Regrets, I've had a few...


Well, this is interesting. In doing her usual dime-store psychoanalysis of Barack Obama, Maureen Dowd reverses decades of her usual m.o. and actually provides some evidence. She writes:

But in the end, it was Wright showing "disrespect" by implying that Obama was a phony that sparked the candidate's slow-burning temper. "What I think particularly angered me," he said, "was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks was somehow political posturing."

Perhaps she's right. Still, it's not the tack the Obama campaign can possibly wish the media to take. This is -- or ought to be -- about disrespecting America, not disrespecting Obama. It's his Farrakhan-like fantasies that make this preacher beyond the pale, not his feelings about the candidate ...

Still what interested me is the fact that Dowd does not seem to notice that she contradicted one of her earlier, typically evidence-less assertions about Obama, one that, at the time, struck me as racist. Remember, she wrote in this column:

With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man and Hillary saying the hour is upon us to elect a woman, the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts.

And I wrote then: "The entire column, however, is about Hillary. There is no evidence presented anywhere that Obama has said such a thing. And those of us who've watched the campaign, I imagine, have heard Obama say just the opposite. This is exactly the opposite of an identity politics campaign, which is why Bill Clinton fell so flat when he tried to liken it to Jesse Jackson's. But Dowd cares nothing about truth and even less about evidence. She has long felt free simply to make stuff up about Obama (and John Edwards)."

If Obama can get Dowd to do her due diligence and actually provide data to support his views, I'm guessing he can -- well, I'm not allowed to say ...

I see Arianna believes she is being boycotted by all NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC shows, here. I believe it too. This strikes me as a real boycott. Arianna and I (and David Frum and Dan Schnur) did an LA Times Festival of Books panel, and we filled an 1,100-or-so-seat hall. I don't think that was me or David or Dan that was filling that room. This woman is big. (And by the way, she looks incredible. Who does your hair, dahlink?) But anyway, the fact that she hurts Tim Russert's feelings and is therefore apparently barred from all of NBC demonstrates how simultaneously thin-skinned and insecure people are even at the top of the media, and how irresponsible they are to the public's right to know anything at all if it conflicts with their own sense of ego. (Can you imagine George Stephanopoulos or Charles Gibson being forced to defend their questioning of Obama and Clinton on the basis of just how well did they help citizens make informed decisions about the candidates' positions on the issues? I would pay whatever I make in one of their precious capital gains tax cuts to see that.)

Anyway, from my own experience, I'm pretty sure Arianna was right. When I published my first book 16 years ago, before I was well known for criticizing everyone in the media for their bias and carelessness, I was booked on the Today show, The Tonight Show, Nightline, Larry King, All Things Considered, Terry Gross' Fresh Air, C-SPAN's prime-time book interview show, etc. Over the years, whenever I did a book, I would be a regular on some of these shows, as the rest would fall off. For What Liberal Media?, I got, as I recall, Charlie Rose, Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, O'Reilly, The Daily Show, John Gibson, Joe Scarborough, plenty of C-SPAN, and the book was reviewed everywhere.

For Why We're Liberals, however, aside from Colbert and a few book reviews, I've been ignored in all of the national media. No network show, no national NPR, no MSNBC, no CNBC, no CNN, no Fox, no PBS, not even C-SPAN. And it's not as if Viking is some fly-by-night publisher. Now I know that there are few things in life more distasteful than the sight (and sound) of authors complaining about how little attention his or her book is receiving. In some, perhaps most, of these cases, the decision was made on the basis of what would constitute entertaining programming. In others, I'm sure it was the fear of appearing sympathetic to a "liberal" author and therefore giving ammunition to right-wing efforts to "work the refs." But I can also surmise that the hosts of these shows don't appreciate the criticism they've been receiving all these years, on this site, in this and other books, and elsewhere. (Believe me: You can date the moment Howard Kurtz became aware of my view that his conflicts of interest and ideological bias make him an untrustworthy media cop to the date that my name stopped appearing in his column.)

I'm not actually complaining (much) here. I had a terrific time on Colbert, a great book tour, was happy to meet so many appreciative people, and I am well aware that my book received far more attention than do most, and in this awful cultural moment, I should (and do) consider myself fortunate for the hearing I received at all. But the fact is, many of the decisions made at the top of our media are made for capricious, self-interested reasons by people who are never forced to explain themselves. And I think NBC's boycott of Arianna -- who is, after all, one of the most important political voices in the discourse -- is proof of that.

George Zornick writes:

Is the press redundant? To listen to Chris Matthews on MSNBC yesterday, one might think so: "If the topic is Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama loses. He has to change topics by tomorrow. If we are still putting this up as our main story of the day, that's bad news for him. If we're still saying it by Thursday -- that means the weekend news shows will talk about it." But is Matthews' network just a vessel through which trivial -- and politically motivated -- arguments flow, without the reporters and producers having any say? The answer appears to be yes, and Howard Kurtz surrenders the media's free will, here: "The more I hear the full context, the more I think the Illinois senator has a growing problem. For one thing, Wright seems to be savoring the limelight...meaning that the cablers and the pundits are debating black liberation theology, not Obama's jobs plan." Here's the Chicago Tribune doing the same: "The latest Wright eruption renewed questions about how long the story will remain in circulation and whether it is -- or should be -- an issue Obama must address for the rest of the presidential campaign. The Wright story presents potential peril for Obama, increasing the urgency for the campaign to shift the focus."

