May 30, 2008
This past week, the release of Scott McClellan’s book, What Happened, pushed the failed campaign of Hillary Clinton right out of the news. Among the subjects raised in McClellan’s book, was his point that the so-called “liberal media” enabled an uncritical mindset during the run-up to the Iraq war, facilitating Congressional approval of Bush’s war effort. The point made by McClellan has resulted in a surprising amount of self-analysis by the mainstream media and some good criticism by those, referred to by Karl Rove as “Leftist Bloggers”. On the website Media Matters for America, Eric Boehlert wrote an article concerning a September 27, 2002 speech given by Sen. Edward Kennedy. Kennedy’s speech targeted six aspects of the war, which have now become widely-expressed criticisms, voiced by politicians and commentators who opposed of our invasion of Iraq. Boehlert analyzed the scant coverage given to this speech by broadcast news, cable news and the press. One humorous example concerned how Chris Matthews sandwiched Kennedy’s name between the names of Barbara Streisand and Tom Cruise:
Tonight on Hardball, Barbra Streisand, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Tom Cruise speak out as debate picks up in Washington and in Hollywood over whether this country should attack Iraq.
Boehlert was surprised to find the show’s guests discussing the opinions of the celebrities as seriously as they discussed Senator Kennedy’s argument against the invasion.
Meanwhile, Jason Linkins of The Huffington Post, followed up on a remark made by CNN’s congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 as a part of a panel discussing McClellan’s book. Ms. Yellin admitted that during the run-up to the war, “the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings”.
Throughout the primary season, we have seen Hillary Clinton take plenty of heat for her vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq. John Edwards took less heat for his vote, because he admitted it was a mistake. Now, thanks to Scott McClellan, the media are being forced to account for their fair share of the blame in selling this war to the American public. Don’t be surprised if someone follows up with a movie discussing media complicity in what McClellan has described as a “propaganda campaign”.
We are all familiar with Judith Miller’s efforts at The New York Times to help promote the invasion of Iraq. McClellan’s observation that the “liberal media” are partially to blame for promoting this war, may result in the identification of more “liberal media” cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion, as well as an understanding of their numerous motives.