Is the press as trained to obey power as Paris Hilton's chihuahua? Terry Michael, the former Democratic National Committee press flack who has been showing suspiciously latent libertarian leanings, says in an op-ed today. Snippets:
The most influential interpreters of our public affairs are accepting, rather than expanding, a noose-tight frame the Washington political culture is enforcing to limit permissible discourse on the war in Iraq….
Look at almost any major daily op-ed page, watch the Sunday shows or listen to nightly cable-babble. See how seldom you encounter voices against the war permitted to argue we should just end it, not try to mend it….
Those who control access to mainstream media are telling a quiet, corrupting lie when they allow the Bush administration and "opposition" congressional Democrats to engage in Amish-style shunning of those who advocate immediately ending the war. War proponents attack them with the ultimate Beltway rhetorical weapon: "not serious."…
Arguably, in the run-up to the war, the press could be given a pass for not allowing the case against attacking Iraq to be vigorously presented. Timid congressional Democrats held their fingers to the wind and engaged no real debate. It's hard to cover a conversation not taking place.
But how can mainstream journalism now be excused for quarantining stop-it-now voices from outside official Washington, after justification for the war has shifted from: 1) eliminating weapons of mass destruction, which didn't exist; 2) getting rid of a brutal dictator, who was a secularist thug, not an associate of Osama bin Laden; 3) spreading democracy, in a Hatfield-McCoy style tribal culture, heavily influenced by politicized religious fanatics whose world view never made it past the 8th century, let alone the Enlightenment, and who want theocracy, not liberty; 4) fighting Islamic terrorists, who need the United States in Iraq, not out, as their bete noir for recruiting more terrorists.
Yes, all the arguments in the previous sentence have been heard through opinion channels of mainstream media—but almost never from anyone who suggests they add up to a case for bringing our troops home now.
Michael, perhaps underscoring why he's the former DNC press guy, saves his biggest slap for high-profile Dems: "[Sen. Joe] Biden and Sen. John Kerry are the quintessential have-everything-every-way empty suits in my party, who essentially allow the Republican party to have no congressional opposition."
Those kind words for Dems doubtless helps explain where this op-ed saw print: The Washington Times, which remains to my mind a great read (and considering I paid only $11 a year for Monday-Friday delivery, a freaking great bargain!).
Whole thing here.
I welcome Michael's general critique of mainstream press deference to power–"it's less messy to propagate power than to question it," he writes at one point–but I think he's mixing two separate issues: press obeisance and Democratic Party spinelessness (hmm, maybe the two are connected…).
The press would certainly cover high-profile Dems with an "end it, don't mend it" message against the war (indeed, they were quick to discuss GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel's get-out throat clearings). The trouble is, there aren't any. Even Howard "Hoo-Yah" Dean isn't pushing that particular string any more, is he?
The Dems are the dissident party; it's up to them to make this conversation happen (though it's more likely to gain momentum when a Republican snipes at his president). Once a big gun in Dem circles, especially one in the House or Senate, comes forward, I think the press will be all over it like Fritz Hollings on Sam Donaldson's toupee.
And given the trends in polls about how the war is going, those finger-in-the-wind Dems such as Kerry and Biden may soon be mustering such courage sooner rather than later.
(Btw, Michael is the Big Kahuna of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism. The group's home page is here; its seminars look genuinely interesting.)