Sep 1 2005


False Believers

“True believers on the left and the right, hoping to rouse their armies for a showdown over [Supreme Court nominee] John Roberts, immediately trumpeted two ‘facts’” that “aren’t true,” Newsweek reported in its August 1 cover story. First, there were the “conspiracy theories” about Roberts’ “behind-the-scenes role” in the 2000 Florida recount, which Newsweek said was “minimal”; the Miami Herald’s more substantive reporting (7/27/05), however, showed that Roberts spent “a week to 10 days” with the legal effort, serving as a “legal consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach.” In its second attempt at debunking, Newsweek asserted that Roberts was not a member of the conservative Federalist Society; the Washington Post (7/25/05) later revealed that he was listed as a member of the steering committee for the group’s Washington chapter.

News You Can Use

While centrist outlets like Newsweek rushed to embrace the conservative John Roberts, the legal affairs show on the conservative Fox News Channel, On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, virtually ignored his nomination. In the first six weeks after he was named as Bush’s pick (7/19/05-8/29/05), Van Susteren mentioned Roberts three times —vs. 78 times for missing tourist Natalee Holloway. Van Susteren defended her news judgment to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz (7/25/05): “Far more people are going to be touched by trial courts and police investigations than by Supreme Court decisions. I would not be so arrogant to think that only the Supreme Court matters. More people now know about Aruban law than they ever did before.”

Defender of Freedom

“Wouldn’t it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick ’em out. We’d get rid of Michael Moore, we’d get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous.”

—‑Rush Limbaugh on Britain’s expulsion of non-citizen Islamist militants (8/11/05)

The “Despicable” Majority

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (7/22/05) proposed that the State Department monitor political speech and create blacklists of “hatemongers” and “excuse makers”—the latter category consisting of those who “after every major terrorist incident . . . come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted”—people who are “just one notch less despicable than the terrorists.” Quoting former State Department spokesperson James Rubin, Friedman asserted that attempting to explain or understand terrorism “erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism . . . and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them.” Under Friedman’s proposal, “legitimate dissent” would seem to be limited to those who do not think that the Iraq War encourages terrorist attacks like the July 7 London bombings—a definition that would delegitimize at least 56 percent of the U.S. public, according to a CNN/Gallup poll (7/7/05).

Take Me From Your Leaders

Veteran reporter (and former U.S. government official) Leslie Gelb wrote a cheerleading dispatch from Iraq for Parade magazine (7/17/05) in which he asserted that “the great majority of Iraqis do not want to see an American military withdrawal any time soon, to hear Iraqi leaders discuss the subject.” As the blog Left I on the News (7/17/05) pointed out, Gelb might have gotten a different impression if he had talked to actual Iraqis rather than “Iraqi leaders”; the July 10 Boston Globe reported: “A recent internal poll conducted for the U.S.-led coalition found that nearly 45 percent of the population supported the insurgent attacks. . . . Only 15 percent of those polled said they strongly supported the U.S.-led coalition.”

You Can’t Keep a Right-Wing Man Down

Under the headline, “With New Book, Radio Program, Williams Is Making a Come-back” (7/29/05), the congressional newspaper The Hill profiled conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and his career’s apparent recovery from revelations that he was secretly taking money from the Bush administration. “Media experts predicted that Williams could not recover from such a fiasco,” the article claimed. These unnamed “experts” might want to consider—given the scandals the careers of Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Bill O’Reilly, William Bennett and Bob Grant have survived—whether there is any such thing as a fiasco from which a right-wing pundit could not recover.

Don’t Post Commandments VI or IX

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. . . . We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”

—Pat Robertson (700 Club, 7/22/05)

“Wait a minute, I didn’t say ‘assassination.’ I said our special forces should, quote, ‘take him out,’ and ‘take him out’ can be a number of things, including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.”

—Pat Robertson (700 Club, 7/24/05; see Media Matters, 7/24/05)