Addicted to power
It’s symptomatic of the current political situation that many appear willing to give bogus desperado James Frey a pass. For the uninitiated, Frey’s the author whose best-selling memoir of booze and drug addiction,
“A Million Little Pieces,” turned out to be more like “A Thousand and One Falsehoods.” Few of the checkable facts examined by smokinggun.com proved true. Even so, a friend whose judgment I respect said the book gave her a vivid picture of an addict’s mind. Um, yeah. So long as you realize that every addict’s a deceiver. All memoirs have subjective elements. But I’m old school. If Frey fabricated a nonexistent prison record and fantasized having his girlfriend killed by a train, why believe anything he says? A small point worth keeping in mind: Broadly speaking, and contrary to popular opinion, books today may be the least reliable source of information. Too many publishers will promote anything they think might sell. Authors who practice traditional, fact-based journalism often find themselves trading in a debased currency. Moreover, what’s true in book publishing increasingly applies to the news media generally. Politically, this is very dangerous. Uncertain whom to trust, people are left to believe pretty much anything they want to believe, as wishful thinking and propaganda drive out valid information almost across the board.
But some citizens are fighting back. Consider a couple of recent episodes in the news. Recently, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, supposedly the reader’s representative at the newspaper, wrote a column asserting that convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff “made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties.”
This is false. Although the phrase “Abramoff Democrats” has become a favorite of GOP editorialists frantically trying to spread the blame, the former head of the College Republicans apparently gave nothing directly to Democrats. (Irked by its appearance in a recent editorial, I Googled the phrase and got 12,600 hits.)
That doesn’t mean all Democrats are pure. But none is directly implicated in the Abramoff bribery scandal. Indeed, the infamous “K Street Project” run by Abramoff, resigned House majority leader Tom DeLay and their chums was essentially a shakedown.
It’s been widely reported that after the GOP captured the House in 1994, lobbyists and interest groups that had supported Democrats were shown spreadsheets documenting past contributions and told that until they hired Abramoff and his protégés, and redirected their money to Republicans, they’d get no consideration. Once the GOP controlled the Senate and the White House, too, it began to pay off like a gold mine. As the Post itself reported almost two years ago, “Under Abramoff’s guidance [four native American tribes running gambling casinos] have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $ 2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show.”
No, they didn’t quit Democrats altogether. But this isn’t a campaign donations scandal, it’s a bribery scandal. Abramoff and his chums went beyond lobbying.
Urged by liberal bloggers, readers flooded the Post’s online comments section with harsh criticisms. Howell eventually was forced to capitulate, writing that “it’s not a bipartisan scandal; it’s a Republican scandal” —but not before swooning like a Victorian gentlewoman over the supposedly abusive insults of her critics.
There’s a bird called a killdeer, which nests in rocky places on the ground and lures predators away from its eggs by pretending to have a broken wing. The Washington Post did a pretty fair imitation. Even so, it was a heartening outcome.
So who’s going to take on Karl Rove’s latest calumny? Seeking to divert attention from the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, Rove gave a speech to a Republican audience claiming that “President Bush believes if al-Qa’ida is calling somebody in
Oh, yeah? Like who? Nobody opposes spying on al-Qa’ida. Nobody. What they’re against is Bush evading the FISA court set up to issue legitimate warrants, ignoring the Fourth Amendment and claiming the powers of a king. A power addict, Rove’s become the James Frey of the White House. Let’s see if there’s a reporter in
•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a
Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."
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