LIBERALS, LIBERALS EVERYWHERE
In his March 6 "Liberal Media" column, titled "The Gasbag Gap,"
which discusses the Sunday-morning public affairs broadcasts, Eric
Alterman writes that "every week" on This Week With George
Stephanopoulos, Mr. Stephanopoulos seeks the wisdom of George Will and
Fareed Zakaria "with no balance whatsoever." By that, he means no
liberal or progressive voice. Had Alterman done some basic research, he
would have seen how false that statement was.
It is true that Will appears almost every week and Zakaria has been on
more than fifteen times in the past year (though not every week). Both
provide keen insight for our viewers. However, it is not true, as
Alterman suggests, that Sam Donaldson no longer appears on the
roundtable. In fact, he appeared eleven times over the past year.
Alterman also fails to note, perhaps because he failed to check, that
the following liberals and progressives have also appeared on the
roundtable over the past year: E.J. Dionne (four times), Robert Reich
(two times), Donna Brazile (six times), Kweise Mfume (two times), Mario
Cuomo, Paul Begala, Paul Krugman, Howell Raines, Cynthia Tucker, Walter
Dellinger, and last--but certainly not least--Nation editor and
publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel (three times).
Executive Producer, This Week With George Stephanopoulos
New York City
"Basic research" or no, Katherine O'Hearn's critique strikes me
as a kind of bait-and-switch operation. I never said liberals are
unrepresented on This Week. I said, based on the careful research of
Media Matters for America, that they are consistently overmatched. And
they are. The study, which offered an extremely generous definition of
"progressive," found that during Clinton's second term, Republicans and
conservatives outmatched Democrats and progressives on the show by
a margin of 45 percent to 39 percent. During the first Bush term,
the figures were 40 percent Republican/conservative and just
28 percent Democratic/liberal. With progressive journalists, as
opposed to officials, the figures are more heavily weighted toward the
right; 54 to 33 during the second Clinton term and 36 to 17 during the
first Bush term (with the rest coded as "neutral," again extremely
That O'Hearn can name a few progressives who have appeared with Will in
no way contradicts anything I wrote; nor do the few appearances of
liberal journalists like E.J. Dionne (who, I noted, was the only
exception in the study) and my boss, Katrina vanden Heuvel. Will's
appearances probably number in the four figures over the past twenty
years, and he is frequently offered the last word or one-on-one
interviews with public figures. If we round down that estimate to 800
for argument's sake, is ABC News asking us to believe that Will is 400
times as perspicacious as E.J., or 800 times as thoughtful as Krugman?
Obviously not. But it is saying that it is wholly comfortable inviting a
right-wing pundit to be a central player, and equally forceful liberals
need not apply. (If O'Hearn is going to count appearances by liberals
who came after the study concluded and after my column appeared, I guess
we're going to have to throw in yet another powwow with "Mr. Straight
Talk," John McCain, occurring as I write this.)
Moreover, This Week has a rather expansive definition of "liberal." For
instance, even with Donaldson and (the then-liberal)
Stephanopoulos as regulars, I recall no unapologetic defenses
of Clinton during the impeachment debacle, nor any full-throated critics
of Ken Starr, even though a majority of Americans supported the
President and pronounced themselves appalled at Starr's behavior. For
that matter, I'm having a little trouble remembering many opponents of
Bush's war. But I'm a liberal, so what do I know?
THEY DON'T KNOW JACK
James Dobson is hardly a close ally of disgraced lobbyist Jack
Abramoff, despite the insinuations Max Blumenthal lays on Nation readers
["Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers," Feb. 20]. Abramoff's personal
e-mails have led some people to believe that Dobson helped him defeat a
tribal casino in Louisiana, but it's an empty boast--like a rooster
taking credit for the sunrise. Dobson didn't do anyone's bidding.
The fact is, gambling has been mentioned as a destructive force to
families roughly 200 times on Focus on the Family radio broadcasts
during the organization's twenty-nine-year history. So when we took
action against Louisiana gambling expansion in 2002, it was a
continuation of a long-established pattern. We used our own money, and
Dobson had no contact with Abramoff and no knowledge of his activities.
Focus on the Family is getting mentioned in the sad Abramoff story only
because we quite coincidentally fought the same casino at the same time.
Dobson needs no one's pressure to oppose gambling in all its forms,
because he's motivated by only one thing: the desire to safeguard
families from the crime, bankruptcy, corruption and divorce that
proliferate whenever a casino comes to town. We did it because gambling
destroys families. Why, or how, Jack Abramoff did it is a story we have
no connection to.
Focus on the Family
Tom Minnery omits any mention of the man who prompted and
coordinated Focus's involvement in Abramoff's schemes--Ralph Reed,
Abramoff's go-between with Dobson and the Christian right, whom he then
rewarded with $4 million in casino money. As documented in the e-mail
exchanges among Reed, Abramoff and Abramoff's business partner, Michael
Scanlon--subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs--they
delighted in manipulating Dobson like a puppet on a string.
