Monday, October 27, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Another Episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Fascist
Starring George Bush as Der Fuhrer
By Rex Frankel
(Originally published in the Free Venice Beachhead, January 1992)
We return to the Kennebunkport Kountry Klub for another exclusive insider's eye on our nation's leaders at their favorite sport. This week's discussion: an election-year return to Kinder, Gentler Fascism.
Tonite's guest star is David Dupe, who manages to show up for golf at the same time as Der Fuhrer. Dupe is so right wing that Herr Bush's first sound bite of the day is "He gives Nazi's a bad name."
"It's OK to be intolerant of minorities," Bush confides later on the green, "just don't pose for any pictures while wearing your hood. Besides," he chuckles, "the three-piece suit has been the dress of real Nazi's for years!"
"I always keep my hood in the closet", Bush reminisces, "sometimes I take it out and hold it close, then wrap it in my yellow ribbon and put it away for another day of people and their problems I don't understand."
Der Fuhrer swings, cleaving the little white ball past two secret service agents on the first green.
"Oh, how I long for the good old days," he continues "when I said 'War', America jumped. I was on TV for more hours every day than Alex Trebek or even Geraldo!" He droned off as he putted to the first hole, an uphill roll that would have to hook to the left to go in. "Another Politically Correct shot" Bush mused, making his second sound bite of the day. Bush's handlers cheered, knowing the hungry news reporters and the stable of GOP editorial columnists would gobble that PC comment and write several days worth of vacuous articles on the subject, ignoring again domestic issues which are soo boring.
The vice president was off playing golf with Wingy-D of the rap group "Republicans With an Attitude". Dan really got off on their latest hit "Rich and so Angry I could Explode". Humming the tune, he said to Wingy "I'd tap my toes if they weren't in these heavy jackboots." Wingy-D seemed impressed.
Quayle made a slow putt, which was dumb since he was at the starting tee. He turned to Milo Finblatz, his press aide/translator, and whispered "I keep forgetting--am I supposed to get a high score or a low score?"
Milo whispered back out of microphone range "Space invaders High, Golf Low."
Gerald Ford swung in his usual wild but conservative way, lobbing the little white ball onto the luncheon salad bar, not injuring anyone but scaring the crap out of Barbara Bush, who began clucking "The sky is falling, the sky is FALLING!" Thinking better of this, she realized she'd been tripping on the President's antihistamine tablets. The bottle did warn "Do not handle heavy machinery or affairs of State while using this drug". She remembered how George forgot the warning one night and sold missiles to his old friend Saddam Hussein. But these things happen.
John Wilkes Bilgewater is the president's top propagandist. Before joining the White House staff, he wrote ads for Reprehensible Life, one of the nations top sharks, er insurance companies. "Look George, if you're gonna take people's civil rights away" Bilgewater blusters, "they're not gonna vote for you. It's this damn democracy. I don't like it either." Bilgewater's proven election-strategy unfolded: "But, if Dupe and that other loudmouth, Loose-Cannon runs, you can say they hate civil rights even more than you do, and you can blame the Democrats in congress for all the welfare criminals that caused us to take away the civil rights in the first place. We can't lose, George. Just drop the "Stormtroopers of the World" slogan for a kinder, gentler "Nazi's that Care". I swear, it'll sell!"
"But I like `Stormtroopers'!" Der Fuhrer protested.
Bilgewater pulled out a pocket computer and proclaimed "Our polling says Stormtroopers has a negative image, what with all those dead Kurds in Iraq. But kids today don't remember Nazi's and the only Nazi's on TV are harmless boobs like on Hogan's Heroes. And c'mon! You're a sensitive president. You cried while you sent our boys off to Iraq. You appeal not just to the run-of-the-mill fascist, but also the friendly neighborhood highrise builder, the average out-of work bomb designer, the laid off arms merchant. You're not just a Nazi, George, you're a "Nazi that Cares".
"And after the election you can conveniently forget any promises you accidentally make, and get back to business as usual."
Der Fuhrer scratched his butt and said, "John, you've got something there!"
Bush shouted to the Vice President, "Dan c'mere, I wanna know what you think of this."
"It's not my job to think," Quayle replied, "but I'll give it a try."
