Washington Post writer Paul Farhi cleverly compared the content and structure of George W. Bush’s second inaugural address to The Rascals’ classic ditty “People Got to Be Free.” It worked, but a better title for the speech might have been borrowed from Green Day’s current smash, “American Idiot.” The gap between the world’s “reality based” community and the fantasy being sold us by our benighted leadership, with the help of a quiescent Fourth Estate, may never have been wider.
The word “freedom” passed Bush’s lips twenty-seven times and “liberty” fifteen. Mentions of “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” “Al Qaeda,” “Iran,” “Pakistan,” “Chechnya,” “Uzbekistan,” Egypt,” “Guantánamo,” “Patriot Act,” “Abu Ghraib,” “torture,” “suspension of habeas corpus” and “José Padilla” combined for a grand total of zero. Not a word either about the fact that Bush’s messianic foreign policy is killing thousands of innocent Iraqis and American soldiers; sowing hatred of America across the Arab (and most of the non-Arab) world; recruiting terrorists for Al Qaeda-like organizations; torturing hundreds, perhaps thousands of victims in numerous nations; supporting and empowering tyranny around the world; destroying the liberty of American citizens and noncitizens alike here at home; and shredding time-honored constitutional liberties as it invents new federal police powers out of whole cloth.
None of these kakistocratic exercises would be possible if the media took seriously their constitutional charge to act as a check on the irresponsible exercise of power. To be fair, reporters at the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times–though not, it must be added, New York’s Paper of Record–addressed the enormous disjuncture between Bush’s lofty words and the Machiavellian machinations that underlie his policies, in articles titled, respectively, “Bush’s Words on Liberty Don’t Mesh With Policies,” and “Putting Democracy First May Test Key Relationships.” Post reporters Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright quoted experts and opposition figures to demonstrate how Bush’s rhetoric “is at odds with the administration’s increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.” And in the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus noted that two days before the President’s speech, Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice proclaimed, “We embrace Pakistan as a vital ally in the war on terror”–a country, the article observed, led by a general who seized power in 1999 and last year broke his promise to step down from his position as chief of the armed forces. McManus also pointed out that Rice gave an explicit pass to Uzbekistan, a nation condemned by the State Department for its tyrannical suppression of most forms of freedom of expression.