As the Gannongate scandal grows more disturbing by the day, it is worth remembering that this is but the latest round in the Bush White House’s assault on the freedom of the press.
It started with loyalty oaths at Bush campaign events, which turned town hall meetings into infomercials. This proved so successful they’ve exported the strategy. When Condi met with a group of French intellectuals, their questions were pre-screened for anti-Bush bias. (It was presumably a rather short Q&A session.)
Then we discovered the Bush Administration was using taxpayer dollars to buy the fourth estate and turn it into a dude ranch. Armstrong Williams was paid a quarter million to pimp for No Child Left Behind. Maggie Gallagher and Mike McManus, who should talk to Armstrong’s agent, were paid considerably less to hold forth on the gay marriage amendment.
And now we’ve learned that a Texas Republican set up a fake news website and hired The Journalist That Dare Not Speak His Real Name (James Dale Guckert, aka James Gannon) to infiltrate the White House Press Corp and lob friendly questions. He infamously asked President Bush how he could work with Democrats who had “divorced themselves from reality.”
It was at this point that pajama-clad bloggers, armed only with their Google search engines, uncovered that Gannon not only had a secret identity but also had gained access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. (Some connections to gay prostitution websites which Guckert-Gannon was involved in were also turned up.)
Despite the ease with which the blogosphere was able to uncover Guckert/Gannon’s true identity and even though Guckert/Gannon had been denied credentials to enter the House and Senate press galleries, Bush spokesperson Scott McClellan claims post-9/11 security measures failed to detect a faux-journalist operating inside the White House under a pseudonym.
If you believe that, I have some Iraqi weapons of mass destruction I’d like to sell you.