"Look Dan, Bilgewater's got something here. Put away your jackboots and armbands for a while, hide the hood in the cellar, and get out your bible. We're goin' on the campaign trail."
"Sieg Heil!" cheered Quayle, stepping out of character. "I mean, duh---yippee!"
"Good boy, Dan," said der Fuhrer.
(Originally published in the Free Venice Beachhead, August 1991)
By Rex Frankel
"We're not just Nazi's--We're Nazi's that care!" went the victory cry at President Bush's 1992 Khristmas victory "bash". Operation Campaign Storm had been a huge success, even more so after Saddam Hussein endorsed the Democrat's candidate, Seymour Gribnitz. The other Democratic contenders all pulled out in the primaries, after the generally apolitical Gribnitz was endorsed by all 4 television networks. Many people called him a Stealth Democrat because his views were such a mystery before and during the campaign. His campaign slogan, "Vote for Me--I'll Figure Things Out" was nevertheless disquieting to veteran Demo's and elating to Republican power brokers, who rolled over Gribnitz with attacks on his ownership of a Japanese car, an unpaid parking ticket and overdue library books.
Alas, Dan Quayle was off at a book signing party for his third Nazi how-to guide, "101 Ways to Goosestep", and so he couldn't be at Der Fuhrer's side.
Following re-coronation, Herr Bush decreed as his first act the end of civil rights, saying they cost too much, and the only people who need civil rights are criminals anyways. Barbara Bush spent the winter enjoying her hubby's Christmas present to her: the deforestation of all of Northern California.
Meanwhile, Congress was earning far too much money to care how Bush fleeced the Fatherland during his 1st term, and looked the other way when Bush appointed his son, Neil, to run the FDIC. Neil promised to run the nation's banking system in a "prudent" manner, much the same way Neil had run his previous federally-insured business ventures. This fit Herr Bush's campaign slogan of "keep it in the family" to a T, and Bush went on to appoint nearly every adult member of the Bush family to high federal posts. Herr Bush also sought to keep family ties strong in the nation's poor families by introducing revised jail policies. From now on, the entire family goes to jail when one member commits or is entrapped into a crime.
But back to the party. Entertainment that night was the group with the "hit" video of 1991, Daryl and the Billy Clubs, doing "How to be Arrested". The rap group Republicans With an Attitude came next, rousing the crowd to ritual acts of politically correct violence. Finishing up the evening's fun were Sandra Day & the Extremes.
Following the entertainment, the crowd watched a ritual execution and burning of the Bill of Rights. All were ordered to have a good time, and did.
This is Robbing Leach signing off until next time.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
The truth about John McCain's Acceptance Speech:
Get Phonies McCain and Palin off the Public Trough!!
John McCain and Sarah Palin are huge hypocrites on the issue of our money. When it’s convenient, they attack government spending for roads, hospitals, and parks as “pork” and “earmarks”. Behind the scenes, they have channeled millions in tax dollars into their states. GUESS WHAT! That’s why we pay taxes in the first place!
Would they rather that only private corporations run our roads, our prisons, our health system, our wars? It may be the Republican way. It’s not the American way.
Paying the bills for McCain-Palin’s phony commercials claiming concern for our tax dollars is $84 million in our tax dollars taken in each year on our 1040 forms. Obama, on the other hand, is running his campaign entirely with money raised the old fashioned way, by asking donors for it.
Wasilla, Alaska Benefited from Nearly $27 Million in Earmarks from 1996 to 2002Pub Date: Sep 02, 2008
As Mayor of Wasilla between 1996-2002, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) helped get nearly $27 million in earmarked federal funding. Under her leadership, the town hired a lobbying firm, Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh (now named Hoffman Silver Gilman & Blasco P.C.), and worked with Steven Silver, a partner at the firm and former Chief of Staff for powerful appropriator, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). This is when the earmarked funding started flowing.
Here is a list of the earmarks.
McCain: The co-author of McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, he plans to run his general campaign with public money and within its spending limits. He has urged Obama to do the same. He applied for federal matching funds for primaries but later turned them down so he could spend more than the limits. Federal Election Commission belatedly approved his decision to bypass the primary funds, but rejected McCain's claim that he needed no such approval. McCain accepts campaign contributions from lobbyists.
