Walter Cronkite was So Right

Walter Cronkite was one of the last of a dying breed – a teevee journalist who was a journalist in truth rather than just name:

Americans of all ages and the journalist community are remembering the life and career of Walter Cronkite, famously revered as “the most trusted man in America.”

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes that the media is largely glossing over Cronkite’s “most celebrated and significant moment” — “when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.”

Of course they’re glossing it over. They hate admitting their abject failings. And you probably won’t see too many of them highlighting his all-too-true assessment of their pathetic state:

The Nation’s John Nichols reports that as the war in Iraq went horribly awry, he asked Cronkite whether a network anchorman would speak out in the same way that he had. “I think it could happen, yes. I don’t think it’s likely to happen,” he said with an audible sigh. “I think the three networks are still hewing pretty much to that theory. They don’t even do analysis anymore, which I think is a shame. They don’t even do background. They just seem to do headlines, and the less important it seems the more likely they are to get on the air.”

David Gregory, he could’ve been looking at you:

I can only echo what Vernie Gay said about the new Meet The Press:

But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points. Recent interviews with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) felt like a waterfront that went on for miles – an endless vista of chatter and spin.

BOTTOM LINE “Meet the Press” is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning – “safe,” that is, for those being interviewed.

And here we have good ol’ David assuring Mark Sanford that MTP would be very safe indeed:

When the stories about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s love of hiking and the ensuing revelations about line crossing and soul mates were first revealed, I think it’s safe to say that most people never saw it coming. But what hasn’t been a surprise is the resulting confirmation of how many in the media are willing to sell their journalistic souls for political access.

And leading that list has to be David Gregory, who went out of his way to continue the proud tradition of Meet the Press kissing the ass of shamed elected officials.

From his emails to Sanford’s office, where he begs for an interview:

Left you a message. Wanted you to hear directly from me that I want to have the Gov on Sunday on Meet The Press. I think it’s exactly the right forum to answer the questions about his trip as well as giving him a platform to discuss the economy/stimulus and the future of the party. You know he will get a fair shake from me and coming on MTP puts all of this to rest.

… So coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on. You can see (sic) you have done your interview and then move on. Consider it.

In the middle of the breaking scandal, Gregory not only offered to let Sanford guide the story, he was willing to give him a platform to change the subject. And then Gregory would “move on.”

Just like everybody else. David Gregory had plenty of company in his Buy My Show Bazaar:

CNN’s John King told Sawyer he had always appreciated Sanford’s “kindness, candor, and hospitality,” and added, in a transparent attempt to bond, “I’m all for anonymous escapes myself.” George Stephanopoulos offered his show, ABC’s This Week, as a “civil forum to address this week’s events.” And producers for CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s Good Morning America, several Fox shows, and many others gave Sanford’s office the hard sell too.

And that’s not all!

• Ann Edelberg, a producer at MSNBC, wrote to Sanford press secretary Joel Sawyer to say: “Of course the Gov has an open invite to a friendly place here at MJ, if he would like to speak out.” MJ refers to Morning Joe, the MSNBC show hosted by former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough, and also frequently featuring hardcore right-winger Pat Buchanan.

Politico‘s Jonathan Martin, after making a few inquiries to Sawyer, wrote sycophantically: “Jakie causing you guys problem?” That’s a reference to state Sen. Jake Knotts, who had first raised questions about the governor’s whereabouts.

• A woman named Jessica Gibadlo — this seems like her — wrote in an email to Sawyer that MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer was suggesting Sanford could come on her network to spin the story favorably. Wrote Gibadlo:

As you know I’m close to Contessa who has been in my ear on this. She said that the tone in the news room is that Mark could spin this fav
orably if he talks it up as the outdoors man in the woods etc. For all we know he’s contemplating the last year of his term and thinking through his priorities before he goes on his family vacation.

As you know, she’s close to Contessa.

• A barely literate Fox News producer and Sanford fan wrote: “Where is he…we LOVE to governor he is okay right?” Hey, who doesn’t love to governor?

• The Wall Street Journal‘s Brendan Miniter — who we already told you had dissed his own paper’s reporting on the saga in an effort to suck up to the governor’s office — doubled down on that effort, writing to Sawyer that that he “wanted verification that the WSJ story was BS.” Now there’s some team spirit!

• Stewart Moore, the anchor for local South Carolina news station WIS-TV, showed great news judgment, writing:

Off the record, I think this whole thing is ridiculous. Sounds like slow news day stuff.

On the record; for the sake of good journalism, is there any way we can get the governor on for a phoner @ 6:30am? I think that will end the crazy situation we both find ourselves, more so you, in.

Thanks dude.

But wait! There’s more!

The State has written up a few more of the emails, and look what they found:

ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.

With a subject line of “NBC spot was slimy,” Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a “Today” show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it “insulting.” Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post [this one — TPMmuckraker] by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory.

Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was “carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor’s office.”

Oh, just carrying some water for producers, you say? Well, never mind then.


One prominent conservative blogger also offered his help. Erick Erickson of Red State emailed to say:

If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help.

That turned out well, of course.

And all of that’s disgusting enough, but rather pales in comparison to Chuck Todd’s little Q & A with Glenn Greenwald:

Audio from Salon Radio, where the full transcript is also available.

Glenn Greenwald: So what do you think happens – I think what has destroyed our reputation is announcing to the world that we tolerate torture, and telling the world we don’t —

Chuck Todd: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we’re not going to torture, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do this–

GG: What do you think should happen when presidents–

CT: Is that not enough? Isn’t that enough?

GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?

CT: You see, this is where, this is not – you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal —

GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.

Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that’s what you’re endorsing. As long the president can do that, he’s above the law. And I don’t see how you can say that you’re doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?

CT: Well, look, I don’t believe I’m endorsing a system of lawlessness; I’m trying to put in the reality that as much that there is a legal black and white here, there is a political reality that clouds this, and you know it does too.

Hilzoy, in one of her last posts, absolutely destroyed him (well, the bits Glenn left intact, anyway), and then pointed out something absolutely terrifying:

We should expect more of our journalists. They need to get the facts right. They need to figure out the legal issues at stake in a case like this, not just listen to flacks from both sides, throw up their hands, and say “it’s not black and white!” If he did a better job, he wouldn’t have to worry so much about politicizing the justice system, and he might take pride in the fact that he helped shed light on complicated issues, when he might have just gotten lazy.

Of course, it’s not just Chuck Todd, who is, alas, one of the better TV journalists out there. He’s just the one who cited the incompetence of his profession as a reason to abandon the rule of law.

That’s absolutely fucking appalling.

I could go on – after all, we have teevee “journalists” fucking up the facts on health care reform, and the supposedly “liberal” MSNBC giving a platform to a lying white supremacist fucktard like Pat Buchanan, among a thousand other examples of their endless idiocy – but we’d be here for the next century. I just want to close this Smack-o-Matic marathon with what BarbinMD said:

In the hours following the death of Walter Cronkite, the accolades began pouring in; “legendary,” “iconic,” “set the standard,” a “voice of certainty in an uncertain world,” reminders that he was once known as “the most trusted man in America,” and perhaps the most telling, a lament that “we’ll never see his like again.”

And with that in mind, perhaps members of the media could pause and consider why a journalist who instilled trust in his viewers by simply reporting the news is “someone whose like we will never see again.” And maybe they’ll even take a moment to think about what it says about them.

If they were worth anything, they would. But we all know they’re too shallow for such deep thoughts.

I just hope they go to bed tonight knowing that Walter Cronkite was ashamed of them.

Walter Cronkite was So Right

Hilzoy's Last Hurrah

This is it. Hilzoy’s last post. I encourage you to read the whole thing, because as always, she brings a brilliant clarity to every issue she illuminates. Here’s just a snippet:

I think that democracy, like any kind of community, takes effort. It needs to be maintained. People need to work at it. And the last five years have made me realize, yet again, that even when things seem really bad, they are not hopeless. There is always something you can do. Even when you’re not expecting it, you’ll get an email from Moe Lane asking: would you like to join our blog?

All you can do is try. And as my grandmother used to say to us: it is not worthy of humanity to give up.

No. No, it’s not.

She has a lot more to say that’s just as important, if not more so. Especially for us bloggers.

There’s definitely a Hilzoy-shaped hole in the blogosphere.

I’m not going to say goodbye. That’s reserved for funerals and passing strangers. I’ll just say, “Until again, Hilzoy.”

Best of luck in all you do.

Hilzoy's Last Hurrah

Nooooo, Hilzoy! Don't Leave Us!

This is depressing news:

First, I’m going to Rwanda this weekend, on vacation. I’m looking forward to it immensely, especially since I discovered that the Bare-Faced Go-Away Bird, which topped my list of Best Bird Names Ever nearly five years ago, lives there. (And did you know that the name ‘Watusi’ comes from the Tutsi? I didn’t.) If anyone has any great suggestions for things I might not think to do, etc., please let me know.

Second, I’m taking this opportunity to retire from blogging. I’ll be here through Friday, but after that, I won’t. (I’ll still hang out in comments, though, after I get back.) I’m not sure it would be possible for me to stop if I weren’t going off to central Africa without my computer, but since I am, I will.


That said, it seems to me that the madness is over. There are lots of people I disagree with, and lots of things I really care about, and even some people who seem to me to have misplaced their sanity, but the country as a whole does not seem to me to be crazy any more. Also, it has been nearly five years since I started. And so it seems to me that it’s time for me to turn back into a pumpkin and twelve white mice.

