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Last week, Media Matters noted, "With her vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, gaining more and more attention, Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, has become the latest target of the right wing." Little could we have known that the attacks and insults from the Angry Right would only get worse.
Then the often confused and reliably offensive David Horowitz emerged from wherever it is the David Horowitzes of the world go to replenish their stockpiles of bile and hate. Horowitz claimed "it's very hard to respect" Sheehan because she "doesn't respect her own son's life," adding "I haven't heard one word out of Cindy Sheehan's mouth that respects what her son did."
Syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer did his best to keep pace, claiming that Sheehan's protest is "hurting our troops and endangering our troops." Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney agreed, saying that "enemies of this country ... will be emboldened and hardened" by Sheehan. Rush Limbaugh claimed Sheehan "is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents." Then he claimed "I've never said" that. Then, apparently frustrated at being held accountable for his angry rhetoric, he attacked Media Matters as "little pimple-faced kids that are working at wannabe websites."
G. Gordon Liddy appeared on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes (apparently, on Fox, being a felon convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and bugging Democratic headquarters is enough to earn you an invitation to appear on-air), where he called Sheehan an anti-Semite. Remember: this is coming from a guy who has said listening to Hitler made him "feel a strength inside I had never known before."
While conservative pundits wasted little time displaying their scorn for the grieving mother of a slain serviceman, they haven't had much to say about the desecration of flags and crosses at the site of Sheehan's protest. As Reuters reported,:
A pickup truck ran over wooden crosses erected at antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan's campsite on Monday night in the latest sign of tension over the peace vigil outside vacationing President Bush's Texas ranch.
Larry Northern, 46, of nearby Waco, Texas, was arrested and charged with criminal mischief in connection with the incident, Crawford Police Chief Donnie Tidmore said.
The small, white wooden crosses erected at the site are hand-painted with the names of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Northern's desecration of the crosses and flags hasn't drawn the scorn you would expect from right-wing pundits who are usually quick to loudly denounce anyone opposed to making it illegal to burn a flag as "anti-American." Apparently, to conservative commentators, it's un-American to defend someone's right to desecrate a flag, but OK to actually do it - as long as you're doing it to intimidate peaceful anti-war protestors led by the mother of a man who died for his country.
Speaking of intimidating protestors, just try to imagine the media and pundit outrage if a liberal had done something like this:
President Bush might have made his peace with the antiwar encampment outside his Texas ranch, but his next-door neighbor has taken up arms.
The incident occurred Sunday morning as activists gathered for a prayer service in the tent village set up by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq and who is demanding a meeting with Bush to discuss the war.
On the other side of Prairie Chapel Road, Larry Mattlage hopped into his pickup, barreled across his pasture and pulled up to a fence within a few hundred feet of the protesters. He climbed out of the cab, retrieved a shotgun from the back and fired at least one blast into the air.
Mattlage insisted he was shooting at birds. But he said the activists had worn out their welcome, and he wanted them to go away.
"I done made my case. It's over," he said as he shooed away a reporter from the gated entrance to his ranch.
More than a year and a half after an individual unaffiliated with MoveOn.org submitted an ad to the group that compared President Bush to Nazis, we're still hearing outrage from conservative pundits like Terry Holt, who said on CNN on July 18, "We're talking about the wacky left, we're talking about the group of people that ran ads against the president, accusing him of being a Nazi. If they were serious about this, they would maintain a modicum of decorum and of seriousness. But every passing day, it gets more ridiculous."
But a lunatic pulls up to a fence near some peaceful anti-war protestors and fires a gun into the air in an obvious attempt at intimidation the day before another lunatic ran a pickup truck over white crosses and flags commemorating casualties of war, and there isn't nearly as much outrage.
The next time Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman sneers at the "Angry Left," remember that it's the Right, not the Left, that is running around saying a war widow "doesn't respect her own son's life." The next time some pundit or journalist buys into Mehlman's spin and refers to the "angry left-wing base of the Democratic Party," keep in mind that it isn't the left destroying crosses, desecrating flags, and firing guns to intimidate peaceful protestors.