Obama: The presidential campaign's fundraising champion has brought in $390 million. He plans to raise private money for his general election, despite his proposal last year to accept public financing and its spending limits if the Republican nominee does, too. Obama refuses to accept money from federal lobbyists and has instructed the Democratic National Committee to do the same for its joint victory fund, an account that would benefit the nominee. Obama does accept money from state lobbyists and from family members of federal lobbyists.
Federal Election Commission cuts $84 million check to McCain-Palin 2008, Inc. (the name of their campaign committee).
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them."
2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever.Your home is your refuge.
8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the shops, even to the next State; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.
10.Tell the people you love, that you love them, at every opportunity.
AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I computed some interesting statistics about job growth vs. population growth in the USA which show why the Republicans, the party supposedly of growth (???) are in trouble.
--Rex Frankel (http://rexfrankel.com/)
Since 1975, the USA's population has grown by an average of 1% per year pretty consistently. The annual growth in population was around 2 million more per year in 1975, and is around 3 million more each year now, according to the census. (Total population has increased from 215 million to 303 million.)
During Democrat Jimmy Carter’s Presidency, the population increased by 9.7 million. Jobs increased by 10 million.
During Republican Ronald Reagan’s two terms, the population grew by 17.4 million. Total jobs increased by 6.8 million. Not so good.
Under Republican George Bush Srs.’ one term in office, population increased by 12.9 million. Total jobs increased by only 2.3 million. Whoops!
During Democrat Bill Clinton’s two terms, the population rose by 25.2 million. Total jobs increased by 18.7 million. Blame it on Monica?
Now for George Bush Jr.: In his 7 ½ years in office, population has increased by 18.8 million, while only 8.2 million jobs have been added.
Of course, we had a statistical anomaly due to 9-11, in which 2 million jobs were lost in the next year. But for years 2004-2006, the rate moved back to normal. But then in 2007 the growth rate was almost zero, and during the last 6 months we've lost jobs each month.
In Summary, when job growth is the same as our population growth rate, America's economy is somewhat healthy. Under Democrats our job growth rate has been pretty close to our population growth. Not so with the Republicans.
This simple statistical analysis doesn't deal with inflation, slow or non-growth of wages, outsourcing, etc., which have been part of the general trend of U.S. industry under most recent presidents. But despite what Rush Limbaugh and the right wing hotheads claim, we Americans are much better off when a Democrat is in the White House. If you've got a job, at least you have a chance to get ahead.
"It's the economy, stupid."
For USA population totals, See http://www.census.gov/prod/2007pubs/08abstract/pop.pdf
For USA employment totals, see http://www.bls.gov/data/home.htm, then click on the icon titled "most requested statistics" to the right of "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey". Then click on the box next to the first item, which is titled "Employment Level - Civilian Labor Force", click on the "retrieve data" box, and the employment numbers will appear!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Chris Ayres in Los Angeles
San Francisco is to hold a vote on whether to rename one of its largest sewage treatment facilities after George W. Bush, in what supporters describe as “a fitting monument to the President’s work”.
More than 8,500 signatures have already been gathered in support of the plan — 1,300 more than the minimum required to get the proposal on the November ballot. The scheme was devised by an official-sounding group called the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco.
“On matters ranging from foreign relations to fiscal and environmental stewardship, no other president in American history has accomplished so much in such a short time,” says the group on its website. “We believe this is an appropriate honour for a truly unique president. If you think so too, join this grassroots movement to rename this important and iconic landmark in his honour.”
The official renaming ceremony — the sewage facility is currently named the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant — would take place in January, when the next President is sworn in. Part of it would include a “synchronised flush”, described as a way to send a gift to the renamed plant.
“It’s a very simple yes or no question and there’s no real fiscal impact - just the cost of relettering the sign in front of the plant,” Brian McConnell, one of the organisers, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“This is the way the democratic process is supposed to work, even though it’s a silly idea in some people’s eyes.” Howard Epstein, chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, has called the measure an abuse of the system and the work of “typical San Francisco crazies”.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which owns the plant, says it gets the joke but is nevertheless dismayed. It points to the awards it has won for keeping the streets and the ocean clean.
