Friday, June 22, 2007

Helen Thomas is a Beacon of Hope

Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas continues to offer a ray of hope to those who believe in the journalistic search for truth. Ms. Thomas remains the only member of the White House press corps willing to consistently ask the tough questions and to press on when press secretaries attempt to brush her queries aside. She had the following exchange with Press Secretary Tony Snow on Wednesday June 20:

Ms. Thomas: A study shows that Iraq is the second-most unstable country in the world. Do we have anything to do with that?

Mr. SNOW: Do we have anything to do with that? Yes, I saw the study --

Ms. Thomas: -- the killing?

Mr. SNOW: We don't -- I'm not sure I got the --

Ms. Thomas: I'm talking about Petraeus, also, intensifying -- is he trying to build a kill record before September?

Mr. SNOW: No. No. In point of fact, Helen, if you take a look at the record of the last two months, the people who have been trying to put together the kill record are al Qaeda. Go to the mosques --

Ms. Thomas: Is everybody who resists our occupation a terrorist?

Mr. SNOW: Do you think somebody who goes in and blows up 50 people in a mosque is resisting occupation?

Ms. Thomas: What have we done for five years?

Mr. SNOW: What we have been trying to do is to work with folks to deal with a highly volatile situation in Iraq in the wake of a murderous regime --

Ms. Thomas: We've killed thousands of people, tens of thousands --

Mr. SNOW: Many have died, and hundreds of thousands died under the previous regime. This is a place that has too long been wracked by violence. And the fact that in fighting --

Ms. Thomas: We're not supposed to be comparing, are we?

Mr. SNOW: Unfortunately, if we fought evil guys who simply would say, you caught us, we're evil, we give up, we'll be good -- that would be great, that would be wonderful.

Ms. Thomas: Everybody isn't evil who fights for his land.

Mr. SNOW: A lot of the people we're talking about, Helen, aren't fighting for their land, because it's not their land. They don't even come from Iraq.

Ms. Thomas: Are we fighting Iraqis, inherently, in their own country?

Mr. SNOW: Are we fighting Iraqis inherently? I think if you take a look at what General Petraeus is saying, is that increasingly Iraqis are joining with us to defend their country from the onslaught of outside fighters, whether they be from al Qaeda or Iran.

Ms. Thomas: Good, but we have to admit we're killing a lot of Iraqis who are against our presence.

Mr. SNOW: I'm not sure. I mean, that requires the kind of canvas of those who have died that I'm not capable of doing.

If more reporters would ask questions and stand their ground the way Ms. Thomas does the future of journalism in America would not be nearly as bleak as it is today.

Glenn Greenwald discussed this exchange as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Newt Gingrich Can't Handle The Truth

Former Congressman Newt Gingrich, who is widely rumored to be at least considering a run for President has released a new web advertisement attacking the Immigration legislation currently being discussed in the House and Senate. Mr. Gingrich begins the ad by stating:

Mohamed Atta, and several other 9/11 hijackers were in the United States illegally.
Photographs of Mr. Atta and other hijackers appear with ILLEGALLY slanted across the screen in large red type.

While dramatic, Mr. Gingrich's assertion is false. According to the 9/11 Commission Report all of the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States by negotiating the legal process for doing so. From the commission's Staff Statement No. 1:
As we know from the sizable illegal traffic across our land borders, a terrorist could
attempt to bypass legal procedures and enter the United States surreptitiously. None of
the 9/11 attackers entered or tried to enter our country this way.
As Where's the Outrage points out this information is easily accessible and it is difficult to believe that Mr. Gingrich would be unaware that his statement is less than truthful.

Initial media coverage of Mr. Gingrich's new video has been spotty to say the least. ABC's Political Radar Blog gets the story correct under the headline - Gingrich Rewrites 9/11 History in Immigration Ad. CBS mentions the video and the fact that it is "not entirely accurate" in its Pure Horse Race Blog, readers must follow a link to the ABC posting in order to have the inaccuracies revealed. The AP fails to mention that Mr. Gingrich begins with a lie, despite describing his opening remarks.

Politicians will continue to make misleading and false statements as the Presidential Race stretches out over the coming year; it will be of the utmost importance that the media report on the veracity of those statements instead of passing them along as the truth.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tony Snow Can't Handle The Truth

It is not surprising that the White House press secretary occasionally has trouble with the truth, it is certainly no longer a surprise to question the validity of Tony Snow's statements, many of which are factual challenged to say the least. What is surprising is to see Mr. Snow questioned as to the veracity of his statements.

