You should recognize three of today’s guests, but I’ll also be talking with Mary Fitzpatick of WorldConcern.org, who is on the ground in Chad directing relief to refugees from Darfur.
Tens of thousands of Americans attended tea parties yesterday, and the vast trove of video, audio and print posts on the parties proves that they were indeed grassroots expressions of concern over the direction of the country and that the vast , vast majority of participants were mainstream Americans eager to communicate concern over the massive deficits proposed by President Obama, a spending spree which far, far exceeds even the significant amount of red ink spilled by President Bush. The large crowds in California especially, which just got hammered with massive tax hikes to pay for out-of-control spending in the Golden State, were animated by a desire to send a message to Sacramento that its ways are deeply unpopular and that the deeply deceptive six ballot measures scehduled for a vote in May are facing a huge opposition. Thousands of people showed up at scores of locations around the country, which made the gatherings big news deserving serious reporting.
As any fair reporting would have conveyed, the crowds were overwhelmingly middle class and the moods’ celebratory. Of course some extreme viewpoints glommed on at the fringes of the crowd and some unusual types showed up, but the massive numbers of ordinary, hard-working and tax-paying Americans deserved fair representation in the MSM, which of course they did not receive.
This biased coverage was nicely summed up by the hilarious and instantly archetypal “report” by CNN’s Susan Roesgen, which begins with Susan plucking from the hundreds of available tea party participants one guy with an Obama/Hitler sign, and then follows this superb bit of news gathering with a contentious, argumentative interview with a man with a baby who wants to talk about the principles of Lincoln. When Roesgen morphs into Robert Gibbs and begins to lecture the man about his eligibility for a tax refund and the amount of stimulus spending the state of Illinois is going to receive, Roesgen does more to end the media bias debate in this country than a dozen books by Bernard Goldberg. We can all rely on Roesgen and her producers to keep a close watch on the White House and the Democratic majorities in Congress, right?
It is indeed wrong and offensive to make comparisons of the president to Hitler, just as it was to do the same to President Bush, though I don’t recall ever seeing a CNN reporter object to those outrages or call out such a protester. By all means send me a link to such an exchange and I will post it as an update. Bush was in office for eight years, and Obama for three months, so I expect that there must be at least 32 instances of a CNN “reporter” challenging an anti-Bush demonstrator on the offensiveness of their displays.
It was extremely unprofessional for “reporter” Roesgen to attempt to brand the tea parties by reference to that particular guy, but it got worse when Roesgen interrupts and hectors the participant she called on to explain his views, and then, clearly flustered, to brand the tea parties as the product of the “right wing Fox News” or to seek sympathy from the audience by calling the assembly “anti-CNN” and “not fit for family viewing.” I played the audio a number of times on my show yesterday because it is at once so hilarious and also so damningly revealing about Roesgen’s politics and utter lack of professionalism. She’s an Obama-Pelosi apologist, and after yesterday’s fit, she’ll never be anything but that. Get her a show on MSNBC with the other Obama apologists, but how can CNN continue to treat her as a “reporter?” The veil dropped and the public got all the confirmation it will ever need: She’s a lefty pretending to be an “objective” journalist, Olberman in a skirt. CNN can’t unbake that cake.
That’s not even the most important revelation. Roesgen demonstrated that she would intervene in a story to twist it –that’s what made the few minutes so priceless. There are lots of lefty journalists. A few years back on my show Thomas Edsall, a very influential MSMer then at the Washington Post, candidly branded mainstream media as “overwhelmingly left” and put the ratio of liberal-to-conservative in the MSM at 15-to-25 to 1. Very few honest folks dispute Edsall, but the increasingly obvious problem is that the liberal reporters are becoming less talented and less learned, and much more willing to manipulate the news. Roesgen was just embarrassingly obvious about her limits and her “journalistic ethics,” but she’s hardly alone. Every day on CNN, Wolf Blitzer –a smart professional who along with Anderson Cooper are struggling to uphold the last bits of CNN’s reputation– has to make it through the Situation Room carrying the burden of Jack Cafferty’s sophomoric rants. Cafferty was supposed to be a sort of light-weight Andy Rooney, but he’s become a left-wing crank, an older male version of Roesgen. Add in Rick Sanchez shouting out his own inanities and CNN has suddenly got a Murderer’s Row of laughingstock “journalists.”
The old sort of bias at CNN –Christiane Amanpour being the most obvious of the leftwingers with mics at the network– was at least concealed behind the faux sophistication of far flung travel and apparent learning. Center-left and even pure left reporters are not the problem if they transparent about their politics and not tasked with objective reporting of the oppositions positions and platform. On Tuesday I spent an hour with the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, a man of the left, but smart and experienced, and I suspect confident enough about his own talents to not feel obliged to disfigure the arguments of his opponents. Sending lightweights out to report important but complicated stories fairly invites them to manipulate the news because they simply don’t grasp what is being argued. In over their heads they panic and start punching below the belt. That doesn’t happen with talented lefties.
That’s a subset of reporters that certainly excludes Roesgen, Sanchez and Cafferty. These are, simply put, not very bright people for whom ever unscripted moment is a cliff; certainly not professional, and not of any use to a network trying hard to set the “standard” for straight news gathering.
Yesterday was a huge opportunity for CNN to demonstrate that it could be an objective news gathering organization through the years of Obama. It flunked the test, and lost millions of potential viewers to Fox on a more-or-less permanent basis. Ratings suicide by stupidity.
Isn’t there anyone in the executive suites of CNN watching the demise of the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, and soon the Los Angeles Times? Has the network given up and simply decided it needs to compete with MSNBC? No serious news organization can afford to drive away a third to half of its potential customers. By lurching so far to the left, CNN is risking not just the conservative cable watcher, but also the center-right and independent viewer, and even no doubt some Democrats who prefer their news straight.