Pat Robertson's 2004 book The Ten Offenses (Integrity Publishers, January 2004) devoted a section of a chapter titled "Tell the Truth" to "The Ninth Commandment and the Media." On page 183, Robertson described a "flagrant" violation of the Ninth Commandment:
Just a few days before I finished writing this book, Les Moonves, the president of CBS Television, pulled from the lineup a so-called documentary about former president Ronald Reagan that demeaned the reputation of this great president. ... [H]e was shown as a bumbling dolt saying something that he had never said in his life. ... While this aged man is suffering from Alzheimer's disease in the twilight of his life, a film producer bears false witness against him, puts words in his mouth that he never spoke, and seeks to destroy his legacy and reputation. A more flagrant violation of the Ninth Commandment would be hard to find.
Two pages later, Robertson explained just how serious such a violation is:
[T]hose who spread falsehoods against others ... are acting like the devil himself. Those who break the Ninth Commandment are in essence taking on the very nature of the devil.
It's clear, then, that Pat Robertson is strongly, deeply opposed to depicting a public figure "saying something that he had never said in his life" -- he considers such an act the work of the "devil himself."
Or does he?
On August 15, Robertson appeared on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, where he said of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), "I'm absolutely appalled at what she had to say. I don't know if you read all the transcripts. ... But she says first, 'I've got to wait on Ralph Neas of the People for the American Way to see what he says about it.' She's supposed to be a senator from the biggest state in America. And then she says, 'I'm going to follow the lead of Chuck Schumer. I trust him.' And he's the senator from New York, of course."
There's only one problem: Boxer never said those words in her life, as Media Matters revealed Robertson was apparently relying on a post on the weblog Radio Blogger, which purported to offer a "translation" of Boxer's comments. The "translation" was actually an obvious gross distortion of Boxer's comments -- but Robertson put Radio Blogger's words in Boxer's mouth.
Surely, then, Robertson quickly atoned for his sins and rededicated himself to faithfully following the Ninth Commandment?
On the August 18 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, Robertson again falsely quoted Boxer as saying "I've got to consult with Ralph Neas to see what stand to take on this nominee [John Roberts]." Robertson also claimed that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is "without question the most doctrinaire left-wing radical in the United States Senate. ... he is a radical leftist who is now proven to be a puppet of Ralph Neas of People for the American Way."
Leahy, the "most doctrinaire left-wing radical in the United States Senate"? That can't be right, can it? Well, no -- not according to the Christian Coalition of America, anyway. The coalition -- which, incidentally, Robertson founded -- argues that "[w]e must see the political tide of this nation continue to turn away from liberalism." To that end, it produces "scorecards" that rate senators' voting records. The coalition gave Leahy a score of 16 in 2004. That's low, to be sure -- but 29 Senators got a zero, including Leahy's fellow Vermonter, independent Jim Jeffords, and that noted left-wing radical Joe Lieberman. Far from being "without question the most doctrinaire left-wing radical in the United States Senate," according to the Christian Coalition's most recent ratings, Leahy isn't even the "most doctrinaire left-wing radical" among senators from Vermont.
But what's a little rhetorical excess to make a point? Surely there's nothing wrong with Robertson's tiny little exaggeration; overstating Leahy's supposed extremism is well within the bounds of reasonable discourse, right? Let's turn to page 181 of Robertson's The Ten Offenses for an answer:
Falsely labeling a public figure "hard right-wing," "an extremist," or "an intractable obstructionist" when those descriptions do not clearly fit violates the [Ninth] commandment.
Looks like Robertson needs to read his own book.
Post columnist Richard Cohen dismissed the matter, saying "This is not a major story. It's a crappy little crime and it may not be a crime at all." But this "crappy little crime," as Cohen put it, had serious consequences not only for Plame, but for America's national security.
