Friday, May 22, 2009

How bad can our "quality" press get?

The torture issue has shown the train wreck our Establishment press has become, even the most "quality" segments of it. More so than the Iraq War, more than the Whitewater fiasco, more than the Monica Lewinsky obsession, more than the press War Against Gore in 1999-2000, more than the Florida election scandal in 2000.

The wreckage of our "quality" press was on full display on the PBS Newshour for Thursday, May 21, in their discussion on the torture and Bush Gulag issues: Obama, Cheney Speeches Reframe Debate on Security Policy.

They were discussing Barack Obama's speech on the torture program, the closing of the Guantánamo gulag station, and his plans for a new kangaroo court system to replace the one that was a total failure under the Cheney-Bush administration. The Newshour reported Obama's speech first, but they basically gave Dark Lord Dick Cheney's speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) defending torture equal billing. That gave the press their hook to treat it, as they've done all year, as a process story of competing political points of view.

And that's how this sad bunch discussed it. Here was infotainer Judy Woodruff's first two questions to her panel:

Richard Norton Smith, to you first. I don't remember anything like this. How unusual is it to have a just-stepped-down vice president challenging a president to have dueling speeches like this?
Well, Steve Coll, what we've figured out today -- or went back and looked at -- is that the vice president's speech was scheduled first and it was only a few days after that the president scheduled his speech. I mean, it's almost as if the White House thought it might benefit from a contrast.
Process, staging, theater criticism. Our sad excuse for a press corps love those things. Even in this discussion that involved discussed trials and prisons, none of the five people on camera gave any sense that they understood that the torture crimes are an extremely serious legal issue, an issue that goes right to the heart of the rule of law itself.

As that second question just quoted says, one of the guests was Steve Coll, now president and CEO of the New America Foundation, a group (though Woodruff couldn't be bothered to mention this) that is very close to the Obama administration right now, so Coll's statements could be taken as some indication of the ways in which the administration is approaching this issue.

Another of the Abu Ghuraib photos that were scheduled for release May 28 that Obama and the Pentagon decided we shouldn't see: Are they trying to protect the soldiers? Or the hands-on torturers, the doctors and psychologists who assisted them, the lawyers who wrote alibi opinions, the policymakers and generals who ordered these tortures?
Correction 05/30/09: This photo had been previously published by Salon on 03/26/2006

Perhaps the second most painful part of that segment was listening to alleged liberal columnist Ruth Marcus deliver the High Broderist message of the glories of Centrism. That's why the failure of the Establishment press and the politicians of both parties to put the legal issues front-and-center on the torture crimes is so problematic. Because the "centrism" that celebrity infotainers like Marcus worship in the current torture "debate", as the press insists on calling it because of their process focus, the "centrist" position means not enforcing the law against the torture perpetrators.

I really don't care on this issue whether the law-and-order position is considered "left" or "right" by the airheads among our star pundits. The laws against torture need to be enforced. And that means prosecuting all those legally culpable in the torture program that the Cheney-Bush administration ran.

The White House Web site has what is apparently the actual text of his speech as delivered: Remarks by the President on National Security 05/21/09. The one thing I know of that the Bush administration did better than Obama's so far is that it was easier to find the text of Presidential speeches on the White House Web site in the bad old days of the Bush administration.

The (prepared) text of the Dark Lord's shameless defense of torture at AEI can be found at the AEI Web site: Remarks by Richard B. Cheney 05/21/09.

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