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    "The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts" ~ George Orwell





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    Saturday, September 18, 2004

    Fisking Eleanor Clift


    Eleanor Clift is basically that old lady from Little House on the Prairie to me. The one that was always offended and angry? The one with the snotty daughter? Shrill and full of herself. Ineffectually mean out of a constantly indignant sense of affront to her morals and ego. I just reread her recent article linked to in the last post and decided to test run it through my BS detector as a known BS quantity. I am new at this bloggin' gig and as I willingly state, I have no credentials on just about any subject you can name. So keep that in mind as you notice how easily she is picked apart.

    She begins with a bunch of junk about Kerry and the polls to preface the story, but I'm not really sure what that has to do with her point so I skipped it. Her third paragraph introduces the idea that Congress might call for an investigation in to RatherGate, and pooh poohs that by putting it in with other high profile media investigations-the Janet Jackson thing at the Super Bowl-as example of the time Congress wastes on unimportant things. That is followed up by an insertion of her first premise (as always) that Bush is evil and lies constantly:

    Republican lapdogs on Capitol Hill rushed to cash in on "Rathergate." Rep. Chris Cox, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, urged the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications to investigate CBS's use of potentially falsified documents. This is a party that launches investigations into Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction—and now this—while ignoring the intelligence lapses that led the country into an unnecessary war in Iraq, and covering for Bush when he exaggerates the progress in that nation’s development. The National Intelligence Estimate prepared for the president in late July, and reported Thursday by The New York Times, describes Iraq in far more pessimistic terms than Bush does on the campaign trail, with civil war a likely outcome.


    Ok...Apparently there is only time for Congress to do one thing, and nothing else can be done until that one thing is finished. It could be *centuries* before anyone brings this up! I guess Bush was the only person who didn't want to let out this TOP SECRET information. Him and Karl Rove. No commanders on the ground in Iraq might be wondering if it's such a good idea to make this information public, given that the public can screw everything up. I highly doubt Ms. Clift would find cagey behavior on Bill Clinton's part suspicious, and she seems to impart some really pure motives to the Kerry campaign as well. I'll not try to convince you the Kerry campaign tries to spin things. And I don't see how investigating election fraud over gov't regulated airwaves is somehow unimportant. And so four paragraphs in, we come to her lede:

    The White House kept the report under wraps for two months, yet where is the outrage? Instead, Republicans want to launch hearings on the inner workings of CBS. "It really scares me when members of Congress begin to publicly talk about holding an investigation into how a journalist does his job," says Bill Kovach, veteran newsman and founder of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. The First Amendment begins with the words "Congress shall make no law" when it comes to abridging freedom of religion or expression, or freedom of the press. "What if Congress began an investigation into what the Catholic church does," Kovach says to make his point on how wildly inappropriate Cox's action is.


    Well, the report is Top Secret. I'm sure that was where it was supposed to stay. Under Wraps. That's why Bush didn't tell anyone about it. He wasn't supposed to. See? Also, why when did the CIA suddenly earn Clift's respect for calling things correctly? Does she think a Kerry administration is going to bend over backwards to report its goings-on any more than CBS does to report its newsmaking? Why should Bush care what you think of one little piece of the picture he has of what is going on over there? And yes, that is how the first Amendment starts. I don't see anything in there that says "Congress shall never investigate wrongdoing by people it has oversight jurisdiction on if they are in the press, even if they don't plan to write a law about it and several laws on the books might have been broken in the expression of political thought" Do you, Eleanor? And tell me Eleanor...Did you check on Mr. Kovach's assertion that Congress has not investigated the Catholic Church? Do you suggest that Congress should not investigate any Faith-based initiative groups run by the Catholic church? What about Catholic Schools? That's church business, right? Sorry to interrupt, Go on.

    Clearly CBS and Dan Rather now have doubts about the quality of the documents they aired last week about Bush's behavior as a young lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard. The network had reason to question the story even before the broadcast, but chose not to share its concerns with the viewing public.


