In her 2004 book Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk, stubbornly irreverent New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recalled in her introduction that "Poppy" Bush, (Bush ’41) was rather uncomfortable with Ms. Dowd in her role during the first Bush administration as the Times’ White House correspondent.
"Poppy Bush had been expecting a traditional pin-striped Times correspondent, one with a name like Chatsworth Farnsworth III, who would scribble about ’41 leading the Atlantic alliance," Dowd observed. Not only the New York Times, but the whole media establishment has too many aspiring Chatsworth Farnsworths, with or without Roman numerals, who are all too eager to discover the next world leader of grand ambition and global "vision." We would be better served if they would just stand back and report and comment on how the American people choose the president of the United States. Where have you gone, Theodore H. White?
The Anything But Candid (ABC) television network and cable channel Fox News this week announced plans to limit the number of candidates participating in this weekend’s televised debates — ABC’s on Saturday night and the Fox News event on Sunday night. This is, for the benefit of that portion of the rest of the civilized world that may not have been paying attention, the weekend immediately preceding next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary elections. ABC had a number of criteria for winnowing the field based on standing in the polls, money raised and how they fared in the Iowa caucuses. Fox had already made its decision for its Republican debate and U.S. Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Duncan Hunter of California didn’t make the cut.
That means the Fox debate will include the Big Three — Romney, McCain, Giuliani — whom former candidate Tommy Thompson called by one name: "Rudy McRomney." And Gov. Huckabee will be both seen and heard by the national TV audience, unless he has lost another 100 pounds by then and has become invisible. And former Tennessee Senator and Law and Order star Fred Thomson will be included and will no doubt lead a nationwide TV audience to the dramatic discovery of the missing smoking gun, or "mushroom-shaped cloud" that justified the war in Iraq.
Duncan Hunter won’t get to talk about his fence to keep the illegal immigrants out. And without Ron Paul, there won’t be single voice in the Republican debate raised against our continued participation in the great neo-nuthouse Bush War II in Iraq that Paul has always opposed, still opposes and would end soon after he enters the White House. At that time, Fox News may fall on its propagandistic sword and stop covering the White House, though there may be occasional mention of rumors of an alleged White House somewhere in Washington, DC. Perhaps there will even be rumors of a Washington, D.C. Who needs a real president, White House or capital, anyway? Who needs a real debate? Fox News creates its own reality.
Indeed, that is what many, if not most, of the columnists, commentators and alleged reporters in Chatsworth Nation wish to do. They like to create our reality for us. They will tell us who the candidates and what the issues are, thank you. A caller on a talk show here in New Hampshire made the point that it was not so much an issue of who gets left out of the debates, but what is being left out. Neither Paul’s argument against the war in Iraq nor his call for abolition of the Federal Reserve will be heard by the Fox News audience. Nor will Dennis Kucinich’s plan for universal health care be heard on ABC. The marketplace of ideas that should be part of a presidential debate has been shrunk by the imperial edict of the Chatsworth Caesars of the Fourth Estate.
Listening to that very insightful argument, I didn’t think it had much impact on the two professors who were guests on the program, one from the University of New Hampshire, the other from Harvard. Both offered tepid defenses of the ABC’s and Fox’s fiats. Neither, I suspect, gives a cat’s keyster or a rat’s rear end about "the marketplace of ideas." Neither, I am certain, do the two major political parties. And neither does the "mainstream media" which is so much and so often in bed with the political establishment that they are no doubt breaking laws against incest and fornication in every state in the union.
Is it a coincidence that the establishment, kennel-fed media want to keep out pretty much the same people that the political establishment wants to keep out — the Pauls and the Kuciniches and the Hunters, the bulls in a political china shop, who aren’t afraid of breaking a few political icons? That gives the "mainstream media" or Nuthouse News, Inc., more time to dote on the stars and amplify their messages for them. We hear, for example, that voters in New Hampshire or Iowa, are being asked to compare Hillary Clinton’s "experience" versus Barack Obama’s promise of change. What we don’t hear much of is the substance, or lack of it, in the change Obama promises. And we seldom hear the journalistic gatekeepers of the political conversation challenge Clinton’s claim of experience. The cartoonists do a better job — especially the one who depicted Sen. Clinton in an operating room advising a patient not to worry: "I’m not a surgeon, but I was married to one for eight years."
I recently heard one of the talking heads on the radio refer offhandedly to Sen. Clinton’s "sensible foreign policy." Really? On what, I wonder, is that glib assumption based? Her cop-out, pass the buck vote in October of 2002 to authorize the Great Decider to unilaterally decide whether or not he would take this nation to war in Iraq — when it was all too obvious he would? Someone should have brought Senator Clinton and each of her colleagues who voted as she did a bowl of water so each could ritually wash his or her hands in the tradition of Pontius Pilate.
That is what the "mudstream" media is inclined to call a "sensible foreign policy." Go along to get along. Follow the conventional wisdom, defined so well by Joe Sobran as, "what everybody thinks everybody else thinks." People like Paul or Kucinich, who opposed our war of aggression in Iraq from the beginning and have consistently opposed the funding of it, are usually labeled, "controversial" at best and "extremist" and "isolationist" at worst.
Last year, PBS correspondent Bill Moyers produced a documentary called Buying the War, showing how the major news media swallowed the lies, half-truths and deceptions that somehow convinced most of the nation (if the polls were to be believed) that Iraq was a serious threat to the United States. Did the establishment media "buy" the war? Or was the media "bought" by the war’s proponents?
At the end of last week, Fergus Cullen, chairman of New Hampshire’s Republican State Committee, was still trying to convince Fox News, with whom the state GOP is co-sponsor of the debate, to relent and let the banned candidates participate. My suggestion to Mr. Cullen was that he announce the New Hampshire Republican Party has withdrawn its sponsorship, leaving Fox to either go it alone or find another sponsor. For the sake of candor, I recommend that Fox sponsor this debate as a joint venture with the American Kennel Club. That, or something like that, is where I would assume the political establishment finds the accommodating Chatsworth Farnsworths of the Fourth Estate.
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.