Fox on the run

“I'm struck by what I think is a double standard in the questions that particularly Karl is being asked here,” [Chris] Wallace said. “I don't understand why it is that if Congress and the White House are having a fight over executive power, that should any way constrain an independent news organization's decision about whom to have on its payroll. I question whether if it were a conservative Congress that had subpoenaed James Carville, let's say, whether you'd be asking CNN why they're [employing] James Carville.”

This would be funny were it not demonstrative of the contempt in which the Constitution is held by mainstream conservatives today, whether represented by the White House or Fox News. Wallace does not bother to make his case on constitutional grounds, or even to defend Rove's allegedly unlawful behavior. Notice he simply casts aspersions on Congress because of the alleged ideology of the people in control. No less offensive, however, but equally illustrative, was the anti-Semitic Photoshopping of the photos of New York Times reporters on one Fox News show.

The idea that Fox is a news network, rather than a particularly ugly propaganda network, is getting funnier and funnier among those who have either not drunk the Kool-Aid or cashed the check. Read all about it here.

Tim Russert did not think it proper to ask Scooter Libby any news-like questions when he called to complain about Chris Matthews. David Gregory thinks it fine to serve as Karl Rove's backup singer, and Ron Fournier thinks the problem with the below item is that it is overly "breezy." How about the fact that our media poohbahs apparently think it is their jobs to back up -- literally -- the right-wing zealots who deliberately mislead our nation and trash our Constitution rather than report on them? (And when you think about the backstory involving both Tillman and Lynch, it becomes particularly tragicomic ...)

Buried in the 50-page report on Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch released today by the House Oversight Committee, is a priceless quote from none other than the new head of the AP's Washington Bureau, Ron Fournier.

Straight from page 21 of the report:

Karl Rove exchanged e-mails about Pat Tillman with Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier, under the subject line “H-E-R-O.” In response to Mr. Fournier's e-mail, Mr. Rove asked, “How does our country continue to produce men and women like this,” to which Mr.Fournier replied, “The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight.”


Shorter Mark Halperin: “Please, please, please book me ...”

“I was totally skeptical, and now I'm totally won over,” says Time editor-at-large Mark Halperin, a political analyst at ABC News. “I was a huge fan of Imus, but Joe has taken that real estate and turned it into something -- and I say this without hyperbole -- revolutionary. There's no other show that does what they do. They've really found a new form.”


Worries about tonight: I was kind of OK with the fact of Dave Wright originally being kept off the All-Star team. In the first place, it provided me with a ready-made excuse for whenever my superior virtue and talent failed to be adequately rewarded. ( “Remember Dave Wright didn't even make the 2008 All-Star team, thanks to those idiots in Philadelphia...” ) But that rhetorical/emotional loss can be assuaged by a glance at this non-All-Star's stats. Just look at the doubles, triples, runs, (stolen bases, of course) and RBIs (and for a lead-off hitter)! Stop whining about this guy's attitude, people, he's the greatest.

But back to Dave: I have this premonition that because of the odd circumstances of Dave's ultimately making the team, God is planning to remind us of the randomness of our existence by visiting upon Dave some sort of horrible injury that will either happen during the game or happen because of the game. Has that ever happened? I really wish he had taken the time off.

“Is there anyone alive out there?” How great is this?

Thank you, sir.

George Zornick writes:

Anatomy of a mini-controversy: There has been much talk about The New Yorker's current cover, which depicts Sen. Barack Obama in Muslim headgear, giving his black-radical wife a terrorist fist-bump in the Oval Office while an American flag burns in the hearth.

There are plenty of opinions on both sides of this piece of art, and chances are that you Altercators have an informed, reasoned opinion on the matter. Chances are, also, that you were not discussing this informed opinion on cable news, where insanity reigned supreme as quasi-pundits and roundtablers turned into quasi-art critics.

Behold an all-too-familiar cable news storm -- which, as Eric noted, began over the weekend, and continued last night:

First, we have the token 9-11 non-sequitur (on Hardball):

MICHELLE BERNARD (MSNBC political analyst and president of the Independent Women's Forum): Chris, I think the cover of this magazine is absolutely revolting. The only thing that could have been much worse for them to do would have been to depict Barack Obama as Sambo and his wife as Aunt Jemima. I don't understand it, particularly given what happened in New York on 9/11, the fact that so many questions have been raised about their patriotism, whether or not he's a Muslim.

Then, the ridiculous equivocation between two unequal sides (on CNN's Reliable Sources):

JESSICA YELLIN (CNN congressional correspondent): No, it's very provocative. And it both overstates what -- it's obviously untrue. They are not Muslim. They are not trying to overthrow the American government, and also overstates what the Republicans are doing.

