Thursday, May 03, 2007

D.C. Droppings -- IX

Shame on ABC News

I just started making “World News Tonight” my main source of evening network news, and I am sorry. There was a piece May 3 that was the height of sensationalist, lazy reporting.

Based on an AP story, based on a press release from a veteran’s group angry about not getting enough medical attention, ABC sneered at the bonuses paid to Veteran’s Affairs department executives. The "hook" was that the bonuses came at a time the agency was alleged to be mistreating Iraq War victims and when it had an “embarrassing” $1 billion budget shortfall because it did not foresee increased casualties.

Without taking a position on the merits of the bonuses, I am outraged at ABC’s distortion through omission. The Veteran Administration runs the very best health system in America – provably so – and is the model for what any politician ought to propose for the rest of us. (Don’t say anything, but it is “socialized medicine” and it works). It was the U.S. Army that failed outpatient brain-damaged GIs, not the VA.

The VA is a Cabinet agency. As such, it is run by the president. Its budget is approved, if not written, by the Office of Management and Budget, which is the president’s budgetary fiscal butcher. Since the liar-in-chief swore that the mission had been accomplished, of course the VA could not anticipate an influx of wounded.

To the extent that the VA did fail the returning veterans, ABC should have done its own reporting and not used file footage of Walter Reed, which is the U.S. Army’s problem, not the VA’s.

Freedom of the Press?

Doesn’t it just send shivers of patriotism up your spine when you hear the president of the United States defend the premier paragraph in the Bill of Rights like this?

"(F)reedom of the press is … just something that we've all got to live with … "
Still, I am uncomfortable, as a member of the Society for Professional Journalists, with an organization that lobbies Congress to enact laws affecting freedom of the press. The First Amendment states rather clearly: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of … the press…”

When journalists pressure Congress to enact shield laws, allowing them in certain circumstances to withhold the names of sources from prosecutors, they are asking Congress to make a law.

And when Congress has the journalism profession’s seal of approval on making laws – and all laws necessarily abridge something – then Congress can make other laws far more insidious.

Ten Least Wanted

I just finished watching the 10 officially declared Republican candidates “debate” at the Reagan Museum (I would call it a library but would not want to insult libraries by associating them with Mr. Ignorant.) The exercise was pretty much an act of political necrophilia, with everyone trying to get into bed with the man who once said “facts are stupid things.”

I do have a connection to the site, however, having flown maybe 50 times on the Air Force One that hung over the audience.

It was the least comfortable way to travel to a presidential appearance, with four reporters crammed around a tiny table with no leg room, Air Force food and a telephone. If it weren’t for the honor, I would just as soon as walked. Seriously, the souvenirs were topnotch.

A few thoughts on the Ten Least Wanted Men in America:

o Sam Brownback is scary.

o Mitt Romney looks and sounds like someone you could deal with if you had to.

o Rudy Giuliani’s popularity will start falling when Republicans realize he is a New Yorker whose only claim to fame was putting the city’s emergency response center inside the World Trade Center.

o Jim Gilmore was a terrible governor of Virginia, so bad that the 12 years following him will have seen a Democrat running one of the redder states. He is almost as brainless as his namesake, Happy Gilmore.

o Tommy Thompson was a lousy Cabinet officer, has terrible hair and no apparent first name. If you like the Bush Administration’s health care and medical research policies, you will love Thompson.

o Mike Huckabee is probably the best qualified, most likeable, most honest.

Tom Tancredo, the racist yahoo who would make Lou Dobbs chief of the immigration Gestapo, did impress me when he promised, “No more platitudes.” Maybe the Coloradan meant “no more altitudes.” Or “no more plateaus.”

o Ron Paul has been in Congress for decades, is a Libertarian and not a Republican, is crazy as a loon but said more things I agree with than anyone else: 1) free speech and no restrictions at all on the Internet and 2) respect for habeas corpus.

o John McCain is too old. Period. And thinks Joe Lieberman is someone to admire. He is also the most conservative of all the major candidates, though the political press would have you believe otherwise.

o Duncan Hunter is running because he has nothing better to do now that he is no longer chairman of the the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee. As soon as he drops out, he will become a lobbyist for the people he was supposed to be overseeing.

Is this a great country or what!

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