Damn it, Hilzoy, you’re one of the best. I’m happy for you, believe me, but this is a huge loss for the liberal blogosphere. You’re one of the most insightful and incisive bloggers out there. Your perspective, not to mention your incredible knowledge, have been utterly invaluable. When it comes to the ethical and moral questions, I don’t think there’s anyone who’s done more to help us come to grips with the really tough issues, who’s really made us think. And you did it with a wicked sense of humor.

Good luck to you. And if the madness returns, I hope you will as well.

Hasta luego, amiga. Salud.

Nooooo, Hilzoy! Don't Leave Us!

Tears for Strangers

You know, the last thing I expected was a little jolt when I found out Michael Jackson died. I wasn’t a fan, didn’t like his music, and certainly didn’t like the man. But I can’t deny that it felt like there was suddenly a strange empty space in the world. A rather small one for me, huge for others. News of his death actually came close to crashing cell phone networks everywhere as people called or texted each other the news. A friend of a friend cried for three hours.

We get awfully close to people we don’t know.

Psychologists occasionally try to explain our tears for strangers. I didn’t find many research papers in my desultory search through the intertoobz, but found some quotes in various and sundry articles relating to other celeb deaths that attempt to shed some light:

Attempting to explain the phenomenon, clinical psychologist Fiona Cathcart says it is partly down to today’s less community-minded society.

“People overtake hearses these days,” she says, the point being that in modern communities, neighbours do not invest time in getting to know each other.

Instead, it is the rich and famous; the faces on television and in celebrity-focused magazines that command our attention.

“We know more about the details of their lives. The clothes they wear, their ambitions, where they last went on holiday than we do of the family next door.”

Yes, but, the same kind of mourning goes on in tight-knit communities, too. My old neighborhood in Flagstaff was about as intimate as it gets, positively incestuous at times, and yet we still chocked up at the deaths of strangers. Having friends I knew like family didn’t keep me from getting seriously emotionally involved with even fictional people. So we’re going to have to do better than “It’s because we’re all strangers” pap. Anyone else?

“People want to be close to major events, no matter how tragic,” said Stuart Fischoff, senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology. “They want to feel like they are participating. They want to create that memory of ‘I was there when.’ People say, ‘I’m a fan and this is how I show my concern for him.'”

Eh. Don’t know about your mileage, but that doesn’t resonate for me. Some people I know are like that. Others are just about the opposite. And that doesn’t explain why a really good author can leave you sobbing your poor little heart out over somebody who never actually existed.

Part of it’s the knowing. Get to know somebody well enough, even if it’s not a two-way street, and you start to care. We can’t help that – we’re human. And whether it’s a celebrity or a great character, those people we’ve come to know give us something in turn for the time we bestow on them. They entertain us, sometimes enlighten us; they keep us company, help us dream, let us experience worlds we’re otherwise excluded from. We develop something of a relationship that has real meaning. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of symbols, or history – I may not even like Michael Jackson, but I did the Moonwalk with everyone else, and he was a part of my childhood. It’s tough to see pieces of your past go.

Sometimes, the tears come from what we know we’ll miss out on. Take Carl Sagan, whose death still chokes me up at times. He was a brilliant science popularizer whose books and teevee programs many of us adored, so is it any wonder we miss him? What else could he have done, had he not died so soon?

Some shrinks think it’s mostly the “could’a happened to any of us” factor, too:

Dr Oliver James, whose book Britain on the Couch examines psychological changes in the nation’s character since the 1950s, says Diana’s troubled life in some ways mirrored the difficult experiences of normal people.

Sure. And we want to see them succeed, survive and flourish, because that offers us some vicarious comfort. Not to mention, we were pulling for them. We really did care.

I know some people question that – can you really care for a stranger? Of course you can. Not in the same way you’d care for family or close friends, usually, but it’s a genuine caring nonetheless. Humans are like that.

And in some cases, perhaps, it’s a coping mechanism, a chance to get it right the second time, or practice for the inevitable:

Mourning the death of a celebrity retriggers suppressed feelings of loss for an actual loved one, said professor Sherri McCarthy, a psychologist and a grief counselor at Northern Arizona University.

“People are vulnerable because these events retrigger memories of losing someone else. If an individual has unresolved, suppressed feeling of grief they may use this opportunity to express those feelings. If a child didn’t grieve a parent properly, they can displace that grief on someone in the media.”

Probably all of the above speculations have some grain of truth, to varied degrees for varied people. But as a writer and a human being, I do think this is the paramount factor:

As Arthur Koestler put it: “Statistics don’t bleed; it is the detail which counts.”

The more detail we have, the more we’re able to care: the more we care, the more those strangers’ deaths affect us. Think of Neda, who’s become the symbol of Iran’s brutal repression of political dissenters. Others have been killed just as gruesomely – at least 25 are dead – but she’s the one who stands out. And part of that is because of the detail. The graphic images of her death, the few details of her young life, combine to turn statistics into a person we find it easy to care about, a memory we can rally round, an inspiration.

