Given that the conservative party line is that the primary defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) was good news for the Republican Party, pundits on the right still managed to seem awfully upset. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly (8/9/06) declared: “Joe Lieberman . . . did not sell out his country to pander to the anti-war vote. For that, Lieberman was defeated.” The lament of the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Hellinger (8/11/06) ran under the headline “Democrats Knifed Lieberman on Eve of Airliner Plot.” The L.A. Times’ Rosa Brooks responded to such melodrama: “No, fellas. What happened was just that the whole democracy thing worked just the way it’s supposed to, for once. A majority of citizens oppose the war in Iraq, so they went to the polls and voted for the guy who shares their views, instead of the guy who doesn’t.”
The Military’s Media Blacklist
“It’s a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news. . . . The military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story. . . . If they don’t like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn’t happy with the work they had done on embed.”— Former Newsweek Baghdad bureau chief Rod Norland (Foreign Policy, 7/5/06)
The Secret Self
“Suspect Padilla Gets Access to Secrets,” declared the headline of a July 14 Associated Press article, referring to accused terrorist conspirator José Padilla. It sounded alarming—as did the story’s lead, “Alleged Al-Qaeda operative José Padilla is being allowed to sift through U.S. government secrets as he prepares his defense with his attorneys.” But the story became a lot less surprising as it went on—it turned out that a judge had ruled that Padilla can “view 32 Defense Department documents that summarize statements Padilla made during his years in military custody. He also can examine 57 videotapes of interrogations he underwent during that same period.” In other words, the “secrets” Padilla was going to be allowed to view were the statements he made to military interrogators. It’s hard to get too worked up about someone being allowed to look at their own words, but AP did what it could to make this sound like a bold and potentially dangerous move.
Proud of His Ignorance
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, interviewed on Tim Russert’s CNBC show (7/22/06), mentioned that he had been asked if there was any free trade agreement he would oppose. “I said, ‘No, absolutely not,’” Friedman related. “I said, ‘You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.” Friedman wasn’t kidding—as David Sirota pointed out (Huffington Post, 7/25/06), he wasn’t even aware that the “CA” in CAFTA stands for “Central American,” not “Caribbean.” Russert, for his part, didn’t even pose a follow-up question in response to a major media figure’s admission that he uses his influential position to promote policies that he doesn’t bother to actually learn anything about.
Better to Keep It Hidden
Cox News Service (7/9/06) produced a groundbreaking exposé, called “Leave or Die: America’s Hidden History of Racial Expulsions,” that presented “data indicat[ing] a conscious effort by whites to drive blacks out” of many Southern counties from 1864 until the 1920s. But Cox’s flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, declared it had no plans to publish this evidence of American ethnic cleansing—in spite of (or possibly due to) the story’s finding that two counties in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Forsyth and Dawson, were among those that “stand out in the history of expulsions.” Journal-Constitution managing editor Hank Klibanoff’s explanation, to the Maynard Institute’s Richard Prince (7/12/06): The paper had already “addressed the expulsions”—19 years ago, when no doubt many of today’s readers were in grade school or even yet to be born.