Karzai Now Says Newsweek Wasn't The Cause Of The Riots - And Neal Figures Out The Rove Media Playbook
"Those demonstrations were in reality not related to the Newsweek story...They were more against the elections in Afghanistan. They were more against the progress in Afghanistan."
--Afghan president Hamid Karzai, today
Gee, didn't our toady Hamid get the memo from Rove?
So with the neutering of another media outlet safely behind them, apparently the White House feels that it is safe for them to let Karzai unwind the "blame Newsweek for everything" meme?
And at what point exactly does the mainstream corporate media in this country see the utter manipulation and intimidation tactics involved here and do anything about it?
Well, at least Terry Neal of the Washington Post’s Talking Points gets the picture correctly this morning:
A certain and clear pattern has emerged when a damaging accusation or claim against the Bush administration or the Republican-led Congress is publicized: Bush supporters laser in on a weakness, fallacy or inaccuracy in the story's sourcing while diverting all attention from the issue at hand to the source or the accuser in the story.
Often this tactic involves efforts to delegitimize the entire news media based on the mistakes or sloppy reporting of a few. We saw this with the discrediting of CBS's story on irregularities in President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service in the 1970s. Although the CBS "scoop" was based on faked documents, the administration's response and backlash from both conservative and mainstream media essentially relieved Bush of having to deal with the story. In other words, the allegedly "liberal" media dropped the story like a hot rock.
We saw ex-members of the Bush administration -- former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill, former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John M. Shalikashvili and former director of faith-based charities John J. DiIulio Jr. -- similarly attacked by conservative bloggers and columnists. The mainstream media eventually backed away from coverage of their claims as well.
To be clear about something, the Bush administration's attacks on Newsweek don't represent a new phenomenon. The Clinton administration often attacked its accusers and criticized unflattering media reports. The big difference is that the Clinton administration didn't have any such supportive echo chamber of talk radio and blogs that now exist to amplify it.
It was almost as if the Newsweek fiasco had occurred in a vacuum, or in an alternate reality, where the Iraq war, fought over non-existent weapons of mass destruction, had never occurred. The scenario unfolded over the past two weeks in a Twilight Zone-like atmosphere in which an administration that has held neither itself nor any of its underlings accountable for a war that has so far cost more than 1,600 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives worked itself into a tizzy for a brief report in a news magazine -- based on an anonymous source -- that turned out to be unsubstantiated.
It's a curious line of attack from an administration known for rarely admitting a mistake.
Since this is the accountability era, and it is widely agreed upon that Newsweek should account for its errors and apologize for its mistakes, perhaps we can get back to applying similarly stringent requirements on the elected officials who make grave decisions, such as whether to go to war.
When the media finish scrutinizing Newsweek, it should get back to asking tough questions of the Bush administration. Questions like:
·Who should be held responsible for the faulty intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that led the United States to declare war against Iraq?
·Why has the president not apologized for warning America that Iraq presented an imminent threat, when that turned out to be the case?
·Will Rumsfeld, who claimed prior to the war to know the precise locations of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, personally apologize to the families of the troops who died in the search for those weapons?
·Given that McClellan has suggested that Newsweek editors need to go on Arab TV and explain and apologize for their errors, will Bush also go on Arab television to explain and apologize for the mistakes made in gathering and analyzing the pre-war intelligence?
·Will the administration, which downplayed the costs of the war in Iraq, publicly apologize to taxpayers now that the costs have already exceeded $300 billion?
Some will argue that such questions are irrelevant or miss the point because Bush's bold action in Iraq got rid of a tyrant who was abusing his own people and because it will eventually lead to the spread of democracy in the area. Both may be true. But the case for war was built neither on humanitarianism nor on spreading democracy. Those arguments were, at most, used to bolster the main case, which was that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction and presented an imminent threat to America and its allies.
Some will also argue that the media only push aggressively to investigate Republican administrations. That's a difficult case to make. A simple Lexis search shows, for instance, that the Washington Post ran 415 stories about Monicagate on its front page in the 1998 calendar year.
Some on the left will argue that the Clinton scandal was trumped up, overblown, media madness. I disagree. It was an important story and deserved the front-page treatment it was given. But it also seems true that questions about a war that was fought on an acknowledged false premise are at least as important as questions about one president's efforts to lie about a consensual affair with another adult.