And the people who have inspired us deserve a tear or two whether or not we’ve ever had them over for tea, don’t you think?

Tears for Strangers

Buh-Bye, Blago

State Senate to Blagojavich: “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass:”

Rod Blagojevich spoke at some length to the Illinois Senate today, imploring state lawmakers not to remove him from office. He was not, apparently, persuasive.

The Illinois State Senate on Thursday convicted Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on a sprawling article of impeachment that charged him with abusing his power. The vote prompted the governor’s immediate and permanent ouster, and ended nearly two months of political spectacle in which he sought unsuccessfully to salvage his reputation and career here and across the country. […]


The senators voted 59 to zero in favor of removing him after a four-day trial; a dramatic, 45-minute speech by Mr. Blagojevich in which he declared his innocence; and about two hours of deliberation.

Blagojevich was also barred from ever running for any public office in Illinois. Democrat Pat Quinn, up until a couple of hours ago the lieutenant governor, has already been sworn in as Illinois’ new governor.

And so, the sun sets on an era of political surrealistic entertainment.

You know, I’ll almost miss him. He was nearly as bountiful in his dumbfuckery as the Cons.

Buh-Bye, Blago

One More Night

Nightwish best expresses my sentiments tonight:

One more night to bear this nightmare.
What more do I have to say?

Ocean Soul – Nightwish

You know what nightmare I’m talking about.

Let no locked doors thwart George W. Bush as he gets the hell out of our White House. In fact, let’s make sure there’s doorkeepers standing by, just in case.

Thank you, President Obama, for ending the nightmare. Come on in.

You can laugh a lot
And bring out that smile

For now we’re hanging in
Even though we’re blessed with sin
You make my heart…
You make my tired heart sing

Tender Trip on Earth – Tristania

As ridiculous as it sounds, you do indeed make my tired heart sing. And judging from the evidence, I’m not the only one.

One More Night

Update on Bill Gwatney Shooting

Police have identified the man who shot the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party Bill Gwatney. Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, had been fired from his job at a Target store early Wednesday morning for writing graffiti on a wall. You’ll die of shock to learn he’s been described as an unmarried loner who was quiet but creepy.

No one’s got any word on a motive yet, but I imagine we’ll discover a man with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. He’ll have some personal narrative blaming the Democrats for his woes, although it could just be politicians in general and the Democratic Party headquarters the nearest target when he snapped. His house will likely be full of ammo and guns. He’ll have spent the past few years getting weirder, more isolated, and more paranoid. About the only interesting thing to discover will be why he drove over to the Arkansas State Baptist Convention and aimed a gun at the building manager after killing Gwatney. The rest of it’s going to follow a depressing, predictable trajectory.

We’ve got a lot of very, very broken people in this world.

Someone emailed Michelle Malkin, right wing hatemonger extraordinaire, to tell her she’s responsible. That’s jumping the gun a bit. The man had a wide variety of deranged, hate-filled, kill-’em-all columnists, bloggers, radio hosts, and organizations to chose from. People who like to celebrate violence, dehumanize their enemies, and then play the outraged innocent when someone takes them seriously. We see most of it on the right, but there’s a smattering of it on the radical left as well, so let’s not go blaming the first vitriolic right-wing blogger that comes to mind until we discover who was on this loser’s reading list.

The Arkansas Republican Party’s showing a wonderful streak of humanity in all of this. They’ve responded with empathy and heartfelt kind words for Chairman Gwatney, which gives me a bit o’ hope that partisan acrimony hasn’t completely rotted the entirety of our political system. There’s even a wreath featuring a donkey and an elephant propped outside the Democratic party headquarters. This is the kind of spirit I want to see: the realization that even though we may not be able to stand each others’ political views, we’re all in this world together, and we can care for each other no matter how much we may disagree.

They’ve shown genuine class and decency. I hope others can follow their lead.

My thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Bill Gwatney tonight. They’ve lost a great person, and things are never going to be the same for them. I extend my deepest sympathies, and the hope that memories of all that was wise and wonderful about Bill will eventually overshadow the way he died.

Update on Bill Gwatney Shooting

Another Good One Gone

Let’s raise our glasses to a man magnificent in his dissent:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who has died at the age of 89, played a significant role in ending communism. His novels were beautifully crafted, damning indictments of the repressive Soviet regime.

The Russian novelists like Solzhenitsyn were tremendously courageous and inspired a generation to change their world. They broke the chains of tyranny. I hope others will take their example to heart.

Salud, Solzhenitsyn. Muchos gracias.

Update: I don’t ordinarily link to the AP anymore due to their recent fuckery, but this piece by Douglas Birch is worth breaking the rules for.

Another Good One Gone