Article

MEDIA: The Media Know Best

As Congress finally begins to take action and shed light on the executive branch, establishment media figures are aghast.

  Features
 

GOOD NEWS

The House yesterday followed the Senate and voted to repeal a Patriot Act provision “that grants the Attorney General the authority to make indefinite interim appointments of U.S. Attorneys, who can then serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation.”


STATE WATCH

TEXAS: Lawmakers urge the state to follow the lead of other states that have formally apologized for their roles in slavery.

IOWA: State Senate approves legislation prohibiting discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

FLORIDA: State is considering legislation that could criminalize stem cell research.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he may “find out” that attorneys were purged for political reasons.

PAM’S HOUSE BLEND: Anti-gay, racist e-mails from an army recruiter.

BOB GEIGER: Will a major Swift Boat donor become a U.S. ambassador this week?

SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: “Citizen journalists find majority of congressional web sites are not tools for transparency.”


DAILY GRILL

“I think if the President would agree for his close advisers in the White House to testify before Congress under oath, he’d be making a huge mistake. There is a thing called executive privilege.”
— Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS), 3/25/07, on President Bush invoking executive privilege in the prosecutor purge

VERSUS

“I think they’ve made a mistake by [invoking executive privilege]. I think it will damage the credibility. It looks like they are hiding something, so I think they shouldn’t have done it.”
— Lott, 3/24/98, on President Clinton invoking executive privilege in the Monica Lewinsky saga


ARCHIVES

Progress Report


STUDENTS

Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.

 March 27, 2007
The Media Know Best
Go Beyond The Headlines
Coffee and Donuts Not Included
ThinkProgress.orgFor news and updates throughout the day, check out our blog at ThinkProgress.org.
Sign up | Contact us | Archive | Mobile


The Media Know Best

For six years, conservative domination of Washington created a drought of oversight and accountability. Now, as Congress finally begins to take action and shed light on the executive branch, establishment media figures are aghast. In recent weeks, reporters and editorial boards have repeatedly criticized members of Congress for investigating the White House or acting as counterweights to President Bush. As Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald noted, “Journalists are supposed to be, by definition, eager for investigations of government misconduct. That is supposed to be their purpose, embedded in their DNA.” Yet time and again, media figures have ignored public opinion data and claimed that members of Congress risk severe political damage by carrying out their constitutional oversight responsibilities. Journalists have a critical responsibility to not be complicit in corruption, government malfeasance, and possible criminality. They shouldn’t be mocking or criticizing efforts to hold the White House accountable; they should be furthering them.

MEDIA: AMERICANS DON’T WANT ACCOUNTABILITY: Speaking about the U.S. attorney scandal last week, CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood claimed that “[i]nvestigating the Bush administration is a lot easier than passing new laws,” and cautioned that “[o]ne danger for Democrats is whether they look too political in exploiting this.” The next day, NBC’s Brian Williams “paraphrased” Harwood’s comments, saying, “I can’t help but wonder if the Democrats are finding it a little easier to investigate than legislate.” Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel chimed in this weekend. “I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them,” he said, ignoring the fact that criticism of Rove and calls for him to testify have been bipartisan. “[I]t shows business as usual, tit for tat, vengeance,” Stengel said. “That’s not what voters want to see.” In fact, public opinion data shows just the opposite. A USA Today poll conducted this weekend asked, “Do you think Congress should — or should not — investigate the involvement of White House officials in this matter?” An overwhelming majority, 72 percent, said it should. Sixty-eight percent said President Bush and his aides should “Answer all questions” rather than invoking executive privilege, and an equal number said Congress should “issue subpoenas to force White House officials to testify under oath” about the matter. This should come as little surprise. Last September, prior to the midterm elections, a CNN poll found that 57 percent of Americans thought it would be a good thing for Congress to “conduct official investigations into what the Bush administration has done in the last six years.”

