ODONNELL (8/31/06): Dan, do you agree that making an analogy to Hitler can be disproportionate with the current battles? While its extremely important, the war on terror—comparing it to World War II is overstepping?We thought ODonnell took the wrong road in suggesting that Rumsfelds recent statements were objectionable because theyd been disproportionate. How important might the current struggle be? When Bartlett cited nuclear weapons, we recalled one part of Christiane Amanpours recent two-hour special, In the Footsteps of Bin Laden. Near the end, she spoke with former CIA office Michael Scheuer. Well offer a slightly long excerpt:
BARTLETT: Absolutely not. The fascist movement from that era is very similar to the totalitarian ideology that al-Qaeda and other extremists, those who are wanting to pervert a very rich tradition of peaceful religion—Islam—to accomplish a certain set of objectives.
They have taken 3,000 American lives on one single morning, they've attacked country after country after country throughout the world with a very determined idoelogy, they're trying to overturn governments. They took control of Afghanistan, they're trying to take control of Iraq, they're trying to take control of Lebanon and they're doing it for a very specific reason—they have territorial ambition, they want the resources, they want the nuclear weapons, they want to destroy the west. Very similar in proportion I would argue, and many other people would argue as well.
SCHEUER (8/23/06): I think part of the reason that there hasn't been an attack since 9/11 is he was criticized among his peers for the attack of 9/11.Could this conflict end up nuclear? In the press, the question is virtually never discussed—but Amanpour thought this was worth including.
AMANPOUR: Criticized by fellow extremists for not following, as they see it, the guidance of the holy prophet Mohamed for attacking an enemy.
SCHEUER: So he's spent the last four years very much addressing those issues with his audience. From the Muslim perspective, the prophet always demanded that before you attack someone you warn them and you offer them a chance to convert to Islam.
AMANPOUR: And that's exactly what bin Laden later did.
BIN LADEN: (videotape, in translation): I'm calling you to the path of happiness on Earth. To rescue you I'm calling on you to follow Islam.
SCHEUER: Bin Laden on three occasions, Zawahiri on two occasions, have offered to be our guides in a conversion to Islam, saying that everything is forgiven if you convert.
AMANPOUR: Scheuer says bin Laden also believes he's fulfilled the prophet's last requirement for launching another, even more massive attack, a religious blessing to kill millions of Americans with weapons of mass destruction.
SCHEUER: A judgment from a young cleric in Saudi Arabia which authorizes the Mujahideen, writ large, to use nuclear weapons against the United States with—with capping the casualties at 10 million.
AMANPOUR: He's had an approval, a religious approval for 10 million deaths?
PART 1—ITS SO EASY! Another scribe finds it easy to imagine the heroics of Saint John McCain. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/30/06.For our final installment (Part 3"), see below.
PART 2—HIS TWO SONS! Chris Matthews panel unveiled a new script about McCains moral greatness. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/31/06.
FRANKEL (8/27/06): "We knew that John could carry on a conversation with any reporter for 24 hours a day," says [McCain aide Rick] Davis. "So we based our whole campaign model on 'earned media.' If a reporter wanted to fly with him or get an interview, we'd say: 'He's going to the West Coast. You can sit next to him on the plane; you can have the hotel room next to his; you can be in the car with him the entire time.'"All of it was on the record! Except for more McCains less impressive statements—things the press took off the record! Yes, we know—its hard to believe. But in December 1999, Nancy Gibbs and John Dickerson, writing in Time, described the way their cohort was covering—and covering up for—their champion:
The same strategy produced the campaign bus, dubbed "Straight Talk Express," in which McCain, positioned in a red leather swivel chair like a prime minister, held a running all-day news conference for the media pack. All of it was on the record, much of it lively and self-lacerating.
GIBBS/DICKERSON (12/13/99): And then there are the stories he tells—to which, if there's a pattern, it's to exalt other people and deflate himself. A presidential candidate is not supposed to tell you about the rules he broke or the strippers he dated, or the time he arrived so drunk that fell through the screen door of the young lady he was wooing. The candor tells you more than the content, and reporters sometimes just decide to take McCain off the record because they don't want to see him flame out and burn up a great story.Ah yes, life on the Straight Talk Express! Reporters were getting all sorts of free donuts, and McCain kept explaining how smart they all were. So theyd simply take him off the record when he said things which didnt compute. Lets make sure we understand what that means—when McCain would say squirrelly things, reporters agreed that they wouldnt report them. For example, the scribes werent reporting the fact that McCain would call his North Vietnamese captors gooks. On Special Report, Mara Liasson got a chance to explain the corps deeply-felt rationale:
LIASSON (12/8/99): I think what Fred is talking about—this whole notion that reporters aren't mentioning certain things [McCain] says, I think there's a good reason for that. They're not considered "gaffes" because reporters have a context. They talk to him for hours and they realize, when he says "gooks—And Mara did go on to explain this (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/9/99). Reporters just knew that Saint John was no racist (we dont doubt that assessment). So they decided not to report the things which might give voters pause.
FRED BARNES: Ohhh—
BRIT HUME: Ohhh, Mara—
LIASSON: Wait a minute, wait a minute! Let me explain this!
PIERCE (8/29/06): The profession lost its mind in 2000, with very unfortunate consequences. There was the War on Gore, which I witnessed first-hand when the vice president got heckled and booed by some of the people watching him on TV in the press room at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa...Then there was the ongoing novelization of that trust-fund cowboy, George W. Bush. The only galloping hallucination remaining from that year seems to be John McCain, Centrist Hero, and its giggling acolytes apparently have it primed for another lap around the country.Thats right, the word is novelization. But uh-oh! When the press corps adopts the procedures of fiction, voters may find it easy to imagine that some White House hopefuls are wonderful saints, and some are snarling villains. In March 2000, Post ombudsman E. R. Shipp offered a similar analysis, using similar language:
SHIPP (3/5/00): The Post has gone beyond [fact-based] reporting in favor of articles that try to offer context—and even conjecture—about the candidates' motives in seeking the office of president. And readers react—sometimes in a nonpartisan way, more often not—to roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama. Gore is the guy in search of an identity; Bradley is the Zen-like intellectual in search of a political strategy; McCain is the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a "maverick"; and Bush is a lightweight with a famous name, and has the blessings of the party establishment and lots of money in his war chest. As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.Shipp didnt call it novelization; to Shipp, it was like the Post had assigned the candidates different roles in an unfolding drama. As one example of what she meant, she cited the way McCain had been taken off the record by some of the Posts reporters. (Text below.)
SHIPP: What didn't fit the role assigned to McCain, apparently, was his frequent use of a word deemed derogatory by Asian Americans: "gook." To his credit, Howard Kurtz mentioned this usage in a December article about "the sweetly seductive relationship between the senator and the press"—one in which McCain "smothers journalists with access and they produce colorful copy." Not until last month did McCain's use of the G-word become an issue for those apparently "seduced" campaign reporters and other journalists.There was more to this problem than just the word gook. And there will be more to this problem in Campaign 08. McCain will be novelized—and so will Clinton. Quite frankly, we still find it somewhat hard to imagine that we liberals and Dems will be ready.