Daily Archives: February 10, 2004

Bush v Russert (Updated)

An awful lot of otherwise intelligent people in the blogosphere seem to have completely missed the point of the exchanges on Sunday. Kevin Drum says:

That’s what Russert missed. He didn’t need to ambush him with silly questions about whether he could name the prime minister of India, but he should have asked a few question that drilled more deeply into Bush’s policy beliefs and his personal vision, questions that forced him away from the comfortable climes of the briefing book. It was a missed opportunity.

Josh Marshall says:

Superficially, I think Bush came off okay, largely because Russert failed to press the president sufficiently on some deceptive responses.

And David Neiwert says:

I’m not sure why Tim Russert, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, has the reputation for being the bulldog interviewer that he has.Well, I know why: He’s very much the bulldog when it comes to Democrats and liberals.

With conservatives, well, he has a long track record of letting them off the hook. I know this from personal experience: One of my jobs at MSNBC (1998-2000) involved taping, transcribing and excerpting Meet the Press every Sunday.

And this Sunday’s interview with George W. Bush was perfectly consistent with this trend.

Maybe, but I think they’re missing the point if they don’t understand that Russert only got the interview by agreeing to submit his questions in advance and not depart from the script. That’s the way Rove has this WH working. Even Presidential Press Conferences are scripted for chrissake, you think a major tv interview wasn’t?

I’ll give Russert points, in fact, because I’m willing to bet that both he and the network had to fight to get the AWOL question approved. Neiwert is right that Russert is a lot easier on conservatives than liberals as a general rule, and that this wasn’t much of an exception. But I think it was marginally less friendly than we should have expected it to be–I figured Russert would throw nothing but nerf balls, set-ups for Junior to bat out of the park without breaking a sweat. Instead, there were a few legitimate questions, and even though there were zero legitimate answers, I think we have to give Russert some–I said some–credit for managing to get Rove’s approval to ask a couple of questions outside the usual territory of Rove’s HappyTalk strategy.

What really disturbs me is that, despite the excellent reports that occasionally surface detailing Rove’s absolute control of every Bush media appearance, including a whole book on the subject aptly named Bush’s Brain, a lot of folk who ought to know better seem to be taking that interview at face-value. They’re still talking as if a Bush appearance could be genuine in some way instead of the tightly monitored, carefully crafted fictional playlets they always are.

BTW, don’t expect another such event. Even conservatives were complaining that Bush looked stoned and sounded confused and incoherent. Rove isn’t likely to approve another such disaster.

Update 4/10/07:  And he didn’t. Bush hasn’t done a live interview since.

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Supermarket Strike in CA

Phaedrus at No Fear of Freedom has another great post up. This one’s about the CA supermarket strike and media responsibility for (suprise!) careless reporting.

When it began, ta give ya an example of management lies and how the media runs right home and reports them, lotta peebles was tellin’ me how silly the workers were to strike over over only $5 a week in increased insurance payments.

He pretty much demolishes that nonsense–

Workers are losing their homes, their cars, their health coverage. The markets have lost $2 billion in sales. Is there some semi-rational person somewhere who honestly believes that either side would put themselves through such misery over $5 per week per worker?

–and goes on to explain what the fairy tale was meant to cover:

We call this a two tier wage structure, and it benefits management in at least four ways. First, it reduces labor costs immediately. Second, it results in a permanent reduction in wages over time, since new hires will eventually be the only hires left. Third, it creates a situation where management gains if they can find a way to force out or fire the top tier workers. Fourth, and probably most importantly, it’s a union busting tactic. Say you’re a new hire. How you gonna feel ’bout the higher paid workers who sold you out? How you gonna feel about the union, which also sold you out? How you gonna feel about payin’ union dues? How you gonna feel about solidarity?

The supermarket chains are either 1) genuinely running scared from Wal-mart’s proven ability to use its odious and sometimes illegal employment policies to destroy its competition, or 2) using Wal-mart as an excuse to break the unions and add to their profits by lowering their weekly payroll–a favorite corporate scam when sales are flat. Either way, the workers are caught in the middle of a Corporate Greed War (remember, these chains were quite profitable before the strike) in the global Race-to-the-Bottom.

Paul Clark, a Penn State labor relations professor who edited a recent book on trends in collective bargaining, said the dispute could have nationwide repercussions.”If the union loses this and has to give back a significant portion of their health benefits,” Professor Clark said, “you’re really moving down the road to everybody beginning to be a Wal-Mart worker with low wages and low benefits.”

Which is, of course, precisely what management’s intractable offer was all about.

Go read the rest, especially if you’re under the impression that corporations “just don’t do that kind of thing any more.”

Plame Flame Burns Brighter

In today’s NYT, a mildly interesting report on the progress of the Plame Investigation claims that there’s proof that the WH was truly pissed off by Wilson’s article.

The lawyers said that prosecutors have cited evidence that White House officials were extremely upset by Mr. Wilson’s article and were angry at the C.I.A. for sending him to Africa, in contrast to the White House’s effort to portray the reaction as only mildly concerned.

This isn’t going to come as much of a surprise to anybody who was paying attention when this first exploded a few months ago. What is interesting is how much of it is swirling around the higher levels of WH staff. Press Secretary Scott McClellan and his aide Adam Levine have both been questioned by the grand jury, and the bulk of the investigation is centered on Veep Cheney’s office–John Hannah and VP Chief-of-Staff Scooter Libby have been mentioned as targets, and VP press secretary Catherine Martin’s cellphone records are being examined. Somebody is apparently actually taking the investigation seriously, and I admit that is something of a surprise.

The word on Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney for Chicago who was appointed to head the investigation when Ashcroft recused himself, was that he had a rep as a tough guy who was careful but conscientious and followed evidence wherever it went without regard for political ramifications. I had my doubts (they said virtually the same things about Kenneth Starr when he was appointed SP on the Whitewater case, and it turned out to be all lies; Starr’s real record was as a political op whose legal history was about as partisan as it could have been) but maybe it was true after all. The investigation is being pursued along the lines it should be–for a change–instead of being limited to examinations of unproductive, low-level potential scapegoats who likely didn’t know much but also didn’t have the influence to block prosecutors from getting their records.

The real culprit may be revealed in spite of all my cynical doubts. Dare I hope?

Sidelight: The source(s) of this story is (are) identified in pretty confusing language as “lawyers on the case.” Now what the hell does that mean? Whose lawyers? JD lawyers? Defendants’ lawyers? Witness’ lawyers? Fitzgerald’s prosecuting lawyers? All of the above?

I take the report as accurate because what it says makes sense and is in line with other reports on the investigation’s progress, but the vague sourcing is frustrating. I’m not asking Johnston for names but is it too much to ask him to tell us whose side they’re on so we know what their prejudices might be?

Which Canadian Province I Am

HASH(0x8362010)
You’re Nova Scotia. People have spread rumours
about you and you have suffered from
stereotyping. Few people take the time out to
get to know the real you. You hate labels. You
are patriotic and loyal.

What Canadian Province Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Interesting. My ancestors (3 out of 4 of my grandparents) are from Nova Scotia. I guess it’s still in my blood. Who knew?