Various items

Right-wing figures call for the president to ignore the Supreme Court and for the shooting deaths of dissidents. Journalists demand that their subjects be treated respectfully. Democratic capitulation on FISA is imminent.


Glenn Greenwald
June 14, 2008 3:21PM (UTC)

(1) Laura Ingraham was on Fox News last night interviewing Majorie Cohn about the Supreme Court's habeas corpus ruling in Boumediene, and advocated that the President should simply ignore the ruling of the Court:

Marjorie, I was trying to think to myself, look, if I were President Bush, and I had heard that this case had come down, and I'm out of office in a few months. My ratings, my popularity ratings are pretty low, I would have said at this point, that's very interesting that the court decided this, but I'm not going to respect the decision of the court because my job is to keep this country safe.

Talk radio host (and sometimes Fox News guest anchor) Michael Reagan yesterday noted that a new group was sending letters to U.S. soldiers arguing that the U.S. Government had a role in the 9/11 attacks and then said this about people who argue that:

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Take em out and shoot em. . . . They are traitors to this country, and shoot them. . . . Anybody who does that doesn't deserve to live. You shoot them. You call them traitors. That's what they are. And you shoot em dead. I'll pay for the bullets.

The rant went on like that for awhile. Reagan, the son of the canonized former President, previously said that "Howard Dean should be arrested and hung (sic) for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war."

Obviously, people like Laura Ingraham and Michael Reagan are crazed and absurd figures, but they have large audiences. There is a sizable portion of this country's population that has been fed a steady diet of ideas of this sort for years, a view of Government and political power that prevails in the worst tyrannies on the planet. The Leader has the right to break our laws. He should defy court rulings that enforce constitutional guarantees. The Government has the right to put people in cages for life with no process. People should be imprisoned or shot by virtue of the views they express.

As the Right comes to accept that their political movement lies in ruins -- as evidence of their rejection by the country becomes too compelling to ignore -- the desperation and frustration level increases and much of this rhetoric will become more extreme (note that Ingraham cited the President's low popularity ratings as a reason why he should ignore the Supreme Court's ruling; National Review's Andy McCarthy on Thursday suggested that in response to the Court's ruling, we should take all of the Guantanamo detainees and just slaughter them en masse). Having millions of citizens inculcated over many years with truly deranged, extremist tripe of this sort -- and Fox just announced that Ingraham would have her own show beginning next week -- obviously has consequences. We've seen just some of those over the last seven years, and the reaction is likely to intensify as that movement grows more impotent and marginalized.

(2) Several weeks ago, The Huffington Post's Mayhill Fowler, without identifying herself as a journalist, tape recorded Bill Clinton at a public event when -- in response to a question Fowler asked while speaking to him after his speech -- Clinton let loose a series of insults against Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum, who had written a rather dubious article repeating all sorts of petty gossip and innuendo about the former President. Establishment journalists such as Newsweek's Jonathan Alter righteously marched forth to do what they always do: reflexively defend the rules and behavior of the establishment media and vigorously condemn anyone who deviates from them. In an article in The New York Times covering the controversy over Fowler's reporting, Alter huffed:

This makes it very difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs. If you don't have trust, you don't get good stories. If someone comes along and uses deception to shatter that trust, she has hurt the very cause of a free flow of public information that she claims she wants to assist.

You identify yourself when you're interviewing somebody. It's just a form of cheating not to.

As usual, the journalists' rules are nonsensical. As Atrios noted:

Acceptable to journalists: quoting anonymous source describing private conversation at which journalist was not present.

Unacceptable to journalists: "citizen journalist" bypassing actual journalists and using her own platform to tell the world what happened at public campaign event.

