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THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE
Posted by Time for change in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Sun May 21st 2006, 07:07 PM
Corporate media shills like Russert attack Democrats whether or not they aggressively fight back. So why not expose those them for what they are? If nothing else, that will make it difficult for Republicans to whine about the 'liberal media'.
The mainstream news media in the United States may have always leaned at least somewhat to the right, but since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 resulted in progressive consolidation of “mainstream news” into fewer and fewer hands, it has become, in many ways, a mouthpiece for corporate America and (since 2001) the Bush administration.

What I find particularly infuriating is when so called journalists with far right wing agendas pretend to be nonpartisan and unbiased. Liberals and moderate voters can ignore obvious right wing extremists like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, and Bill O’Reilly. But they tend to take much more seriously the “news” they hear from supposedly neutral journalists, and therefore those “journalists” have the potential to do much more damage than obvious right wing extremists.

The implications for national politics have been quite unfortunate to say the least, as even Democratic Congresspersons have felt the need to mover further and further to the right. This is because they must constantly worry that if they alienate the corporate news media they will be ignored, mocked, or attacked.

But Democratic politicians are mocked and attacked by the corporate news media regardless of what they do – unless they move so far to the right that they may as well not be Democrats. Therefore, it has often seemed to me that, rather than take the abuse of the corporate media laying down, Democrats may have a better chance of maintaining political viability if they fight back…. as I will explain.


Tim Russert

Tim Russert is a case in point, and the best example that I can think of. According to Anthony Lappe and Stephen Marshall in their book “True Lies”:

As one of America’s most influential, and highest paid broadcast journalists, Russert has interviewed every major political figure in the United States since the early 1980s. With a pugnacious face and a sharp, savvy political intellect, he is often referred to as the ultimate objective, nonpartisan interrogator.

But Russert is anything BUT an objective journalist.

My first awareness of that fact came during the Florida presidential recount of November and December of 2000, which ultimately was resolved when our Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore. Gore’s high point during the Florida recount came when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that there must be a hand recount of all Florida counties (except Palm Beach, Broward and part of Miami-Dade, which had already been hand recounted). With that ruling, almost all knowledgeable observers of the contest, including those in the Bush camp, believed that Al Gore would win the election.

Tim Russert’s announcing of that ruling will forever be branded in my mind, and that was the point in time when I suddenly realized who he was. The contempt in his eyes and in his voice was palpable. I don’t recall his exact words, but he was obviously enraged that all ballots would now have to be examined to determine the “intent of the voter”, as Florida’s Supreme Court had ruled. I had probably sensed something wrong with him previously, but until that point in time I must have been in denial that this “ultimate objective, non-partisan journalist” was a fake. It suddenly hit me like a truck, and my wife had to ask me to leave the room as a torrent of abusive words came spewing out of my mouth.


Russert’s role in the 2000 election

Confirmation of Russert’s political leanings (not that any is needed) come from an incident related by Al Gore to Anthony Lappe, which took place shortly before the 2000 election at the Al Smith dinner, attended by Gore and Bush. Here is Lappe’s description from his book:

At one point in the evening, Gore explains, Russert approached the candidates. As Gore was closest to him, Russert respectfully shook his hand and then moved on to Bush. Thinking that Gore had turned away, Russert shook Bush’s hand and, mischievously, turned over his jacket lapel to reveal a Bush campaign pin hidden under the fold.

Russert was indeed relentless on Bush’s behalf during the Florida recount. Prior to Bush’s being awarded the presidency, as described by Eric Alterman in “What Liberal Media?”, Russert referred to Bush’s “future presidency” nineteen times, and he referred to Bush himself as “President Elect Bush”. On NBC Nightly News on November 8th, Russert said that Gore “can’t extend it too long, nor can he become a whiner about Florida”. He asked Dick Cheney if he thought that Gore was being a “sore loser”. And when Bush’s Florida campaign chairman, Katherine Harris, announced George Bush as the winner of the Florida election, based on the fact that the uncounted ballots hadn’t been counted by what she interpreted as the deadline date, Russert announced on his November 26th edition of Meet the Press, “He (Bush) has now been declared the official winner of the Florida election … and therefore is the forty-third president of the United States.”

