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Saturday, April 19, 2008


This article was originally published on on Saturday, April 19, 2008:

For once, the abysmal quality of the mainstream media has been noticed by the mainstream media itself. April 16th’s Democratic debate met with such public outcry – an open letter to ABC signed by 41 journalists and media analysts, thousands of furious emails on, 200,000 signatures on MoveOn’s petition - that The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, Associated Press, Reuters, USA, NPR online, and even ABC World News actually covered the firestorm. This may be some kind of wake-up call, at least to ABC. They had certainly been oblivious to their responsibility to the public before this furor. Not even the shouts and groans from the live audience at the debate (captured in a videoclip on Huffington Post) had clued them in by the next morning: George Stephanopoulos cheerily recapped the debate on Good Morning America as if his pointless questions had been very informative, and on The View, Barbara Walters praised Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson’s “strong questions” and suggested that not a lot of people had heard such questions before. (Both shows are on ABC.)

In typical Hillary Clinton campaign fashion, both the campaign’s first statements and her own public ones after the debate ignored the true nature of the complaints about ABC. On Friday she tried to paint the moderators’ questions, so widely perceived as sensationalistic and trivial, as simply “hard questions”, and warned: “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." This after the first 45 minutes of the debate were conducted in such a way that the moderators peppered Barack Obama with Fox News-style questions using lowest-common-denominator, inflammatory terms like “the flag”, “loves America” and “patriotic” – and then considered they were being ‘fair’ because they gave Clinton equal time to ‘respond’…to the charges against Obama! Stephanopoulos even seemed to want to make up for the fact that the Democratic Party had rebuffed FOX’s 2007 offer to host a debate (a rebuff based on FOX’s smear campaign against Obama). He asked a question on Ayers that, though uncredited, was literally straight from the mouth of FOX’s Sean Hannity, who had fed it to him on air the day before. (

But in truth it might have set some kind of precedent if ABC had actually askedgenuinely ‘hard questions’. In ABC’s Democratic debate of Aug. 2007, Stephanopoulos, after repeatedly by-passing lower-ranking candidates, made sure all candidates on stage (8 of them then) answered a pressing question sent in from Utah: “Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?” Unsurprisingly, they all replied something about the importance to them of spiritual values. And having taken up so much time with that vital question, there was no time to ask a question about how to verifiably lessen or prevent disasters like Katrina by actually fighting global warming!

Nothing has changed in Stephanopoulos’ world since then, although an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Northern Ireland has broken off in our own. There were still no questions about global warming on April 16th. Not even a question on how the candidates might heed the Pentagon study (from 2004) on the vast climate change threat. Not even when the candidates were pressed on Pentagon leaders’ authority re. national security.

The networks are in lock-step in their silence, though: the League of Conservation Voters monitors the questions the top 5 political reporters have asked presidential candidates in debates and interviews since Jan. 2007, and out of over 3,200 questions, Stephanopoulos, Tim Russert (NBC), Bob Schieffer (CBS), Wolf Blitzer (CNN), and Chris Wallace (FOX) have asked only a total of 8 questions between them mentioning climate change (

Instead of the silly questions “do you think he can win?” and ‘can she win?’, which it was easy to predict the answers to, a question with actual substance could have been: “what integrity do the coming elections have when Diebold and other voting machines used in much of the country can be hacked into to change the national counts?” (

And on the subject so belabored Wednesday, ‘fighting the Republicans’, could they not have moved the candidates away from the rhetorical to the practical with: “Considering the fact John Kerry told author Mark Crispin Miller he thinks the 2004 election was stolen, and many, many others contend the 2000 election was stolen, would you fight for a recount if you lose? If the public elects you, will you make sure their wish is honored?”

How about a question on holding the Bush Administration accountable for its 935 lies on Iraq, and its current lies on Iran? Instead, Stephanopoulos told his own lie, that Iran was continuing its “nuclear program” (by which he meant weaponry, not civilian power, though the National Intelligence Estimate says he’s wrong). Then he grafted this to another false assumption, that Iran has ever expressed any desire to attack Israel.

Likewise, Gibson used false conservative talking points about the effectiveness of capital gains tax cuts to badger Clinton and Obama on taxes, while neglecting other questions on the economy such as: unemployment, the deficit, the privatization of natural resources, the specter of a depression, and how about that gap between the rich and poor?

And why no mention of recent revelations that Cheney, Rice, Tenet, Ashcroft, and even Powell sat in on meetings to plan torture? Gibson had, after all, introduced the debate with: “Much has happened in [the last] six weeks, and there is much to discuss”. But apparently he was just referring to things like Obama’s “bitter” remarks.

Yet despite their intense concentration on such supposed scandals, neither moderator asked Clinton how she could claim both that Obama’s remarks on people clinging to religion trivialize faith, and that she’s outraged by Obama’s loyalty to and respect for his church. I guess that might have been a ‘hard question’ for ABC and the media itself.