But beyond that incoherence, it's always so striking how the first instinct of journalists is to protect the people they are charged with covering and their incestuous little system, to ensure that political figures never feel uncomfortable, to preserve the access to them that they have. To its credit, the Times article describing this controversy gave ample space to Jane Hamsher to point out what is so perverse about the mentality of establishment journalists such as Alter:

But to Jane Hamsher, a onetime Hollywood producer who founded Firedoglake, a politics-oriented Web site that tilts left, Mr. Alter's rules of the road are in need of repaving. For starters, she said, the onus was on Mr. Clinton to establish who Ms. Fowler was before deciding to speak as he did. That he failed to quiz her at all, Ms. Hamsher said, was Mr. Clinton's problem, not Ms. Fowler's. As a result, Ms. Hamsher said, the public got to experience the unplugged musings of a former president (and candidate's spouse) in a way that might never have been captured on tape by an old boy on the bus like Mr. Alter.

"It's hurting America that journalists consider their first loyalty to be to their subjects, and not to the people they're reporting for," she said. Told, for example, that the Times ethics policy states that "staff members should disclose their identity to people they cover (whether face to face or otherwise)," Ms. Hamsher was dismissive. In the context of political reporting, she said, such guidelines are intended to "protect this clubby group of journalists and their high-ranking political subjects, and keep access to themselves."

"That," she added, "is not the world we're living in anymore."

One sees that mentality from journalists over and over, such as when hordes of media stars expressed outrage that the reporter from The Scotsman, Gerri Peev, would not honor Samantha Power's after-the-fact request to deem inflammatory comments she made to Peev about Hillary Clinton "off-the-record." Exemplified by the lecture which Tucker Carlson delivered to Peev, many media stars argued that a key consideration for journalists in deciding what to report is:

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the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don't talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.

Don't you think that hurts the rest of us in our effort to get to the truth from the principals in these campaigns?

The principal concern of most establishment journalists is to defend their own prerogatives and those of "the powerful," and increasingly, there is simply no difference between those two groups.

(3) Two articles -- one from Congressional Quarterly and one from The Hill -- yesterday reported what has appeared inevitable for some time. Specifically, Democratic Congressional leaders (i.e., Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Silvestre Reyes) have now reached agreement with the White House and the GOP to pass a FISA bill that would give the President, in essence, everything he wants: guaranteed dismissal of the telecom lawsuits and vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers.

I'm trying to get some more details about this deal -- and am also trying to minimize the less rational aspects of my reaction -- before I write about it, which I'll do tomorrow at the latest. Suffice to say, the Democrats are about to reverse the only worthwhile act they've undertaken since being handed control of the Congress 18 months ago, and will endorse and authorize yet another aspect of the Bush lawbreaking regime. I ask this literally, not rhetorically: can someone identify even one meaningful event from the past 18 months that would have been different had the GOP retained control of both houses of Congress? Just one.

(4) The debate I referenced yesterday which I had with Jed Babbin on WNYC's The Takeaway, regarding the Supreme Court ruling on habeas corpus, can be heard here (under Friday downloads). The segment begins at roughly 4:45 minutes into the show.

And the ACLU, as part of its Membership Conference in DC last weekend, recorded numerous podcast interviews with various Conference speakers, including me. Those podcasts can be heard here.

(5) For reasons that are completely baffling, to put that mildly, the National Press Club is hosting an event this week for Larry Sinclair, a plainly disturbed individual who has spent the last year desperately trying to get attention for himself by making the tawdriest, most scurrilous accusations about Barack Obama. FireDogLake has a petition here urging the Press Club to investigate Sinclair's credibility before deciding whether to put its stamp of approval on this event.

(6) Avedon Carol, who blogs from the U.K., notes what she calls "the downright inspiring full text of Tory MP David Davis' speech announcing his resignation in order to force a by-election over passage of an extension of the time the government may hold defendants without charge." I wrote about Davis' resignation yesterday, and his full statement -- which also protests the dangers of Britains' sprawling surveillance state -- can be read here. Such principled acts of sacrifice and conscience in protest of our own government's radicalism is exactly what has been so rare in our political class over the last seven years.

(7) Numerous people over the past couple weeks have emailed to advise/complain that there is some sort of script problem that is causing this blog to load quite slowly or even freeze the computer when coming here. I've been experiencing the same problem. Salon's tech people are aware of it and are working to fix it.


Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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