April 1, 2004

the executioner's face is always well hidden

* The White House has the last laugh: Bush's latest abuse of power fails to rouse the Washington media, by Sydney Blumenthal and tellingly published in the Guardian. excerpts:

"Through its laughter the press corps didn't grasp that the joke was on them. The problem is not that Bush's jest was inappropriate and tasteless - the widow of David Bloom, the NBC reporter who died in Iraq, had tearfully preceded Bush on the platform. It is not that much of the media, including elements of the quality press, had been complicit in the choreographed disinformation campaign in the rush to war. Rather, it is that the press is accepting of Bush's radical undermining of the long-established arrangements of Washington, including the demotion of the press's own role by breaking the off-the-record rule in order to have a weapon to use against Clarke. The implicit deal that the press thought it had with the Bush White House, as with previous White Houses, has been broken-unilaterally, like other policies.
"While [Condi Rice] was putting a stiletto into Clarke, the background briefing paper was shuffled by her press office to Fox News to broadcast as Clarke testified. Republican members of the 9/11 commission waved the paper at him, and much time was taken up by his explanation of how, as a staffer, he had been acting properly, like a lawyer representing a client, and why his briefing was not at odds with his information now.

"This selective declassification signalled to professionals in government that anything they said to reporters could be held against them if they ever in the future contradicted the Bush line. Yet not one news organisation tried to uphold the old rule by threatening to reveal sources of off-the-record briefings unless the White House reverted to the accepted convention that makes informed journalism possible.

"The Clarke episode is symptomatic of a systematic abuse of power. Reality is raw and dangerous to report - better to laugh along."

* Source unknown: "Larry David volunteered to be VP for Kerry, admitting that he is 'a nincompoop, a chicken and a liar.' Kerry told him: 'You are qualified to be a Republican.'" He'd make an even better White House press secretary.


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