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Right Intention: Let's Not Fight Amongst Ourselves...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Let's Not Fight Amongst Ourselves...

There's a reason I don't read the works of avowed leftists like David Corn. It's not good for my blood pressure. But I inadvertently clicked on a link from Instapundit that took me there. And despite myself, I ended up reading a column Corn wrote defending Michael Isikoff from an attack by the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters. Since I already wasted several minutes of my life reading it, I figured I may as well spend a couple of more writing what I thought about it.

Here's a good place to start:

I know, I know. Never try to give someone constructive advice. Yet I'm at it again. My pals at Media Matters have dumped on my friend Michael Isikoff. In my most recent "Capital Games" column at www.thenation.com I attempted to broker a ceasefire and remind the MMers that the real enemy is the White House that is fully exploiting the Newsweek mess to undermine an already weak-kneed media.

Translation: Let us not fight amongst ourselves for we have a common enemy. The White House.

The real enemy is the White House? Think about that for a second. He wrote that the White House is the enemy of the press. Well, at least he is upfront about it. Judging by their collective actions, it's pretty obvious that most of the media believes that Bush is the enemy, but few actually admit it. I've got news for you, Dave. The White House and an ever increasing number of Americans are considering the likes of you the enemy.

Some may try to argue that Corn didn't mean that the White House isn't the enemy in all circumstances, just in this one instance. Spare me.

And don't you just love the "week-kneed media" comment? The press continually attacks Bush with a ferocity that makes a pack of rabid pit bulls look like newborn kittens in comparison. But he thinks the media is weak kneed in its dealings with the White House. What planet is he on?

What particularly ticks off the good folks at Media Matters--which was founded by David Brock, the right-wing journalist who defected from the conservative movement--is that Isikoff was a "leading reporter on the so-called 'Clinton scandals' in the 1990s, including the Paula Jones, Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky cases."

I was not fond of the witch hunt against Clinton for getting fellatio from an ugly intern, either. I think it was a monumental waste of time. Clearly we had better things to do as a country.

My point is that the MM slam on Isikoff is one-sided. His "checkered" past includes work that liberal media-watchers might consider rather positive. He broke the story of how Alberto Gonzalez, when he was Texas Governor George W. Bush's chief counsel in 1996, connived to get Bush out of a jury duty so that Bush would not have to acknowledge he had once been arrested for drunk driving. (Today Gonzalez is the nation's attorney general.) Isikoff also was a lead debunker of the allegation that Vice President Dick Cheney tossed about before the invasion of Iraq concerning a supposed meeting between Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 ringleader, and an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. (Isikoff accurately reported that the CIA and FBI had found nothing to this charge.) Last year, after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Isikoff unearthed the first Justice Department memos showing that the Bush administration had stripped Geneva Convention protections from the prisoners at Guantanamo. He and Mark Hosenball--who together write Newsweek's "Terror Watch" column--recently disclosed that Haliburton had cut a hush-hush deal in Iran and that former GOP presidential candidate Jack Kemp had been questioned by federal investigators about his ties to a businessman under investigation in the oil-for-food scandal. Last year, they detailed how CBS--in the wake of the Dan Rather fiasco--had censored a 60 Minutes segment on the forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium in Niger.

Got all that? He does say that part of what bothered him about the Lewinsky matter was that it was a private issue (not quoted, and I agree) and offered up some professional decisions he made consistent with that. But then he goes on to quote a number of stories he thinks are "good stuff" which consist entirely of attacking the Bush administration. It would lead a neutral observer to conclude what he really likes about these stories versus Lewinsky is that they attack Republicans and the other attacked a Democrat.

Still, here's a modest suggestion to Media Matters (and I do hope my friends there consider this constructive criticism): don't use this occasion to revive the old battles of the Clinton days; Isikoff is not the enemy.

There it is again. Bush is the enemy.

Instead, consider this slice of Elisabeth Bumiller's piece in today'sThe New York Times:

Republicans close to the White House said that although President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were genuinely angered by the Newsweek article, West Wing officials were also exploiting it in an effort to put a check on the press.

"There's no expectation that they're going to bring down Newsweek, but there is a feeling that there is no check on what you guys do," said one outside Bush adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified as talking about possible motives of the White House.

"In the course of any administration," he continued, "you have three or four opportunities, at most, with a high-profile press mistake. And if you're going to make a point - and no White House is ever going to love the way it's covered - you have to highlight those places where there is a screw-up."


Good. I hope this is true and the White House is successful in its efforts. But David seems offended:

So the White House is eagerly waging war on the media.

Close, but not quite, David. Your terminology is wrong. Let me help you out. It's called a "counterattack". Allow me to explain. Several times in this column you have called the White House the enemy of liberal media. You then listed a number of negative articles attacking the administration as evidence of good journalism. You are the ones who declared war on the administration, not the other way around. And in a war, when your enemy exposes a weakness in the midst of a unrelenting assault, a good soldier will exploit it and fight back. That's known as a counterattack.

And notice how that sentence has a little bit of victimization to it? He's whining that the White House is fighting back. It's childish to attack someone and then be offended when you are hit back.

The Bushies peddled the phony tale that Iraq posed a WMD threat, and they have not apologized for that or retracted the war.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Give it a rest already.

Worse, the White House, the Pentagon, the Republicans in Congress are enthusiastically taking advantage of Newsweek's mistakes to weaken a mainstream media that already does not challenge the administration sufficiently.

If Bush were publicly skinned alive it still wouldn't be enough for these people.

But those who yearn for an assertive and independent media ought to fret more about the ongoing campaign to exploit this matter than Isikoff's past, checkered or otherwise.

Translation: We are the real victims here; not the needless hit America's reputation just took, not the military and other overseas personnel who live and work in the lion's den, and certainly not the dead protesters. The media is the victim.

And then they wonder why the journalism profession is losing so much respect.

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