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Once again, when we see things this stupid, we wonder if democracy and a free press are really such a good idea after all.

This is just awful. Someone needs to slap some sense into Sam Zell. When he took over the Tribune newspapers, he took over a public trust. It's one thing to shrink the paper, which is unfortunate, but understandable. It's quite another to corrupt it by turning parts of it over to the business staff. Not even the Cereal Killer thought of this. I hope the staff is not too dispirited by this crazy man to respond.

George Zornick writes: Yesterday, a congressional report revealed that disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion, and remains at the center of one of the largest influence-peddling scandals in recent memory, met with the president of the United States at least six times and that there were over 150 verifiable contacts between Abramoff and White House officials, and probably many more -- these contacts included White House officials who went to Abramoff "seeking tickets to sporting and entertainment events, as they did seeking input on personnel picks for plum jobs." When asked about the report, White House spokesman Tony Fratto's dismissive response was, "Give me a break."

Luckily for Fratto, the press largely did. These revelations were not reported on any of the major networks broadcasts last night. Nor could the story be found on the front page of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or The Washington Post today.

This is nothing new for coverage of the Abramoff scandal. Recall, back when the scandal broke in 2005, that the press largely refused to hold Republicans responsible for what was clearly a Republican scandal of epic proportions. (None other than the National Review's Rich Lowry wrote that the Abramoff mess "is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.")

But the press didn't usually agree. For example:

  • Chris Matthews asked, while discussing the scandal in January 2006, "[D]on't you have to be a real ideologue, a real partisan to believe that one party's more crooked than the other?"
  • The Washington Post uncritically reported Grover Norquist's claim that Abramoff didn't meet with President Bush in May 2001, even though there was a photo reported to show that Abramoff was there.
  • David Brooks baselessly claimed Abramoff only met with Bush twice, based on some incomplete Secret Service logs, and Brit Hume did the same, even though the White House itself acknowledged there were more visits not mentioned in those logs.
  • The press also repeatedly brushed off the scandal -- The New York Times' Anne Kornblut, only hours after the Associated Press reported that Abramoff told Vanity Fair magazine he had close ties with President Bush and White House senior adviser Karl Rove, cited what she called "good news" for the White House, which is that "no one's talking about Jack Abramoff anymore." Chris Matthews predicted in early 2006, "It's not going to be part of a larger story of Washington this year, I think."
  • When this same House panel released a preliminary report on the Abramoff/White House connections in 2006, revealing far more ties than previously acknowledged, CBS and NBC didn't cover it at all. That same report led directly to the resignation of Susan Ralston, a senior adviser to Karl Rove. But the three major networks -- on all shows, morning, evening, and weekend -- completely ignored the resignation, fulfilling White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino's prediction that "nothing more will come from the [congressional] report, no further fallout from the report."

And then there's the current "break" being given to the White House. Which all, of course, leads to this question: What if this had happened to a Democratic president, and Abramoff's name was Jim McDougal?

(Here's a clue: Yesterday on Fox News, the name "Rezko" was mentioned 19 times, and the name "Abramoff" zero times, according to Lexis).

Devolving into satire: Ari Fleischer, in The Washington Post Sunday: "In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, no matter what position the president took, the press took the opposite." More here.

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have introduced a bill "to prohibit the Defense Department from using money for 'propaganda," which is in response to the Pentagon military analyst scandal. (See our recent Think Again for background). It's really rather impressive, as these major developments pile up, that the implicated networks are able to keep ignoring the story.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dan Troy
Hometown: Davis, CA

In Sunday's NYT, there was a very long "what went wrong" article regarding Hillary Clinton's campaign. The word Iraq did not appear even once.

Do I need to say anything else?

Eric replies: Actually, I meant to blog about that and I forgot. But I'm pretty sure it was mentioned once, which is just as ridiculous.

Name: Yetsuh Frank
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Is it too much to hope that McCain's little put-down of Roth might inspire the master to churn out a quick novella with the following rough outline: A Naval aviator follows exemplary military career with respectful but sometimes rocky tenure of public service and decides, late in life, to sell off his few remaining shreds of self respect and decency in a lustful, greedy quest for power? Just a thought.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

Thanks for the link to the great article by Lt. Col. Bateman on why we don't fire generals anymore.

Name: Scott Kimball III
Hometown: Victoria, Texas


I read LTC Bob's article linked to in Monday's post, and tried to discern the "ruckus". Would you please forgive me for being out of the loop, and perhaps follow up on what exactly is the ruckus of which you speak? I would be most grateful for a brief follow up and/or expansion, as I am a huge devotee of Bob's amazing writing. Thank you, Sir.

Eric replies: Bob? You there?

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