    Ah, somewhat close to the mark. Nothing at all close to "The documents are forged and anyone with a brain knows that now" But since you've given up that much, let's let you take the next 1 1/2 paragraphs describing how CBS could have still pulled off the smear if they hadn't been so greedy, and then list off 3 completely weak and already thoroughly DOA (debunked on arrival) points to support the Fake But Accurate line.


    A former New York Times Washington bureau chief and former editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kovach thinks CBS should have said at the very beginning that it believed the documents to be accurate but couldn't be sure, but that people on the scene at the time say they adequately reflect the perceptions of Bush's squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, who died in 1984. "Be honest about what you've got and you wouldn't be in as much jeopardy," says Kovach, whose high ethical standards throughout his long career earned him the moniker, "the conscience of journalism.”

    The controversy over the memos overshadowed what is known about Bush's Guard service, or lack thereof. First, Bush needed political pull to land a coveted spot in the Texas Guard. Former Texas House speaker Ben Barnes, a Democrat, told Rather that he helped Bush at the request of a Bush family friend, that he did it for countless other well-connected young men and that he regretted it. Secondly, we know Bush didn't show up in Alabama when he was supposed to. There's a $50,000 reward for anybody who can vouch for him, and nobody has stepped forward. Third, The Boston Globe revealed that Bush never reported for Guard duty in Boston as promised when he attended Harvard Business School. Lastly, Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, says the content of the disputed memos is true even if the memos were forged.


    So the "conscience of journalism" doesn't have a problem with throwing unsubstantiated hearsay smears out there, but forgeries are just not cricket. Besides, as Clift points out Ben Barnes(who is a pure witness) said it was true. Also, there's that 50,000 dollars that no one has claimed so Bush must have no supporters of his story! Well hang on there, pard. She's talking about this story here. Actually, several witnesses to Bush's attendance in Alabama have come forth, though none to claim the prize. For your own perusal of the wiggle room they afford themselves, you may find their disclaimers and criteria for proof here. I dunno counselor...Ms. Clift seems to omit stories like this in hopes of you not knowing the truth. That there *are* people who have said what she says no one has said. That's not the only one, but I only need one to prove my point. Eleanor Clift is bullshitting you. Let's continue.

    Speculation centers on Bill Burkett, a retired Texas National Guard officer, who earlier this year said that he had overheard a conversation in the spring of 1997 about needing to "sanitize" Bush's Guard records. Bush was running for a second term as governor and anticipating a run for the presidency. Burkett said he later saw dozens of pages from Bush's file dumped in the trash.

    It isn't hard to imagine a frustrated Burkett re-creating memos he knew existed, and which he believed the Bush machine had destroyed—and doing an amateurish job of fakery. "Your imagination is free to roam anywhere it wants to because they [CBS] haven't shut the door," says Kovach.


    Yes, this is filler to get to the end, which has nothing to do with outrage at all. She hasn't mentioned the Kerry campaign again, or Burkett's possible connection to it. She is speculating here that Burkett is a rogue wacko who went nuts from being oppressed in his first beating at the hands of Karl Rove and did the only thing he could do. That would be right in line with her upcoming article which I predict will try and defend against the accusation that the DNC or Kerry was involved in this in any way. Her last paragraph she gives to Kovach, in hopes that the nod to journalistic integrity will obfuscate what she wants to happen: CBS give up Burkett, and make sure everyone knows Burkett is a disgruntled loner. She is "winking and nodding" to CBS and the DNC that she is on point, and in place to help them spin this away from Kerry. Here's the last paragraph so you can wonder what the hell it has to do with "where's the outrage" or Kerry polls or what is going on in Iraq. She also wants us to remember not to lose faith in anonymous sources. After all, they just handed us this TOP SECRET report to use against Bush, didn't they?

    Journalists fight to the death to protect a source, but in this case Kovach thinks the burden is on CBS to provide more information about a story that goes to the heart of the network's credibility. "Anonymity is a contract,” he says. “If I'm counting on your information being absolutely foolproof, and if you deceive me, I have no obligation to protect you. It's a two-way street." The facts about Bush's Guard service are not in doubt. The question is can Rather credibly back up his claims. It's a fair question to ask any journalist.


    posted by M@ at 6:52 PM   0 comments links to this post

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