In February 2002, when Abramoff learned that the Jena Choctaws, a tribal
competitor to one of his casino clients, had contracted the
lobbying services of DC super-lawyer and current Mississippi
Governor Haley Barbour, Reed asked Dobson to attack Barbour on his radio
show. In a February 6, 2002, e-mail Abramoff tells Reed, "Let me know
when Dobson hits him [Barbour]. I want to savor it." That same day, in
an e-mail titled "Ralph and Dobson," Abramoff tells Scanlon that Reed
"got to Dobson who is going to...get on the radio!" On February 19 Reed
got a direct request from Abramoff. "Can we get Dobson on the air?" Reed
responded that day in an e-mail, "yes. We're negotiating that now." In
an e-mail later that day, Reed told Abramoff, "called Dobson this a.m."
The next day Abramoff wrote to Scanlon: Reed "wants a budget for radio
in the state. I'm inclined to say yes, so we can get this Dobson ad up.
He asked for $150K. We'll play it in WH [the White House] and Interior."
Later that day Abramoff was jubilant. Reed "may have finally scored for
us!" he wrote to Scanlon. "Dobson goes up on the radio next week." On
February 26 Abramoff asked Reed, "where are we with Falwell, Robertson,
Dobson, etc.? we need to see some action in D.C. That's what I sold them
for $100K." Doesn't James Dobson know that lies make baby Jesus cry?
HILLS ALIVE WITH SOUND OF MONEY
In "Can Justice Be Trusted?" [Feb. 20], on the Abramoff/Guam
story, Ari Berman mentions Howard Hills, the Abramoff conduit for Guam
lobbying funds paid in $9,000 increments. Hills's irregular practice of
law is well known to the islands. Just ask the people of Rongelap, who
were exposed to US nuclear tests in the Marshalls. As a State Department
lawyer, Hills led the move to dismiss their cases in the US Court of
Claims. Then he offered the people of Rongelap his services as a
"connected Republican lobbyist and political strategist" to restore
their claims and get Congressional funding. Oh, but for a fee of more
than $300,000 a year. This is not representation, this is a shakedown,
like closing casinos and then offering help to reopen them--for a fee.
Varmints like Hills should be exposed and brought to justice.
TONY de BRUM
NUKING THE NUKES
La Jolla, Calif.
Richard Falk's "Storm Clouds Over Iran" [Feb.13], on the dangers
associated with a US aerial attack on Iran, omits the crucial fact that
such an attack is likely to include the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
New US nuclear weapons policies have "integrated" nuclear weapons with
conventional weapons and envision their use against underground
facilities and to pre-empt enemy attack with WMD. The drafters of these
policies occupy the upper echelons of the current Administration.
The B61-11 nuclear earth penetrator entered the US stockpile in late
2001. It can be launched from F-16 aircraft and causes twenty to 200
times less "collateral damage" than surface explosion. At low yield in
desolated areas like the Natanz enrichment plant, it would cause few
casualties and achieve US goals. The US "negative security assurance" of
1995 promising not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries
explicitly excludes countries declared in "noncompliance" with the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Iran was in September 2005.
Pentagon documents emphasize that "no customary or conventional
international law prohibits nations from employing nuclear weapons in
The President has sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.
Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 of the Constitution, Congress
could restrict this authority by legislating that its authorization is
needed for the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries. Such
use of nuclear weapons will set off a dangerous chain reaction, leading
to many more countries acquiring nuclear weapons and heightening the
risk of global nuclear war. This path should not be entered on the
decision of the President alone. Congress is derelict in its
responsibilities if it doesn't address this issue while there is still
DINING AT THE CIA'S 3-STAR TROUGH
Victor Navasky's obituary for The New Leader ["In Fact...," Feb.
13] contained an interesting comment: "Arguably it has been drifting
rightward...even dined at the CIA trough," which stirred me to defend
progressive groups that received CIA funds during the cold war.
Accepting occasional support from the CIA in the 1950s might very well
have been a mark of honor and distinction for a leftist journal like The
The CIA was created in 1947 by Congress to fight the cold war using
covert and clandestine methods. Despite its many failures, the agency
was always on "our side." We may have had "rogue" Presidents who used
the CIA for rogue purposes, but we never had a rogue CIA. In fact, The
New Leader's founder, the Socialist Party's Norman Thomas, was involved
with a group that supported elected Latin American leftist governments,
like the one that briefly ruled in the Dominican Republic, 1962-63. This
group was later revealed to have received funds from CIA cash conduits.
That fact does not imply that Thomas had moved "rightward," only that
the US government--in this case, that of John Kennedy--wanted a means of
quickly and quietly helping the reformist government of Juan Bosch
without having to go through Congress.
As a young graduate student, I was involved with the programs of this
group--which ran IDES (the Institute for Economic and Social
Development) in the Dominican Republic, and CIA funding was vital.
(Unfortunately, the Bosch administration was overthrown by a coup in
mid-1963). The CIA, with all its warts, was always on our side in the
cold war. I'm not certain I could say the same for The Nation.
DAVID EUGENE BLANK