Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, July 16, 2006

  The blinkers come off at the NY Times

In the late spring of 2000, I composed my first op-ed and offered it to a variety of American newspapers. It commented on the absurd manner that George Bush had selected Dick Cheney, or allowed Cheney to select himself, as Bush’s running mate. Particularly egregious was the selection of a fellow Texan, a direct challenge to the Twelfth Amendment.

The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves

You’ll recall that Cheney dashed up to Wyoming to re-register to vote there, a stunt all the more preposterous because he continued to live in Texas. From this episode, I surmised that both men believe that the normal rules don’t apply to them. Bush had asked voters to judge his qualifications to become president on the basis of how he chose his running mate, and I took him at his word. Bush proved himself to be a scoundrel, contemptuous of the law and the norms of society. I’d applied for enough jobs where the Chair of the search committee manipulated the process, to recognize Cheney’s vile personality as well. Neither man had the slightest intention of being held to the rules that most of us live by.

I said so plainly in my op-ed, and gave the grounds for thinking this pair would be a disastrous choice for the country. Not one of the papers I offered this essay to was willing to print it. Not a single paper, large or small. One editor wrote that he enjoyed the way I’d presented the material, but the op-ed simply was too personal, too strongly worded, had too much irony and sarcasm.

That is to say, the op-ed that never saw print was written in a style that has since become familiar in political blogs. But blogs did not really exist at the time, and editorial page editors in 2000 did not see any reason to give voice to these kinds of personal opinions on the opinion pages. What we tended to get, instead, were the irresponsible, tendentious, sanctimonious, hypocritical, misinformed, partisan but polite effusions of syndicated columnists tucked away well inside the Beltway bubble. Very few of them bothered to point out that Bush and Cheney had signaled that they would make up their own rules the moment they had a chance to do so.

It’s been a ghastly five and a half years. The arrogance, the recklessness, the damage, the shame. These were beyond imagining in 2000, though the outlines could have been predicted, had journalists been willing.

Today’s NY Times editorial The Real Agenda comes as close as anything I’ve yet seen in a major US publication to stating what long ago ought to have become obvious: The Bush administration’s policy is to ignore rules that are inconvenient; the Constitution is at most an obstacle to be circumvented.

Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone.

The point of the editorial is to describe the disastrous consequences of this attitude in the wake of the September 11 bombings, particularly in the monomaniacal pursuit of unchecked Executive power. We are treated to some blunt language about the administration’s torture policies - finally. The editorial is neither more insightful nor more pointed than what bloggers have been stating for years. What it represents is not an epiphany, but a new willingness by a major news outlet to state the obvious, to speak plain truths that citizens of this nation have been saying for years.

For one brief, shining moment, it appeared that the administration realized it had met a check [the SCOTUS ruling on Hamdan] that it could not simply ignore. The White House sent out signals that the president was ready to work with Congress in creating a proper procedure for trying the hundreds of men who have spent years now locked up as suspected terrorists without any hope of due process.
But by week’s end it was clear that the president’s idea of cooperation was purely cosmetic. At hearings last week, the administration made it clear that it merely wanted Congress to legalize President Bush’s illegal actions — to amend the law to negate the court’s ruling instead of creating a system of justice within the law. As for the Geneva Conventions, administration witnesses and some of their more ideologically blinkered supporters in Congress want to scrap the international consensus that no prisoner may be robbed of basic human dignity. …

The administration’s intent to use the war on terror to buttress presidential power was never clearer than in the case of its wiretapping program. The president had legal means of listening in on the phone calls of suspected terrorists and checking their e-mail messages.… And Republicans in Congress were all but begging for a chance to change the process in any way the president requested. Instead, of course, the administration did what it wanted without asking anyone. When the program became public, the administration ignored calls for it to comply with the rules. As usual, the president’s most loyal supporters simply urged that Congress pass a law allowing him to go on doing whatever he wanted to do. …

Jane Mayer provided a close look at this effort to undermine the constitutional separation of powers…To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause behind the shield of Americans’ deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans’ civil liberties have been trampled. The nation’s image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents “disappear” people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.

The newfound willingness of the editors of the Times to report inconvenient news is welcome. I wonder whether they have some thoughts about the Twelfth Amendment, which might yet see the light of day?

Crossposted at Unbossed


  • Excellent points. Now I'd like to know why, for instance, the corporate scumbags at the NY Times rolled over and dropped the absolutely and utterly obvious voter fraud perpetrated by the Bush supporters/traitors during the 2004 election--Ohio, etc. We all know it happened. Even the scumbags who say it didn't happen know that it did. That is what should've been investigated, wartime or no wartime. Now it's too late.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 PM  

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