It seems like it should go without saying -- but isn't it the press' job to evaluate what the important issues are, and whether they should "stay in circulation?" Do they really have no choice but to give wall-to-wall coverage on topics they themselves acknowledge may be irrelevant, and the "focus" can only be shifted by politicians and their operatives?

This will be good watchin':

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin might be called to defend himself in a hearing on his leadership after a congressional investigation turned up complaints about the way he runs the agency, according to a memo obtained yesterday by The Washington Post. ... The memo to [Senate Commerce and Energy Committee chairman Rep. John] Dingell and [oversight and investigations subcommittee chairman Rep. Bart] Stupak said the investigation is ongoing and proposed holding hearings on the findings in June. According to the memo, more than 30 current and former FCC employees were interviewed, along with telecommunications industry representatives and private citizens. The memo was the first indication that the investigation, launched in December, has turned up material to support complaints against Martin.

For more on the FCC under Martin and his predecessors, see our Think Again columns here and here.

From TomDispatch:

The RAND Corporation was the ur-think tank, the Cold War granddaddy of them all, and it's still with us. In the 1950s, nuclear war-gaming a conflagration for which the usual war games would have been ludicrous, it took the U.S. military into virtuality and science fiction long before there was an Internet to play with. (And it had a hand in creating the Internet, too!) In the 1960s, it helped several administrations plan and fight the Vietnam War, making antiseptic theory into an all-too-grim reality. And that's just the beginning of the work RAND did on a range of hot-button imperial issues.

For a brief period in the 1960s, Chalmers Johnson was a RAND consultant. Now, reviewing a new book on the history of the RAND Corporation, the author of the prophetic pre-9/11 book Blowback, and, most recently, of Nemesis, The Last Days of the Republic, considers the think tank's role as "a key institutional building block of the Cold War American empire." RAND, he begins, "was instrumental in giving that empire the militaristic cast it retains to this day and in hugely enlarging official demands for atomic bombs, nuclear submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers. Without RAND, our military-industrial complex, as well as our democracy, would look quite different."

And then he explores just how all this came about, as well as the colorful cast of characters involved -- ranging from a bevy of Nobel Prize winning economists to Daniel Ellsberg, Donald Rumsfeld, Albert Wohlstetter, easily the best known of all RAND researchers, and that thinker of the "unthinkable" Herman Kahn, who was satirized by Stanley Kubrick in his classic film Dr. Strangelove. (Kahn demanded royalties from Kubrick, to which Kubrick responded, "That's not the way it works, Herman.")

This is a fascinating yet sorry tale about what is surely one of the world's most unusual, Cold War-bred private organizations in the field of international relations. Johnson concludes: "While RAND has an unparalleled record of providing unbiased, unblinking analyses of technical and carefully limited problems involved in waging contemporary war, its record of advice on cardinal policies involving war and peace, the protection of civilians in wartime, arms races, and decisions to resort to armed force has been abysmal."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Tom Edmisten
Hometown: Norfolk, Nebraska

Somebody please remind that dingbat Peggy Noonan that anyone who would get misty eyed over Henry Ford would also do so over Himmler and Goebbels. Like them, Ford was a despicable anti-Semite. He did hate labor unions, though, and perhaps that hatred is what earns him his place in the dolphin lady's pantheon of patriotic chills, right up there with spotting Dutch's dogs resting on a hassock. That a dizzy hack like Noonan has a job is proof enough that any balloon juice about our having a liberal media is moonshine.

Name: Bill
Hometown: New York

So I guess if Brian Williams or Peggy Noonan ever mediates a Democratic debate, the candidates will have to recite a laundry list of patriotic cliches in order to be credible. Remember Little Big Man, when a U.S. soldier is trying to kill him? "God bless George Washington! God bless my mother!" Or the Nazi in Saving Private Ryan? "Oh say can you see! Steamboat Villy, toot toot! Betty Grable! Nice gams!" This is what the debates will be reduced to.

Name: Steve Zeoli
Hometown: Brandon, Vermont

I agree with 99.9% of what the great Charlie Pierce has to say, but I think his defense of Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a little off base. To say that Wright isn't under any obligation to Obama's campaign isn't true. No one... that is NO ONE would even know who this guy was, much less care about anything he had to say if it were not for his connection with Obama. It is clear after his performance in recent days that Wright does NOT care an iota about Obama ... and yet, what would help to alleviate the race divide more than a black president? If Wright were truly more concerned about the bigger issues of race in this country than his own personal agenda, he would take the spotlight off himself, instead of seeking it out. But I don't think that Wright's ego will let him do that.

Name: Ian
Hometown: Los Angeles

Deadliest month in Iraq all year; president acknowledges he approved torture; economy getting worse as more people lose houses -- forget all that. Those pictures of Miley Cyrus, that's what matters. (Yes, and the out-of-context remarks of a black preacher, let's not forget to hammer those some more, oh people of privilege.)

Name: Randy Jewett
Hometown: Gainesville, FL


Here's what Obama should do: Find a lapel pin of the Liberty Bell and wear that. What's it a symbol of? Why American liberty, of course! You know, that thing liberals defend. You heard it here first.

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia

Welcome to the Hook. I saw Bruce here in Memorial Gym in 1974 with Joe Walsh and about 1,000 other people. Both piano players, Clarence, the female Israeli violinist, but no Miami Steve, Bruce was the only guitar. Played for about 2 1/2 hours, and probably the best show I ever saw....

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