“If you are looking for a place to make a negative statement about the Bush administration’s impact on the environment, this would be the last place to do it,” said spokesman Tony Winnicker.
Undeterred, the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco will continue gathering signatures from disaffected voters on the streets of San Francisco this weekend.
Campaigners will wear Uncle Sam top hats and suits and carry boom-boxes playing patriotic American music.
Friday, June 20, 2008
June 9, 2008, By Rex Frankel
To continue to believe that we can reduce the price of gasoline by simply finding more is a false choice. It ignores the fact that we could instead choose to divorce ourselves from non-renewable fossil fuels. Drilling in the Alaska wildlife reserve is like giving a drug addict a new source of crack after the previous crack house was shut down by the cops. It doesn't solve the problem at all.
America's oil addiction is bad for the environment and our economy. Switching over to renewable sources of fuels, to biofuels, biodiesel, and electrics is the only choice that ends the addiction.
Yes, extremely powerful and greedy forces are fighting to keep us tied to oil. They'd like us to think we're all trapped, that no alternatives will work. Not true! Alt-fuels can work, if our government would give them a chance. Solar power has worked for over 30 years, for example, for our homes. But when the government gives huge tax breaks to oil companies while they
report record profits, we know something is out of whack.
Oil industry apologists on TV and in the press would like us to blame consumers or
environmentalists or Democrats, as if they've been the ones running the country since 2000 while the price of gas has quadrupled.
It is folly to continue to blame the rest of us for America's being screwed by the oil companies and the overseas oil sharks. We are victims of supply and demand from the get-go. Americans have been forced to buy gas hogs because America's 3 car companies don't want to build fuel efficient cars and they fight every attempt by congress to increase the fuel-efficiency standards. Our carmakers love SUV's and gas hogs because the profit is so great on these tanks. Not
wanting to be left out, the more fuel-efficient foreign carmakers jumped on the bandwagon. I knew something was weird when Porsche, maker of short, slender sports cars came out with an SUV.
While ten years ago America had ten major oil companies, now we have five. When was the last time you saw the local gas stations have a "gas war"? The 1970's. In fact, today the only gas war supported by politicians from the Greedy Oilmen's Party is George and Dick's not so excellent Iraq Adventure. If anyone thought that invading the country with the second largest supply of oil would be good for consumers, history has shown otherwise. Since the 1970's, every
time the U.S. got involved in the unrest in the Mideast, drivers got screwed.
So while dubya and John McCain have blown billions on a war of choice 10,000 miles away, money that could have converted America's economy to alternative fuels instead went "up in smoke".
But we still can choose to change. We just have to admit we have a problem--If only there was a group called Gasoholics Anonymous...
"my name is ___, I'm addicted to oil..."
Remember When the Press Felt it Had an Obligation to Ask Tough Questions of those in Power?
Remembering Russert--or Rewriting History
NBC's Meet the Press anchor and Washington bureau chief Tim Russert died of a heart attack on June 13. The outpouring from media and political elites only underscored Russert's status as one of most important figures in mainstream journalism. But amidst all of the accolades, critical assessments about Russert's record were scarce.
It would be difficult to imagine anyone more admired by fellow journalists. "He was the preeminent political journalist in America," declared pundit Al Hunt (6/15/08). "He was an American character right from Mark Twain," offered NBC colleague Chris Matthews (6/15/08). "He had an authority and insight in covering politics that the rest of us could only aspire to," remarked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace (6/15/08).
Many of the tributes celebrated Russert's preparation for his Sunday morning interviews, the kind of performances that earned Russert his reputation as a particularly tough interviewer. "Tim Russert always did his homework," explained NBC's David Gregory. "He was always prepared for interviews." NBC producer Betsy Fischer agreed (6/15/08): "He would spend all week preparing for this show, reading everything."
Aside from the fact that this is somewhat unusual praise--shouldn't all journalists prepare for interviews?--Russert's supposedly aggressively posture was at times put to rather dubious ends. When Barack Obama appeared on Meet the Press (1/22/06), Russert grilled him about comments made by left-wing actor and entertainer Harry Belafonte: "I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?"