(Yes, because Obama being a secret terrorist Muslim is about as ridiculous a notion as Republicans suggesting as much...)

Anyway, then you have Mike Huckabee, and his folksy extremism (on Hannity & Colmes):

HUCKABEE: That cover -- I can understand why Obama was, you know, pretty burned about it. He was more burned than the flag over this.

Of course, Bill O'Reilly checking in from left field:

O'REILLY: So what we have here is the magazine exploiting Obama to sell magazines. That is not fair.

And, finally, the indefatigable Dick Morris, denouncing the cover on Hannity & Colmes but going on to say that, by the way, it all may be true:

MORRIS: Yes, but it's saying -- but the idea that people are worried that he's a Muslim, New Yorker magazine puts that out really is wrong. And I think they should not have done it.

COLMES: But isn't it intent -- I mean, they're ridiculing the idea that Obama is all these horrible things, correct?

MORRIS: Yeah, but that's a reach, but on the other hand --

COLMES: [inaudible]

MORRIS: -- I do believe that it's very important for us to understand the ways in which Obama has proposed weakening our protection against terror, and I'm reading from --

COLMES: Are you saying that there's truth in that New York --


COLMES: -- New Yorker magazine cover?


COLMES: Now you're going to feed that --

MORRIS: But I'm saying --

COLMES: -- by how it's going to hurt us with terrorists?

MORRIS: No, there's a difference. I'm not saying he's Muslim; I'm just saying he's wrong.

Fin! It never ceases to amaze how much one can watch mainstream political discourse in the U.S. and still not learn a damn thing.

Recently, our Think Again column brought you the story of Red Lion, a Supreme Court case that gave the FCC the legal underpinning for much of its laudable duties in serving the public interest. The precedent will be challenged this fall in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, and the FCC's mandate for the public interest could end up being curtailed.

There is also an interesting story in Chicago now, where a legal challenge has attempted to push the FCC in the other direction -- closer to more aggressive service to the public. Two public-interest groups challenged the FCC not to renew the licenses of nine Chicago-area television stations, which the groups say provided inadequate coverage of state and local races in 2004. Their challenge claims that the stations “failed to serve the needs and interests of the public,” which are requirements for license renewal.

The FCC rejected the challenge, and possibly with fair cause -- the scope of the FCC's authority needs a lot of clarification. (Although the group responds that “how to serve the 'public interest' has never been formally defined, so that any dismal media or policy can be construed as 'serving the public interest' in the absence of any overarching public policy standard.” )

In any case, these challenges make the upcoming decision in FCC v. Fox Television Stations all the more important, so stay tuned.

From TomDispatch:

Just over a week ago, the first reports came in. The age of the bride is unknown to us, as is her name. No reporters were clamoring to get to her section of the mountainous backcountry of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. We know almost nothing about her circumstances, except that she was on her way to a nearby village, evidently early in the morning, among a party 70-90 strong, mostly women, “escorting the bride to meet her groom as local tradition dictates” when the American plane or planes blew her and her wedding party away. According to an Afghan inquiry team, appointed by President Hamid Karzai, 47 civilians died, including 39 women and children. The U.S. military, of course, initially denied any “collateral damage” and claimed that it had hit “clearly identified” Taliban insurgents. "[T]his may just be normal, typical militant propaganda," said spokesman 1st Lieutenant Nathan Perry.

This much made it into our news, more or less, even if as a he said/she said story in well sanitized language on the inside pages of our papers. What no reporter seemed to remember, however, was just how “déjà vu all over again” this “incident” is. In Tom Engelhardt's latest piece, “The Wedding Crashers,” he documents five wedding parties in Afghanistan and Iraq that were essentially wiped out by U.S. air power since 2001, with, cumulatively, hundreds of dead and wounded -- and, of course, each with similar disclaimers and denials from the U.S. military until the reports begin to filter in from the hospitals, the ruined villages, and the graveyards (and, by then, it was usually too late for much press attention).

Because each of these past events went down our media memory hole, this piece is news. It also represents an attempt to bring a grim, forgotten history back into our consciousness. Engelhardt concludes this way:

Here's the truth of it: In Bush's wars, the wedding singer dies, the bride does not get a chance to run away, and the event might be relabeled my big, fat, collateral damage wedding.

In the process, we have become a nation of wedding crashers, the uninvited guests who arrived under false pretenses, tore up the place, offered nary an apology, and refused to go home. It's a remarkable record, really, and catches the nature of the Bush administration's air war not on, but of and for terror in a particularly raw way. And yet, in this country, when the latest wedding party went down, no reporter seems even to have recalled our past history of wedding-party obliteration. So it goes.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Wilkerson
Hometown: Kensington, MD

Eric, I've been reading the blogs for months and you're the first I've seen to make the ought-to-be-obvious point that this is a contest of prospective governments and their legions of appointees, not of two personalities. Bravo to you, and I wish more writers, pundits, etc., would make that point again and again until people realize that it's not “who'll I have a beer with,” but “What kind of people will be my government?”

