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Tilting at Windmills

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April 25, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BUYING THE WAR....PBS's Bill Moyers Journal is returning to the air tonight with a 90-minute broadcast called "Buying the War." It sounds well worth watching, and I especially want to highlight this:

Among the few heroes of this devastating film are reporters with the Knight Ridder/McClatchy bureau in D.C. Tragically late, Walter Isaacson, who headed CNN, observes, "The people at Knight Ridder were calling the colonels and the lieutenants and the people in the CIA and finding out, you know, that the intelligence is not very good. We should've all been doing that."

This is something that's common knowledge in the blogosphere, where Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) has been a daily must-read for years. Their DC and Baghdad bureaus don't have the breadth of coverage of, say, the New York Times, but the stuff they do cover is almost always top notch. And their coverage of Iraq has been easily the most acute and prescient of any news organization. They well deserve being singled out on tonight's show.

You can check local showtimes for "Buying the War" here. Definitely worth a look.

Kevin Drum 12:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Comments

Someone should take another look at the 19 hijackers.The guys flying them planes where very good,Taught in Saudi Araba.Americans where had on 911 bookmark it, We will find out Cheney and co.where behind 911. No tinfoil hat here,Just the obvious.

Posted by: john john on April 25, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

You can't be called a traitor if you unquestioningly repeat Republican talking points. And you get invited to all the good parties. It is Win/Win!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on April 25, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

And their coverage of Iraq has been easily the most acute and prescient of any news organization.

Don't forget The Onion. Only they have really managed to do justice to the surreal fantasia this country has found itself in.

Posted by: Stefan on April 25, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when people were worried McClatchy would become a right wing tool when it became McClatchy? Whew!

Posted by: MNPundit on April 25, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Journalists at top notch news organizations need to learn a very simple lesson: truth is more important than access.

That's why, when it comes to recording the history of the Iraq war coverage, Ridder/McClatchy will be celebrated, and the NY Times will be ridiculed and scorned.

In the long run, reputations in journalism are based on getting things right. The glory of high level access while pounding the drumbeats of war crashes into disgrace when the propaganda is found out.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 25, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Rupert Murdoch was a lonely figure when he revived the 19th century/early 20th century model of the Hearst "I'll give you the war" news, but once Jack Welch decided to use NBC as an adjunct of GE corporate all the rest of them tumbled and got in line. They're all crooked. Main Stream Media is corporate media pure and simple, now. The William Paley model which held from WW2 to the late 20th century has been abandoned.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 25, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

That's why, when it comes to recording the history of the Iraq war coverage, Ridder/McClatchy will be celebrated, and the NY Times will be ridiculed and scorned.

History is for shmucks.

NYT reporters can afford better hookers.

Posted by: Disputo on April 25, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo >"...NYT reporters can afford better hookers."

More expensive sure. Better ? I have no data on that but often "more expensive" does not translate to "better". YMMV of course.

"...economics runs around trying to figure out how people rationalized what they just did." - Stirling Newberry

Posted by: daCascadian on April 25, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

To Jeffrey Davis: Then it's a return to the norm, which I can handle as long as everyone understands it and they are not lied to.

Independent Upstanding Journalism was an experiment that failed.

Time to move on.

Posted by: MNPundit on April 25, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

God (or the inexorable evolutionary imperative) bless Bill Moyers!

Posted by: chance on April 25, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Knight Ridder's DC and Baghdad bureaus don't have the breadth of coverage of, say, the New York Times"

Knight Ridder isn't as, shall we say, compromised as the NYT.

Posted by: luci on April 25, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

But wheren't most of the repugnut's weeded out at the NY times.With Judith Miller,Armstrong,and others purged out the times should be more truthful.

Posted by: john john on April 25, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The media and the The patriotism police
...Walter Isaacson is pushed hard by Moyers and finally admits, "We didn't question our sources enough." But why? Isaacson notes there was "almost a patriotism police" after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and "big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.'" ...
When the government's little brown shirts are on the attack, few, if any, media millionaires will dare to speak out. Can't jeopardize that summer home in Nantucket and the sweet income that comes with going along to get along.

Posted by: Mike on April 25, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

mhr

Well, that effectively refutes everything he has to say. You must be in line for a good job in the administation.

Posted by: tomeck on April 25, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

It is from his experiences that Moyers learned to challenge the official bullshit so many others (some here) are lined up to feed on.

