Saturday, December 11, 2004

The wingjobs go on the offensive

In relation to my recent post about how the steadily unfolding failure of Bush's strategy in Iraq has led to a PRC-style attack on transparency, my friend Robby Mockler comments that, "The fact that reporters have to use subterfuge to ask real questions of government officials (e.g., asking Rummy about those armored cars) demonstrates the sorry state of affairs."

Good point.

It's also worth noting how the right-wing punditocracy has been frothing at the mouth over the "planted" question from reporter Lee Pitts about the lack of adequate armor for American troops in theatre. Here, for example, is Rush Limbaugh:
Was [Pitts] on television last night? Anybody see him on TV? This guy has not yet stepped forward to answer questions as Rumsfeld did? Haven't seen him on TV, huh? I asked this question yesterday: Will Lee Pitts show up on television to answer questions about his actions just as Rumsfeld did? ... He knew what he had done was over the line, over the edge, and across the line. It was not journalism. It had become activism.
The first thing to note is the way Rush apparently feels as if reporters need to be scrutinized the same way that Secretaries of Defense during wartime do.

But what's really interesting about this transcript is what happens next. A caller named Karen calls up and takes umbrage with Rush, accusing him of "attacking the messenger."

When Rush launches into his usual bullying act, Karen stays on point, finally managing to get in, "What the soldier asked was a legitimate question. I personally don't care who said it to" -- at which point Rush cuts her off again, almost hysterical. He screams, bizarrely, that he is on the side of a "revolution" and that the caller fits "the full-fledged mold of a liberal caller," before finally, in a magnificent piece of pot-calling-a-kettlism, accusing her of turning her critique of his statement into a personal criticism of him.

When Karen denies any personal motive, noting simply that she knows parents of soldiers in Eugene, Oregon who "have been assembling pieces [of armor] to be sent over to Iraq," and that therefore the question, whoever posed it, is legitimate, Rush responds that since he hasn't personally met anyone in West Palm Beach, Florida, who is assembling armor, it can't be a serious issue.


Read the whole transcript. It's the kind of thing that makes me wonder, really wonder. As Rush himself suggests, only a bunch of idiots can believe anything this guy says....

But let's leave the personal ridiculousness of Rush aside. The real issue, which thus far I've heard no one remark on explicitly, is that the reason why this reporter needed to "plant" a legitimate question with soldiers, is that reporters can't get straight answers when they themselves ask the Bush regime the questions. It's only when the Bush regime is caught on tape treating American soldiers with the same contempt that they treat reporters to on a daily basis that it becomes a major international news story.

The truth is that the Bush regime, and Rumsfeld in particular, doesn't feel as if it needs to answer to anyone in the public -- certainly not the media. It's precsiely the contempt for the media's role as a conduit in the free flow of information that leads to the sorry state of affairs that Robby describes.

Even now, I bet Rumsfeld, like Rush, views what's going on as essentially a PR problem, rather than as a symptom of the pathology of his approach to transparency -- not to mention of the substantive problems with his strategy and tactics in the war itself.

The fact that Bush is keeping Rumsfeld clearly indicates that he concurs with Rumsfeld in these essentials.

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