Thursday, May 29, 2008

More on Kornblut

Returning to a previous subject, this exchange between a Wash Post reporter and the public deserves further attention:

------

Potomac, MD: McClellan needs to get over himself. The nerve of blaming the media for their failures in the run-up to the War. Elisabeth Bumiller so eloquently explained how things work the night before the Iraq War started, 4,000 dead American soldiers ago: "it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.".

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a good point. (I'm a huge Bumiller fan). To that I would add that most reporters, or at least this reporter, looked continuously for cracks in the facade internally, and the assistance of an aide such as McClellan in helping us understand the flaws is essential. I would urge all future White House aides to remember that sometimes the press can be a friend when things inside start going wrong.


(snip)

Re. Potomac, MD: Wait a minute, Bumiller was advocating stenography. Methinks if her relative (or yours) was about to head over to Iraq, she might have done more than wait for "cracks in the facade". That's just whistling by the graveyard. Obviously, none of YOUR children, nephews or nieces will ever enlist in our Armed Forces, but you might want to develop some empathy for the countless people in flyover country who actually lose loved ones when we go to war. Not because you're a journalist, but because you're a, you know, human being.

Anne E. Kornblut: As one with a parent and two grandparents buried at Arlington Cemetery, I can tell you that this has nothing to do with taking war lightly. If anything, I think we all felt a great sense of deference toward the presidency, as an institution, and wanted to be respectful on the eve of war, trusting that any president would only take such an important step in good faith. That isn't to say we shouldn't have been more skeptical and pressed harder in print -- and I have no doubt we all will next time, if there is a next time -- but it wasn't out of cluelessness that we did not do more.
_______________________

Vienna, Va.: I don't understand this comment: "The assistance of an aide such as McClellan in helping us understand the flaws is essential." Did you expect him to publicly say "I don't agree with this but here's our rationale for the invasion?" Do you even expect him to say that off-the-record? Why would he openly share disapproval or disagreement with policy decisions with you?


Anne E. Kornblut: Some of the greatest scandals of all time (Watergate?) have been exposed by administration insiders who felt a patriotic duty to get the real story out. We as reporters use them all the time to help get to the bottom of things. Almost always in private. And in my experience (in my smaller incidents than Watergate) aides do so because they want the public to know what is going on, and they can be an essential part of making that happen. As reporters, we can only deal in information that we are given -- and we can't actually force a White House to give us information if it doesn't want to.
_______________________

You must be kidding!: Just a comment: You think it's the job of people employed by the White House to be straightforward? Uh, no--it's the job of the media to hold the government responsible. If the people in the White House were straightforward, Americans would not need the media to intercede as our surrogates in ensuring that truth is separated from B.S.


Anne E. Kornblut: I know, I know, a dream land -- but I do actually know some rare public officials who are straightforward, and I would happily pursue another line of work if everyone else followed their examples. But I'm not really worried about unemployment (not for that reason, anyway).

-------

There you have it. Unless the administration spills the beans on itself, unless every public issue has its own private Deep Throat, unless it reveals the "cracks" in its "facade", to properly "respectful" stenographers, the public are destined to be flim-flammed because our "liberal" media will be without any means at all to seek out and assess what the hell is really going on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nomination Process Broken?

This brief post by David Kurtz at TPM, which links to a larger post by Greg Sargent, which in turn links to an article in the New Yorker by Hendrik Hertzberg, is a disappointment.

If the system is malfunctioning or broken, why?

Until this year, I'd always been disappointed at how short the nomination processes of the two parties were. To this disappointment was added an academic as well as political junky-ish perplexity stemming from a recognition that nothing in the nomination process required that it be over after Iowa.

In the past, money, the front-loading of the primary/caucus calendar, as well as the media's intent on assigning the all important "momentum", or Big Mo, to one of the party's leading candidates, served to quickly winnow the fields.

In particular, the front-loading of the calendar, although driven partly by the initiatives of individual states, helped serve the national party's seeming desire to produce unamity and harmony as early and as painlessly as possible.

Obviously, to the extent quickness and unity are important goals, the process has failed terribly this year.

But competitive, elongated campaigns that increase political participation, by voting, contributing money, or other activities, particularly in states that aren't normally a focus of either party, and that ensure substantial vetting of the candidates aren't necessarily bad.

