Thursday, May 16, 2013

The real scandal is the state of our news media

That's what I tweeted yesterday morning. I'd like to unpack that a bit with how some in the media have disgraced themselves over the last few days. What's really been going on with all of this scandal-fest is a conflation of right wing media, leftist extremists and the village idiots in Washington D.C.

Let's take the whole Benghazi thing for a moment. This morning, Steve Benen rightly suggests that its time to put a fork in that one. But note the evolution of how this story reached the level of "scandal" in the first place.
...note that most sensible people realized the right's conspiracy theories were wrong, which is why the so-called "controversy" was relegated to Republican media, until last Friday's report from ABC News pushed the story into the mainstream. That ABC News report, we now know, was wrong.
As Benen said, for months this "controversy" was relegated to right wing media sites. Weeks ago the White House had provided Congress with administration emails circulated just after the attack that discussed the talking points that could be shared with politicians and the media. None of the members of Congress expressed concern about what they saw.

Then someone leaked what appears to be summaries (not the actual emails) to Jonathan Karl of ABC News. Trouble is - those summaries implicated that the administration manipulated the facts and thus a firestorm about "cover-up" ensued. Many people assumed that this particular scandal now had legs.

But then the White House released the emails and what do you know? Those summaries handed to Karl were cooked to make the administration look bad. There's no "there" there in terms of cover-up. And so the real story is - who leaked that false summary to Jonathan Karl and why did he run with it without verification?

On the AP story, I wrote my thoughts about the media's complicity in that one the other day. Yesterday BooMan (who is one of the very best sources on the internet when it comes to the CIA), added some information. First, he quotes stories like this one from CNN.
Sources later told CNN that the operative who was supposed to have carried the bomb had been inserted into al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate by Saudi intelligence, and that the device had been handed over to U.S. analysts. One source said Saudi counterterrorism officials were upset that details of the operation had emerged in the United States because they had a network of agents inside the Yemeni branch who could have been compromised by leaks from Washington.
And then he adds this commentary.
My best guess is that we (or the Saudis) had to remove a bunch of agents-in-place who were giving intelligence on AQAP and trying to help us catch the bomb maker...

No matter how you look at it, the administration hadn't done anything wrong.

But they did have a skunk inside the tent who was willing to create huge problems for political purposes in an election year. And they had the AP lapping it up and dishing it out.
The idea of a "skunk" inside the tent trying to undermine the administration is exactly what I was referring to in my speculation the other day. The damage to U.S. relationships with Saudi (and British) counterterroism efforts as well as the network of agents working inside the Yemeni branch of AQAP is also probably what Eric Holder was referring to yesterday when he said:
Referring to the leaks of national security information, Holder said, "This was a very, very serious leak. I've been a prosecutor since 1976 -- and I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious, in the top two or three most serious leaks that I've ever seen. It put the American people at risk – and that is not hyperbole."
And so the real story is that AP got played by a "skunk" who was trying to do political damage to the administration. And in doing so, they put both intelligence assets and our national security at risk.

That pretty much sums up the media complicity in these stories. But according to Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei at Politico, the real story here is how the Washington D.C. village has now turned on President Obama. Funny thing is - they don't even try to use the fabricated scandals to justify the impending war on the administration. No, its not because they are taking the moral high ground on any issues - its because the President hasn't played their little "insider's game" enough.
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system...

“He has never taken the Democratic chairs up to Camp David to have a drink or to have a discussion,” the longtime Washingtonian said. “You gotta stroke people and talk to them. It’s like courting: You have to send flowers and candy and have surprises. It’s a constant process.
So longtime Washingtonians need to be courted...that's the message. It's how low that fever swamp culture that is supposed to be protected by our first amendment has sunk. I'd simply remind folks that it is that same duo - Allen and Vandehei - who recently felt the need to pre-emptively knee-cap a forthcoming book that threatens to expose that very same fever swamp. Could this war on the administration they just declared be yet another attempt to insulate themselves and their buddies from those revelations? You bettcha!!!!!!