Russert followed up on the issue, despite the fact that the only apparent connection between the two men was the fact they were both black. When Russert moderated a debate between Obama and Hillary Clinton (2/26/08), he asked Obama about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, despite the fact that the two had no discernable ties. Years earlier, Russert quizzed civil rights activist Al Sharpton about Farrakhan's views, telling him (8/25/00), "A leader in black America has said that Saddam Hussein is no more terrible than the president of the United States."
And Russert's tenacious interviewing style would alternate with a much more deferential one--depending on who was being interviewed. Surprisingly, some of Russert's journalistic colleagues praised him for being tough on the Bush administration over the Iraq War. CBS Evening News correspondent Anthony Mason said (6/13/08), "In 2003, as the United States prepared to go to war in Iraq, Russert pressed Vice President Dick Cheney about White House assumptions."
In reality, Meet the Press was the venue for some of the White House's most audacious lies about the Iraq War--most of which went unchallenged by Russert. On the morning that the New York Times published a front-page article falsely touting the now-famous "aluminum tubes" as components of an alleged Iraqi nuclear weapons program, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press (9/8/02), where Russert pursued open-ended questions that seemed to invite spin from the vice president on Iraqi nuclear weapons.
Recalling such softball questioning, it's easy to believe the advice that Cheney press aide Cathie Martin says she gave when the Bush administration had to respond to charges that it manipulated pre-Iraq War intelligence: "I suggested we put the vice president on Meet the Press, which was a tactic we often used," she said (Salon, 1/26/07). "It's our best format."
In Bill Moyers' documentary "Buying the War" (PBS, 4/25/07), Russert expressed the wish that dissenting sources would have contacted him: "My concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them." Of course, any journalist could have found such sources--and certainly few critics of the war would have passed up an opportunity to air their views on such a prominent media platform.
As David Folkenflik pointed out in the Baltimore Sun (5/19/04), Russert seemed to think the media were merely following public opinion in the run up to the war:
Indeed, the reticence to actually render judgment on those in power--particularly the Bush White House--was what many critics found so frustrating, especially coming from someone who enjoyed a reputation as a dogged interviewer. When author and comedian Al Franken appeared on Russert's CNBC show on April 1, 2006, the two got into a disagreement about the White House's oft-repeated claim that Congress had access to the same intelligence about Iraq's WMDs as the White House. Franken's point was that the president receives a daily briefing that Congress does not receive, so the claim is false. As Franken put it, "So what the president's saying isn't true, isn't that right, Tim?" Russert would only say, "I'll leave that for you to make a judgment."
Russert was not always so restrained about making judgments. He made a strange observation about Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry on October 31, 2004:
It's not clear what Russert meant, since Iraq did not have such weapons.
In some of the presidential debates he moderated, Russert often gravitated towards questions that were either irrelevant or framed from a right-wing political view. In one debate (9/26/07), he challenged the Democratic contenders to match Rudolph Giuliani's pledge that he would not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. When Barack Obama suggested that talking about attacking Iran was "irresponsible," Russert responded: "So you would not offer a promise to the American people, like Giuliani, that Iran will not be able to develop and become a nuclear power?"
In the same debate, he asked Hillary Clinton if she would support an Israeli attack on Iran. When Clinton suggested this was a hypothetical, Russert interrupted with a curious non-sequitor: "It's not a hypothetical, Senator. It's real life." At a later debate (2/26/08), Russert asked Clinton about her proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq: "If this scenario plays out and the Americans get out in total and Al-Qaeda resurges and Iraq goes to hell, do you hold the right, in your mind, as American president, to re-invade, to go back into Iraq to stabilize it?" When Clinton responded by saying, "You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals," Russert interrupted: "But this is reality."
One of Russert's signature issues was the so-called Social Security "crisis," a line he pushed relentlessly over the last decade or so. NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell credited Russert (6/15/08) for bringing the issue to prominence by "defining what is the political issue. Nobody talked about entitlements. Nobody talked about Social Security and Medicare and balancing budgets on television on Sunday morning until Tim, with the facts and the experience that he had learned at the feet of Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the Finance Committee of the Senate."
