Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 7:48 PM UTC

Various matters

Jake Tapper grills the WH on the whistleblower war; Frank VanderSloot responds; and Tucker Carlson explains himself VIDEO

(1) The always-tenacious Jake Tapper (see this superb grilling of White House spokesman Jay Carney about the Awlaki assassination) sat in the White House briefing room today. He watched as Carney praised the heroism of two reporters killed this morning in Syria and then waxed poetic on the Vital Importance of Journalism. That led Tapper to want to know how the White House can reconcile its claimed reverence for journalism with its unprecedented war on whistleblowers, and began his inquiry with this question:

TAPPER: The White House keeps praising these journalists who are — who’ve been killed –

CARNEY: I don’t know about “keep” — I think -

TAPPER: You’ve done it, Vice President Biden did it in a statement. How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court?

You’re — currently I think that you’ve invoked it the sixth time, and before the Obama administration, it had only been used three times in history. You’re — this is the sixth time — you’re suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that’s something that’s in the public interest of the United States. The administration is taking this person to court. There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.

That question is unanswerable, but see the transcript here as Carney struggles to provide a response while Tapper repeatedly insists on an actual answer.

 

(2) Last night, Frank VanderSloot issued a lengthy response to my story from Friday about him. One can read the full statement here, along with a good video report by a local Idaho news station about the story. Also worth reading is the reply from one of the gay Idaho bloggers whom I highlighted in my story, James Tidmarsh, who removed a post he wrote about VanderSloot after receiving threatening communications from his lawyers.

 

(3) Tucker Carlson has long been a vocal, public advocate of the justness of American wars, but, at age 42, he is yet to enlist to fight any of them. Last night on Fox News, he unleashed what appeared to be one of the more vile comments heard in quite some time, as he publicly opined that “Iran deserves to be annihilated” (see video below):

CARLSON: I think we are the only country with the moral authority [...] sufficient to do that. [The U.S. is] the only country that doesn’t seek hegemony in the world. I do think, I’m sure I’m the lone voice in saying this, that Iran deserves to be annihilated. I think they’re lunatics. I think they’re evil.

The only reservation he expressed was that “we should assess what will happen to the price of energy were we to do that.” And yes, he did say that the United States — the country whose actions are depicted by this map — is “the only country that doesn’t seek hegemony in the world.” And yes, he also — with a straight face — called for the annihilation of 75 million people at the same time that he said about someone else: “they’re lunatics. I think they’re evil.” 

I had an email exchange with Carlson today about these remarks in which I attempted several times to get him to elaborate. It began quite acrimoniously but eventually led to his repudiating what he seemed to be saying and explaining that he misspoke (despite his suggestion to me, Carlson described in a New York Observer interview how he publicly supported the Iraq War at the start, though he turned against it fairly quickly). In any event, it’s good that he renounced these remarks, and I found the exchange with him (which can be read here) to be quite interesting on a few levels (a small portion of what he said took place, at his request, off the record, though it did not at all change the on-the-record part of the exchange).

 

(4) Both Scott Lemieux and Jeralyn Merritt have good commentaries on Elena Kagan’s joining with the five right-wing Supreme Court Justices to dilute the protections of Miranda. One thing I found fascinating is to read how many commenters to this Daily Kos post about the ruling are actually defending the Alito/Thomas/Roberts/Scalia rationale (though the majority are criticizing Kagan). How many of them would be defending the Court conservatives this way had Kagan not joined them in their opinion diluting Miranda? My guess — on which I’d place a fair amount of money — is: zero. Had it been only the five right-wing Justices voting this way, I strongly believe that not a single one of those commenters would be uttering a peep of support for it. Instead, we’d be hearing in unison: look at how these right-wing Republican fascists on the court are attacking our Constitutional rights; this decision shows why the Supreme Court makes Obama’s re-election so urgent!! I’m just constantly amazed — though I know at this point I shouldn’t be — at how there is no political principle, no fixed belief, that will not be jettisoned the moment doing so is even mildly helpful in defending and glorifying the leader (good for President Obama’s Court appointee, Elena Kagan, for joining with Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito in stomping on those excessive Miranda protections for prisoners).

 

(5) In a profile today of Scott Ritter in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, which primarily focuses on his criminal problems, Matt Bai writes:

[I]t was Ritter who then did an about-face and emerged, during the long period that led to the war, as the loudest and most credible skeptic of the Bush administration’s contention that Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. In a bizarre moment in 2002, Ritter even made the long journey back to Baghdad to address the Iraqi Parliament as a private citizen, warning that his own country was about to make a “historical mistake” and urging the Iraqis to allow inspections to resume. For this, and for his relentless insistence that the presence of hidden W.M.D.’s was nothing but a political pretense for war, Ritter was dismissed and even mocked by much of the media establishment (including writers for this magazine and The New York Times).

Leave to the side the question of what was remotely “bizarre” about Ritter’s trip to Baghdad in order to speak to the Iraqi Parliament: Ritter, after denouncing as false the claims being made about Iraqi WMDs, urged the Iraqis to try to avoid war by “loudly reject[ing] any intention of possessing these weapons and then work[ing] within the framework of international law to demonstrate this a reality” by allowing “inspectors unfettered access to sites inside Iraq in order to complete the disarmament tasks as set forth in Security Council resolutions.” What’s bizarre about that? But that aside: it’s remarkable, even after all this time, to read in such clear terms how those who challenged the premise of this war — and who were right about it — were, in Bai’s words, “dismissed and mocked by much of the media establishment (including writers for this magazine and The New York Times).”

 

(6) Last week, CNN’s Erin Burnett announced that “no one buys Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.” Also last week, the following exchange occurred in a Senate hearing:

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pressed James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

“Do you have doubt about the Iranians’ intention when it comes to making a nuclear weapon?” Mr. Graham asked.

“I do,” Mr. Clapper replied.

On a similar note, Jeffrey Goldberg — who did so much work in 2002 and 2003 to convince Americans that Iraq was tied to Al Qaeda (something he continues to do) — yesterday made this claim in a Bloomberg column about Iran: “It is a country that, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, funds al-Qaeda.” So now Iran funds Al Qaeda? Is there any world evil for which Iran is not responsible?

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