Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is this a trend?
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Something unusual happened recently in Washington: A crackpot,
right-wing journal circulated a crude smear against two Democratic
presidential candidates, and the mainstream news media quickly and
thoroughly debunked it. It seemed a hopeful sign that professionalism
may return to the national political press. But let’s not get carried
away. Here’s what happened., a Web site describing itself
as “America’s premier weekly Internet news magazine,” published an
anonymously written, anonymously sourced article claiming that Sen.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign had dug up dirt on Sen. Barrack Obama.
Specifically, Clinton operatives had supposedly learned that, contrary
to his best-selling autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope,” the Illinois
senator attended a Muslim fundamentalist religious school (a madrassa)
as a child in Indonesia.

According to Insight, financed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification
Church, which also sponsors The Washington Times, there was reason to
suspect Obama of being an Islamic “Manchurian Candidate,” i.e., a
brainwashed religious fanatic programmed to undermine the U.S. from
within. E-mail messages stressing Obama’s middle name, “Hussein,” have
long circulated among the fruitcake right.

“Although Indonesia is regarded as a moderate Muslim state,” Insight
claimed, “the U. S. intelligence community has determined that today
most of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and
they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims....
The sources said the opponents are searching for evidence that Mr. Obama
is still a Muslim or has ties to Islam.”

Maestro, cue the ominous soundtrack. It was a rare two-fer, planting
suspicion against Obama while blaming Clinton. How these things have
normally gone ever since one of Bill Clinton’s White House aides, Sidney
Blumenthal, was mocked by all the clever Beltway pundits for accurately
describing how the far right scandal machine works is like this: An
unfounded, imaginary or wildly exaggerated charge first appears
somewhere like The Drudge Report, the London Telegraph or one of the
smutty British tabloids. Next it’s amplified by Rupert Murdoch’s New
York Post, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and FOX
News. Eventually, ABC News and/or CNN may air it, often with a
“reportedly” or an “allegedly” added to salve the journalistic
consciences of reporters who have no earthly idea if the allegation is
true, half-true or sheer fiction. Ultimately, it becomes fodder for New
York Times or Washington Post editorial columns, then gets masticated by
chummy celebrity pundits on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” All this is published
without ever having passed the who, what, when, where and why standards
applied to, say, baseball trades on the sports page.

(Blumenthal was himself the subject of a false wife-beating smear, which
he short-circuited with a libel suit.)

Actually, the whole process became more streamlined during Clinton’s
second term, as Kenneth Starr’s leakomatic prosecutors hinted at
nonexistent evidence for Hillary Clinton’s pending indictment directly
to major metropolitan newspapers and TV networks. But that’s another
story, one I’ve told elsewhere.

Say what you will about liberal bias. From the day The New York Times
bought into the Whitewater hoax during the 1992 campaign until it
finally unraveled after the Republicans’ failed impeachment of President
Clinton, what amazed me as a provincial journalist unaccustomed to
Washington ways was that, once the scandal machinery got fully engaged,
mere facts stood very little chance of influencing the story line.

Writing for, Jamison Foser notes a 1997 Insight smear
claiming that Clinton was auctioning burial plots in Arlington National
Cemetery to the highest bidder. Despite no factual support and not a
single named source, that one zipped from right-wing radio to The
Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today
and CNN before the White House proved it false.

But not this time. For reasons best known to themselves, several news
organizations probed the Insight smear of Obama. Although Limbaugh and
FOX News went big with the allegation, CNN and ABC News each dispatched
correspondents to the Jakarta school that Obama attended at age 6. What
they found was a normal, coeducational public school with students of
several religions in attendance.

During the Jan. 22 broadcast of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” host Wolf
Blitzer congratulated his own network.

“As rumors swirl,” he said, “we’re actually on the scene doing serious
journalism in Indonesia. We’re finding out the facts.”

On his CNN program, “Reliable Sources,” Washington Post media critic
Howard Kurtz, one of the straighter shooters, pointedly criticized
Murdoch’s New York Post and FOX News for running the story.

Over the past 15 years, both Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry and, most
recently, former Ambassador Joe Wilson have been the objects of multiple
unfounded, rightwing smear campaigns that arguably have determined the
course of American politics as mainstream journalists apparently have
often collaborated and at other times gazed thoughtfully off into
ambient air.

Could a return to responsible journalism become the latest Washington
trend? Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?


Post a Comment

<< Home