Sunday, September 14, 2008

The American press is broken, seriously broken

Don't you just hate it when your head starts to spin?

Watching Mark Shields and David Brooks on their Friday "Political Wrap" segment on the PBS Newshour is becoming almost as painful as watching Maureen Dowd's prolonged personality disintegration in her twice-weekly New York Times columns. Maybe more so, because it's clear that MoDo has become a raving loon. (Her Sunday column trashes Sarah Palin - a task not unlike the proverbial catching of fish in a barrel - and she even does that badly. And explains that Obama is worse.)

The 09/12/08 segment of the Political Wrap made me feel like Linda Blair's character in The Exorcist when she was flopping around in the bed shouting, "Make it stop! Make it stop!" That moment was cemented in my memory when I saw an interview with her once in which she said while filming that scene, the metal bar that was holding her on the bed got loose and was pounding her. So she was reall meaning it when she was yelling, "Make it stop! Make it stop!" But no one realized it because that was what she was supposed to be saying in the script.

The PBS newshour, to say once again sadly, is "quality TV" by American standards. If PBS Big Pundits are this atrocious, it's a real barometer for how terrible the networks and cable are. It makes me wonder if we can ever have a healthy democracy in the United States again. With a press like this, how can we?


Shields needs to retire. He just needs to hang it up. He started out this segment by giving a stumbling, bumbling criticism of McCain's sleazy, lying campaign ads. Since it's now acceptable within the Establishment narrative to criticize the bold Maverick for dishonesty, Shields at least managed to do that.

It was downhill from there.

Remember that in our badly broken-down press, Mark Shields passes for a "liberal". Last week in the 09/05/08 segment, he reflected back on the 2000 election for a bit. In the Republican primaries, John McCain was running as the darling of the "national greatness" neoconservatives. He was a flaming militarist, and he employed a rabid white supremacist to lead his key South Carolina primary campaign. (See below.) Here's what "liberal" Mark Shields said last week:

The guy in 2000, I've got to tell you, I was ready to put his bumper sticker on, you know, I mean, and risk domestic harmony. But, I mean, I just -- if something happens, whether it's Icarus and, you know, getting so close to that flame, whatever it is, you know -- and I think you can see it with Obama.

I mean, they just -- they just start to pull back. And someone's whispering in their ear, and I think that's what's happened to McCain. [my emphasis]
Shields is having a harder and harder time getting complete sentences out. But, yes, the "liberal" Mark Shields supported McCain for President in 2000.

That little recitation about how the great St. McCain was lead down the wrong path by little tempters whispering in his ear has become a press corps favorite the last couple of weeks. Shields was laying it on even thicker this week. And this was the best part of Shields' pitiful performance Friday:

Just, finally, I would say this, Jim. John McCain said -- and he meant it -- that he would rather lose an election if it meant winning the war when he supported the surge. And, right now, I think that that the bargain he has made -- and I hate to say this, because this -- these are dishonorable acts. This makes -- these are dishonest...

JIM LEHRER: Dishonorable.

MARK SHIELDS: Dishonest and dishonorable. And that's not the kind of campaign that one expected from John McCain. It is certainly not John McCain's lifetime. And one hopes that he is not going to trade his self-respect for political victory, because I will tell you, it will be ashes if he does win that way. It will be ashes. There will be no chance of bipartisanship.

You will think Bill Clinton had a rocky road in '93. It will be awful in 2009.
Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby said in his 09/11/08 post what needed to be said:

... please spare us the scripted palaver about always thinking McCain was so decent and honest. When people report this about themselves, they are, in effect, admitting that they’re too goddamn dumb to do politics. Let’s get real: In his initial run for the White House, McCain gained his reputation for probity by riding reporters around on his bus, telling them jokes about stripper ex-girl friends—and insisting to scribes that he thought they were smart. Plainly, the man was a liar! He constantly dissembled about his opponents; he rarely knew whereof he spoke when he was forced to talk about something other than Marie the Flame. Always knew he was decent and honest? Who was running his South Carolina campaign, at a salary of $20,000 per month?
The rest of the Friday Political Wrap segment was just nails-on-the-blackboard bad. It was gruesome.