And he tried, ultimately successfully, to get Gore’s running mate, Joe Lieberman to make concessions. On Meet the Press during the height of the controversy, as related in Robert Shogan’s book “Bad News”:

Russert demanded that Senator Lieberman … announce that Gore would give up the fight and accept Bush as the winner if the Florida tribunal upheld an unfavorable lower-circuit court decision against him.

When Lieberman refused to agree, Russert persisted:

But Senator … if the Florida Supreme Court rules that the lower-court judge was correct and the hand recount should not be counted, it ends there. The Supreme Court has spoken. Why not accept that decision? Why keep dangling out there future litigation?

Of course, the Florida Supreme Court, in a losing effort to preserve democracy in our country, did NOT rule that the hand recount should not be counted, as Russert was so fervently hoping for.

But then there was the issue of 680 controversial, illegal and probably phony overseas military ballots, which went heavily for Bush. As Eric Alterman describes this situation in his book:

The New York Times reported that the Bush lawyers had failed to present “any evidence” for legal arguments to allow the ballots…. What’s more, a later extensive post-election investigation by the Times found considerable circumstantial evidence for monkey business on these and other overseas ballot by the Republicans. But the echo chamber they created was so strong that Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman felt compelled to concede the issue under pressure… Since the number of ballots in question was 680, and Bush’s alleged margin of victory turned out to be just 537, this concession alone could conceivably have cost Gore his victory.

Eventually, the efforts of the Bush campaign, Russert, and other “journalists” paid off, as Lieberman announced directly to Russert on Meet the Press that the Gore/Lieberman campaign would not dispute the counting of those 680 questionable ballots.


Russert’s handling of Bush and his administration

Tim Russert has a reputation as a relentless interrogator of politicians, never afraid to ask the tough questions. But anyone who thinks that obviously hasn’t seen him interview George W. Bush.

Shortly after chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay exposed the lie of Iraqi WMDs in February 2004, the White House needed to repair some of the political damage. Bush chose Russert for that purpose. Anthony Lappe describes Russert’s interview of Bush on his February 8th, 2004 edition of Meet the Press:

For over an hour, six million viewers were treated to one of the biggest journalistic letdowns of the election year. With so much on the table – from the nonexistent WMDs to the Iraqi quagmire to accusations that Bush was AWOL from the National Guard – Russert could have hog-tied the president and left him twisting in the wind. Instead, he let him off easy, failing to counter Bush’s dodges with obvious follow-up questions.

In that same interview, in response to Russert’s asking if he would authorize the release of his military records to settle the question of whether or not Bush was AWOL from the National Guard, Bush answered “Yes, absolutely. We did so in 2000, by the way.”

Russert, regarded as one of the most well prepared journalists on television, must have known that that was a bald faced lie, as researcher Marty Heldt has previously publicly made clear that his efforts to obtain information on Bush’s military records through the Freedom of Information Act had been rejected. But Russert just let that slide.

And in an interview with Dick Cheney shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, Cheney tried to explain the pitiful response of his administration to the attacks:

"VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the--I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft.
"MR. RUSSERT: And you decided?'
"VICE PRES. CHENEY: We decided to do it. We'd, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time."

Again, Russert must have known that Cheney’s contention that “the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft” was a lie, since fighter jets routinely intercept commercial aircraft under certain designated circumstances (such as hijacked aircraft) without requiring or asking for approval from the White House. But again, Russert made no challenge of that ridiculous assertion by Cheney, and did not even follow up on it.

And in an abject display of his unbounded admiration for George Bush, Russert even asked Laura Bush on his December 23rd, 2001 edition of Meet the Press if she thought that her husband had become president due to divine intervention.


Russert’s largely successful attempt to destroy Howard Dean’s candidacy

In stark contrast to Russert’s handling of the Bush administration, his interview with Howard Dean, then frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, on June 22nd, 2003, showed how he interviews someone when he wants to destroy them politically.

Pulling out a highly partisan analysis of Dean’s tax plan, Russert asked Dean, “Can you honestly go across the country and say, “I’m going to raise your taxes 4,000 percent or 107 percent and be elected?”. Then Russert erroneously informed his viewers that Dean’s teenage son had been indicted for steeling beer.