Meanwhile, Post staff writer Jim VandeHei participated in an online chat where he was asked "Why doesn't the press refuse to take briefings from Scott McClellan, who either lied to them about the Plame incident, or was lied to by the administration? Isn't his credibility shot?" VandeHei rushed to McClellan's defense, writing: "Scott has a lot of credibility with reporters. He is seen as someone who might not tell you a lot, but is not going to tell you a lie."
But McClellan has told reporters lies during briefings. Most notably, he assured reporters that it was "ridiculous" to suggest that Karl Rove was involved in the Plame matter, saying there was "simply no truth" to it. We now know Rove was involved; it was a lie to say otherwise. Whether McClellan originated the lie, or whether he was passing on a lie he was told is unclear -- but either way, he told reporters a lie. And he was lying when he told reporters that "it was John Bolton who pointed" out that Bolton gave the Senate a questionnaire on which he falsely denied having been questioned in a federal investigation. And he was lying when he described a law Bush signed as governor of Texas that gave doctors the right to stop treating a patient.
The Bush White House in general, and McClellan in particular, have repeatedly lied to reporters for years, about issues large and small. The evidence is overwhelming, and grows by the day. And yet the nation's leading political reporters can't -- or won't -- see it; they actually defend McClellan as someone who "is not going to tell you a lie." They're not only so taken in -- or are so intent on maintaining access -- that they don't see how consistently they're being mislead, in many cases they even think their colleagues are too hard on the White House.
New York Daily News columnist and former editorial page editor Michael Goodwin -- a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has in the past worked for The New York Times and taught at the Columbia University School of Journalism - actually argued recently that the media are at "war" with the White House:
It's a civil war in Washington. The combatants have an eye-for-an-eye mentality. The partisanship is heated and nasty.
Republicans versus Democrats? Nah. This one pits the media against the White House.
It's a war the media can't win, and shouldn't wage.
The intense grilling that White House reporters inflicted on presidential spokesman Scott McClellan Monday over whether political guru Karl Rove leaked the name of a CIA operative was no ordinary give-and-take. It was a hostile hectoring that revealed much of the mainstream press for what it has become: the opposition party.
Remember: Goodwin is talking about a "mainstream press" that has largely ignored the question of whether Rove violated the terms of his nondisclosure agreement; that ignores the consequences of outing a CIA operative, dismissing it instead as a "crappy little crime"; that took weeks to get around to mentioning the Downing Street Memos and still ignores the serious national security implications of the fact that most Americans think the president lied to them about war.
And yet, Goodwin -- and countless others -- argue, without hint that they are kidding, that the media are out to get Bush. More Goodwin:
That the mainstream media are basically liberals with press passes has been documented by virtually every study that measures reporters' political identification and issue positions. But bias has now slopped over into blatant opposition, a stance the media will regret. Instead of providing unvarnished facts obtained by aggressive but fair-minded reporting, the media will be reduced to providing comfort food to ideological comrades.
Of course Goodwin, while looking down his nose at the "hectoring" and "intense grilling" his colleagues "inflicted" on McClellan, offered not one specific example. None. He provided no details, mentioned not one specific question asked of McClellan that was out-of-bounds.
Media Matters debunked claims by conservative news organizations and commentators that a 1995 memo written by then-Clinton deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick prevented military intelligence officials from sharing with law enforcement agencies information that purportedly identified lead 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. As Media Matters explained:
But the Gorelick memo and ensuing guidelines, which conservatives claim created a "wall" between intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials, had nothing to do with military intelligence -- those documents addressed communications only among divisions within the Department of Justice. Moreover, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, the "wall" that conservatives accuse Gorelick of enacting had been operative well before Gorelick -- or Clinton -- took office.
Among the false claims Media Matters identified was one made by New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, who blamed Gorelick's "wall" for creating a "hiding place for Al Qaeda." Think Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, linked to Media Matters' item in its own post about the matter. Think Progress readers then wrote Podhoretz demanding a correction, leading Podhoretz to lie about his previous lie, as Think Progress demonstrated.
-- Jamison Foser