To me, the most worrisome thing I've heard about the White Princess' interview with Charlie Gibson this week was not her somewhat artless answer to his sloppy questioning about the Georgian-Russian conflict. It was that she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was about. It may not have occurred to her briefers that she would need to be instructed in the most rudimentary facts about the country's official national security policy, which is known as the Bush doctrine.

What did the two greatest pundits on "quality" TV news have to say about it? Both "liberal" Shields and conservative Brooks agreed together with Jim Lehrer that not only was their nothing wrong with Palin's answer. But Charlie "Softball" Gibson was wrong to even ask it! To borrow one of the Howler's tradmark phrases, try to believe they said it!

JIM LEHRER: What did you think?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I thought she made no gaffes. You know, I thought she did fine.

I guess my view was changed a little, not for the better, to be honest. I don't think it was a disastrous performance. But the sticking to the talking points just shows a lack of comfort level with a lot of the issues. I thought -- I thought the Bush doctrine question was illegitimate and unfair.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes ...

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that?

MARK SHIELDS: I agree with that.

JIM LEHRER: I mean, who knows the Bush doctrine?

DAVID BROOKS: I know it well. There are four different Bush doctrines. Well, anyway. But then ... [my emphasis]
Why are we in Iraq for a hundred years? Why does almost no one know what a mess Afghanistan is? Why is the CIA (most likely) fomenting a civil war in Bolivia and hardly anyone in the US is hearing anything about it?

That passage is one of the biggest reasons. The cream of our press corps, the leading commentators of quality public television sneer at the idea that anyone should know what the national security doctrine of the United States is. "I mean, who knows the Bush doctrine?" Lehrer asked - as a rhetorical question.

Is our press really this brain-dead? Sadly, that's a rhetorical question, too.

For those who actually care about what happens to the country, and who are concerned about having a foreign policy based on a literally criminal doctrine of preventive war - and apparently our leading journalists and pundits are by choice and perhaps mental capacity excluded from that category - the Bush Doctrine is actually available in official government documents online and in a string of public speeches.

I did a string of posts about it myself, inspired as I recall by a German book that recited some of the key elements, Power and Mission: Was Amerika antreibt by Detlef Junker (2003). Yes, in 2003, literate people around the world were analyzing the Bush Doctrine. But in 2008, the top guns of our press corps are still shrugging and asking helplessly, "I mean, who knows the Bush doctrine?"

Since I'm a dirty foulmouthed hippie blogger and not a celebrity journalist, I'll mention a few sources available online on the Bush Doctrine.

The key documents include:

Remarks by the President, 2002 graduation exercise of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 06/01/02

George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America Sept 2002

State of the Union address 01/28/03

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America Mar 2006

I did a search at the Army's Strategic Studies Institute on "Bush Doctrine". It came up with 258 results, plus another 232 hits in a separate category called "Key Strategic Issues". Here are a couple:

U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy, J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., ed., 07/01/04

U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy, 2nd Edition J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., ed., 06/16/06

Here are some others from other sources:

Bush's vision: The PNAC manifesto Old Hickory's Weblog 10/11/04

Iraq, Nuremberg, law and legitimacy Old Hickory's Weblog 11/08/04

The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq by Jeffrey Record Parameters (US Army War College) Spring 2003

Preemption and Just War: Considering the Case of Iraq by Franklin Eric Wester Parameters (US Army War College) Winter 2004-5

The Sources of American Legitimacy Foreign Affairs by Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson Nov/Dec 2004

Andrew Bacevich on the fate of the Bush Doctrine Old Hickory's Weblog 02/06/06

Al Gore and "amygdala politics" Old Hickory's Weblog 06/09/07

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