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Archive: May, 2008

POSTED: Friday, May 30, 2008, 8:29 AM

Scott McClellan, whose searing indictment of the failed Bush presidency is already the top bestselling book on Amazon, has also performed a valuable public service by exploding the right-wing myth about the "liberal media."

I am referring, of course, to the longstanding canard about how journalists, especially those in Washington, are by nature determined to destroy conservative presidents, supposedly because these members of the media hate the military and American values in general. This myth has been thoroughly refuted by a number of commentators - including Mark Hertsgaard (who documented the press' subservience to Ronald Reagan several decades ago in his book On Bended Knee), Eric Alterman (whose book What Liberal Media? appeared four years ago), and Eric Boehlert (whose book Lapdogs was published two years ago) - but the myth perpetuators have ignored these well-documented works, largely by dismissing the authors as liberals...who are determined to destroy conservative presidents and hate American values in general. And thus the loop closes.

Yet now we have McClellan - the erstwhile Bush loyalist who spent years seeking to advance the Bush agenda, spinning the media for the boss, his flag pin always right where it oughta be - and even he thinks the canard is a crock. Consider these key passages from his book, What Happened:

POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2008, 10:48 AM

Barack Obama might be well advised to curb his occasional impulse for telling tall tales, lest the Republicans seize the opportunity to paint him as Pinocchio.

They've proved themselves quite adept at undermining their opponents' credibility. Al Gore, of course, was Exhibit A. He had sought to pad his resume on a number of occasions - by boasting that he was a top speechwriter for Hubert Humphrey in 1968 (he wasn't), by claiming that he came under enemy fire in Vietnam (he didn't), by insisting that he fought the tobacco companies after his sister died of lung cancer (he didn't) - and the GOP wove those incidents (and a few others, plus some that the GOP concocted) into a broad narrative about how Gore was a serial fabulist who could not be trusted with the presidency.

Obama risks serving up the same kind of ammunition. He has already provided several examples. Earlier this week, for instance, he remarked about how he "had an uncle who was one of the, um, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camp" - when, in fact, Auschwitz, in southern Poland, was liberated by the Soviets in January 1945, at a time when the American troops were 1000 miles away. Obama was apparently referring to a great-uncle on his mother's side who helped liberate Ohrdruf, a camp within the complex known as Buchenwald, in the German region known as Lower Saxony, three months later. So: a misidentified relative, wrong time frame, and wrong geography.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 2:56 PM

By the time the Bush White House finishes with Scott McClellan, the former press secretary - and author of a new book that harshly disses the Decider - will be painted as a raving nut job who deserves to be carted off by the guys in white coats. But such has long been the fate of any former Bush aide who (belatedly) dares to declare in public that the emperor has no clothes.

Witness Matthew Dowd, the ex-Bush pollster who last year turned on his old boss and was quickly dismissed by the remaining Bush loyalists as an emotional wreck ("he's going through a lot of personal turmoil," said Dan Bartlett); or ex-Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, who, after writing in his book that Bush was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people," was dismissed as a loose cannon with "wacky ideas"; or ex-national security aide Richard Clarke, who, after writing in 2004 that Bush never fully recognized the pre-9/11 terrorist threat, was promptly condemned as a power-obsessed bureaucrat and Democratic mole who had been passed over for a promotion.

POSTED: Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 10:26 AM

In yet another manifestation of the "maverick's" fealty to a failed president, John McCain is stuck trying to explain why he and Bush remain united in their opposition to a new, bipartisan G.I. Bill that would benefit our returning troops.

McCain felt compelled to defend himself again yesterday, during his Memorial Day speech, and no wonder. This is quite the political dilemma. By standing with President Bush, he risks being perceived as standing against the soldiers - which is not exactly the ideal profile for a Republican candidate.

In his speech yesterday, he at least tried to argue his case on the merits - as opposed to what he did late last week, when he launched a demagogic attack on Barack Obama that bears closer scrutiny. And I will provide that scrutiny, in a moment. But first, a little background:

POSTED: Sunday, May 25, 2008, 9:17 AM

The stench from the smoking wreckage of the Hillary Clinton candidacy continues to sting our nostrils.

It's clear, from the full context of her Friday remarks to a South Dakota newspaper, that Clinton really did not intend to suggest that she's staying in the race just in case Barack Obama shares the fate of Bobby Kennedy. Such is the unfair shorthand that has ricocheted around the blogosphere over the past 36 hours.

What's clear is that she was trying to make the (specious) case for extending the '08 primary season into June. Her argument was that past Democratic campaigns have often lasted that long. It was in that context that she cited the RFK assassination, which occurred shortly after the results were announced in the June 4, 1968 California primary. (Indeed, she first cited Kennedy's June shooting during an interview two months ago.)

POSTED: Friday, May 23, 2008, 8:06 AM

Due to travel requirements, the holiday is starting early around here. So I'm closed for business today. 

For now I'll simply stand by what I said yesterday, which needed to be said. My message to the oblivious millions is simple: Just take five minutes and get a clue.

I'll be posting items on Sunday and Monday. Have a great holiday. 

POSTED: Thursday, May 22, 2008, 8:28 AM

In order to temper the giddiness of Obama fans who may assume that victory in November is assured, I wish to discuss the candidate's greatest obstacle:

Voter ignorance.

It's not easy to raise this topic. It seems to be OK in this country to malign educated people, to dismiss them as "eggheads" and "latte-sippers," probably because there is a sizeable anti-intellectual strain in our culture. But I would suggest that stupid people should also be ripe for open discussion - if only because millions of willfully clueless voters may well function as the swing decision-makers in a close '08 presidential election.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 21, 2008, 12:38 AM

Ever so slowly, the Democratic rivals are dialing it down. When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton addressed their respective supporters last night, each did so with nary an ill word for the other side. One could sense that the Kumbaya phase is finally at hand, that the candidates are poised to observe the rituals of reconciliation.

This was evident not just because of what they said, but because of what they didn't say. Obama, while declaring that he has now clinched a majority of all pledged delegates nationwide (a goal that was attained last night even while losing in Kentucky), he did not seek to rub the news in Clinton's face by annointing himself as the nominee; rather, he said only that his milestone puts him "within reach" of the nomination. He didn't assail Clinton, directly or otherwise, as a symbol of the "old politics"; on the contrary, he seemed to be nominating her for political sainthood ("one of the most formidable candidates to ever seek the office...her courage, her commitment, her perseverance"), as well as for the feminist hall of fame (she has "shattered barriers" for our daughters).

Clinton didn't flatter Obama in similar fashion, or mention him much at all. But at least she didn't intimate, as she has repeatedly in the past, that he's a naif who lacks the tools to be commander in chief. She offered a few rote remarks about her own readiness to lead on Day One, but she quickly pivoted to the theme of being a good Democrat, regardless of the primary season results ("I'll work as hard as I can to elect a Democratic president this fall"), and the need for all Democratic voters to unify ("For the sake of our country, the Democrats must take back the White House...We will come together as a party"). She knew that her big Kentucky win would not dominate the media coverage, that it would be trumped by Obama's pledged-delegate clinching, that it would be checked and balanced by Obama's solid Oregon win, and therefore it would look absurd to talk of a turning tide.

About this blog

Cited by the Columbia Journalism Review as one of the nation's top political reporters, and lauded by the ABC News political website as "one of the finest political journalists of his generation," Dick Polman is a national political columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is on the full-time faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, as "writer in residence." Dick has been a frequent guest on C-Span, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC. He covered the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 presidential campaigns.

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All commentaries posted before April 18, 2008, can be accessed at www.dickpolman.blogspot.com.

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