But so deep is the bias that there doesn’t seem to be anything that CNN could do to remedy it, except perhaps make Blitzer and Cooper pull 12 hour shifts with only Candy Crowley and Ed Henry reporting from the field.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin discovers Susan Roesgen “reporting” on a Bush-Hitler demonstrator.
Today’s show will of course feature coverage of the tea parties, and a long interview with National Review editor Rich Lowry on his new and excellent thriller, Banquo’s Ghosts.
Yesterday I interviewed the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof. The bulk of our conversation centered on when and how the United States ought to use force to end genocide, with specific discussions centering on Darfur, southern Sudan, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. We also discuss Haiti, international development generally and Kiva.org specifically, as well as self-selecting news flows to agree with our predispositions. The transcript is here. The podcast is here.
The conversation was interesting but also frustrating because even after decades spent traveling the world and reporting on a variety of horrors up to and including genocide, Kristof doesn’t have a set of guidelines for the use of American force when slaughter is raging. He agrees that Bill Clinton made a mistake in not intervening in Rwanda –“Absolutely”– but does not favor an intervention in Sudan over Darfur beyond a “no-fly zone” because “I do think that there is a risk that if we were to send American ground troops into Sudan, that that would rally the population behind the government that then President Bashir would say oh, those Americans, they are invading to steal our oil, and that there would be a nationalist backlash that would perhaps help the government.”
Kristof also supports sending anti-aircraft weapons to the people in southern Sudan now to deter a resumption of the bombing, and in response to my question about American advisors to help the rebels operate the systems, Kristof replied ” Absolutely,” and continued: “More training and more intelligence sharing with the south, and…but I think the single thing that would make the biggest difference would be this anti-aircraft capacity, and a strong warning to Sudan that if it does try to resume that war, then this is one that it is not going to win.”
But no large scale intervention with ground troops to topple the regime because “[i]t might lead the government to become more popular.”
Similarly, when I turned the conversation to the murderous Mugabe, Kristof was very reluctant to urge decisive action by the U.S. Rather, the Pulitzer Prize winner replied with a weary realism that reflects the American foreign policy elite’s refusal to believe in the capacity for America to effect rapid decisive regime change:
Again, it’s something that I just don’t think is ever going to happen, so I’m not sure that it’s worth…I mean, I think I’d rather we use our political capital debating things that we might actually do. But I mean, if you push me about whether we should, apart from the question of is it feasible, I guess I’m not quite at that level. But you know, you’re right, it is certainly horrific, and I think South Africa in particular has been disgraceful in the degree to which it has been unwilling to put pressure on Zimbabwe. But I just get a little nervous that when we talk about military interventions, then it just ends up, we end up being paralyzed and not doing anything at all.
The U.S. under Bush used two interventions to topple two regimes in rapid indeed amazing fashion. It proved far less competent in establishing successor governments, though in the past year in Iraq we have seen new tactics bring about extraordinary progress, and we are hoping for the same sort of turning in Afghanistan. Though the cost in American lives and treasure has been extraordinarily high, so too has the future of the people of both countries been immeasurably improved if freedom counts for anything, and of course it counts for a great deal.
As I pointed out to Kristof, President Obama has a unique opportunity to establish rules under which the U.S. will move decisively to end slaughter in countries where the U.S. does not need to worry about significant military opposition, such as Sudan and Zimbabwe. Because of the new president’s standing in the Third World and because of his party’s complete control of the Congress, he has it in his power to lay down the law for Bashir and Mugabe and bring their murderous regimes to an end, and by doing so to send a message to the rest of the continent that dictatorship has its limits, and widespread slaughter as in Zimbabwe and outright genocide as in Sudan will not be tolerated.
But President Obama will not move in that direction unless his core supporters in elite media support such a direction, encourage it and go so fa as to fashion the arguments for such steps. Thus Nicholas Kristof especially, but also key center-left opinion influencers such as E.J. Dione and Jonathan Alter have a lot of responsibility these days. If they want the killing to stop , they have to push the president who listens to them to stop it. Even as the “Neocons” who urged President Bush towards a vigorous application of the Bush Doctrine share in the responsibility for how it turns out, so will the left’s intellectuals share the responsibility for the new president’s actions –or inactions– around the globe.
“We simply do not have to put up with this,” writes Tod Lindberg in the current issue of Commentary Magazine. By “this” he means genocide. He continues:
By “we,” let me be clear. I do not mean “humanity,” although I would welcome the collective conclusion of mankind that genocide is unacceptable. I do not mean the “international community,” although a decision on the part of all national governments to refrain from engaging in mass atrocities at home or abroad would be most welcome, as would a collective intention to stop and punish leaders or would-be leaders seeking to deviate from the norm. What I really mean by “we” is “we who are strong enough to stop the murderous bastards before they can get away with it.”
This “we” is an inclusive group; everyone with a will and a way is welcome. But its purpose must go far beyond declaratory well-wishing. It is not a bad thing but a grossly insufficient thing to join in choruses of “never again,” the familiar refrain after something really bad has happened-say, 6 million dead Jews, 2 million dead Cambodians, or 800,000 dead Tutsis. No, we must act to stop the malefactors.
And by “we,” in the last analysis, I mean the United States.
For the next three-and-a-half-years, the United States means President Obama and the people who influence his decisions. The new president has already approved of the use of deadly force in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and at sea off the course of Somalia. His advisors and those who influence them and him should begin working out a larger framework for deploying the awesome might of the American military where tens of thousands of lives are at stake, none of them American.