Jul 1 2008


‘Too Cumbersome to Mention’

The Los Angeles Times (5/7/08) carried a story about a Miami party celebrating Cuban exile and CIA veteran Luis Posada Carriles, the reputed mastermind of a 1976 bombing that killed 73 civilians, now living freely in the U.S. after escaping from a Venezuelan prison. The L.A. Times story by Carol Williams described Posada as a “dapper octogenarian in a crisp blue suit.” What the paper didn’t call Posada was a confessed terrorist, even though the New York Times (7/12/98) reported that Posada “proudly admitted authorship” of a number of hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997. One L.A. Times reader asked Williams why she hadn’t mentioned that Posada was a confessed terrorist rather than merely a “terror suspect,” as her paper dubbed him in its headline. She replied that she knew about his confession, but that “his lawyers now allege he didn’t understand the question and misspoke in English.” Williams added parenthetically: “Not that anyone believes that but it now makes it too cumbersome to mention.” The letter writer’s response was right on point: “Your readers should be informed that their government is harboring a confessed terrorist—however cumbersome and arduous it may be to write a few lines explaining it.”

We Weren’t Fooled—Much

The Washington Post (online, 5/1/08) used the anniversary of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech to repost an editorial that it had run in response to the 2003 speech. In a brief introduction, the paper patted itself on the back: “Five years ago, President Bush declared the mission in Iraq accomplished. The Post editorial board disagreed. Here’s what the board wrote on May 4, 2003.” And what did they write? Well, first, that Bush deserved a victory celebration, saying that “none of the disasters feared before the war has come to pass.” And that “it’s impossible not to conclude that the United States and its allies have performed a great service for Iraq’s 23 million people.” But the paper couldn’t endorse the “mission accomplished” banner because, it said, there were still things that needed to be done. Like what? Well, like finding those weapons of mass destruction! The editorial said, “Evidence that has surfaced so far strongly suggests that illegal weapons or weapons programs will be uncovered,” but warned that “the weapons could still prove deadly to Americans if they are not secured.” There was no indication in the Post’s 2003 editorial that the war was even still going on—much less that it wouldn’t be over five years later.

Still No Reason to Envy

After a George W. Bush press conference on the U.S. economy, the New York Times reported (4/30/08) that “Mr. Bush has spent much of his presidency riding high on claims of unparalleled job growth, but with nine months left in office, he has to confront a new reality. In recent weeks, he has said the economy is in a ‘rough patch.’” Just a few months ago, the Times (1/28/08) told readers that Bush “has spent years presiding over an economic climate of growth that would be the envy of most presidents.” As Extra! Update pointed out (4/08), growth during the Bush years has been slower than in almost every presidential administration since 1960; only his father’s tenure was slightly worse. And the same is more or less true of job growth; Bush II has actually fared slightly worse than his father, according to economist Dean Baker (American Prospect, 2/9/08). This time around, the Times at least characterized “unparalleled job growth” as a “claim,” instead of a fact, which perhaps counts as journalistic progress. The paper still can’t seem to challenge the “claim” with facts, but maybe someday. . . .

Left Out of Newsweek

Newsweek’s May 12 edition had a curious headline on the cover: “Why the Left Loves Reagan.” Inside, the corresponding story bore the downgraded but still inaccurate headline “The Left Starts to Rethink Ronald Reagan.” The article itself—an interview by Newsweek editor Evan Thomas of Sean Wilentz, the recent author of The Age of Reagan, and conservative Newsweek columnist George Will—offered little guidance about exactly which leftists were loving and/or rethinking Reagan. Wilentz did tell Thomas that in reconsidering Reagan, liberals “had to overcome their own passions, their own dislikes. Some people had to grow up. Some people, it was a matter of all their ideas ripening.” That’s interesting, but who were the leftists in question? No names were ever mentioned. George Will, the most widely syndicated conservative columnist in the country, is no leftist, and neither, would it seem, is Sean Wilentz, a Princeton professor, Hillary Clinton supporter and contributing editor to the centrist New Republic magazine who recently made waves with a diatribe in that magazine (2/27/08) accusing Barack Obama and his campaign of “the most outrageous deployment of racial politics since the Willie Horton ad campaign in 1988.” So what the reader gets in Newsweek’s story about “why the left loves Reagan” is a rightist debating a centrist liberal, with no leftists with any opinion on Reagan in sight.

New Ways to Say ‘White’

“You see a full vocabulary for talking about white Americans in this debate, from ‘blue-collar,’ a euphemism for white blue-collar workers. . . . We talk about ‘lunch-bucket Democrats.’ We talk about the ‘soccer mom’ and the ‘NASCAR dad,’ all of which are euphemisms in the national discourse for white Americans. And then we talk about black people as though they are all the same, with pretty much all the same views. And Latinos and Asians haven’t fared much better. And we don’t talk at all about Native Americans.”—Keith Woods, Poynter Institute (NewsHour, 5/7/08)