And the fatal trap came when Russert asked how many men and women were serving in the U.S. military. When Dean said he didn’t know the exact number Russert lectured him, saying that “As commander in Chief, you should know that.”

An argument then ensued between Dean and Russert on this subject. Though I felt that Dean did a fine job of handling this, I tried to view the exchange through the eyes of a typical undecided American voter, and my conclusion was (later verified, I believe) that Dean was hurt badly by this episode. Indeed, the conventional wisdom was that Dean “failed” Russert’s test, and that Russert “cleaned Dean’s clock”. And I do believe that if not for this interview Howard Dean would be President today.

By that I don’t mean to criticize Dean. To put it bluntly, he was put in an untenable position. Here was “the ultimate unbiased nonpartisan” journalist telling him that he was unfit to be president. If he argued too strenuously with Russert about this he might appear to viewers to be belittling the responsibilities of the Presidency. If he argued not strenuously enough he might appear to be conceding that Russert was correct about his unfitness for the Presidency. What could he do?


Someone should publicly confront Tim Russert for the flaming hypocrite that he is

What if Howard Dean had responded to Tim Russert’s ridiculous attacks like this?

Tim, I don’t need a lecture from a Bush administration shill on my qualification for the presidency. As you might remember, when you asked presidential candidate George Bush in 1999 how many missiles would be in place if a new START II nuclear weapons treaty were signed, Bush had no idea what you were even talking about – but you didn’t seem to think that that had anything to do with his qualifications to be president.

You criticize my tax plan by quoting from a highly partisan and inept analysis of it. You tell your reviewers erroneously that my son has been indicted for a crime. And now you’re telling me that I’m not qualified to be president because I don’t know the exact number of soldiers currently serving in our military.

I have described for you and your viewers in great detail my foreign and domestic plans for making America a stronger and better country. You can ask me any question you like about my plans for our country, and I will not evade your questions. But if you want to question my fitness for office I suggest that you do so in an honest editorial format, rather than in the guise of a neutral nonpartisan journalist who is supposedly conducting an interview.

Do we have an understanding on that?



What would the consequences of such a response be?

Of course such a response would not be without significant risk. Dean might appear to viewers to be aggressively attacking an unbiased journalist just because he was asked an uncomfortable question. He might be seen as rude or petulant or “whiney”, as Democrats are so often portrayed by our corporate media. And just as bad, Russert, with or without the help of other journalists (more likely with their help) might attack Dean publicly for such remarks.

But the bottom line is this. Corporate journalists will attack Democrats whether or not they aggressively fight back against the corporate media attack on them. So why not change the rules of the game and expose those corporate shills for what they are? If they want to attack us for that, fine. But they’re doing that anyhow, and I don’t believe that they could do a better job of it than they are currently doing. In any event, with an open fight between Democrats and the corporate media, Republicans will have a hard time trying to sound legitimate when they whine about the “liberal media”.
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The Unfulfilled Promise
The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream: The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals




Time for change


Notwithstanding the lofty sentiments and purpose of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the reality of the United States of America did not then – and never has – lived up to its ideal. Our nation remains today a long way from fulfilling the promise implied by those ideals. Yet, our Declaration was a great start, and it has long shone as a beacon of hope for people all over the world.

Throughout our history, while many have striven to close the gap between our highest ideals and the reality of our nation, others have focused on the accumulation of private wealth and power, at the expense of everyone else. In recent decades the latter have gained much ground, leading to increasing imperialism abroad and deteriorating democracy at home, characterized by routine (and legal) bribery of our public officials, the fusion of government and private corporate interests (corporatocracy), a corrupt election system largely in the hands of private corporations, a corporate controlled communications media, and the widespread acceptance of Executive Branch secrecy, routinely justified with little if any questioning, by the magic words “national security”. All of this is rapidly turning our country from the democracy proclaimed at our founding into a plutocracy (government by the wealthy and for the wealthy). The result is the most obscene wealth gap our country has ever known, the highest imprisonment rate in the world, rampant militarism, routine flaunting of international law, the least efficient health care system in the developed world, a pending environmental catastrophe that threatens to destroy the life sustaining forces of our planet, and myriad other problems that threaten to destroy our nation and tyrannize our people.

