Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Journalist, 'Heel' Thyself

It’s encouraging that the host of the eponymously named Diane Rehm Show will now be applying a tough journalistic standard to politicans.

On her August 15, 2011 show entitled Emerging Field of GOP Presidential Candidates (transcript and audio at link), Ms. Rehm shared her thoughts on how the press (and presumably, she includes herself) should challenge politicians “to make sure that people hear the full story and not just what candidates tell us.”

Consider the following from the transcript where Ms. Rehm and her guests were discussing the recently announced candidacy of Rick Perry (emphasis added):
...DUNHAM 10:34:23
So, again, there are a lot reasons why Texas has boomed that don't directly have to do with Rick Perry.

REHM 10:34:29
There is another question -- 23.8 percent of Texans did not have health insurance in 2009. Has that percentage changed?

DUNHAM 10:34:44
I think it's gone up slightly. But Texas is close to the bottom or the top for uninsured people. It was before Perry became governor. It is now. It's a fair question to raise.

REHM 10:34:56
Texas has the second highest percentage of children without health insurance.

DUNHAM 10:35:05
That's correct. And health insurance is a big issue for him, Obamacare.

REHM 10:35:09
Texas also lags the rest to the nation badly in high school graduation rates?

DUNHAM 10:35:18
Yeah, I think you could have your list where Texas is at the top of all the good things and the bad things. You're absolutely right.

WALTER 10:35:24
You know, the other issue, though, is when you think about where the economy is right now and how people feel about the economy. When only 8 percent of Americans right now in Gallup polling say they feel that the economy is excellent or good, when only 17 percent think -- they think the economy is getting better, some of those issues that you raise, Diane, don't necessary go to the top of the concern list for a lot of voters.

WALTER 10:35:45
All they're going to hear at some point is, this guy created jobs in Texas. And they want to hear about jobs, and they want to hear about the economy. And if Perry does his job right, he finds a way to keep that focus unrelenting on that.

REHM 10:36:00
But that's where I feel the press needs to make the point clearly, that, for example, the average wage of those Texas' jobs is around $7 an hour. I don't think the press can simply go along with what Gov. Perry has to say and swallow it whole, David Keene.

KEENE 10:36:29
Well, the press should always do that, but the narrative...

REHM 10:36:31
Yeah, right.

The narrative that is -- that surrounds Rick Perry's persona as being the governor of the state that's producing a lot of jobs, and -- partly worth a mention -- but jobs are being driven there by places like California. But no matter where you're governor of, you can find negative things and positive things. All in all, he's got a pretty good narrative.

KEENE 10:36:52
But when you look at the discussion that we're now having and the questions of the last few minutes and with what's happened in Iowa, you get down to what the general election is going to be about. It's going to be about these issues, about the size and the role of the government, whether we should be worried about the deficit or whether we should be spending more money.

KEENE 10:37:11
And it's really a race in which both parties are all in because both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have staked out a very clear position on the issue of most -- of concern to most Americans. And that's going to determine how this race ultimately ends.

REHM 10:37:27
I just want to make sure that people hear the full story and not just what candidates tell us. David Keene is former chair of The American Conservative Union...
Ms. Rehm must have learned her lesson after the debacle that is now known as the press coverage of then candidate Barack Obama and her role (or as will be seen shortly, roll) in it. Here’s some background for those that haven’t been privy to Ms. Rehm’s transformation.

On October 20, 2006, Ms. Rehm fawningly interviewed then Senator Obama (link to audio) on his book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ and asked the following question (emphasis added) (Link to original blog post...Obama wasn't a declared candidate on October 20, 2006 (he declares Februrary 10, 2007), but the Time Magazine cover story for that week (note: cover date is one week ahead) shows the MSM were pushing the "Why-Barack-Obama-Could-Be-The-Next-President" meme well before that time.):
Diane Rehm:

...Earlier this week the President [Bush] signed into law the Military Commissions Act; the new law that gives the President quite far reaching authority on the war on terror. You voted against the measure. Tell us why.

Sen. Obama:

I think it was a sloppy piece of legislation. It was rushed in part to match the election schedule. And had we stepped back and thought this through there was a way of making sure that the military could do it's job in charging and trying those persons who seek to do us harm, but do so in a context that was consistent with our core constitutional principles. This wasn't that bill.

One of the most disturbing aspect of the legislation was the elimination for the first time in our history of the principle of Habeas Corpus. And those that are familiar with our jurisprudence know that Habeas Corpus predates the American Revolution; it's a principle going back to the 13th Century.

And the basic principle is one that should be so obvious to people that I think all of us take it for granted. That is, if the government grabs you and hauls you into custody they have an obligation to charge you and allow you to answer those charges. And this piece of legislation said for the first time that it is permisible for this adminstration or the military to capture people
and not give them that basic hearing in court...
Ms. Rehm could have challenged the Harvard Law School grad at that time and pointed out that none other than the Civil War President that came from the same state then Senator Obama was representing, Abraham Lincoln, suspended Habeas Corpus. Certainly, with her new found zeal for questioning political candidates, and given the chance again, Ms. Rehm would not "simply go along with what [Obama] has to say and swallow it whole".

What really must have shocked Ms. Rehm and turned her into a reformed ‘question what the candidate is telling us with critical thinking’ journalist was the February 21, 2009 New York Times article entitled ‘Obama Upholds Detainee Policy in Afghanistan’. From the article:
The Obama administration has told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistanhave no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.

In a two-sentence filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the United States Air Force base at Bagram, just north of the Afghan capital. The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release.

“Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position,” wrote Michael F. Hertz, acting assistant attorney general.

The closely watched case is a habeas corpus lawsuit on behalf of several prisoners who have been indefinitely detained for years without trial. The detainees argue that they are not enemy combatants, and they want a judge to review the evidence against them and order the military to release them.

The Bush administration had argued that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear such a case because the prisoners are noncitizens being held in the course of military operations outside the United States.

The Obama team was required to take a stand on whether those arguments were correct because a federal district judge, John D. Bates, asked the new government whether it wanted to alter that position.

The Obama administration’s decision was generally expected among legal specialists. But it was a blow to human rights lawyers who have challenged the Bush administration’s policy of indefinitely detaining “enemy combatants” without trials…
Let’s ‘audaciously hope’ that Ms. Rehm applies her ‘better-late-than-never’, ‘get tough journalistic analysis’ philosophy consistenly from here on out.

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Blogger Mmatters said...

Nicely done, Mario.

August 17, 2011 at 3:53 PM  

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