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DIONNE STANDS AND FIGHTS! As E. J. Dionne awakes at the Post, a colleague explains the corps’ values:


DIONNE STANDS AND FIGHTS: Three loud cheers for E. J. Dionne’s much-needed piece in this morning’s Post. The column’s headline says it all: Stooping Low to Smear Kerry. At long last, Dionne uses the accurate language which “good guy” pundits have long eschewed—White House attacks on Kerry are described as a “smear,” while House Republicans are called “demagogic.” Readers, this is the column that wasn’t written during the mayhem of Campaign 2000, when good-guy pundits slept at their desks, permitting the two-year smear against Gore which so plainly put Bush in the White House.

We have long admired Dionne’s intelligence and decency—and we’ve long despaired about his lack of fight. Today, he uses accurate language. It’s too bad that one of his colleagues still sleeps, expressing those Millionaire Pundit Values which are making a joke of your lives (keep reading).

By the way: We have never done this before. But E. J. Dionne’s published address is Dionne needs to hear your congratulations—and he needs to hear that work like this is the duty he owes fellow citizens. A cowardly silence ruled Campaign 2000. This time, scribes must stand and fight.

IGNATIUS EXPLAINS: Then, of course, there’s David Ignatius, whose column today rues the press corps’ failure to foresee current breakdowns in Iraq. “The uniformed military privately had serious questions about the Iraq mission,” he writes, “but these only occasionally made their way into print.” Why did the press corps fail to serve? Try to believe—just try to believe—that a paper like the Post would print this absurd explanation:

IGNATIUS: In a sense, the media were victims of their own professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules meant we shouldn’t create a debate on our own.
On what planet are these people found? According to Ignatius, because neither party was blast-faxing warnings, “journalistic rules” meant that scribes couldn’t raise concerns by themselves! (His claim that “policy analysts” weren’t voicing concern is so absurd that, as a courtesy, we’ll avert our gaze from the remark.) And by the way, can this astonishing “explanation” really appear in the Washington Post? We wonder if Woodward and Bernstein had heard of these rules—if they knew that journalists can’t report facts until the two parties have sent them a leaflet? Ignatius’ comment defies comprehension—except as a description of the repulsive, dinner-party “journalism” that has made a sick joke of our lives.

Yes, mainstream journalists occasionally make their Millionaire Pundit Values quite clear. Last Wednesday, President Bush addressed 1,500 newspaper editors and publishers at their annual convention in Washington. According to Elisabeth Bumiller, the titans were moved to applause one time:

BUMILLER: Mr. Bush spoke for 44 minutes to the editors in off-the-cuff remarks that drew on familiar phrases from his speeches of the last two and a half years…Mr. Bush’s substantive remarks were interrupted only once with applause, when he called for the end of the “death tax,” or the estate tax.
Gaze on the soul of your millionaire press corps! They’re moved to cheer for only one thing—the repeal of Teddy Roosevelt’s tax on multimillion-dollar estates. Meanwhile, their “professionalism” keeps them from raising concerns until the two parties permit them to speak! Why did they bungle the run-up to Iraq? We were just too professional, Ignatius says! Has history ever rewarded a nation which allows such fops to serve in high places? Disaster awaits if these people aren’t countered. That’s why decent people like E. J. Dionne must stand on their hind legs—and fight.

AND TWO SCRIBES PRINT PURE PROPAGANDA: Then there are those who print pure propaganda. Last Wednesday, Nedra Pickler was at it again, reviewing Kerry’s military records for the Associated Press. Try to believe that you live in a world where this could be an AP lead paragraph:

PICKLER (pgh 1): Records of John Kerry’s Vietnam War service released Wednesday show a highly praised naval officer with an Ivy League education who spoke fluent French and had raced sailboats—the fruits of a privileged upbringing that set him apart from the typical seaman.
Try to believe that you read that! Could anyone believe that this was a sensible summary of Kerry’s military records? Of course, “spoke fluent French” and “a privileged upbringing that set him apart” are pure, unvarnished RNC spin-points—the kind of hack-work Bush’s shills present to make a joke of your discourse. But to Pickler, these were the key points in Kerry’s records. Amazingly, her editors put this cant on the wire—and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, from whom we offer our link, put this pure propaganda into print. Any chance that the Plain Dealer’s millionaire owners were applauding Bush’s statement last week?

Increasingly, you live in a pre-democratic world, in which fops like Ignatius snore at their desks; hacks like Pickler shill for Bush; and the vacuous people who run the press corps cheer thoughts of their own financial gain. Such people have always been at democracy’s throat, and, of course, they always will be. The Dionnes let them win in Campaign 2000. It’s time for some truth-telling now.

By the way—another shill had her way with Kerry’s records, this time in the New York Times. Last Thursday, Katharine “Kit” Seelye noted some of the ways Kerry was praised by commanders:

SEELYE (pgh 10): When Mr. Kerry was an ensign on the Gridley on his first Vietnam tour in 1967, his commander described him as “intelligent, mature and rich in educational background and experience,” as well as “polished, tactful and outgoing” and “a brilliant conversationalist.”