Posted by: chance on April 25, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

mhr, that's the most incoherent and deranged straw man argument you've made here yet, and that's a bold statement.

Seriously, check out the postings lately from the dead-ender Bush fluffers like mhr, "ex-liberal", etc. They're getting progressively more deranged, truculent and -- dare I say it? -- shrill.

You can tell that they recognize, deep down, that they've hitched their wagon to a party of incompetent, corrupt losers on a one-way trip to history's dustbin.

And yet something motivates them to come here and carry the GOP's water. One wonders what....

Posted by: Gregory on April 25, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Mike: ...Walter Isaacson is pushed hard by Moyers and finally admits, "We didn't question our sources enough." But why? Isaacson notes there was "almost a patriotism police" after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and "big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.'" ...

Mike blames the flaws in our CIA on events during the Bush Administration. Moyers may slant the news the same way. In reality, the CIA was awful long before Bush came to office. That's why, during the Clinton administration, Bill and Hillary both said the same things Bush later did about Saddams (supposed) WMDs.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 25, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

mhr,
Sad attempt at an ad hominem attack.

x-lib,
Are those sentences supposed to make sense? At the very least, you are missing a word or two - or a synapse or two.

Posted by: mcdruid on April 25, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I saw an excerpt from the Moyers special on www.alternet.org. I'm not sure if the video link is still up on that site and I can't provide a link through this post, since I am on a Treo. However, I will tell you that Moyers rips the Bushies a new bunghole!

Anyone who watches this special and then downloads The Power of Nightmares, will be screaming for the impeachment and imprisonment of the deeply criminal Richard Bruce Cheney and George Walker Bush.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 25, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, you can blame the cia for getting wrong but you can't blame it for the war. the evidence was there, inspectors were on the ground stating that iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. even if it had weapons, there was no evidence that iraq could use them against the u.s. or any of its allies. as for colin powell's speech to the un, listen to it again and tell me what "evidence" he cited that was four, five, six years or old or more. the bush administration simply wanted war. and if you want to blame the cia, remember, this was the bush administration's cia.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 25, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Save your breath, mudwall. "ex-liberal" has been corrected on this point before. The Clintons never said that Iraq posed a threat that neccessitated invasion. Bush did.

"ex-liberal" knows this, if for no other reason that he/she/it has been informed on these threads. But "ex-liberal" does not post in good faith; rather, he/she/it is here to post lies in service of the neocon agenda (one wonders why).

Posted by: Gregory on April 25, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when people were worried McClatchy would become a right wing tool when it became McClatchy? Whew! Posted by: MNPundit

Do you mean when K-R became McClatchy? In any case, the Knight-Ridder reporting done about Iraq, the stuff that will literally go down in history, was done years before McClatchy bought the chain.

If McClatchy has kept its corporate hands off the various bureaus and reporters, that's good. But I think it's a bit early to conclude that nothing will change for the worse.

Posted by: JeffII on April 25, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, Knight-Ridder (specifically the Philadelphia Inquirer) gave us Barlett & Steele's superb investigative reporting until the duo went over to Time.

And speaking of Time and Mr. Isaacson's "patriotism police," his magazine was set to name Osama bin Laden its man of the year for 2001 -- remember, this isn't a good-or-evil honor, as Hitler was also named in the late '30s -- but Wal-Mart said it would refuse to carry Time if it did so. Hence, Rudolph Giuliani as man of the year for 2001.

Posted by: Vincent on April 25, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: Don't forget The Onion. Only they have really managed to do justice to the surreal fantasia this country has found itself in.

No. There's a popular misconception that The Onion is a satirical publication or something. In fact it's just going with the flow.

Posted by: alex on April 25, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: NYT reporters can afford better hookers

Perhaps you meant "NYT reporters are better hookers".

Posted by: alex on April 25, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Guys, if you're sick of ex-reasonable's bullshit there is a firefox extension can edit him out.
Here's what i see from ex-lax:

I don't know about all this stuff, guys, but I do know that I like pie.
Posted by: ex-liberal on April 25, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'll help you install it, but search google for "Greasemonkey" "washington monthly" first. Let me know how i can help.

Posted by: absent observer on April 25, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Greenwald has a post today about how uncritically the press accepted the war:

I defy anyone to go back and read the April and May, 2003 tongue-wagging, mindless American press accounts of Jessica Lynch's epic firefight against the Enemy; the severe gun shot and stabbing wounds she suffered; the torture to which she was subjected while in the Iraqi hospital; and the daring, gun-blazing rescue of her by our Special Forces, and then try to claim that we have a functioning, healthy political press in this country that serves as a check on government deceit and corruption. It is impossible for any minimally honest person to make that claim in light of those stories.