Finally, I'd like to suggest that the Allen's and Vandehei's of the world are not the sum total of the media. Thanks to the internet and social media, we're not dependent on them to shape the story. There are plenty of folks out there who haven't caught the fever of the swamp and are busy telling the real story. We just have to be smarter about who we listen to these days.


  1. I would like to take a moment to thank you and the many other fine bloggers and reporters who did not jump on the "scandal" bandwagon. This disgusting spectacle has also revealed the cowardice and craven self-interest of much of the so-called "progressive" media. Watching pundit after pundit rush to condemn President Obama and Attorney General Holder without a scintilla of evidence, and without any apparent irony or shame was a sight to behold. These preening, unprinciled, poltroons should to be shunned.


    1. Thanks you Kath.

      The one thing we've seen over and over again with the Obama administration is that when the hair-on-fire hysteria breaks out like this - it ALWAYS pays to take a breath and calm down. The whole story eventually emerges and those that jumped the gun wind up with eggs on their faces.

    2. No, thank you.


  2. Really great analysis, Smartypants. Thank you.

    I'm so grateful to the 'independent media' out there who have been developing their sources and providing quality journalism and commentary from outside the bubble. The context provided from real people who can relate to the rest of us holds far greater appeal than anything coming out of the beltway. The fact that I have never heard of Allen and Vandehei before now is a good thing. They might be ducking for cover from this book that's coming out, but I suspect the real issue they have with the President not schmoozing with them is that they are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The President is showing future administrations that it is possible to get things done without sucking up to these creatures if one is willing to be demonized by them. All their slings and arrows are so much water off a duck's back to this President. He simply doesn't care what they think (as brilliantly outlined in your post yesterday). So, yeah, the Press is going to get ruthless now? Ooo, scary. All they succeed in doing is digging a deeper hole for themselves.

  3. Smartypants, from chaso, you ALWAYS bring order and civility. Thank you!

  4. I love your beautiful blog I really liked your article as it is very interesting to read thank you.

  5. Thank you for your ability to put the world right.I think-just my guess- that Congress was use to "gifts" ie a bridge, building, new road, or new roof for their
    state house. A trip to Camp David, what the heck, all they want is a photo op. You see that when the President speaks to Congress. They are all over him like a swarm of bees, then as he walks out of room the start the usual stinging. I REALLY dislike them all.

  6. SmartyPants - the Hardcore Purity Left and Wing Nut Right have been chasing for something smelling like a scandal on the Obama administration since he showed up in DC back 2009. They'll find another non-issues to carp about in a few weeks.

    And you're absolutely right - the reason for these non-scandals, at least from the Beltway, has less to do with actual scandals and more to do with the fact that Obama really isn't interesting in hanging out with these jokers. He's not into kissing the Right's ass nor the Tin Rings of the Purity Left's grand pubahs like Noam Chomsky or Editors of the Nation. That man doesn't have time for their BS - he's got work to do.

    As why Netroots and Teabaggers on the web eat this crap up (you know how many of my wing nut and emo-progressives are calling for impeachment) - well, it fulfills their paranoid cynical world view that this beige dude can't possibly be a competent and decent human. So, they'll chase anything and everything that confirms their dark world of despair. Because, you know, hope and change isn't what they're really interested in - unless they get to tell everyone else what Hope and Change will look like.

  7. I'm always amused when Joe Scarborough ,Mika Brzezinski and Chris Matthews always knows what the president should and should not do, but they have never sat in that seat nor will they ever.

    1. Well Mike - somehow these political lightweight white people can somehow tell the first Black President how to do his job.

      At least Scarborough and Matthews have been close enough to the Big Show - a Congressman and a Staffer respectively. Mika Brzezinski, OTOH, is the biggest recipient of nepotism. Its not that she isn't a competent journalist - its that her only political experience is being the daughter of a famous diplomat.

  8. "As Benen said, for months this "controversy" was relegated to right wing media sites. Weeks ago the White House had provided Congress with administration emails circulated just after the attack "

    67 hours nearly 3 days after the attack. That is a long time to call JUST

  9. My comment will be quickly deleted. No disputing blog owner will be tolerated

    1. Given that you didn't really say anything, I feel no need to delete ;-)