MEDIA: THE U.S. ATTORNEY PURGE IS OVERBLOWN: In mid-January, as early details of the administration’s purge of U.S. attorneys began to trickle out, Time magazine reporter Jay Carney was already convinced the story was a dud. “[I]n this case some liberals are seeing broad partisan conspiracies where none likely exist,” he wrote. To his credit, two months later, Carney acknowledged he was wrong. But many senior journalists continue to parrot this line, despite the serious wrongdoings and potential illegalities that have since been exposed. This past weekend, CBS national political correspondent Gloria Borger declared that members of Congress pursuing the attorney scandal merely “want to change the subject. … They don’t want to talk about how they’re doing on the war in Iraq.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews agreed. “They divide over the war and fund-raising, but this makes it simple. It’s good for fund-raising.” A March 22 Washington Post editorial stated that e-mails released by the Justice Department “for the most part suggest nothing nefarious in the dismissal process.” (As Media Matters noted, “[W]hile the editorial referred to the ‘e-mails that the administration has released,’ it made no mention of the entire category of communications that the White House has said will not be released.”) Roll Call executive editor Mort Kondracke claimed last week that there’s “not a shred of evidence” that “there was a nefarious reason involved” in the firings. Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes agreed: “I’m still waiting to see some evidence of illegality or wrongdoing.” Again, the American public is far ahead of the establishment media. Fully 58 percent, including 45 percent of Republicans, “say the ouster of the federal prosecutors was driven by political concerns.”

MEDIA: CONGRESS SHOULDN’T BE MEDDLING WITH IRAQ POLICY: Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial titled “Do we really need a Gen. Pelosi?” attacking the House plan to set a time line for redeploying U.S. forces out of Iraq. Much of the editorial was spent arguing why Congress should voluntarily neuter itself. The Times said that Congress “must not limit the president’s ability to maneuver at this critical juncture,” and that “lawmakers have a duty to let the president try” his escalation strategy, rather than “meddling in military strategy.” Last Friday, the same day the House voted to approve the Iraq legislation, the Washington Post editorial board (which in 2003 called the Iraq war “an operation essential to American security”) weighed in with an piece characterizing the House plan as “an unconditional retreat.” Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI) responded on the House floor: “[T]he problem we have today is not that we didn’t listen enough to people like the Washington Post. It’s that we listened too much.” Indeed, a new Pew Research poll finds that a “solid majority of Americans say they want their congressional representative to support [the House] bill calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by August 2008. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) say they would like to see their representative vote for such legislation.” The same poll showed nearly three-quarters of respondents were frustrated with Congress’s current efforts on Iraq, many because they felt it hasn’t had enough of an impact on war policy.

Under the Radar

ETHICS — CONGRESS DEMANDS INFO LINKING WHITE HOUSE TO CUNNINGHAM PROBE AND ATTORNEY FIRING: Recently, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) questioned on the Senate floor whether former San Diego-based U.S. attorney Carol Lam was fired because she was “about to investigate other people who were politically powerful.” Media reports have noted that among Lam’s politically powerful targets were former CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo and then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA). There is evidence to believe that the White House may have also been on Lam’s target list. From her investigation into former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA), Lam revealed: the White House awarded a one-month, $140,000 contract to MZM contractor Mitchell Wade, who had never previously held a federal contract. Two weeks after Wade was paid, he used a cashier’s check for exactly $140,000 to buy a boat for a now-imprisoned congressman (Cunningham) at a price that the congressman had pre-negotiated. Yesterday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten demanding “all contracts, subcontracts, and task orders between MZM, Inc. … and the Executive Office of the President.” He wrote, “Subsequent investigations have uncovered serious irregularities, and in some cases criminal conduct, by MZM employees, members of Congress, and Bush Administration officials relating to MZM contracts with the federal government. To date, however, there has been no examination of the circumstances surrounding MZM’s initial federal contract and the role that White House officials played in the award and execution of the contract.”In the letter, Waxman requests that the administration provide documents relating to the White House-MZM contracts as soon as possible, but in no case later than April 6.

