David Broder: Embodiment of Beltway values

The press corps Dean who led the attempt to drive Bill Clinton from office dismisses the crimes of the Bush years as mere "policy disputes"

Published June 7, 2008 9:50AM (EDT)

David Broder, Washington Post chat, yesterday:

Crestwood, N.Y.: So the Senate report -- supported by two Republicans -- supports the conclusion that we all reached several years ago, that Bush and Cheney used propaganda and ginned up intelligence to trick the country into war. If this is not an impeachable offense, what do you define as one? And if an impeachable offense is committed, isn't it the height of irresponsibility for the Democrats to put possible harm to their electoral chances (negligible, in my opinion) ahead of their oaths to the Constitution? How will history look back at this disgraceful chapter in both the executive and legislative branches?

washingtonpost.com: Bush Inflated Threat From Iraq's Banned Weapons, Report Says (Post, June 6)

David S. Broder: You'll have to forgive me, but I am reluctant to see every big policy dispute turned into a criminal or impeachable affair. There needs to be accountability but there also needs to be proportionality. This country is engaged in two wars and has serious, serious domestic problems. To stop everything and attempt to impeach and remove a president who has less than a year to serve would not strike me as the best use of our energy. And for what? So Dick Cheney can be president?

David Broder, Washington Post chat, September 15, 2006:

Washington, D.C.: Mr Broder, if you feel Karl Rove is owed an apology from the pundits and writers over Valerie Plame, did you also call for an apology to the Clintons after Ken Starr, the Whitewater investigation and the failed attempt to impeach President Clinton? If not, why not?

David S. Broder: As best, I can recall, I did not call for such an apology. My view, for whatever it is worth long after the dust has settled on Monica, was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied to his Cabinet and his closest assoc, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned and turned over the office to Vice President Gore. I think history would have been very different had he done that. . . .

What bothered me greatly about his actions was not what he said to his lawyers but what he told the Cabinet, his White House staff -- You can go out and defend me because this did not happen. And he told the same lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing -- and that is why I thought he should step down.

No matter how many times one sees it, it will never cease to amaze that the exact same media mavens who righteously strutted around demanding that Bill Clinton be impeached or forced to resign because the "honor" of our political system demanded that, continue casually to dismiss every crime of the last seven years as nothing more than a garden-variety, good faith "policy dispute" which only shrill rabble want to see "turned into a criminal or impeachable affair." So the Senate issues a report documenting that the President and Vice President repeatedly made false statements to induce the citizenry to support a war against another country that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead for no reason -- added on to the piles of outright lawbreaking under this administration -- and to David Broder, those are just mere "policy disputes" which (unlike Bill Clinton's grave crimes) merit no punishment.

The only news made by that Senate report is that, in our country, a report like this -- documenting that the Government lied us into a war -- is no longer news at all. Extraordinary conduct of that type has been converted by the David Broders of the world into commonplace "policy disputes." As a result, our press corps -- which literally spent hours and hours on the air Thursday night pitifully staking out Hillary Clinton's house and breathlessly reporting on the movement of every SUV and have spent days (with no end in sight) sharing with each other their moronic fantasies about what Clinton and Obama might have said to one another -- have ignored almost completely the issuance of that Senate report, as well as the fact that John McCain now says he embraces the extremist theories of presidential power that have led to the panoply of these abuses.

It's not difficult to understand why our media stars are so dismissive of the crimes committed by the Bush administration. It's because, with very few exceptions, they've endorsed and defended those crimes. Here's what Broder said in the same 2006 chat where he re-iterated his view that "honor" compelled Bill Clinton to resign his presidency:

Kingston, Ontario: I'm rather surprised by your and your correspondents' calm tone of voice this morning. Unless the New York Times editorial page is wildly off-track, the U.S. is in the grip of a major constitutional crisis, with the government trying to set aside long established guarantees of legal behavior, both internally and in relation to international law. Where's the sense of urgency?

David S. Broder: Far be it from me to question the New York Times, but I'd like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here. Editorial writers sometimes get carried away by their own rhetoric.

Indeed. The Beltway media, as its Dean, David Broder, said, has been nothing over the last seven years but "calm and quiet" -- just like well-behaved, respectful children are expected to be. When Scott McClellan used the term "complicit enablers" to describe our press corps, this is the face of that: soothingly assuring the public that there is nothing at all unusual or radical about what's going on in our Government, that everything from torture to warrantless, illegal spying to process-less detentions and the abolition of habeas corpus and even lying our country into war are just standard "policy disputes" that should be resolved in a gentlemanly manner through respectful and civil discourse, not by excessive and mean-spirited weapons such as investigations and prosecutions. As Broder said, the notion that there should be a "sense of urgency" is for people who "get carried away by their own rhetoric."

The same stars of the Liberal Media who paralyzed the country for two years with their fixation on Bill Clinton's sex scandal -- and who relentlessly insisted that he be forced from office -- have spent the last seven years calmly telling us that there is no reason to get all excited or upset by what the administration has been doing. As the administration repeatedly broke multiple laws and degraded every last realm of our political culture, most of our Broder-led media class remained nice and "calm and quiet." Of course they don't believe there should be any consequences for the crimes that have been committed by this administration because, as complicit enablers in all of it, those crimes are also their own.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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