It's nice to see that some media outlets are starting to pay attention to deliberation in the Senate over the reauthorization of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions. It's less nice when, as in this FOX News report, "paying attention" means "peddling outrageous falsehoods." To be sure, the issue can be dauntingly complicated, but these are enormous howlers that the most elementary fact checking ought to catch. Many of the false claims appear to echo this Wall Street Journal op-ed by former attorney general Michael Mukasey, which is similarly misleading. Let's review.
I think it's telling that opponents of common-sense civil liberties safeguards don't seem to think they can make their case without wildly misrepresenting the facts about both investigations and the changes legislators have actually proposed. They have to make it sound as though people are trying to eliminate important investigatory powers altogether—which nobody is arguing for—because it's awfully hard to argue against reasonable and carefully crafted privacy protections if you're honest about what they actually entail. And isn't it a little rich that a network that is forever warning us that we're on the verge of descending into fascism should be so hostile to any suggestion that there ought to be some moderate limits on government surveillance? I'd have thought having a Democrat in the White House might make it acceptable to care about the scope of executive power to spy on Americans again.
In an October 5 post on his blog, CBN News White House correspondent David Brody claimed that Education Department official Kevin Jennings did not report the "sexual abuse of a minor to authorities," writing:
We now have the first member of Congress who has called on controversial "Safe Schools" Education Official Kevin Jennings to resign. More on the Jennings controversy here.
Even though Jennings has come under fire for not reporting sexual abuse of a minor to authorities, clearly Evangelical groups see that as just once incident in a much bigger underlying problem. Pushing a pro-homosexual agenda laced with "attacks" on people of faith is what is really at the heart of the matter. You know what? Across the country, tens of millions of people are concerned about that too.
Conservative groups charge that Jennings, who is openly gay, condoned statutory rape and child molestation. That's in reference to an incident in 1988 when Jennings, who was a teacher at the time, did not tell authorities that a 16-year-old student revealed to Jennings that he'd had sex with an older man.
Now that former student is speaking out for the first time and telling CNN he did not have sex with that man at all. He did not elaborate on what he told Jennings at the time. Jennings could not be reached for comment late Friday.
In a statement obtained by CNN, the former student, who wanted to be called Brewster, wrote: "Since I was of legal consent at the time, the 15-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings 21 years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine. However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my 'well-being' and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to know that I was not 'inducted' into homosexuality, assaulted, raped, or sold into sexual slavery."
The former student recounted what happened at the time and maintained there was no sexual contact.
"In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a 16-year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence."
Shoddy work from "top political reporter" Brody.
In Sunday's Washington Post, Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas reviewed Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes. After some throat-clearing, Thomas begins the meat of his review with a refreshing confession rarely seen from mainstream media figures:
It is possible to sympathize with Clinton. Today, when the mainstream media seems so weakened, we forget how powerful -- and arrogant -- the New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the networks and news magazines, seemed to be in the early and mid-1990s. They were part of a giant scandal machine that dominated official Washington in the first few years after the Cold War. The endless string of special prosecutors and the media's obsession with Whitewater seem excessive in retrospect. [Note: it seemed excessive to rational people even at the time; Gene Lyons wrote a whole book about it 15 years ago.]
Clinton was not wrong to be frustrated or to believe that the single greatest mistake of his administration (against the advice of the first lady) was to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Whitewater. He also had the canny insight that Whitewater served as a proxy for what really interested reporters: those rumors of "bimbo eruptions" floated by political enemies and less-than-reliable state troopers.
But just when you think that finally (and belatedly) a major journalist may grasp the simple concept that the 'Clinton scandals' were media scandals, not political scandals, Thomas shows that he still just wants to hear about the "bimbo eruptions":
Given all that, how could Clinton have been so foolish as to take up with a White House intern just as he was turning back the tide of Gingrichism in the fall of 1995? The reader longs for some insight, some Shakespearean narrative to help explain Clinton's self-destructive recklessness. But Branch does not deliver; he merely reports that Clinton said he "just cracked." Branch seems almost too embarrassed to try to find out more.
And Thomas seems not to realize that not everything is a Shakespearean drama. Sometimes a dumb affair is just a dumb affair. Millions of people have them; they don't all yield the kind of fascinating morality play Thomas yearns for even 11 years later.
