Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Press That Doesn’t Learn From (Its Own False) History

I am struck, although not terribly surprised, that the press is unwilling to learn from the history it synthesized.

Looking back on the run up to the war in Iraq, it was pretty clear that the US public really wasn’t entirely satisfied with the invasion of Afghanistan (where?) as a response to 9/11. Saddam was pretty clearly a very bad guy. He had lost a previous war, and was failing to live by the terms of the truce. He was not letting aid get through to his people, shooting at our airplanes, committing atrocities against the Kurds, funding terrorism, giving safe haven to terrorists, and by all appearances working on more weapons of mass destruction.

So Bush made his case for going to war, rather weakly I thought, and most people thought it was OK to go kick Saddam’s tail. Which he did very effectively. There were those in the press who objected to the war, but they were the ones who objected to anything involved with the military or the Republican Party. And no investigation could have found anything other than what Bush had told us. The press actually did its job reasonably well.

It was pretty funny, though. If you watched the war on CNN, it looked like the US Army was going to lose. We were over extending our supply lines, facing an army that was more competent than we thought, shouldn’t have invaded when we were denied access through Turkey, and about to be gassed any minute by Saddam. If you watched the war on Fox, we were brilliantly leapfrogging across the country and crushing the evil tyrant, with crowds of children throwing rose petals in front of the treads of our tanks. Neither was entirely correct.

But when the WMD’s didn’t show up, and the war bogged down with an insurrection, it was the chance for which the lefty/progressives had been waiting. Time to go after the evil, war monger, military industrial complex controlled, Jesus freak, Republicans. Texas Republicans at that. This was their moment to re-write history. The only reason we went to war was because they, the noble and normally diligent press, had let down the American people. If the press had just done its job, and uncovered the obvious Republican lies, then the evil war could have been stopped. The press must NEVER let down its guard again.

OK, so I think that this re-writing of history was particularly inaccurate, but most of the mainstream press seems to at least espouse this theory. So if it is vitally important that the press really, really, really check out presidential initiatives, how have they done lately? Have they been following their own advice?

Amusingly, no.

There has never been a less thorough vetting of a serious presidential candidate, than the one Barack Obama received. Even parts of the press have come to admit that. The Ombudsperson at the Washington Post recently gave the Washington Post a failing grade for objectivity and thorough investigations of Obama. Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin both had more “investigative journalists” diving through their dumpsters looking for dirt, than Barack Obama. While Obama was occasionally asked about Jeremiah Wright, not once can I recall his ever being asked about the beliefs of his church, Black Liberation Theology. It’s not just a question of whether he believed what one priest said, he should have been asked if he believed in the basic principles of his church, and what they meant to him.

Now it looks like we dodged a bullet on that one. He pretty much stopped going to church as soon as he got elected, and may not have any sincere beliefs in the church he attended in Chicago. We can but hope. On this score I would MUCH rather have him be a lowlife, pandering politician, going to a church he doesn’t care about to get votes, than a true believer in Black Liberation Theology. Doesn’t say much about his character, but still, an improvement.

There are another dozen examples of subjects that were under investigated in the Obama campaign.

Now we have the Porkapalooza “stimulus” package. Yet again, there has been no meaningful investigation of what is even IN the bill, let alone the impact it will really have on the economy, or the entirely partisan way in which it was passed.

I hope the economy gets better. My personal life and job are negatively impacted by the economic downturn. I am not rooting for the economy to tank, for a political advantage to conservative/libertarian goals. But I don’t’ think the stimulus is going to help. It’s going to make things worse, and could easily lead to a big fat hairy wave of inflation. Maybe even stagflation.

That leads me to wonder if the press will be introspective again. If they will realize that they have repeated the errors of their past. That they have again failed to investigate the biggest stories of the past year. And that it is their fault that harm has befallen our country.

Probably not.

So for Bush, they falsely claim that they didn’t investigate thoroughly, and will never fail to investigate again. For Obama they will not notice that they actually failed in their responsibilities, and that they did bring the nation to harm.

A bitter irony.


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