftie magazine) that was part of the 1960s alternative press, that time's rought equivalent of the left blogosphere. So he's wary of being too cozy with the Democrats, being conscious of their ability to get things really wrong at time. I found his gushing over Chuck Haegel, a hardline conservative who occasionally says something mildly critical about the Iraq War, just inexplicable. But his column on Joe Lieberman is more on the mark: ‘President’ Lieberman: A Cautionary Tale 06/12/07. He writes:
Although now an independent, Lieberman provides a cautionary tale for folks who talk of backing “any Democrat” who can win. ...

Even as late as June 2004, when [the Iraqi National Congress leader and general scamster Ahmad] Chalabi was exposed by the United States as a spy for Iran, Lieberman continued to profess admiration for the architect of a policy that replaced the secular despot of Iraq with Shiite fundamentalists trained in Iran. “I met Dr. Chalabi and others of the Iraqi National Congress,” he said in a speech defending Chalabi after U.S. intelligence uncovered his contacts with Iranian spies. “It’s fair to say I found them to be patriotic Iraqis. Their counsel to us was important.”

In fact, Chalabi’s “counsel” concerning Iraq’s WMD program and ties to al-Qaida turned out to be totally fraudulent and as embarrassing to the United States as it was convenient to Iran’s plans to overthrow Hussein. Lieberman’s statement in support of Chalabi came two months after the National Security Agency reported that Chalabi informed Iranian agents that the United States had broken Tehran’s encryption code. At the time of the revelation, Chalabi traveled freely within Iran, where he maintained a residence.
Then there's Sidney Blumenthal, this week writing about Bush's European disaster Salon 06/14/07. (Isn't it redundant to write "Bush" and "disaster" together?) He writes:
Bush's procession through Europe was a pageant of contempt, disdain, delusion, provocation and vanity masquerading as a welcome respite from his troubles at home. In Albania he landed at last in a place where he was hailed as a conquering hero. His demolition derby of U.S. influence was presented as a series of bold moves, but it confirmed the fears of the other world leaders at the G8 summit (and elsewhere) that the rest of Bush's presidency will be an erratic series of crashes. His performance ranged from King Nod, issuing proclamations oblivious to and even proud of their negative effect, to King Zog (the last king of Albania). No president has had a more disastrous European trip since President Reagan placed a wreath on the graves of SS soldiers in the Bitburg cemetery. Yet Reagan's mistake was unintentional and symbolic, a temporary and superficial setback, doing no real damage to U.S. foreign relations, while Bush's blunders not only reinforced counterproductive policies but also created a new one with Russia that has the potential of profoundly undermining U.S. national security interests for years to come.
I would quibble with Blumenthal's characterization of Reagan's Bitburg blunder. It was a "symbolic" issue, that true. But it also produced the biggest problem in US-German relations (West German, then) between the founding of the Federal Republic in 1949 and the Cheney-Bush administration's 2002 push for war in Iraq. I posted about the Bitburg incident in D-Day, 1985 05/29/04. But Blumenthal's basic point is correct.

Also, it always puzzled me that Bush's crew seemed to think that the German Christian Democrats would be a lot more compatable in foreign policy than the red-green coalition there before. But even though the CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel has been trying to pursue an America-friendly policy, she got the same thing that pretty much everyone else gets who tries to cooperate with this administration: a thumb in the eye:
Bush quite deliberately upset German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposal for climate change at the G8. She put before the summit a program for carbon limits and an emissions trading system supported by, among others, Tony Blair, as his final gesture to burnish his reputation before he leaves office on June 27. Bush countered with a proposal for voluntary limits that would have to be approved by China, India and other major industrial countries that would not agree. In short, Bush's program was no program at all, except as a gambit to push aside Merkel's. With that, Bush demolished the possibility of any positive plan emerging from the summit. He also deprived Blair of a last achievement. Were it not for his relationship with Bush and support for his Iraq policy, Blair would not be leaving Downing Street. He has sacrificed his career to Bush's fiasco. His advice on the reconstruction of Iraq ignored, his advocacy grew more passionate. From whom much has been asked, nothing has been given.
And that's how Bush treats his friends!

Worst. President. Ever.

Bob Dreyfuss isn't a regular weekly columnist. But he's still one of the best. This week he's writing about Bush's blank check Salon 06/15/07. Dreyfuss' column addresses a vital point, the need to "right-size" the American military - and at a significantly lower cost. He writes:
Nothing underlines the tacit alliance between so-called foreign policy realists and hard-line exponents of neoconservative-style empire building more than the Washington consensus that the United States needs to expand the budget of the Defense Department without end, while increasing the size of the U.S. armed forces. In addition, spending on the 16 agencies and other organizations that make up the official U.S. "intelligence community" -- including the CIA -- and on homeland security is going through the roof. ...

Neocons, war profiteers and hardliners of all stripes still argue that the "enemy" we face is a nonexistent bugaboo called "Islamofascism." It's easy to imagine them laughing into their sleeves while they continue to claim that the way to battle low-tech, ragtag bands of leftover al-Qaida crazies is by spending billions of dollars on massively expensive, massively powerful, futuristic weapons systems.
Finally, Jules Witcover, one of the best political columnists around who, unlike the Dean Of All The Pundits David Broder and his pals, is not only reality-based but also had the good sense to be critical about the Iraq War from the start, with Tooling Up the Obama Machine Tribune Media Services 6/15/07:
This time around, a consensus has formed among the Democratic presidential hopefuls that the war must be brought to an end, with the internal debate on how and how soon this goal can be achieved. Obama, who was only running for the Senate at the time that first critical 2002 vote was taken, nevertheless was on public record against the invasion, warning of the disastrous outcome it could yield.

The Obama phenomenon has obviously been motivated by wide public opposition to the war, Axelrod says. "But there's also a general sense that our politics have failed us, that Washington is in disarray at a time we have huge problems that have to be dealt with, and that the hyper-partisanship, the hyper-ideology, the hegemony of special interests, has made it impossible get anything done. The people are hungry for someone who can cobble the American community back together, and focus the country on the national interest."
Yes, we could have a press corps worthy of the name. And good enough to support a healthy democracy. Maybe someday we actually will.

1 comment:

rcc19692004 said...

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