My new book, The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream – The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals, explores the roots and consequences of the demise of our democracy, and why most Americans have been unable to understand this process or even become aware of it. A good understanding of why and how we have deviated so greatly from the ideals of our nation is the first and necessary step towards getting back on the right track and revitalizing our society.

The book is currently being sold in electronic PDF format and can be purchased at http://www.unfulfilledpromise.com/Buy-the-... for $3.99. It will also soon be available in Amazon Kindle format. DU members who cannot afford to buy the book but would like to read it can pm me with your e-mail address, and I will send you a free PDF copy.

I’ve previously posted on DU a slightly earlier version of the introduction to the book, which is also posted at my site. Here is the Table of Contents, followed by a brief description of the three parts of the book:


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Acknowledgements
Prologue – What is Wrong with the United States of America?

Part I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy
Chapter 1 – Legalized Bribery
Chapter 2 – Human Psychological Factors
Chapter 3 – Corporatocracy
Chapter 4 – Corporate Control of Media
Chapter 5 – Corrupt Election System
Chapter 6 – Government Secrecy
Chapter 7 – American Exceptionalism

Part II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions
Chapter 8 – Slavery and its Legacy
Chapter 9 – Early U.S. Imperialism
Chapter 10 – U.S. Imperialism in Cold War
Chapter 11 – Iraq War and Occupation
Chapter 12 – Afghanistan War

Part III – Consequences
Chapter 13 – Election of George W. Bush
Chapter 14 – War and Imperialism
Chapter 15 – Class Warfare
Chapter 16 – Predator Financial Class
Chapter 17 – Shock Therapy
Chapter 18 – Contempt for Int. Law
Chapter 19 – The “War on Drugs”
Chapter 20 – Climate Change
Chapter 21 – “War on Terror”
Chapter 22 – Health Care
Chapter 23 – Unaccountable government
Chapter 24 – Response to 9/11 Attacks
Epilogue


PART I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy

It is somewhat difficult to separate the causes of our problems from their consequences, since they combine to form a long chain of cause leading to consequence, leading to more consequences, etcetera. Nevertheless, it seems worth while to identify the root causes of our problems, those that occur early in the chain and lead to so many of the tragic consequences we see today. The only chance we have of reversing the demise of our democracy is through addressing and attacking its root causes.

At the top of the list is the systematic bribery of public officials by the powerful corporations (Chapter 1) whom our government is charged with regulating in the public interest. Instead of calling it bribery, we call it “campaign contributions”, but what we call it isn’t as important as what it is. It is hard to fathom how democracy can survive when such a practice is legal and condoned.

Working in tandem with our system of legalized bribery is the nature of the people who inhabit our country. That is not to say that Americans are inherently substantially different than any other people. Human beings are imperfect, and that is probably a major reason why in a world where civilization began more than five millennia ago, the oldest written national framework of government in the world today – the Constitution of the United States of America – is only a little more than two and a quarter centuries old. Chapter 2 explores the roles of basic human needs, authoritarianism, psychological defense mechanisms used to prevent us from perceiving reality as it is rather than as we’d like it to be, and corrupted ideologies in causing us to passively accept the accumulation of power in the hands of ambitious and ruthless individuals who care about little else than expanding their own wealth and power.

When bribery of public officials is tolerated as an inevitable aspect of public life, government inevitably grows close to the wealthy interests that shower it with money in return for legislative and other favors. A malevolent symbiosis grows between the state and corporate power, resulting in rule by an oligarchy that is highly detrimental to the lives of ordinary people (Chapter 3). Using their accumulated wealth and power to manipulate our legislative process, the oligarchy grabs for more and more control of the communications media (Chapter 4) that are used to control the information available to and shape the attitudes of our nation’s people, in pursuit of their own narrow interests.