SCIENCE — INVESTIGATION FINDS MORE FLAWS IN ADULT STEM CELL STUDY TOUTED BY RIGHT WING: A new investigation has “raised doubts about pioneering adult stem cell studies, leaving questions about the much-touted medical potential of these cells.” The results of the original study published in 2002 in the journal Nature suggested that “adult stem cells offered the same replacement tissue potential as embryonic without involving the destruction of embryos,” but an investigation conducted by New Scientist magazine found “apparently duplicated images being used to describe results from different experiments.” “The magazine says the images appear ‘flipped and modified,’ first claiming to show adult bone marrow stem cells, which regularly turn into blood cells, unexpectedly turned into bone. Then the same images were flipped to claim the same cells had unexpectedly turned into cartilage.” This is not the first time the study has been questioned. Last month, University of Minnesota researchers concluded the methods of the study were “significantly flawed, and that the interpretations based on these data…are potentially incorrect.” Other researchers were unable to duplicate the study’s results, a scientific litmus test for the validity of any paper. The scientific establishment has long known that adult stem cells hold far less differentiation ability than their embryonic counterparts, but Bush administration officials have frequently claimed otherwise. Last year, Karl Rove claimed that “recent studies” show that researchers “have far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.” But the White House “could not provide the name of a stem cell researcher who shares Rove’s views on the superior promise of adult stem cells.”

ENVIRONMENT — BUSH ADMINISTRATION MOVES TO ‘GUT’ THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT: In what is described as a “no-holds-barred end run around one of America’s most popular environmental protections,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is “maneuvering to fundamentally weaken” the Endangered Species Act, according to documents obtained by Salon.com. The strategy would “limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved.” As Salon reports, many in the FWS feel the proposed changes are “not based on ‘defensible science.'” Such reports come just months after the Washington Post reported last fall that senior political appointees in the Department of the Interior had ignored or rejected the advice of government scientists at the “behest of landowners or industry.” These complaints were confirmed in a survey conducted by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility which found that “nearly half” of FWS employees that work with endangered species reported “being directed by their superiors to ignore scientific evidence that would result in recommendations for the protection of species.” Under the leadership of President George W. Bush and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, a long-time critic of the Endangered Species Act, the FWS has declared only 57 species endangered since 2000. In contrast, Bill Clinton listed 512 species endangered in his 8-year term, and George H. W. Bush listed 234 species as endangered in his 4-year term. As one FWS employee stated, “I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it has ever been.”


Think Fast

On Monday morning’s “Bill Bennett’s Morning in America” radio show, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that the United States “is beginning to succeed” in Iraq and said that “there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could through…today.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) yesterday “dismissed” any comparison between the Bush administration’s prosecutor purge with the replacement of 93 U.S. attorneys when her husband took office in 1993. “That’s a traditional prerogative of an incoming president,” she said, adding that this purge “is part of a long record of trying to upset the traditional separation of powers.”

The U.S. Navy on Tuesday “began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran. The maneuvers bring together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than 100 U.S. warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes.”

59 percent: Americans who want their congressional representatives to support a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by Aug. 2008. Only 33 percent are opposed. Thirty-six percent believe escalation will work. 

“By the end of the century up to two fifths of the land surface of the Earth will have a hotter climate unlike anything that currently exists,” according to a new study. “And in the worst case scenario, the climatic conditions on another 48% of the land surface will no longer exist on the planet at all.”

“Unfamiliar with the U.S. mortgage market, unable to speak or read English well and vulnerable to the blandishments of real estate professionals who told them property values always rise, many immigrants are struggling to deal with high mortgage payments as their homes sag in value, making it harder to escape the loans by selling.”

And finally: Is Washington, D.C. no longer the “Hollywood for ugly people“? Over the past several years, D.C. has become “increasingly attractive” to production companies and television executives, with movies such as “The Good Shepherd” and shows like “Commander in Chief.” “The more we have women in positions of leadership, the more style we’ll have,” said Miss District of Columbia Kate Michael.