Nation readers don't need to be told that what passes for TV punditry is far more degrading than uplifting for the national conversation.
With talking heads ranting at each other in soundbite form, it's difficult for even the most dignified, articulate analyst to avoid being caught up in the calculated theater of debate shows like MSNBC's Hardball, CNN's Crossfire and Fox News' Hannity & Colmes. To steal a good line from the man I'm about to praise, TV debate shows are as much about real debate as the World Wrestling Federation is about real athletic competition.
Jon Stewart dropped that line, among many other spot-on remarks, in an amazing confrontation with Crossfire hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala this past Friday on the CNN program. Invited on to plug his (hilarious) new book, Stewart instead took the opportunity to publicly confront his hosts about why he thinks Crossfire's programming and the mainstream media in general are "hurting America." (He also told Carlson and Begala: "You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.")
Remember how Bush One's National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft used a Wall Street Journal op-ed in the run-up to the Iraq war to warn Bush Two about the perils of an invasion? At the time, many believed Scowcroft, a close collaborator of the 41st President, was acting as a proxy for his former boss.
More recently, in the first presidential debate, Scowcroft's words were thrown back at Dubya when John Kerry invoked Bush One's prescient warning (from A World Transformed, the 1998 book he wrote with Scowcroft) that "had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
Now, Scowcroft is back--a little more than two weeks before a highly contested election--with more tough criticism of the Bush Administration. In an interview in the October 14 Financial Times, Scowcroft bluntly criticized the President's handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict. "Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger," Scowcroft told the Financial Times. "I think the president is mesmerized." He added: "When there is a suicide attack [followed by a reprisal] Sharon calls the president and says, 'I'm on the front line of terrorism,' and the president says, 'Yes, you are...' He [Sharon] has been nothing but trouble."
"Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind." -- George Orwell
George Orwell shaped our imagination of a future in which a propagandistic media produced a steady stream of up-is-down, right-is-wrong, war-is-peace lies in order to impose the will of a governing elite upon the subject citizenry.
Orwell reckoned this ultimate diminution of democracy would come in the year 1984. Imperfect genius that he was, the author missed the mark by twenty years. But, after watching the controversy regarding the Sinclair Broadcast Group's scheme to air the truth-impaired mockumentary Stolen Honor in an attempt to stall the momentum John Kerry's campaign gained from the presidential debates, it becomes evident that the future Orwell imagined is unfolding.
Have you noticed that when Lynne Cheney thunders about being an "indignant mother" she can't repress a smile? And when husband Dick says he's an "angry father," he's smirking?
That's because they're actually far more pleased than outraged by John Kerry's mention of their daughter's sexual orientation in the last debate. Now they have an issue to distract the country from George Bush's awful debate performances. And the media, which drank deeply from Cheney's WMD concoction, has once again swallowed his deceptions--hook, line, and sinker.
It was Dick Cheney himself, who first brought up his daughter's lesbianism in the 2000 Vice-Presidential debate when he wanted to burnish his compassionate side, a quality never noticed much before and completely absent since. When John Edwards mentioned Cheney's daughter in this year's VP debate, Cheney thanked him for his "kind words."
What did we learn about Bush from the last debate?
He doesn't believe terrorism can ever be reduced to a "nuisance," which means he believes the War of Terror will be a war without end.
Not only has he seemed to have forgotten Osama bin Laden, he has forgotten what he has said about the Al Qaeda leader, probably because he's not "that worried about him."
Bush's slip in the third debate was about Osama, but his big, calculated lie last night was, as in the second debate, about the Supreme Court. Bush said he wouldn't apply a "litmus test" to any judicial appointments, and then fell silent. But in the second debate he elaborated, saying he wanted "strict constructionists."Â
In evangelical circles this is code for anti-Roe judges, because the litmus test for a strict constructionist is opposition to Roe. Bush's favorite justices, Scalia and Thomas, are strict constructionists. Ginsburg and Breyer are not. If this weren't enough, Bush went on to say he wanted the kind of judge who opposes Dred Scott, the 1857 decision that extended the property rights of slave-owners.
This confused many people, as Katha Pollitt explains in the current issue of Nation. Who supports Dred Scott? Was this another one of Bush's mental lapses? Or was it a painfully awkward Republican appeal to black voters? Actually no. According to Slate, and as Pollitt elaborated, Dred Scott is also code for Roe in anti-choice circles. When Christian conservatives want to denigrate Roe, they compare it to Dred Scott.
Check out Eric Alterman's new book, When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences, (Viking Penguin). Click here for info and to purchase copies.
Twenty months ago, when the Bush Administration was steering the country toward war in Iraq, we noted a parallel with another military misadventure, the Spanish-American War, in which Cuba and th
In November, California voters will have their first
chance in a decade to reform the state's "three strikes and you're
out" law, which has imposed cruel life sentences on thousands for
Every once in a while
there is good news in this troubled world, and the choice of Kenyan
environmentalist Wangari Maathai as this year's Nobel Peace
Prizewinner is one such moment.