Various matters

The White House uses David Broder. Jose Padilla's captors must testify. More research on the psychology of the Bush follower.

Published February 20, 2007 12:36PM (EST)

(Updated below)

Several items of interest:

(1) Following up on the posts here about David Broder's most recent column -- in which he proclaimed that "President Bush is poised for a political comeback" and heaped all sorts of praise on the President -- the Post's Dan Froomkin highlights why Broder's columns are so significant and, more importantly, how they are used by an appreciative White House (see "Broder Speaks" section):

Say what you will about Washington Post reporter and columnist David S. Broder, but he is the dean of the Washington press corps and his columns are often an accurate reflection of the temperament of Washington's top political reporters. . .

The White House press office was so delighted with Broder's column that it sent it out to the entire White House press corps this morning at 6:44 a.m., under the heading: "In Case You Missed It.

Compare that fact to Broder's denial, during last week's " online chat," that he has helped to "prop up" the Bush presidency. Broder boasted: "You will find no one in the White House or on the Republican side of the House or Senate who thinks I have been propping up the Bush presidency." How about the White House official excitedly disseminating Broder's column?

There are invariably commenters and e-mailers who insist that these Beltway pundits can be ignored because they have no real following and nobody listens to them. It may be true that there are relatively few members of the public who listen directly to David Broder, but the shallow tripe he churns out is read -- and respected -- by most Beltway media elites, whose views are shaped by people like Broder and whose media coverage and mindset is as well.

(2) This is a very important and positive development:

Officials of a Navy brig where suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla was held have been ordered to testify at a hearing next week to determine whether his treatment there has left him unfit to stand trial.

It will be the first time Defense Department officials with direct knowledge will speak publicly about Padilla's 3 1/2 years of confinement - which defense experts say has caused him irreparable mental harm and made it impossible for his lawyers to adequately prepare for trial.

For reasons I have detailed many times -- here and here, for instance -- the administration's treatment of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla is one of the most disgraceful though illustrative events of the last six years (and there is a very vigorous competition for that distinction), and the more light that is shined on what our country did to Padilla, the better.

(3) Bob Altemeyer is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba, and has become one of the world's leading experts on the psychological dynamics which fuel authoritarian political movements and their followers. John Dean's best-selling book, Conservatives Without Conscience (which I reviewed here), relied on substantial amounts of Altemeyer's research.

Now, Altemeyer has written his own book, The Authoritarians, which expounds on that research. He is releasing the book chapter by chapter for free online, and the first six chapters can be read here. I have read the first three chapters and highly recommend them. The book provides real insight into the political movement which has been ruling our country for the last six years -- a movement which has at least as much to do with psychological drives as it does public policy and geopolitical considerations.

(4) Much press criticisms focuses on the media's malfeasance during the Bush Presidency, but as Digby reminds us in a typically insightful post, the genesis for many, if not most, of the fundamental media defects is located in the Clinton years, and specifically the media's uncritical, breathless treatment of all of the contrived scandals churned out by the scandal machine that was really the precursor to the Bush movement.

(5) Internal power struggles in Iraq are often complex and murky, rendering it a permanent challenge to know in detail what is actually happening there at any given time. Chris Floyd is one of the most astute commentators on the war, and this post on the current posture of the various factions there is highly worth reading.

(6) Several commenters to the post regarding my debate with Frank Gaffney have suggested, wisely, that the false claims Gaffney made about the Duelfer Report and the status of the WMD program in Iraq should be debunked. I lack the time to do that over the next several days, but if someone wants to compare the claims Gaffney made -- which one can find on the audio here -- to actual established fact, that would likely be a valuable exercise. If you have a blog and write about Gaffney's blatantly false claims concerning WMDs, e-mail me the link to the post and I will write a follow-up post linking to it.

(7) Gary Kamiya is a very good writer whose columns I began reading long before I moved to Salon (his 2004 review of the neoconservative tract by Richard Perle and David Frum, An End of Evil, is one of the most scathing and insightful condemnations of that twisted ideology). He has a new column about the post-Bush era, the role of the liberal blogosphere and other related matters. I don't agree with all its particulars, but it raises some worthwhile questions.


(8) University of Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos, writing in The Rocky Mountain News, points out the pervasive dishonesty and extremism at the core of Glenn Reynolds' recent call for the murder of Iranian scientists and mullahs (discussed at length here), and Campos makes this point:

And while it would perhaps be an exaggeration to call people like Reynolds and his fellow law professor Hugh Hewitt (who defended Reynolds' comments) fascists, it isn't an exaggeration to point out that these gentlemen sound very much like fascists when they encourage the American government to murder people.

All this raises several interesting questions. For instance, does academic freedom insulate a law professor from any institutional consequences when he advocates murder? Reynolds and Hewitt, after all, certainly didn't object when University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill's celebration of the murder of American civilians raised serious questions about why the university had chosen to employ and tenure such a person, and led to an investigation of Churchill's academic record.

Indeed, Hewitt and Reynolds both went out of their way to publicize the Churchill affair, as an example of left-wing extremism in our universities.

Why does right-wing extremism in our universities, as represented by such things as law professors calling on the Bush administration to commit murder, get so much less attention?

Certainly, it's worth asking Reynolds' administrative superiors at the University of Tennessee what limits, if any, the terms and conditions of Reynolds' employment put on his behavior. After all, if the American government were to follow Reynolds' advice, his employer would have an accessory to murder on its payroll.

I would strongly oppose any efforts to have Reynolds academically sanctioned or punished in any way for the views he has expressed, as toxic and destructive as I find both those views and him. And the idea that there could be any criminal liability arising from such comments is absurd, and itself somewhat toxic.

Nonetheless, Campos' central point is entirely accurate. It is long past time to cease treating people like Glenn Reynolds (and his fellow Bush evangelist, Hugh Hewitt) as though they are within the bounds of mainstream decency. What they advocate on a daily basis is as extreme and contrary to our country's political values and traditions as can be. The fact that Reynolds refrains from using vulgar words when espousing these obscene views does not in any way mitigate what he is.

By Glenn Greenwald

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