He points out that the only reason the real Jessica Lynch story ever came to light was because the foreign press aggressively investigated the government's story -- and what do you know, it was all a bunch of crap made up to sell a war to the gullible American public.

Posted by: trex on April 25, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Lasseter of KR and now McClatchy was the best Baghdad reporter around, IMO. The guy found a way to get out in the field and interview all sorts of people. He left Iraq last summer to head the Moscow bureau. And the guy's only 28.

Posted by: kim on April 25, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

mudwall jackson: ex-liberal, you can blame the cia for getting wrong but you can't blame it for the war.

I fully agree, except that I think history will record the war in Iraq as praiseworthy rather than blameworthy.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 25, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: I think history will record the war in Iraq as praiseworthy rather than blameworthy

But you're a dishonest neocon propaganda tool, so who gives a shit what you claim to think?

Posted by: Gregory on April 25, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Lasseter of KR and now McClatchy was the best Baghdad reporter around, IMO. The guy found a way to get out in the field and interview all sorts of people. He left Iraq last summer to head the Moscow bureau. And the guy's only 28.

Mein Gott, I don't think I'd want to be a hotshot reporter in Moscow right now. Their life expectancy...not so good.

Much luck to Mr. Lasseter.

p.s. McClatchy's flagship paper still does some topnotch investigative journalism, but they've been clearing out their columnists with early retirement buyouts, so cost-cutting seems the rule of the day as ad revenues decline.

Posted by: Trollhattan on April 25, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

ex, your pleas are getting pretty feeble.

Posted by: Kenji on April 25, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Moyers has infinitely more credibility than all the Republicans and neo-cons combined. I go back to when he was editor of Newsday.

Anyway, watched his Journal tonight and it was great. Tied it all together and got some journalists to admit the story was there if people wanted to go after it. Too many journalists declined to participate, however.

Knight-Ridder came off particularly good.

Posted by: Chief on April 25, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Moyers was EXCELLENT.

Including some people, like Rather, being called to account for being critically thinking oh, about 2 years too late.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 25, 2007 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

The show was brilliant. It looks like the Knight Ridder guys worked very hard as reporters should while the others were parrots. The Knight Ridder guys should be commended and the others should be put in cages.

Posted by: William Jensen on April 25, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Listening to the show, I couldn't get away from the fact that the Administration, particularly the WHIG, amounted to a bunch of conmen, only they weren't selling snake oil, they were knowingly selling a false reason for going to war tthat has resulted in tens of thousands dead. What an immoral lot.

The best moment in the documentary was to see footage of Senator Byrd and Senator Kennedy, both with vasts amount of experience, making speeches in the run up to the war saying that they had not seen any compelling evidence of weapons of mass destruction or connections between Iraq and al Queda.

The second best thing was seeing some of the pundits, liberal and conservative, get taken to task for their incompetence. The obvious questions, which Moyer raised, is how do they still get air time when they are so often wrong, and why is there even a punditry.

Were I a news organization, if I hired a pundit, I'd expect him to be right, at least sometimes. I've heard Richard Perle a dozen times and I've never seen any of his predictions come to light.

Lastly, if you haven't seen it, take the time when it next comes on or rent it when it is available on Netflix or Blockbuster. It is worth it.

Posted by: William Jensen on April 26, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent show. I just wish it could have preempted whatever is on the three major networks and cable tonight. Wonder what percentage of the American public saw it? 2% or less?

Posted by: nepeta on April 26, 2007 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Lastly, if you haven't seen it, take the time when it next comes on or rent it when it is available on Netflix or Blockbuster. It is worth it."

Or you can watch it online any time you feel like it at PBS.org.

Posted by: nepeta on April 26, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

mhr: "The last I heard [Bill Moyers] was a Christian minister- of the marxist congregation."

Yes, he certainly is an obscure figure. I'm surprised you were able to find out anything about him. Pretty esoteric stuff, eh?

By the way, sorry to disappoint, but Francisco Franco is still dead. You can look that up too.

Meanwhile, have you signed up yet? Or do you prefer other to die for your heroic ideals?