As moderator of two of the Democratic debates (9/26/07, 10/30/07), Russert was particularly aggressive in questioning the candidates about Social Security's finances. In a November 5, 2007 MSNBC appearance discussing the debates, Russert said, "Everyone knows Social Security, as it's constructed, is not going to be in the same place it's going to be for the next generation--Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives."
Actually, as many economists have pointed out, the Social Security Administration projects that it will be able to pay full benefits to retirees for almost the next three decades. And just a few weeks before Russert made his statement, he interviewed former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan (9/23/07). When Russert asked him "how big a crisis" the country faced in paying for Social Security and Medicare, Greenspan told him: "Social Security is not a big crisis. We're approximately 2 percentage points of payroll short over the very long run. It's a significant closing of the gap, but it's doable, and doable in any number of ways."
Despite the perception that Russert excelled at holding the powerful to account, in reality Russert was among the most powerful members of the political-journalistic establishment in Washington. His insider status was reinforced during the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, when Russert was forced to testify about his contacts with high-level Bush administration figures and discussions about Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson.
As Tim Rutten wrote in one of the few critical commentaries about Russert (L.A. Times, 6/14/08), "Like former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Russert was one of the high-level Washington journalists who came out of the Libby trial looking worse than shabby." Rutten recounted that while Russert and NBC had publicly argued that these conversations were journalistic privilege, "it emerged under examination, however, Russert already had sung like a choirboy to the FBI concerning his conversation with Libby--and had so voluntarily from the first moment the Feds contacted him. All the litigation was for the sake of image and because the journalistic conventions required it."
Russert was, by almost every account, a warm and compassionate friend and mentor to many reporters, at NBC and elsewhere. The real question for citizens, though, is whether Russert performed as an aggressive and independent watchdog. Even some of his admirers explained that this was not the point. The Washington Post's David Broder explained (6/14/08), "His questioning was completely efficient but never officious. Both the viewers and the guests could tell he really liked the newsmakers he was interviewing."
"He respected politicians," right-wing pundit Mary Matalin explained (Meet the Press, 6/15/08). "He knew that they got blamed for everything, got credit for nothing. He knew how much they meant. He never treated them with the cynicism that attends some of these interviews. So they had a place to be loved. "
ABC's Sam Donaldson weighed in with one of the most revealing comments (This Week, 6/15/08): "He understood as well as anyone, maybe better than almost anyone, that the reason political reporters are there is not to speak truth to power. Today's truth is tomorrow's falsity. But to make those who say we have the truth-- the politicians--explain it. Defend it, explain to the American public where they're going and not pull your punches."
Asked about the failure to more aggressively challenge the White House on Iraq, Russert once explained (3/21/06):
He added that the White House claims:
In fact, there are journalists who examine the claims made by politicians at the time that they make them, and some of them were doing just that with the assertions Bush administration officials used to justify the invasion of Iraq (Extra!, 3-4/06). Had a journalist with the prominence of Tim Russert done so, it's possible that the debate could have had an entirely different outcome.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
On the fifth anniversary of George W. Bush's speech beneath the "Mission Accomplished" banner where he declared the end of "major combat" in Iraq, it's appropriate to recall the crucial role pundits and reporters played in triumphantly hyping the war. This FAIR media advisory was originally sent out in March 2006.
'The Final Word Is Hooray!'
Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits
Weeks after the invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War.
"The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/04). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong."
Hume was perhaps correct--but almost entirely in the opposite sense. Days or weeks into the war, commentators and reporters made premature declarations of victory, offered predictions about lasting political effects and called on the critics of the war to apologize. Three years later, the Iraq War grinds on at the cost of at least tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Around the same time as Hume's speech, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."
Gathered here are some of the most notable media comments from the early days of the Iraq War.
"Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?"
(Los Angeles Times headline, 4/10/03)
"Now that the combat phase of the war in Iraq is officially over, what begins is a debate throughout the entire U.S. government over America's unrivaled power and how best to use it."
(CBS reporter Joie Chen, 5/4/03)
"Congress returns to Washington this week to a world very different from the one members left two weeks ago. The war in Iraq is essentially over and domestic issues are regaining attention."
(NPR's Bob Edwards, 4/28/03)
"Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics' complaints."
