Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Obama, the Radical Republicans and the new investigation era of pseudo-scandals

Robert Perry has a good opening look at the Republicans' new round of Congressional investigation sleaze-slinging in Republicans Aim Info-War at Obama Consortium News 01/04/2011:

Finally, Congress appears ready to hold some high-profile hearings – except they won’t be about the most important scandals of the past decade, like how the United States was misled into the Iraq invasion, how the Afghan War was bungled, how torture became a U.S. practice, or how bank deregulation and Wall Street greed nearly destroyed the economy. ...

If the experience of the Clinton years continues to be predictive, the mainstream news media will eagerly clamber onto the right-wing bandwagon in pursuit of scandal stories.

This latest turn of the page on the GOP’s old get-Clinton playbook was, of course, not unexpected. What remains extraordinary is how clueless the Democrats continue to be about the importance of official investigations in educating – or mis-educating – the American people. [my emphasis]
One correction I would make to Perry's article. It's true that in the early 1990s, "The growing right-wing news media began hammering away at Bill and Hillary Clinton’s personal finances, as well as their troubled marriage." And the Whitewater scandal originated with a handful of hardcore sleazebag segregationists in Arkansas.

But it wasn't the rightwing media that made them scandals. It was the New York Times and the Washington Post and other mainstream press outlets. That's a critically important turning-point in the history of the American press. And we shouldn't let them off the hook by pretending it was only the "right-wing new media".

The very astute press critic Jay Rosen wrote in From Judith Miller to Julian Assange Press Think 12/09/2010, "To understand Julian Assange and the weird reactions to him in the American press we need to tell a story that starts with Judy Miller [and her phony WMD stories in the New York Times in 2002] and ends with Wikileaks."

He's referring more specifically to the attitude of the press on national security. And there is a case to be made that the disgraceful Judith Miller/Michael Gordon stories on WMDs in Iraq represented a qualitatively new stage of decay for the American press.

But I don't think it's more decisive than the leap off the cliff that occurred when the New York Times ran their first Whitewater story. As I wrote here several years ago, "In the history of the disaster we know as the Iraq War, the date March 8, 1992, deserve a special place. That was the date Jeff Gerth's first story on "Whitewater" appeared on the front page of the New York Times."

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