Palintology: A Play In One Act

Sarah Palin [to Media]: LEAVE ME ALONE!

MEDIA looks over and notices SARAH PALIN

Media [to Palin]: Oh, are you still here?


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Joe The Chunder

Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher comments from Israel on the state of modern war reporting:

You don’t need to see what’s happening every day, that’s my personal opinion, you don’t have to share it. But, you know, okay, you don’t have to see, you know, 800 dead, 801 dead. It’s like they drill that in your head. … They want you to sit there saying there are so many people dying. You know these are large, these are numbers, you know I don’t want to take away from that. Let me, uh, think about how to say that again. Just essentially, they keep drilling it into your head, newscast after newscast after newscast.

I think the military should decide what information to give the media and then the media can release it to the public. I don’t believe they need to be in the front lines with soldiers, I don’t believe they need to, uh, you know, be bothering the military for information or for access to certain areas.

Actually, allowing the military to have complete control over the flow of information in and out of war zones is a terrible idea.

First, it goes without saying that the constant bravery of American soldiers deserves our eternal thanks and praise.  Still, the military isn’t perfect.  Like any other part of the federal government, it can–and does–make mistakes, sometimes big ones.

Having an objective media present in war zones can help expose and remedy problems with the military, thus making our armed forces stronger.  Having journalists in war zones also  serves as a check on the military, ensuring that soldiers follow protocol and remain professional.

Actual war correspondent Bill Roggio makes the same point:

[I]f Joe’s spent any real time with the military, he’d know they typically don’t want reporters to cheerlead for them. In my experience, all the troops on the ground want is a fair shake (senior commanders may or may not want such candor). If something is working, they want you to tell that story, and if something is going wrong, they want that story out there too. One reason for the latter is that often the media can serve as a back door to get some problems fixed that the chain of command may be ignoring.

For those of you keeping track, this is strike three for Sam Wurzelbacher.

I wonder when Pajamas Media will get sick of taking flack for Sam’s tidbits of inane right-wing commentary and just call him home, already.  Heck, even Pajamas Media’s own commentators don’t know what they were thinking by sending him to Israel.

How long it will take for conservatives to realize just how much Wurzelbacher is damaging their credibility? If they had any sense, they’d stop treating him like some kind of bizarre right-wing folk hero and just dump him–there are plenty of conservatives out there with good ideas,  why keep promoting the ones with bad ideas?

Joe The Blunder (UPDATED)

Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher’s trip to Israel isn’t going very well.

First, he criticized reporting from war zones…while he was reporting from a war zone.

Now he’s gotten into a fight with an Israeli journalist for not being pro-Israel enough:

JOE: The story here is people are being killed and the media’s slanting it and trying to make it Hamas is, uh, as far as, that Israel’s being bad. Do you believe Israel is bad?

REPORTER: Do I believe it?

JOE: Yeah, do you?!

REPORTER: I’m Israeli, so…

JOE: So answer the question!

REPORTER: No, I don’t think Israel is bad.

JOE: Do you think Israel has every right to protect itself?

REPORTER: Yeah.

[pause]

JOE: You do?!

REPORTER: Yeah.

JOE: Have you said that on air?

REPORTER: I’m just a reporter.

That’s modern conservative punditry for you–embarrassingly ignorant and unnecessarily belligerent. Are conservatives really letting this guy speak for them? Wasn’t Sarah Palin bad enough?

UPDATE: And here’s what Bill Roggio–an actual war correspondent–has to say:

I believe the media should have access during conflicts. Shutting the media out would entirely concede the information to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, etc. who are increasingly developing sophisticated information strategies. Yes, there is bad and slanted reporting coming out of the combat zones, but there also are good reporters out there who can get the story right. The public needs to hear these stories to understand the nature of the war.

Third, if Joe’s spent any real time with the military, he’d know they typically don’t want reporters to cheerlead for them. In my experience, all the troops on the ground want is a fair shake (senior commanders may or may not want such candor). If something is working, they want you to tell that story, and if something is going wrong, they want that story out there too. One reason for the latter is that often the media can serve as a back door to get some problems fixed that the chain of command may be ignoring.

Finally, Joe is advocating a 1940’s media strategy for wars that are being fought in the 21st Century. We can’t roll back the mass access to print, television, the Internet, cell phones, etc. and push the news on grainy films at the theater.

Joe The Bluster

Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, commenting on war reporting from Israel:

“I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I-I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers. I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, ‘Well look at this atrocity,’ well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.”

[Emphasis added]

Obviously Wurzelbacher doesn’t think nobody should be allowed to report on wars, otherwise he wouldn’t be  in Israel milking his fifteen minutes.  He just thinks  war reporting should be restricted to people with certain opinions–apparently he doesn’t understand the difference between journalism and propaganda. Hey, maybe that’s why they have journalism schools.

Of course, the most brilliant part of this is that he’s attacking media outlets for reporting from war zones…after being sent by a media outlet to report from a war zone.