The White House press corps may ask the question but they repeatedly fail to follow up and accept Mr. Snow's brush offs and denials without further question. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show took the extra step on Thursday night's show. Three months ago on March 15 Mr. Snow said that the United States Attorney 'purge' was performance based:

MR. SNOW: No, I think -- again, what the President has -- the Department of Justice has made recommendations, they've been approved. And it's pretty clear that these things are based on performance and not on sort of attempts to do political retaliation, if you will.
During Wednesday's press briefing Mr. Snow denied that statement:
Q: Okay, but at the beginning of this story, the President, you, Dan Bartlett, others said on camera that politics was not involved, this was performance-based.

MR. SNOW: That is something -- we have never said that. I think you'll have to take a look at comments that have been made by the Justice Department. What we've said is that people serve at the pleasure of the President. That's the operative principle here.

Mr. Snow is lying. There is no question, the proof is available from the White House's own press briefing transcripts, and Mr. Stewart has the video as well.

Why is such a blatant lie, such disrespect of the American Public and disregard for the truth only pointed out by a late night comedy show?

While Mr. Stewart continues to insist that he is not a journalist but a comedian and commentator, his show continues to be one of the few media outlets that routinely questions the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration and its supporters. More journalists should take a cue from Mr. Stewart and fight to bring the truth to their readers and viewers.

President Bush Fights on Front Lines in Iraq

In the latest demonstration of the Bush Administration's flagrant disregard for reality in general as well as the more specific human costs of war, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow asserted that President Bush fights the war in Iraq everyday.

Mr. Snow dismissed the realities of war and the deaths of more then 3,500 American soldiers when he brushed aside Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas' question:

Ms. Thomas: The President said in his speech that -- to expect many more casualties. How many more Americans is he willing to sacrifice to keep this war going?

MR. SNOW: You know, what's interesting, Helen, is if you ask the people who are -- if you take a look at what's going on in recruitment right now, the people who are most likely to sign up are the people who are involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if you talk to a number of them, they feel that they are part of something very special, which is something that is certainly a difficult mission, but it also reflects the finest traditions of the United States of America, which is what people are fighting for -- to liberate others and to extend the boundaries of liberty, and to create the possibility for allies who are going to be not only allies in the war on terror, but examples of exactly the power of freedom.

The President wishes that nobody had to die. This is something that is deeply personal. He quite often meets with families of those who have been wounded and killed. On the other hand, the real question is, what happens if the United States walks away? And the answer is that many, many more people will be washed away in needless bloodshed as forces of terror draw confidence and encouragement from the fact that we will not have finished the job.

Ms. Thomas: I have one follow-up. Are there any members of the Bush family or this administration in this war?

MR. SNOW: Yes, the President. The President is in the war every day.

Ms. Thomas: Come on. That isn't my question.

MR. SNOW: If you ask any President who is a Commander-in-Chief --

Ms. Thomas: On the front lines -- [where ever]

MR. SNOW: The President.

(ThinkProgress has video)

Mr. Snow begins by responding to a simple, pointed, and legitimate question with with pompous braggadocio about the honor and and sense of duty in service to America that members of the military feel. The fact that some soldiers in Iraq feel as though they are fighting for liberty and a just cause has nothing to do with how many more of those young men and women Mr. Bush is willing to let die. This rhetorical dodge has become the weapon of choice for war supporters and it should be noted that none of its practitioners are active duty soldiers fighting in Iraq. Increasingly servicemen in Iraq have questioned why they are still there and when they might be coming home. One of the very few times that an interviewer has refused to accept this talking point in place of answer came during a Daily Show appearance by Senator John McCain, who frequently speaks of honor and fighting for liberty when asked about the human cost of the war. Jon Stewart, who claims to not be a journalist, tells Mr. McCain that he has failed to answer the question and it is instantly clear that Mr. McCain, and Iraq war supporters in general, have no answer to questions about American deaths in Iraq (Watch Mr. Stewart discuss the interview with Bill Moyers).

Ms. Thomas' follow up question and Mr. Snow's response highlight the disregard that the Administration has for the soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq. The Bush Administration continues to send other people's children, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters to fight and die halfway around the world. The Administration has no tangible connection to the true costs of war and as such they are able to dismiss casualties as mere statistics and dismiss all questions and concerns as a failure to 'support the troops' who Mr. Bush sends to Iraq for increasingly longer deployments, with less and less time to recuperate, and has still failed to arm and equip properly.

Mr. Snow's attempt to equate Mr. Bush's role as Commander in Chief to serving in Iraq is extremely ludicrous. Unfortunately is passes as fairly normal fare from the current administration and far too few journalists are interested in pointing out just how far removed from reality and understanding Mr. Bush and his supporters have become.