Posted by: Kenji on April 26, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Great show. Most telling revelations:
Cable news, print pubs, et al, adding pundits, cutting bureaus, editors and reporters;
Iconoclastic journalism jeopardizes MSM profits and must be avoided;
Fear and Greed do not only drive the stock market, Greed is the vision statement of the MSM and fear is how it establishes the scope of what's permissible for reporters

Gwen Ifill (no, really!) had the timerity to bring these issues up on Meet the Press and called Tim "I'm just a blue-collar boy" Russert and others on the panel to task for their history of giving Don Imus a pass. It was a rare thing of beauty to behold on a Sunday talk show.

Posted by: DevilDog on April 26, 2007 at 5:06 AM | PERMALINK

I saw the show last night - yes our "Liberal Media" really saved the day, didn't it?

The Frontline episode on global warming Tuesday was eye-opening too. Bush flip-flopped on the environment and shamelessly sold out to big oil.

Posted by: Psyberian on April 26, 2007 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

"....I think history will record the war in Iraq as praiseworthy rather than blameworthy."

You mean for the insurgents?

Posted by: Bob M on April 26, 2007 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

I loved the opening salvo:

"Four years ago this spring the Bush administration took leave of reality and plunged our country into a war so poorly planned it soon turned into a disaster. The story of how high officials misled the country has been told. But they couldn't have done it on their own; they needed a compliant press, to pass on their propaganda as news and cheer them on.

Since then thousands of people have died, and many are dying to this day. Yet the story of how the media bought what the White House was selling has not been told in depth on television. As the war rages into its fifth year, we look back at those months leading up to the invasion, when our press largely surrendered its independence and skepticism to join with our government in marching to war."

Posted by: ET on April 26, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

The show WAS excellent ... thanks for pointing it out, I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise. The Knight-Ridder (OK, McClatchy) boys show how it should be done ... Peter Beinart showed how it was done, unfortunately ("I interpret what I read," instead of "I did my own reporting"), but at least he had the balls to say he was wrong -- later. What about Will, Krautheimer, Kristol, Perle, O'Reilly and the others -- when do they get held accountable for their arrogance and wrongheadedness?

Posted by: melissa on April 26, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Awesome - 1st 5 Min. Boll Moyers stating so matter of fact that the lead up to war was fabricated. It is mind boggling that it has been accepted general knowledge that they LIED. Time for OUTRAGE - Impeach Cheny - Now

Posted by: skibumlee on April 26, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Bush flip-flopped on the environment and shamelessly sold out to big oil.
Posted by: Psyberian

You can't 'sell out' when you're already wholly owned by big oil for going on 5 generations now. All the way back to Standard Oil of New Jersey and John D. Rockefeller.

My own worst case scenario for the environment and courts under Bush&Co has already proven almost laughably optimistic.

'One of the words they use to characterize what he cares about now is "honor", but in fact the Iraq War was never "honorable". It was a sleazy, ill-planned act of arrogance, as much a longshot as gambling your house on the 99 to 1 horse in the Kentucky Derby. And without reading the Daily Racing Form.' - Jane Smiley

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 26, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

And yet - they've never won a Pulitzer. Says a lot about those prizes.

Posted by: Rob Levine on April 26, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Moyers did an excellent job.

There was only one thing that irritated me, and it had nothing to do with the Iraq war itself. Near the end, Moyers said that the U.S. has now been in Iraq longer than it took us "to defeat the Nazis" during WWII.

It's historically inaccurate to say the U.S. "defeated the Nazis." America played an important role in the Allied victory. But it was the Soviet Union who killed more German troops than anyone else, and whose people did most of the dying on the Allied side. The Soviets lost about 27 million people during WWII, compared to about 400,000 for the U.S. (this includes both the European and Pacific theatres). It would take about 500 Vietnam memorials to list all the names of Soviet citizens killed during the war. To act like America single-handedly defeated Nazi Germany is insulting to the Russians and to the other national groups who made up the former Soviet Union.

Posted by: Lee on April 26, 2007 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Consider: Chalabi went to great lengths to push the war with Iraq. As a result, Shiites benefit and indirectly, Iran, by the weakening of Saddam's Sunni Baath party, the rise of Shia governance, etc. Chalabi is thought to be acting on behalf of Iran (despite supposedly being a secular mathematician pragmatist type.) Not a coincidence, I would think.

Posted by: Neil B. on April 26, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Also, note how Donohue said flatly that the network demanded more conservatives than liberals, conservative could appear alone but not a liberal, etc. It confirms what MMFA et al have been saying....

Posted by: Neil B. on April 26, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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