The ‘Ridiculous, Preening Appearance’ of Joe Klein

Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald contrasts (11/26/08, ad-viewing required) Joe Klein in the current Time magazine declaiming George W. Bush’s “ridiculous, preening appearance in a flight suit on the deck of the aircraft carrier beneath the ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign” as a “defining moment… of the Bush failure” with Klein’s May 4, 2003 Face the Nation response to Bob Schieffer calling the image “one of the great pictures of all time”: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day.” Greenwald goes on to tell exactly why he finds it “simply intolerable to watch those who cheered on many of the worst excesses try now to pretend that they were skeptical, adversarial critics all along”:

I’m glad that many people, including some journalists, seem to have learned some lessons from the Bush era now that he’s almost certainly the single most unpopular president in modern American history. People who regret their mistakes and learn from them should be welcomed and encouraged. But a vital aspect of what happened over the last eight years is the role the media–our leading media stars–played in glorifying and venerating George Bush, and that can’t be re-written or forgotten.

Truly learning from one’s mistakes–as opposed to wet-finger-in-the-air abandonment of previously revered leaders when they are revealed as failures and lose their power–requires, at the very least, an acknowledgment of one’s own role in what happened. There have been very few mea culpas from establishment media journalists, many–most–of whom, to this day, think they did nothing wrong (“It was all Judy Miller!“).

Greenwald’s premise is simple enough: “Journalists with influential platforms have responsibilities, the primary one of which is to be accountable for what they say and do.”

Listen to the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: “Greg Mitchell on NY Times’ Mea Culpa”(5/28/04)