Dan Froomkin, who writes a popular blog for the WashingtonPost.com, provides a high standard for acute observation and logical analysis. Don't look for his column in the print edition; his views will never find print, and if his was not the most popular thing on the WaPo website, he would have been fired yesterday. As it is, I don't think his long-term employment is at all assured. Anyway, he writes succinctly and clearly about the Libby commutation. Here's a taste:
"If you take the White House's position at face value, then Bush felt that the sentence -- which followed federal sentencing guidelines for perjury and obstruction of justice -- was unjust. In that case, why isn't he doing anything about those guidelines?
Another possibility is that Bush felt there were circumstances the judge did not take into consideration. What could those circumstances be? Is Bush saying that, yes, Libby lied, but he should be cut some slack because he did so for noble reasons? If so, what might those reasons be?
There is, of course, a third possibility: That the commutation and all the expressions of concern are just a delaying tactic, and that Bush intends to pardon Libby at the end of his term if Libby's appeal fails. That theory was bolstered by Bush's assertion on Tuesday that he wouldn't rule out a pardon in the long run. If Bush 'respects' the jury verdict today, why raise the possibility that he won't 18 months from now?"
Michael Kinsley is widely admired for his logical powers. Having been fired from his position as the L.A. Times editorial page editor for being too liberal, he is now a columnist for Time Magazine, which, of course, employs no liberals. Kinsley, who still likes to eat and needs health insurance, has adapted to the journalistic ecology. His op-ed in the N.Y. Times:
"So as much as I dislike the war in Iraq, as much as I dislike President Bush, as much as I expect that I would dislike Mr. Libby if I ever met him, I feel that he should not have had to face a perjury trap: the choice between prison for lying, or prison for his role in a set of transactions that the press regards as not merely O.K. but sacrosanct. In fact, if journalists had a more reasonable view about this, the reporters whom Mr. Libby tried to peddle this story to would have said, “Look, outing C.I.A. agents is bad and we are not going to help you do it anonymously.” I bet that today, commuted sentence and all, Mr. Libby wishes they had done just that. So as much as I dislike the war in Iraq, as much as I dislike President Bush, as much as I expect that I would dislike Mr. Libby if I ever met him, I feel that he should not have had to face a perjury trap: the choice between prison for lying, or prison for his role in a set of transactions that the press regards as not merely O.K. but sacrosanct. In fact, if journalists had a more reasonable view about this, the reporters whom Mr. Libby tried to peddle this story to would have said, “Look, outing C.I.A. agents is bad and we are not going to help you do it anonymously.” I bet that today, commuted sentence and all, Mr. Libby wishes they had done just that. "
Did you get that logic? Believe me, reading the whole column scarcely makes his argument any clearer. Apparently, Kinsley feels that, since so many journalists regard anonymous leaks to the Media, regardless of their content, as a sacred rite, Libby can scarcely be blamed (by the Media?) for lying to protect this sacred rite of journalism and "the dark art of politics" (as the faux liberal WaPo columnist, Richard Cohen, put it, arguing for commutation even before Bush made it so).
The op-ed pages of our leading newspapers, and whatever time on cable news can be spared from the coverage of Paris Hilton, are filled with logically challenged analysis, designed to make what Bush has done seem normal. The kind of straight-forward analysis, demonstrated by Froomkin, is rare to the point of extinction outside the blogosphere (where Froomkin's work lives exclusively).
Factual reporting and moderated discussion from the corporate right-wing Media is no better. The Daily Howler takes up the case Rebecca Roberts, brain-dead child of Cokie Roberts, hosting a discussion of the Libby commutation on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. Just as on PBS's NewsHour, the false right-wing claim that Plame was not, in fact, covert and that Libby's disclosure of her status as a CIA employee was not prohibited by law, went unchallenged by the clueless hostess.
With the nation's public discourse in such carefully chosen, incompetent hands, no one should wonder about how the country should be run into a ditch, and no political storm ensue.
The careers of Rebecca Roberts (NPR) and Michael Kinsley (Time Magazine), Richard Cohen (Washington Post) and many others depend on this kind of incompetence, artfully rendered. Not to please an audience, but to please a corporate employer, who will not tolerate competence, let alone liberalism. This is as true of Public Broadcasting, which is now as dependent on funding from corporate advertisers as its for-profit "competitors". And, it is as true of CBS and NBC, and the New York Times, as it is Fox News and the Washington Times.
Consider this precis summarizing the "career" of John Solomon, who went from winning a prize for slandering Democrats for the Associated Press, to a full-time gig at the Washington Post, slandering Democrats.
"A year ago, John Solomon wrote a series of odd and misleading articles attacking Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), accusing him of ethical lapses. The closer one looked at the criticisms, the weaker the charges looked. Months later, Reid was cleared of any wrongdoing, while Solomon was inexplicably rewarded — in December he joined the Washington Post’s national desk, heading up some sort of investigative “team,” ostensibly focusing on the intersection of money and politics.Since then, Solomon has run an odd front-page piece on John Edwards selling his house, a bizarre front-page expose on Hillary Clinton’s charitable donations, and a sloppy piece on a Nancy Pelosi earmark for a San Francisco waterfront redevelopment project.Yesterday, however, Solomon out did himself — he devoted nearly 1,300 words to the “controversy” surrounding John Edwards’ haircut."
The American news Media is part of the disease afflicting American politics.