It struck me as amusing last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney, complaining about proposed measures to reduce gun violence, complained there “isn’t adequate regard for the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Given Cheney’s track record while in office, it seemed like an odd thing to say.
But these remarks from the weekend were even more striking.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday night that President Barack Obama has jeopardized U.S. national security by nominating substandard candidates for key cabinet posts and by degrading the U.S. military.
“The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal,” Cheney said in comments to about 300 members of the Wyoming Republican Party.
Cheney, a Wyoming native, said it was vital to the nation’s national security that “good folks” hold the positions of secretary of state, CIA director and secretary of defense. “Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people,” he said.
There is a certain oddity that underpins Cheney’s whining. For many political observers, the fact that so many national security policies from the Bush/Cheney era are still in place is cause for alarm, though Cheney himself seems eager to suggest this administration has departed radically from his predecessor.
But really, that’s just scratching the surface of what’s wrong with Cheney’s odd perspective.
Whether you agree with their positions or not, there’s nothing even remotely “second rate” about John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan. These are experienced, capable individuals, with considerable expertise in their areas. Indeed, Kerry has a broad diplomatic background and was very nearly the president; Hagel is a decorated veteran and sage voice on the use of force (Cheney never got around to serving in the military before becoming the Pentagon chief); and Brennan actually served in the Bush/Cheney administration.
If the former V.P. has specific complaints about these nominees, I’d love to hear them.
But the real kicker here is Cheney’s confidence in his ability to make personnel assessments. Obama’s team, in Cheney’s mind, is “second rate,” but his team — filled with notorious names like Rumsfeld, Addington, and Libby — which oversaw some of the most spectacular failures in recent memory, was top tier?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 11, 2013
On Tuesday morning, counterterrorism official John Brennan was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep about the death of Osama bin Laden. For about eight minutes, listeners were treated to a serious and in-depth exploration of the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s discovery and demise.
But then, right at the end, Inskeep couldn’t help himself. “In a few seconds, Mr. Brennan, why haven’t you released photos of Osama bin Laden?” Inskeep asked. Over the final minute of the interview, he repeated that important question four times.
And you couldn’t help thinking: Here we go again.
Wasn’t it just, like, hours ago that the media had assumed a posture of deep introspection about their role in fueling outlandish conspiracy theories?
On one hand, there were people like Shepard Smith of Fox News urging the media to “look in the mirror” because questions about President Obama’s birthplace were “a load of crap” and journalists “knew it from the very beginning.” (Amen.) On the other, there was Bob Garfield of NPR’s On the Media arguing that the attention paid by the media to Donald Trump’s birther claims was necessary to help the public distinguish between a “carnival barker” and a “responsible leader.” (Oh, I get it: Loons raise loony questions, the media repeats them over and over again, and, in so doing, exposes them to an audience far larger than the loons ever could have dreamed of reaching on their own, and thus we need the media to help us identify the loons. Wow, what an indispensible service.) No consensus, perhaps, but at least they were grappling with the question.
Not anymore, evidently.
Just hours after President Obama addressed the nation, no less than J. Michael Waller posted a blog entry opining that bin Laden should be displayed naked in lower Manhattan, then chopped into bits and dumped into the New York City sewers because while he may be dead “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Who’s J. Michael Waller you ask? Who cares! Questions have been raised! The public needs help identifying the carnival barkers! Summon the media!
So, there was Inskeep pressing Brennan. The Chicago Sun Times editorialized that a photo should be released to stop the conspiracy theories. The Associated Press moved a story headlined “Wanted: Visual Proof that the U.S. got him.” (Though you might reasonably ask why, given that the proof detailed in the story included DNA evidence, photographic identification, bin Laden’s wife apparently calling out to him by name during the firefight, and “[t]ellingly” an al Qaeda spokesman calling bin Laden “a martyr” and offering “no challenge to the U.S. account of his death.” Mighty suspicious!)
In fairness, there are differences between the birther stories and whether the United States should release a photo of bin Laden. To be sure, the latter has actual foreign policy and national security implications, and, now that the administration has decided not to release a photo, it may be that serious issues, rather than the increasingly hairbrained ideas of conspiracy theorists, will drive the media’s coverage but … I’ll believe it when I see it.
If the media would like us to believe it has serious, as opposed to sensationalistic, intentions when it covers a story like this, the nature of the coverage has to change. Raising a baseless charge again and again, day after day, and concluding that you’ve done your job if “both sides” of the story are represented does everyone a remarkable disservice. The reason: It gives the media’s imprimatur of legitimacy to a charge that is baseless, and it leaves the impression that there are two sides to an issue that is, in fact, indisputably settled.
Instead, if the media is going to give such issues any coverage at all, it should turn its camera in the opposite direction, focusing on the people who cling to preposterous beliefs and asking what that tells us about them, our culture, and our country. That may be a worthy journalistic pursuit, but we’ve seen very little of it.
Of course, there may be a bright side to all of this: The secret to getting media coverage has been revealed.
Therefore, I would like to announce the following: I believe the moon is made of elephants.
Media: Come and get me.
By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, May 5, 2011