Cheney's staff, and a useful press
IT wasn't what anybody intended, but this week Vice President Dick Cheney and some of his former aides gave the rest of us a rather instructive seminar in the symbiotic contempt that links the Bush administration and self-serving members of the Washington press corps.I don't think Rutten is as hard on his colleagues in the press as he should be, he blames the Cheney and the Bush administration, but his commentary is damning never the less.
As nearly everyone now realizes the US was taken to war on the basis of lies or if your in a kinder mood deceptions.
Either could have been abetted by the sort of cynical media manipulation described this week when the vice president's former communications director, Catherine J. Martin, testified in Libby's trial. She described how Cheney was obsessed with Wilson's criticism, particularly after publication of an op-ed piece in the New York Times and how the vice president ordered a counteroffensive in parts of the press deemed receptive to whatever the administration wanted to dish out concerning the former diplomat. One of the options she recommended to Cheney was an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," because the program's host, Tim Russert, would allow the vice president to "control the message." (Russert, along with a number of reporters whom Libby attempted to make conduits of misinformation, will be testifying later in the trial.)Now Russert was a tool but you can never have too many tools in your tool chest.
She also told the court that she suggested that the vice president's office "leak" information that seemed to undercut Wilson's credibility to carefully selected reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post, arranged a lunch for Cheney with right-wing commentators and advised him to avoid the New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof because he had "attacked the administration fairly regularly." Other witnesses this week testified that Libby had been assigned to contact selected reporters deemed receptive to information that might discredit Wilson as a critic and to plant with them anonymously sourced stories.Now here is where I have to disagree with Mr Rutten.
Martin called the word "leak," which appeared in her notes as a "term of art" and testified, "If you give it to one reporter, they're likelier to write the story."
She has that about right, though the "art" she has in mind is deception.
There's no particular reason why malfeasant members of the press or those who merely are incompetent shouldn't be held in contempt. The news media, after all, are like every American institution, home to its share of idiots, poseurs, slothful time-markers and self-interested time servers. The problem is that Cheney and his former aides aren't simply contemptuous of the individual reporters or even of the press itself. They're contemptuous of the principle under which the free press operates — which is the American people's right to have a reasonable account of what the government does in their name.Yes Mr Rutten, there is every reason to blame those members of the press and expect that they be relieved of their jobs in journalism. Meet The Press has a noble history but that history can only be ignoble unless Mr Russert is sent packing at once.