And that yearning makes up pretty much Thomas' entire review. He doesn't waste a word on health care, or on national security, or on welfare reform or the 1994 crime bill or ... Well, much of anything. Thomas may finally realize the media's obsession with Whitewater was obsessive, but he remains fully obsessed with the "bimbo eruptions" that Whitewater was merely a "proxy for."
Salon's Joan Walsh nails it:
Jesus, take me now. We know way too much about the Lewinsky mess; we know not nearly enough about the collapse of health care reform, the compromises over Clinton's crime bill, the strategies of GOP leaders in those years, and yes, certainly, Haiti. Who really thinks we don't have enough insight into what Clinton thought and felt about the Lewinsky affair? What grownup journalist who lived through Whitewater, the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment, in the prosperous days before 9/11 and the Bush economic collapse, doesn't hate themselves in the cold light of (post-Bush) day?
Sadly, most of them don't. Many are reliving minor Clinton issues through the lens of Branch's book, at the neglect of the major ones, including my friend Chris Matthews on "Hardball."
Twelve hours ago, I knew nothing about Deepak Bhargava. I didn't know that he is executive director of the Center for Community Change. I didn't know that he worked for ACORN a number of years ago. I had no idea that he was getting his BA at Harvard undergrad at the same time President Obama was at Harvard Law. But now that I've listened to Glenn Beck's radio program yesterday and watched his television program yesterday afternoon, not only do I know Mr. Bhargava's name and these curious factoids about his personal life, I also know that he's a "radical," he's at the center of some inexplicable government conspiracy to engineer crises of financial and foreign policy, and we should all be "scared" of him.
Beck, as is his wont, didn't really explain how the heretofore unheralded Bhargava came to hold such influence. What Beck did say, however, was this: "I want to make it clear -- I don't have any evidence that he has any links to the White House. I am not bringing him up and saying, 'Look, he's making policy.' I just want you to listen to his words and compare them to the words of our president." OK, so no evidence of any connection to the White House or any policymaking of any kind, which doesn't really help to explain why Beck is attacking him. And just in case you thought Beck would actually explain why he thinks this man is important, he followed this all up with: "See if you can figure out why I think this man is important."
Ah, so it's our job to figure out why Beck is going after Bhargava. Apparently, it has something to do with a panel discussion hosted by The Nation in April that Bhargava spoke at, in which he praised the administration's anti-poverty measures but bemoaned Obama's "stealthy agenda" that doesn't "lead with questions of poverty or racial justice." OK, so Bhargava likes the administration's anti-poverty measures but wishes they were more about racial justice. Of course, that's just one man's opinion, and since Beck explained that Bhargava has no influence with the White House at all, we still hadn't figured out why Beck cared about him.
However, in spite of this lack of influence, Bhargava, according to Beck, is a key component of the "strategy" being employed by Obama, which involves creating "intentional" crises in order to "transform" the country. Beck explained all this -- well, perhaps "explained" is too generous a word -- he shouted lots of words about all this in one of his bizarre albeit entertaining chalkboard segments, all the while telling us that we are not going to "freak out."
But clearly he's bad, right? I mean, for Beck to call him a "radical" who wants to engineer crises and devote so much time to exploring who he is, he must be a pretty awful guy whose doing some serious damage to the country, right? Well, not really, it seems, as Beck led off his discussion of Bhargava with Breitbart crony Scott Baker by saying, "So, help me out on who this guy is. I'm not even claiming this is a bad guy, or anything. Who is he?"
At this point we didn't know what to think. Thankfully, Baker was there to do the thinking for us. "He's not a guy who works in the White House, but he's not just a guy either," Baker explained. "There are connections between Deepak Bhargava and his Center for Community Change and Barack Obama." Those connections are, apparently, that Bhargava worked for ACORN for a few years and was at Harvard with Obama at the same time. And they've appeared at a few labor events together. That's it. What matters most to Beck and Baker, apparently, is that Obama and Bhargava "use the same language." Words like "transform" and ... well, that's the only example Beck offered. But apparently that's enough in Glenn Beck's world to not only earn yourself an entire cable news segment devoted to you and you alone, but also a key role in the Obama-engineered conspiracy to create "intentional" crises.
And to round it all out, Baker declared, based solely on the fact that Bhargava is tangentially connected to Obama, that "people should be scared." Beck and Baker could offer no link between Bhargava and Obama other than the utterly trivial, and they acknowledged as much during the 20 minutes they spent defaming him on national television simply because he and the president have used similar-sounding language in the past.