(11) “He uses the English language expertly, both orally and in writing,” the commander wrote.

(12) A few months later, another commander was similarly impressed.

(13) “His division’s morale is one of the best on the ship due to his dynamic leadership,” the officer wrote. “He is a polished diplomat at ease in distinguished company” and “is impressive in appearance and always immaculate.”

(14) Months later, Mr. Kerry’s bearing struck another reviewer. “He presents a very neat appearance and meets people well,” that captain wrote. “For his age and experience, he writes and speaks exceedingly well.”

But Seelye always crams those RNC spin-points into the New York Times’ “news reports.” Here is the amazing way she prefaced that part of her story:
SEELYE (pgh 9): The military records offered no hint of atrocities, but repeatedly cited Mr. Kerry’s initiative in battle and patrician manner.
Yes, that really appeared in the Times! No, “patrician manner” isn’t in those records—but it’s high on the list of RNC spin-points. As you know, Seelye propagandized like this against Gore for two years, making an utter joke of her paper. As she did so, “good guy” scribes said nothing about it. We’ll explain that a bit more this week.

PAUSE FOR JOKE: We were too professional, Ignatius writes. While you suppress your low, bitter laughter, let’s recall the moment when Bush couldn’t think of a single mistake. Everyone knows how pols answer that question. My biggest mistake is that I’m too honest, any real pol would have said.

From the annals of script application

SCRIPTS DON’T APPLY TO BOLD LEADERS: In yesterday’s New York Times, Jim Rutenberg explained the origins of the new script that had your press corps all a-twitter. Why were reporters so concerned about an ambiguous, 33-year-old statement by Kerry, a statement about whose medals (or ribbons) he once discarded? Rutenberg explained the story’s origins—and its important message:

RUTENBERG: Republicans…have raised the issue to revive accusations by some veterans that the discarding of medals dishonored those who served and died in the war. At the same time, the Republicans have said that Mr. Kerry’s explanation of what happened at the ceremony is an example of his proclivity to fall on both sides of every issue.
Kerry has a “proclivity to fall on both sides of every issue!” It’s now a primal RNC script (quite similar to scripts that were sold about Gore). As Rutenberg notes, the RNC is pushing it hard—and a string of scribes have fallen in line. Result? They’re parsing a comment made in 1971, helping voters understand John Kerry’s Disturbing Proclivity.

How easily are these weak-minded scribes stampeded by the RNC’s scripts? Try to believe that George W. Bush, of all human beings, is successfully pushing this issue:

October 2000: In his third debate with Gore, Bush said, “I brought Republicans and Democrats together to do just that in the state of Texas, to get a patients’ bill of rights through.” In fact, Bush vetoed the original version of this bill in 1995. In 1997, he allowed a subsequent bill to become law, but refused to sign it. (A veto would have been overridden.) In short, Bush didn’t support or even sign the law for which he now was claiming credit! Why, an observer might call such laughably dishonest conduct “an example of George Bush’s proclivity to fall on both sides of every issue.”

October 2002: For the first nine months after 9/11, Bush opposed creation of a Homeland Security Department. In June 2002, he suddenly “embraced an idea he had long resisted” (Mike Allen, Washington Post) and came out in support of a new department. But that fall, despite his own reversal, he hammered Democrats who didn’t support the precise form of Homeland Security he favored. In Georgia, Max Cleland was compared to Saddam and Osama—because he didn’t support the specific form of a bill Bush himself long opposed.

October 2003: Bush threatened to veto the $87 billion spending measure for Iraq if the bill required Iraq to repay any of the money. But guess what? Having threatened to veto the bill himself, he now attacks Kerry for voting against it, falsely implying that Kerry’s position put American troops into danger.

There we see three ugly (and recent) high-profile examples of a “proclivity to fall on both sides of every issue.” But in the past few years, you’ve heard very little about these episodes. In fact, we recently spoke with a talk-show host who didn’t know that Bush had ever opposed a Homeland Security Department. Why was this host uninformed? Duh! Because your press corps ruthlessly types treasured scripts. They like to pretend that Kerry’s a flipper. They deep-six such conduct by Bush.

For whatever reason, your “press corps” is now in love with the thought that Kerry has this troubling proclivity. It comes to them straight from the RNC, and they’re head-over-heels in love with the concept. For that reason, they are minutely parsing an ambiguous statement Kerry made 33 years in the past. By contrast, Bush’s statements are recent and clear—and they’ve been sent down the memory hole. Your “press corps” has been stampeded again, exactly as Rutenberg described. “Republicans” pushed this silly tale. The “liberal” press corps, true to recent history, ran to their consoles and typed it.

TOMORROW: Dick and Jane and Bob and Dubya! An incomparable part 2.