Sadly, that’s modern conservative punditry for you, where “nobody else should be allowed to do what I’m allowed to do; only people with certain opinions should speak; reporters shouldn’t be allowed to report” is considered smart and insightful.

It’s going to be a long few years…

Stimulating

President-elect Obama’s economic stimulus package is in trouble.

Not because it’s a bad bill, but because it’s an extremely ambitious plan that openly defies the Washington conventional wisdom that tax cuts are the only solution to all economic problems.

There’s a chance the same old song and dance between the GOP and the media that has stymied Democrats for years will be used by Republicans to torpedo the stimulus package and oust the Democratic majority in Congress.

Below is the worst case scenario of how the GOP will game the media into letting them kill the economic stimulus bill and then blame the resulting catastrophe on the Democrats.

Here were two chyrons that ran on MSNBC today, several hours apart:

Will Congress Pass Obama’s Plan? Pres.-Elect faces criticism from Dems & Republicans on stimulus

Obama’s Economic Drama

First, we all know that if John McCain had won the election and proposed what Obama is proposing, the media would be lauding him as a maverick for bucking both parties and doing what was right instead of what was popular.

Of course, since it’s a Democrat we’re talking about, the media is airing wall-to-wall criticism of his plan. And they won’t bother to differentiate between constructive criticism designed to improve the bill and poison pill criticism intended to kill the legislation outright (I’ll let you guess which party will be saying which). The media will uncritically repeat all criticism regardless of economic merit, because investigation and analysis are far more difficult than he-said-she-said stenography.

And by airing criticism of the stimulus without noting its intent or merit, the media will gradually erode whatever popular support the bill might now have. That will force Obama to bend over backward in order to make everyone happy, revising and changing the legislation in a way that will ultimately leave nobody happy and rob the bill of its ability to fix the economy. “Serious” journalists and commentators will decide that half a loaf is better than nothing at all and urge Obama to pass the legislation anyway, ineffective ideological garbage and all.

And a year or so from now, when the economy is still bad, Republicans blame it all on Obama, ignoring both George W. Bush’s role in creating this mess and their own role in perpetuating it. They’ll start talking about the “Obama recession” and “Obama economy,” terms which the media will pick up and repeat endlessly because it’s a more interesting angle than “yeah, the economy still sucks.”

Thus, Republicans will blame Democrats for a problem they created and perpetuated. And come 2010 they will try to convince the American people that they’re the only ones who can clean up the mess they made and then foisted off on all of us.

Of course, I could be wrong.

The Transparent Trap

trap1Republicans have dragged out battered, dog-eared copies of their 1990’s playbook to help them remember how to deal with a Democratic president.  Using one of their old plays, they’re trying desperately to connect President-elect Obama to the Rod Blagojevich scandal.

But, as I’ve said before, there’s no connection between Obama and Blagojevich’s pay-for-play scheme.  At his first press conference dealing with the scandal, the President-elect said:

I have never spoken to the governor on this subject.  I’m confident that no representative of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact.

And Obama was, in fact, vindicated by U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who explicitly stated that Obama is no way involved in the Blagojevich scandal.  And in the 78-page criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich, Barack Obama isn’t mentioned by name once.

But that wasn’t enough for Republicans, who are demanding a full accounting of what kind of contact the transition team had with Blagojevich.

So, Obama and the transition team did a review; guess what they found:

President-elect Barack Obama said Monday that an internal review had found that his advisers were not involved in any “inappropriate” talks with Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich or his aides over the vacant Senate seat in Illinois

The President-elect said that he and the transition team will release their full report next week.

But even after bending over backwards to meet every Republican demand for transparency and proof that he had nothing to do with Blagojevich’s little pay-for-play scheme, the GOP still isn’t satisfied with Obama.  They’re demanding that he release the results of the internal investigation right now because otherwise it looks suspicious, like he has something to hide.

The problem here is that Patrick Fitzgerald is still working on building the case against Blagojevich, and he explicitly asked the transition team to wait until next week before releasing their findings.

So now the GOP is trying to lure Obama into a catch-22: if he listens to the prosecutor and waits until next week to release his report, Republicans will accuse him of trying to cover up evidence he was dealing with Blagojevich.  But if  Obama listens to Republican demands and releases the report now, conservatives will attack Obama for defying the prosecutor and will accuse him of trying to spoil the investigation in order to protect Blagojevich.

In other words, in the eyes of conservatives, Obama can do no right here.  Because the point of their protestations isn’t to find the truth, it’s to create a situation that makes Obama look as bad as possible regardless of the facts.

Expect to see much more of this in the coming years–Republicans will place increasingly unreasonable demands on Obama, setting standards he could never hope to live up to (and standards that they have never held any of their fellow Republivcans to) and then baiting him into traps where they can attack him no matter what he does.

The GOP is partying like it’s 1992 all over again; hopefully the Democrats and the media will be wiser to their antics this time around.