Thursday, May 29, 2008

Minister of propaganda

How's this for news?

"As I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about perjuring himself. So he says, 'I do not recall.' The witness knows no one can get into his head and prove it is not true, so this seems like a much safer course than actually lying. Bush, similarly, has a way of falling back on the hazy memory defense to protect himself from potential political embarrassment. Bush rationalizes it as being acceptable because he is not stating unequivocally anything that could be proven false. If something later is uncovered to show what he knew, then he can deny lying in his own mind."
And this . . .
"Top White House officials who knew the truth (about leaking C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame's identity to the media) — including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney—allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie."
And, of course, these "bombshells" . . .
Condi Rice never challenged data, intelligence or any "analysis" provided to President Bush on national security matters, including the Iraq war. Rice always appeared more concerned with her status in the administration, which required her to play the role of loyal sycophant. No matter who was doing the talking, she simply nodded her head and went along.
Dick Cheney operated behind the scenes on every matter of importance to him, yet left no footprint tying him to any explicit wrongdoing or bad decisions, which, of course, he never, in his own judgment, ever made.
The Bush administration manipulated intelligence to "justify" the invasion of Iraq, and ignored any contrary evidence presented to high-level officials that contradicted its public position. In some cases, the administration simply lied to the public and a genuflecting news media.
President Bush is a "gut player" who lives in his own little "bubble" protected by his "enablers" in the administration and the establishment media. He was "plenty smart enough to be president," (Does anyone other than head-in-the-sand "loyalists" really believe this anymore?), but stubborn, unreflective and unable to admit a mistake. Bush and his closest aides, by whom he was easily swayed, wanted to invade Iraq almost as soon as the second al Qaeda-hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center. The administration "managed the crisis" so that the use of "force" would be the only "feasible option." The "crisis" refers, of course, to the 9.11 attacks by Saudis supported by al-Qaeda that led the administration to target Iraq, with whom, as the evidence then and since has established, it had no relationship.
And the most startling revelation of all . . .
The Bush administration relied on "political propaganda" to "sell" the war, and repeatedly sent its press secretaries out to lie and deceive the reporters who "cover" the White House, knowing that the establishment media usually does nothing more than rewrite the "talking points" provided to them by administration officials whose job it is to "defend" whatever they want the public to believe.
No less than three stories appear in this morning's (Friday, May 30th) Washington Post on former Bush administration press secretary Scott McClellan's forthcoming "memoir" on his years lying and deceiving the public on behalf of George Bush, first as the governor of Texas and later as president of the United States. The book is called, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. McClellan is making the rounds on television and radio defending his book from the "I can't believe Scott wrote such outrageous stuff" reaction he has received from his former colleagues in the Bush White House. Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary to President Bush who has never, in my recollection, uttered a candid word to the public about his or anyone else's role in managing the worst presidency in American history, sums up the disappointment of the Bushies this way: Scott McClellan's own words do not "sound like Scott McClellan." In other words, why couldn't have McClellan have done his "government service" and gone out and parlayed his Washington celebrity status into a lucrative career in the "private sector" giving speeches to corporate audiences and other receptive conservatives about his years in the administration deceiving the American public, like he did?

Sigh . . . is there anyone really left out there who finds McClellan's "revelations" news? I mean, it might be news to the establishment media who soaked up administration propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq war like warm biscuits on a plate of southern gravy. Anyone else? Show of hands? Dozens of books and articles have appeared in the last five years either documenting the administration's incompetence, deceitfulness, dishonesty and indifference to domestic crises (Katrina), Iraq, the unwinnable "War on Terror" (while it makes for an effective slogan, you cannot declare "war" on a tactic). Good God, even Bob Woodward, the most establishment establishment "reporter" out there, has concluded that the Bush administration wasn't "forthright" about pretty much everything connected to the Iraq war.

If Bob Woodward concludes you have a booger, on your nose, even after 639 other people have said in the clearest possible terms you have a booger on your nose, you have a booger on your nose.

McClellan's book is only news because he worked for Bush. There isn't a word published between the covers that will come as a shock to people who have no stake in how the Washington establishment operates. Press secretaries are not employed by presidents to tell the public the truth. They are employed to sell the administration's position to the public by cultivating the establishment media. Scott McClellan, like Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer, are ministers of propaganda. So why should be suprised that a former press secretary has concluded that his former bosses sent him out to dispense "political propaganda?" What will we learn next? That prostitutes get paid to have sex? That whore houses offer sexual services in addition to "erotic massage" and "companionship?" Is Scott McClellan that different from former Hollywood "Madam" Heidi Fleiss, who disclosed to the public that well-known actors, producers, directors and others in the entertainment paid thousands of dollars to prostitutes in her employ for sex? A turncoat Mafia informant who . . . gasp . . . admits he killed people or had people killed or thought about killing people or that the "culture of honor" in the Mob only extended as far as one's usefulness to the greater good? A ballplayer who admits that he and many, many others used illegal drugs to "enhance" their performance? That the 1977 Led Zeppelin tour of the United States featured more sex, drugs and rock 'n roll that one thought humanly possible.

The lesson here isn't that presidents and their press secretaries lie, or that the Bush administration has perfected the art of the lie, big and small, as simply the consequence of doing business "in this town." (Witness the reaction of corporate media stars such as Tim Russert, David Gregory, Brian Williams and others in the starry constellation of the Washington establishment that they were not in bed with the administration on the selling of the Iraq war). For me, it's that Americans should finally realize that what they see and hear in the mainstream media is nothing more than "political propaganda." The White House press conference is an archaic and useless charade, as is the "relationship" between the "reporters" who "cover" them. If you want to know what's going on, you have to take the first and most important step of by-passing the high school culture that dominates Washington; and second, and more important, you have to stay informed by steering clear of people whose job description requires them to . . . shudder . . . lie to you.

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