So what would you do? What changes do you think should be made, if any, for the next election cycle?

Over Her Head

I'm guessing Anne Kornblutt missed the sarcasm here: (h/t Atrios)

Potomac, MD: McClellan needs to get over himself. The nerve of blaming the media for their failures in the run-up to the War. Elisabeth Bumiller so eloquently explained how things work the night before the Iraq War started, 4,000 dead American soldiers ago: "it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.".

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a good point. (I'm a huge Bumiller fan).....

----

While McClellan's book and revelations are sure to come in for their share of "Now he tells us", along with a share of "disgruntled staffer" taunts from the dead-enders, I actually find it rather surprising that McClellan would be this upfront about what he and the administration engaged in. And it's pretty hard to be surprised by anything at this point.

A Ludicrous Failure, Part XXVII

From Robert Borosage at the Huff Post:

The embargo has helped, no doubt, to impoverish the Cuban people. It has also helped to make Castro a nationalist hero throughout Latin America and much of the world. It has done nothing for nearly five decades to advance democracy, civil liberties or capitalism in Cuba. Even its economic effects have diminished over time. It once cribbed tourism, and, once the Soviet Union went belly up, put a squeeze on oil. Now the Europeans and Canadians populate the Cuban beaches. And Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is happy to provide Cuba with the oil it needs.

Cuba is a small island, 90 miles off our shores. Its people are proud and nationalistic. They also get island fever. Their relatives across the straits let them know what they've been missing economically. There is little doubt that had the US normalized relations with Cuba, opened up trade, encouraged travel and exchanges, Cuba would have been transformed long ago. The d├ętente that worked its magic on the Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe would have been much more powerful in Cuba.

So why does McCain extol this tribute to folly? It's a good pander to the older generation of Cubans, still pining to see Castro's overthrow and to have a shot at taking back their old properties. But straight talking John McCain wouldn't adopt a goofy failed foreign policy just for political purposes, would he?

McCain's spokesperson, Nancy Pfotenhauer, tried to explain on Fox News:We can't talk with Castro or lift the embargo until democracy descends on the island, she stated, because "the worst thing we can do is prematurely capitulate (emphasis added) and give them what they want the most without anything in return, and what they want the most is legitimacy, which, by the way, all that does is completely erode the confidence and the hopes of the people in Cuba who want freedom."

Can't "prematurely capitulate" after nearly five decades of a failed policy. We can't dash the "confidence and hopes" of the "people in Cuba who want freedom" who, no doubt, are biting their finger nails, hoping against hope that, after five decades, more of the same will somehow convince Castro to install a democracy.

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

I know this has been distilled and rehashed in other places, but I thought Harold Meyerson's summation in this morning's Post was particularly on target:

On Saturday, when the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee meets to determine the fate of Florida and Michigan's delegations to this summer's convention, it will have some company. A group of Hillary Clinton supporters has announced it will demonstrate outside.

That Clinton has impassioned supporters, many of whom link her candidacy to the feminist cause, hardly qualifies as news. And it's certainly true that along the campaign trail Clinton has encountered some outrageously sexist treatment, just as Barack Obama has been on the receiving end of bigoted treatment. (Obama has even been subjected to anti-Muslim bigotry despite the fact that he's not Muslim.) But somehow, a number of Clinton supporters have come to identify the seating of Michigan and Florida not merely with Clinton's prospects but with the causes of democracy and feminism -- an equation that makes a mockery of democracy and feminism.

Clinton herself is largely responsible for this absurdity. Over the past couple of weeks, she has equated the seating of the two delegations with African Americans' struggle for suffrage in the Jim Crow South, and with the efforts of the democratic forces in Zimbabwe to get a fair count of the votes in their presidential election.

(snip)

Not a single Clinton campaign official or DNC Rules Committee member, much less the candidate herself, said at the time that the sanctions imposed on Florida or Michigan were in any way a patriarchal plot or an affront to democratic values. The threat that these rules posed to our fundamental beliefs was discovered only ex post facto -- the facto in question being Clinton's current need to seat the delegations whose seatings she had opposed when she thought she'd cruise to the nomination.

Clinton's supporters have every right to demonstrate on Saturday, of course. But their larger cause is neither democracy nor feminism; it's situational ethics. To insist otherwise is to degrade democracy and turn feminism into the last refuge of scoundrels.