The media was the message on April 16th, and it was loud enough for many people hitherto unaware to hear the distress call.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Gender Card

Originally published on OpEdNews on April 18, 2008.         

Earlier this year, Clinton supporters like Geraldine Ferraro, Gloria Steinem, Saturday Night Live alumnae, contributors to a Newsweek special issue, and some email petitions decried a sexist bias against Hillary in the media. Ferraro went on Fox several weeks after she supposedly left the campaign and used the occasion of Randi Rhodes’ comedy routine to again defend her own statement that had gotten her into hot water; she defended herself by accusing the Obama campaign of “playing the race card”. But in the process of lamenting the inequity between the way the two campaigns are received she herself was playing the gender card.

It’s true that after Hillary got teary in New Hampshire the ludicrous question of her emotionality saturated the media. But what that news cycle showed was that she is savvier about the media than some feminists fear. She did win that primary.

Clinton’s sniper fire gaffe is not something she can blame the media for; unless rising from its usual lethargy and actually researching something a politician said is an example of bias. But it does show that she thought it was sound media strategy to align herself with an image of war. It also underlines how the junior senator from New York wants liberals to see her as against the Iraq war while she tries to be militaristic for the right-wing.

As we all know, Clinton voted in 2002 for the war on Iraq while Obama went on public record opposing it. She has tried very hard to claim Obama’s stand against the war doesn’t count. It may have surprised her that the war became so unpopular that this difference between them actually seemed to mean something, especially to the young. She has repeatedly undermined Obama’s early anti-war position by unsmilingly joking that it’s her “lifetime of experience” and McCain’s “lifetime of experience” versus Obama’s “speech he made in 2002.”

In so doing, she undermines the stand any of us who opposed the war took in 2002 – or 2003, or since – whether it was a speech, a protest sign, a letter to Congress, or more. She has never explained why she couldn’t tell that the Bush Administration was lying even though millions of us worldwide could. She has not explained why she, supposedly so tough and so savvy in D.C. ways, saw nothing fishy in any of the administration’s 935 false statements about Iraq in the two years after 9/11. Perhaps we ordinary citizens, armed with internet access to public information, had greater resources than she did and knew things she couldn’t: that Bush made claims about an IAEA report on Iraq that were publicly contradicted by the IAEA the next day; that intelligence officials expressed disagreement on various of the Administration’s allegations before the war; that former UN inspector and ex-marine Scott Ritter was sure he and his team had thoroughly and permanently destroyed Hussein’s biological and chemical weapons after the Gulf War.

Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt and accept her argument that Bush tricked Congress into thinking they were just supporting a resolution to give him power to force U.N. inspections—and he did try that ruse—the truth is she also voted against the Oct. 2002 Levin Amendment, which contained a clause for “a new resolution of the United Nations Security Council” before a move to disarm Iraq. That would have kept Congress in charge of authorizing war. But it seems this ‘tested’, ‘ready’ candidate who says she’s the best to stand up to Republicans didn’t care to stand up during that test. (Her presidential campaign statement on this vote blames "the language of the Levin Amendment” as if it “would have made it the law of the land that the President could not act without Security Council approval.” Yet the amendment clearly stated the opposite by reiterating the U.S.’ right to self-defense. As does international law anyway.)

She has spent years trying to distance herself from her vote to authorize military force, but without going as far as Obama has in condemning the war. In Dec. 2006 she told ABC News “if we knew then what we know now there wouldn’t have been a vote”—implying that it was all a mistake, and perhaps that Bush would never have sought the authorization if he’d known there were no WMDs in Iraq.

Yet she made this excuse over a year and a half after “the Downing Street memos” were published in The Sunday Times (U.K.) on May 1, 2005. It’s very unlikely that Hillary was still unaware so long after their publication that memos of secret meetings between the Brits and the White House, several months before Congress’ vote on Iraq, revealed that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” to invade. She certainly should have understood the significance of the July 23, 2002 memo which briefed the Prime Minister on the U.S. plan: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” And she should have grasped that the lines in the memo which read “But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran” were clear evidence that Bush already ‘knew then what we know now’.

She tried to stress once again, in the April 16th debate in Philadelphia, that she thinks she can fight the Republicans better than Obama can. Oh, when will she start? The DNC’s own website catalogues numerous allegations of improper relations between McCain and a variety of lobbyists – potentially powerful financial and political scandals – but does Clinton care? She praised McCain again at the debate on ABC, calling him ‘formidable’; while critiquing Obama’s associations with Rev. Wright and William Ayers under the cover that this is what “the Republicans will be raising.” When will she raise Democratic objections against them instead of Republican objections against a Democrat?