(Fox News Channel's Tony Snow, 4/13/03)
"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington."
(Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)
"We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back."
(Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC, 5/7/03)
"We're all neo-cons now."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)
"Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we'd seen of this war over the past three weeks; all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking."
(Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, appearing on Fox News Channel on 4/9/03, discussing the pulling down of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, an event later revealed to have been a U.S. military PSYOPS operation--Los Angeles Times, 7/3/04)
"The war winds down, politics heats up.... Picture perfect. Part Spider-Man, part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan. The president seizes the moment on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific."
(PBS's Gwen Ifill, 5/2/03, on George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech)
"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 5/1/03)
"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys."
(CNN's Lou Dobbs, on Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech, 5/1/03)
Neutralizing the Opposition
"Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
"What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?"
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03)
"If image is everything, how can the Democratic presidential hopefuls compete with a president fresh from a war victory?"
(CNN's Judy Woodruff, 5/5/03)
"It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context..... And the silence, I think, is that it's clear that nobody can do anything about it. There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Democrats can't oppose--cannot oppose him politically."
(Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum-- Fox News Channel, 5/2/03)
Nagging the "Naysayers"
"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"
(Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03)
"I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/03)
"I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.... I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war....
"Do you all remember Scott Ritter, you know, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector who played chief stooge for Saddam Hussein? Well, Mr. Ritter actually told a French radio network that -- quote, 'The United States is going to leave Baghdad with its tail between its legs, defeated.' Sorry, Scott. I think you've been chasing the wrong tail, again.
"Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03)
"Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years."
(Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)
"This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right."
(New York Times reporter David Carr, 4/16/03)
"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray."
(Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)
"Some journalists, in my judgment, just can't stand success, especially a few liberal columnists and newspapers and a few Arab reporters."
(CNN's Lou Dobbs, 4/14/03)
"Sean Penn is at it again. The Hollywood star takes out a full-page ad out in the New York Times bashing George Bush. Apparently he still hasn't figured out we won the war."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 5/30/03)
"This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention.... The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling.... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on."
(Christopher Hitchens, in a 1/28/03 debate-- cited in the Observer, 3/30/03)
"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?"
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)
"It won't take weeks. You know that, professor. Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question that it will."
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)
"There's no way. There's absolutely no way. They may bomb for a matter of weeks, try to soften them up as they did in Afghanistan. But once the United States and Britain unleash, it's maybe hours. They're going to fold like that."
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)
"He [Saddam Hussein] actually thought that he could stop us and win the debate worldwide. But he didn't--he didn't bargain on a two- or three week war. I actually thought it would be less than two weeks."
(NBC reporter Fred Francis, Chris Matthews Show, 4/13/03)
Weapons of Mass Destruction
NPR's Mara Liasson: Where there was a debate about whether or not Iraq had these weapons of mass destruction and whether we can find it...
Brit Hume: No, there wasn't. Nobody seriously argued that he didn't have them beforehand. Nobody.
(Fox News Channel, April 6, 2003)
"Speaking to the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell made so strong a case that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is in material breach of U.N. resolutions that only the duped, the dumb and the desperate could ignore it."
(Cal Thomas, syndicated column, 2/12/03)
"Saddam could decide to take Baghdad with him. One Arab intelligence officer interviewed by Newsweek spoke of 'the green mushroom' over Baghdad--the modern-day caliph bidding a grotesque bio-chem farewell to the land of the living alongside thousands of his subjects as well as his enemies. Saddam wants to be remembered. He has the means and the demonic imagination. It is up to U.S. armed forces to stop him before he can achieve notoriety for all time."
"Chris, more than anything else, real vindication for the administration. One, credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Two, you know what? There were a lot of terrorists here, really bad guys. I saw them."
(MSNBC reporter Bob Arnot, 4/9/03)
"Even in the flush of triumph, doubts will be raised. Where are the supplies of germs and poison gas and plans for nukes to justify pre-emption? (Freed scientists will lead us to caches no inspectors could find.) What about remaining danger from Baathist torturers and war criminals forming pockets of resistance and plotting vengeance? (Their death wish is our command.)"
(New York Times' William Safire, 4/10/03)