Name: Nornito
Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Any list of famous Oklahomans would be completely remiss, especially if compiled by liberals, if it did not include Bill Moyers. Bill was born in Hugo, Oklahoma on June 5, 1934. He and his family later moved to Texas.

Name: Ken G.
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

I am sorry to come in a bit late on Siva's discussion of Oklahoma, but the most important point - a point that probably explains most of the other points - got missed in the discussion: Oklahoma is home to, perhaps, the worst major newspaper in the country.

Yes, the article is slightly dated and, yes, Ed Gaylord is no longer alive, but the paper remains in the Gaylord family and, as a semi-regular reader (Alas, my beloved is also a resident of Oklahoma), I can vouch for the fact that little appears to have changed since that article was written.

Name: Scott Crowder
Hometown: Denver


Please stop rubbing salt in the wounds of us poor Rockies fans.

Congrats to the Mets. But really, beating up on the Rockies this year is sort of like taking candy from a baby.

Will you be doing any book signings in Denver when you come for the convention? If so, you will sell more books if you leave the Mets hat at home. :)

Eric replies: Dude, I was congratulating the Rockies. After all, they were the first team in six games to get more than three hits off of the Mets pitching staff, despite the repeated shutouts. (And again, my apologies to every single team since the year 1900 for having to failed to rise to this bar.)

Name: Robert Herzog
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN


I've read you forever, and of course agree with your proclamation that NYC is the greatest city in the Universe -- even from my lofty perch here in Middle America.

But I wanted to share with you an experience from this weekend, which should further solidify it to your readers. After a great meal in Chelsea on Saturday night (Red Cat, btw), my wife and I were wandering back to the subway line, when we meandered into Madison Park on a complete lark.

Well, the Shake Shack was there and so was a great slice of Americana.

Right there in the middle of New York City. Yes that's right, suburban America ... custard, fries, burgers, hot dogs, soda...yet more importantly: geeks, straights, gays, grandmothers, twins, Asians, Brooklynites, uptowners, downtowners, Europeans, stoners, doctors, clergy, rich, poor, and anyone else you can muster (practically). One hundred to one hundred and twenty-five of the greatest cross-section (or urban melting pot, if you will) of people you could find in this country.

My wife and I were in utter amazement we could find such a spot -- smack dab in the middle of the cultural, economic, and civic hub of our country.

I know, I know, we shouldn't have been surprised, but really, on a perfect summer evening with the cool wind blowing across the tops of the trees, surrounded by people just enjoying civic life with friends and family -- it really was something to behold.

NYC is indeed the greatest city in the world. And it has the collective conscientiousness of those Shake Shack dwellers to prove it.

Onward and upward, Doc.

BTW, that'll be the “B line” for me.

Name: Brad Smith
Hometown: (Hoping for DC, apparently...)

Subject: The Free Soil and American Women's Party

Do you guys have a name for the party yet? If not, I proudly offer the above, in honor of the two greatest but least electable third parties in American history ... Plus, I nominate myself for Assistant Secretary of the Navy -- now hear this: if it was good enough for both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, it is good enough for me, by Neptune!


1. Eight years of honorable and yet absolutely undistinguished peacetime service in the naval service of the United States; can't get much more professional than that...

2. Third-generation naval servitor (Dad was USCG/USMS in WW II, grand-dad was USCG in WW I); in generational terms, I am at least tied with Capt. (ret) J.S. McCain III in terms of nautical tradition... 3. I have, despite 1 above, actually spent more than a day at sea...and not just aboard cruise ships!

4) I is within spitting distance of being a collej-educated hysterian, along with my day job...

5) I've actually been elected to something (granted, it is my local non-paid town council, and I got a grand total of 44 votes, but still...I think I have you guys beat in terms of campaign experience)

LTC Bob responds: Noted and accepted. Pending concurrence from my VEEP, we are, from this day forward, the candidates for the Free Soil and American Women's Party ticket. (Which is a lot better than what my VEEP originally suggested, let me tell you.) I make this decision based upon the solid foundation of knowledge that both my VP and myself are entirely in favor of anything which starts with “Free” and we are both passionately in favor of women, as untolled hundreds of bemused, slightly flattered, but ultimately too wise women can attest over the past several decades. Charlie, can I get an “Amen?”

(Disclaimer: To any of those women who remember our youthful appreciations, please, please, keep any photographic evidence you may have of us at those tender ages to yourself.)


Charles Pierce replies: Actually, I'd prefer the American Soil And Free Women Party, but you're the top of the ticket, so ...