Since the 1980s an orchestrated campaign has been underway to demonize “big government”, thereby paving the way for private corporate control over more and more functions that were previously deemed intrinsic functions of government. Among those functions is the running of public elections (Chapter 5) – the function that symbolizes democracy perhaps more than any other single function. Consequently, the purging of selected registered voters from our computerized voter rolls has become a routine recurring event throughout much of our country, and without a doubt determined the results of the 2000 – and probably 2004 as well – presidential election. Just as bad, more and more of the counting of votes in our public elections have been turned over to private corporations, which count our votes using electronic machines using secret software to produce vote counts that cannot be verified by anyone.

Bribery, the fusion of government and private interest, fake and biased news, and corrupt elections are not things that government and its corporate allies want us to know about. Consequently, they construct walls of secrecy (Chapter 6) to keep us from obtaining information that sheds light on their activities. The perfect phrase for facilitating this is “national security”. When our government tells us that the “national security” requires that certain things be kept secret from us, the understanding is that to question such a pronouncement is unpatriotic, and to actually attempt to obtain the “secret” information may be treasonous.

But indefinitely maintaining secrets from the American people can be very difficult, because at least some people want to know what their government is up to. So in addition to the formal mechanisms of secrecy, informal mechanisms are constructed (Chapter 7) to keep vital information away from us. One of the primary methods for doing this is to make certain sensitive subjects taboo – that is, to create the widespread belief that discussion of these topics is so outside the bounds of acceptable human discourse that anyone who discusses them should be shunned by society, or worse. The most common issue that falls into this category is any discussion that sheds light on the disparity between American ideals and the reality of life in our country today.


PART II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions in U.S. History

Notwithstanding the fact that our founding document says that “all men are created equal” and speaks of the inalienable rights of humankind, the United States has throughout its history partaken of massive exploitation of other peoples.

It is estimated that at the time of our birth, 18% of our population was black slaves. In our expansion westwards during the late 18th and 19th centuries, we decimated the original inhabitants of our continent, and often treated them with great cruelty. In 1846 we manufactured an excuse for war with our neighbor Mexico, in which we continued to expand our country westwards and southwards. In 1893 we began our overseas imperialism with the conquest of Hawaii. Our overseas expansion was greatly accelerated in 1898 with our participation in the Spanish-American War, which led to our conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. With our arrival at world superpower status at the end of World War II, we began the Cold War, which led to and served as a rationalization for covert and/or direct military actions against myriad foreign nations over the next 46 years. With the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, we declared a perpetual “War on Terror”, which served and continues to serve as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, nations that posed no threat to us. We do not know when or if this perpetual war will ever end. We don’t know how many additional imperial conquests it will lead to.

Most Americans don’t think much about all this. Many of these actions are done in secrecy, and the American people don’t find out about them until many years later – or we never find out about them at all. Those that we do know about are spun into the most favorable light, to make them seem benign or even noble.

But these actions come at great costs: in the lives of our soldiers; in the ruined lives of the peoples of the victim countries; in trillions of dollars cost to our people and their future generations; in our international reputation; in anti-American hatred leading to terrorism; and, to our democracy itself. For how can a nation claim to believe in the inalienable rights of humankind specified in its founding document, while making a mockery of that belief in the way it treats other peoples? For that reason alone it is worth while to take a brief look at our long history of imperialist actions.


PART III – Consequences

In the Prologue I give a brief account of what I see as some of the worst and tragic consequences of the root causes that I discuss in Part I – to enable the reader to see where this book is heading. When elections of our public officials are for sale to the highest bidder… when our public officials are so addicted to the “campaign contributions” of their wealthiest constituents that they develop a symbiotic relationship with them… when our communications media are owned and controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy elites… when our citizenry lack the ability to differentiate propaganda from reality… when we allow machines provided by private corporations to count our votes using secret electronic software… then we should expect that the consequences will not be pretty or comfortable for the vast majority of our citizens.

In Part III, I explore those consequences in much greater detail, in the hope that the reader will agree with me that these are very serious problems, and that they must be successfully addressed if our country is ever to fulfill the promise of its ideals, or even make progress in that direction. When enough Americans recognize our problems as problems, stripped of the gloss and spin put on them by our oligarchy, they will rise up and do something about them. Until then there will be no progress, and we are very likely to head in the direction of all the former empires of our planet, ending in chaos, widespread catastrophe, suffering, and ignominy.

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