The only thing more reprehensible than Glenn Beck dragging Deepak Bhargava through the mud was the fact that Beck admitted that he couldn't explain why he was doing it.
It's a skill that makes journalism that much easier because it allows you to not only report the facts but also assign motivation, which is no easy task. It allows you to announce why somebody said something, even if you don't have proof.
Today's Post pulls off the mind-reading trick in an article about Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who commented Monday that military advisers, in order to better serve the president, ought to keep their opinions regarding warfare out of public view.
Here's what Gates said:
"In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations -- civilians and military alike -- provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately."
Gates' comments were reiterated by Gen. George Casey. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Both men spoke in the wake of weekend remarks by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan, who said that any attempt to significantly scale back the U.S. military presence in the country would be "shortsighted."
McChrystal made his views known in public; Gates and Casey thought that was a bad idea. But the Post could read minds and its report added this [emphasis added]:
The Army's top general immediately echoed Gates's remarks, which seemed designed to rein in dissent within the ranks.
Neither Gates nor Casey suggested they opposed dissent within the ranks. And in fact, when asked directly on Monday whether Gates was trying to stifle McChrystal's evaluation, Gates replied, "Absolutely not."
The Post had no evidence that anyone was trying to "rein in dissent." But it seemed like that was going on, so the Post reported it as news. Why? Because the Post can read minds.
UPDATED: The Los Angeles Times managed to report out the same Gates/McChrystal story without trying to read minds.
Almost six years to the day after radio host Rush Limbaugh resigned in disgrace from his brand-spanking new gig on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown for, as CNN reported at the time, "his statement that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed," El Rushbo confirmed today that he's interested in buying the St. Louis Rams.
From KMOX News Radio in St. Louis:
Rush Limbaugh issues a statement confirming he's seeking to buy a stake in the St. Louis Rams.
Limbaugh is now responding to reports that he and Blues owner Dave Checketts are trying to buy the Rams:
"Dave and I are part of a bid to buy the Rams and we are continuing the process. But I can say no more because of a confidentiality clause in our agreement with Goldman Sachs. We cannot and will not talk about our partners. But if we prevail we will be the operators of the team."
Marge Schott, eat your heart out.
UPDATE: This could get interesting. According to an OpenSecrets.org review of Federal campaign contributions between 1989-2009, the Rams are the bluest team in the NFL giving 98% of its contributions to Democrats. (H/T to S.L.)
More than 60 advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his October 5 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Oh what a wicked web we weave when first we … well, you get the picture.
RedState's Erick Erickson, whom we humorously errr conclusively tied to ACORN just two weeks ago, has now tied Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele to the dreaded ACORN. I guess that means ACORN has deep ties to everyone in the Republican Party?
From his Twitter profile:
Maybe this is what happens when all journalistic standards are thrown out the window in a wild game of guilt by association.
From an Oct. 5 Associated Press article:
Upscale British supermarket chain Waitrose said Monday it was pulling its advertisements from Fox News in the U.K. after customers complained about the cable news channel's Glenn Beck program.
The popular and controversial talk show host is already the target of a boycott campaign in the United States after he accused President Barack Obama of harboring "a deep-seated hatred for white people."
Waitrose, known for its upmarket fare and focus on organic foods, said in a statement it was responding to customer concerns, and that the move was not politically motivated.
The wide coverage afforded to Beck's tirade against the U.S. president and the subsequent boycott campaign has also been noticed in Britain - where Fox owner Rupert Murdoch controls a powerful news and broadcasting empire.
Color of Change, the group which has lobbied advertisers to steer clear of Beck's show, claims that about 80 U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have deserted the pugnacious television host.
Last month The Independent newspaper quoted James Rucker, Color of Change's executive director, as urging British companies to put similar pressure on Fox in the U.K., where it is broadcast by British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC - a satellite TV service 39 percent owned by Murdoch's News Corp.
Although most U.S. companies who have dropped Beck's program still continue to advertise on other segments of Fox News, Waitrose spokesman James Armstrong said the company was pulling out of the channel as a whole.
He declined to say how much money was involved in the ad deal, calling the information commercially sensitive. Sky Broadcasting, which looks after Fox News advertising sales in Britain, did not provide a figure either.