Cheney’s stenographers fight back

Politico's editor says his role is to "get newsworthy people to say interesting things." Even if they're not true

Topics: Dick Cheney, Media Criticism, Washington, D.C.,

Cheney's stenographers fight backFILE -- In this June 1, 2009 file photo, former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)(Credit: Associated Press)

Throughout the year, Politico has repeatedly published as “news articles” comments from Dick Cheney, which its ”reporters” faithfully write down and print with virtually no challenge, skepticism or contradiction.  So extreme has this behavior become that even Beltway TV personalities such as Chris Matthews are beginning to mock it.  This afternoon, Greg Sargent asked Editor-in-Chief John Harris to defend his magazine’s conduct, and Harris replied by claiming, in essence, that Cheney’s comments are “newsworthy” and that it’s Politico‘s job to “get newsworthy people to say interesting things.”

Harris’ reply is a complete non sequitur.  Nobody I’ve heard objects to Politico‘s act of telling its readers about the ”interesting things” Cheney has to say.  The objection is that Politico mindlessly reprints any and all claims Cheney wants to make, no matter how factually dubious or even blatantly false, without question or challenge.  By definition, then, Politico serves Cheney as his official stenographer and spokesman (i.e., writing down and announcing what someone has said), rather than acting as journalists (i.e., stating what the facts are and how and why a politicians’ statements are untrue).  Harris doesn’t dispute this; he simply explains that — like most establishment journalistsPolitico‘s role is not to document someone’s falsehoods, but only to repeat and amplify them.  We’re supposed to believe that what Judy Miller did was somehow anomalous and worthy of being disgraced, yet virtually every time “reporters” like Harris explain how they perceive their role, they describe exactly what Miller did:  we get important people to say interesting things and write it down, regardless of whether it’s true.

Thus, in their last Cheney “article,” Politico let Cheney attack Obama for giving “terrorists the rights of Americans, let[ting] them lawyer up and read[ing] them their Miranda rights” — without mentioning that the Bush administration did exactly that with Richard Reid, Zacharais Moussoui and several others (see this new Jake Tapper article detailing these contradictions for how an actual ”journalist” reports on a political figure’s false accusations).  Politico also let Cheney accuse Obama of wanting to “release the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists” from Guantanamo — without noting that (a) many of the to-be-released detainees are ones even the Bush administration concluded did nothing wrong and are not a threat; (b) the vast majority of detainees held at Guantanamo were completely innocent; (c) it was Bush/Cheney who released many of the detainees who have since returned to the so-called “battlefield,” including one of the alleged leaders of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula; and (d) Obama is using the same tools used by Bush/Cheney — trials, military commissions and indefinite detention — to imprison all detainees deemed to be a “threat.”  Politico also let Cheney repeatedly claim that “that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war” — without noting that Obama twice escalated in Afghanistan, began bombing Yemen, and massively ratcheted up our drone attacks in Pakistan.

In other words, they dutifully wrote down a bunch of falsehoods and lies Cheney told, and passed those claim on to their readers without noting that they were false.   When confronted with their conduct, Politico‘s Editor-in-Chief blithely claims that this misleading, subservient behavior is his understanding of what “journalists” are supposed to.  And it undoubtedly is.  It’s true that, two days before printing its latest Cheney homage, Politico ran a good article by one of its few real reporters, Josh Gerstein, documenting that Bush waited longer to comment on Richard Reid than Obama waited to comment on the Northwest Airlines incident, but that’s only one of Cheney’s lies, and debunking it in an entirely separate article two days earlier doesn’t justify printing Cheney’s comments without challenge. 

Of course, Politico will continue to serve Cheney in this way — offering him a challenge-free platform to say whatever he wants — because if they ever stopped being good little boys for Dick Cheney, he would find someone else to serve as his faithful stenographers, and then they, rather than Politico, would get the Drudge links and gossip attention which Politico, above all else, desperately craves.

* * * * *

I’m not a big fan of “we-are-doomed” symbolism.  But for those looking for end-of-the-decade signs of our impending collapse, it would be hard to do better than pointing to the appointment of the Executive Editor of Politico — of Politico — to the Pulitzer Committee

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>