Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two resignations, two columns and the American press today

High-level resignations have been in the news lately.

Greg Craig, chief White House counsel, resigned after being targeted by press leaks blaming him for the failure to close Guantanamo by next January, a goal Obama announced this past January and has now abandoned. On Tuesday, Phil Carter, an attorney, former blogger and Iraq War veteran, resigned from his Pentagon position as the top official there for detainee affairs.

Glenn Greenwald writes about the latter in Phil Carter's resignation from key detainee policy post Salon 11/25/09. He puts Carter's resignation into the context of Craig's and of the rule-of-law disputes over trying terrorism suspects that have been held for years at Guantanamo and other stations of the Bush Gulag. He also states straightforwardly that both men "remained loyal to Obama by refraining, at least thus far, from publicly criticizing any administration policies." He provides some careful speculation about what policy differences might have been part of their decisions but does so in a way that his information and analysis is still informative and useful even if both resignations turn out to be effectively unrelated to policy issues.

This is what not so long ago in the United States, and still today in much of the world, is called "journalism".

(On the Carter resignation, see also Noah Schactman's Danger Room piece, Why Phil Carter Left the Pentagon 11/25/09.)

Then there's Maureen Dowd. Her column Thanks for the Memories New York Times 11/24/09 is actually an example of why many of us once thought of MoDo as a good columnist of a generally liberal bent. If you didn't know anything about her track record, this piece would probably read like a liberal Democratic criticism of Obama for not delivering to the Democratic base on some important issues. And the Craig resignation is a big part of her analysis. (She doesn't mention the Carter resignation.)


But if you follow MoDo as closely as I do for some sad reason, or if you were a casual MoDo readers and concentrated on what she's actually saying, you would notice what she's really saying is: Obama sucks as a President and it's Bill and Hillary Clinton's fault. By some miracle - or maybe her editor had a brief moment of diligence - she doesn't mention her favorite female character from the Clinton story that The Voices in her head continually remind her about. She does mention Lani Guinier and Kimba Wood as obvious examples of the Clintons' badness. Quick, without using a search engine: who is Kimba Wood?

MoDo winds up telling us nothing worth remembering about Craig's resignation. The Huffington Post gives MoDo's column credit for revealing that Bill Clinton lobbied against Caroline Kennedy being appointed to fill Hillary's New York Senate seat: Maureen Dowd: Bill Clinton Lobbied Gov. Paterson To Keep Caroline Kennedy Out Of Senate 11/25/09.

I see two problems with this. One is that I never take MoDo as an authoritative source on anything because she makes stuff up. Second, MoDo is such a committed Clinton-hater that I doubly discount her claims of knowing Bill Clinton's motive for this alleged anti-Caroline-Kennedy lobbying. And she doesn't cite even an anonymous source for the claim. She writes:

Gov. David Paterson was dragging [Kennedy] through mud and refusing to announce a decision on the appointment for the New York Senate seat. Paterson was being lobbied by a vengeful Bill Clinton. Bill was still upset at Caroline for bestowing the Camelot mantle, which he had tried to claim during his campaigns, on Obama.
And then she says what probably for her is the nastiest thing she could say about Obama: she compares him unfavorably to Bill Clinton.

And she notes in a chipper tone that Obama's alleged actions are:

... especially puzzling given that Obama faces tough midterms and a less-than-certain re-election - and given that we all now know someone on the unemployment line. (A new poll shows Obama and Sarah Palin neck and neck among independents, but then it is a Fox survey.)
She's pumping up Sarah Palin again like she was doing in her previous column. But if she doesn't think the FOX News "survey" is reliable, then why is she using its results to make her point?

So, a story of two columns. One, from Glenn Greenwald in Salon, which says something useful and is careful with facts. The other, from one of the countries leading pundits writing at the "paper of record", the New York Times, filled with pointless speculation about what might be going through the heads of Obama and of Bill and Hillary Clinton, without any particular concern for facts. But then, who needs facts when you have The Voices?

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