Remembrance of Beltway Scandals Past
With the Plame affair (re)heating, along with even more salacious revelations concerning Pentagon officials drunkenly passing on highly sensitive intelligence to Diem Chalabi, treason season (pardon the gratuitous Simpsons reference) has apparently arrived in our nation's capital. Although it's too soon to tell, I'm curious as to how the mainstream media will cover these emerging imbroglios, particularly in contrast to the two biggest political scandals of recent memory--Watergate and Iran-Contra. Specifically, it will be interesting to see if the VRWC and its comrades in the Republican Party pounce on the media for its librul treachery, as they have been wont to do, and whether this will affect media coverage for the remainder of this year.
During Watergate, the VWRC was still in its protean stage (essentially, the National Review and various right-leaning newspapers like the Chicago Tribune). By the time of Iran-Contra, the infrastructure had developed markedly, with the proliferation of think tanks, party-line newspapers like the Washington Times, and various GOP front groups (the American Conservative Union and their innumerable ilk). However, it was not until the 1990s, with the introduction of Fox News and talk radio, that the VRWC began to coalesce into the malevolent force it is today.
The reason why this is important is because journalists (whether TV or print) didn't feel the overwhelming pressure to avoid the "liberal media" stigma that has cowed the mainstream press since the early 90s. Robert Parry has a terrific analysis (courtesy of Digby) of how the constant right-wing mau-mauing has thoroughly debased the profession. Thus, I sometimes wonder whether Watergate and Iran-Contra would have turned out differently if the VRWC infrastructure had been in place. Obviously, this is a moot point by now; however, Watergate and Iran-Contra will provide useful benchmarks as the Plame and Chalabi affairs progress. If the media gives the administration a pass on both fronts, it will be the clearest proof yet, along with Whitewater (remember them days?) that the VRWC has perfected a truly frightening ability to mold media coverage to its liking, something that did not exist in 1972 or 1986. Personally, I don't think this will happen, as the lure of a genuine beltway scandal (and its attendant ratings bonanza) will overcome the insistent banshee wail of "liberal bias." But then, I never thought that not one but two CNN "personalities" would openly imply that a Al Qaeda is essentially rooting for John Kerry to win in November. Cheers!