Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Deference Difference - McClellan Revelations Bring Back Personal White House Memories

Watching the press flap about the latest revelations from former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, reminds me of my own humble days in the White House Press Room many years ago and the huge difference in deference of the national press between then and now.

In my very first 4 p.m. briefing at the famous press room I was taken aback when White House Press Secretary Ron Zeigler came out of the door to the left of podium and no sooner had he gotten to the microphone when Herb Kaplow, the ABC correspondent blurted out. " And what kind of lies do you have for us today, Ron?"

I was just a student journalist at the University of Maryland doing an internship that included covering the White House and Capital Hill for a group of Midwestern newspapers. But Kaplow's opening remark along with the smirk on Zeigler's face when he heard it left a lasting impression about the relationship between the press and the White House. Of course, not all of the dozens of regulars who peopled those 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. White House press briefings shared the same disdain that Kaplow did with the farce that preceded the impeachment of President Nixon.

Everyone knew that Zeigler, a former Disney publicist, was just a mouthpiece and that he was just the front man for an administration in freefall. What surprises me now is that anyone is surprised about the McClellan revelations that the Bush administration has been lying through its teeth.

What is disgusting from my perspective is the incredible deference the national press is still showing to the Bush administration despite the fact that we all know the Bush administration lied us into the war. The latest charade from Dan Bartlett that it wasn't lies, but faulty intelligence that caused Bush problems, is simply another lie.

The Downing Street Memo seems to be long forgotten by the members of the national press. We wrote about it shortly after it appeared in a British newspaper in a May 29, 2005 post we titled Another Way To Remember on Memorial Day. It gives me no great pleasure to realize how right I was about the Bush administration three years ago. Of course, John Conyers and many other braver Americans continually challenged the administration but our national press ignored those early signs of treason because in some circles it was unthinkable that a president of the United States would lie us into a disastrous war.

It was also unthinkable many years ago that a White House would try to cover up a break-in at an opponents political office at the Watergate. But the press then was different from the press today. Not many newspapers were owned by huge media conglomerates whose primary motivation was making huge chucks of money so they could buy up more media outlets. The Washington Post, the New York Times and many other large regional newspapers actually did investigative journalism and did not rely on the nonsense that came out of the daily press feedings that passes for news today.

The press has failed us and that is why many blogs have more creditability than major media outlets.

I was dismayed today to hear CBS, NBC and MSNBC wondering about the motivation of Scott McClellan and why he was writing a book that pointed out the Bush administration lied us into war. That's an incredibly inane question when we should really be questioning why the mainstream media even bothers to think the Bush administration might be telling the truth about anything.

There are no Herb Kaplows today in the mainstream media and we are much worse off for it.

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