Treating Criminality As Daring Boldness: The Media on Bush

By David Swanson

Ron Brownstein wrote a column this week that illustrates exactly how far the corporate media will go in criticizing President Bush. Brownstein’s criticism is not motivated by his own reflections. He has none, other than those that quietly shape his omissions and categorizations. He’s a corporate journalist. In fact, he’s what passes for a left-wing corporate journalist. Brownstein is not concerned by Bush’s criminal actions, by his unpopularity in polls, by the passion of grassroots opposition, by the growing movement for impeachment, or even by the opposition of Democrats in Congress. Brownstein’s column comments, rather, on growing opposition to Bush among former generals, big whigs, and Republican Senators.

It’s only when others in power and on the right criticize Bush that we are supposed to pay attention to the criticism. This is a deeply ingrained bias in our corporate media. But worse is how Brownstein describes this opposition. He does not depict it as one of law breaker versus defenders of the law. Rather, he describes Bush as a daring rebel outsider taking on a bunch of timid traditionalists. It’s cowboy Bush versus the Washington elite – though presumably not any longer the nation-building, foreign-entanglement-prone elite that Bush campaigned against in 2000.

Here’s how Brownstein begins his column: “To President Bush’s supporters, nothing is more exhilarating than his willingness, even eagerness, to challenge long-established assumptions and policies, especially in foreign policy.”

Long established policies such as the Bill of Rights or Article II of the U.S. Constitution?

Brownstein “balances” his column by immediately adding that Bush’s opponents object to his readiness to jettison traditional policies.

In reality, Bush is not a liberated innovator shaking off silly traditions, but a criminal offending people who have a respect for just and humane laws. Bush has launched an illegal war, lied to Congress to do so, and misused funds by beginning the war before asking for approval. Bush has targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and used illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a younger cousin of napalm. Bush has arbitrarily detained Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel. To call this criminal is merely to agree with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bush has authorized the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in some cases in death. He has had prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross and shipped to other nations and secret U.S. bases to be tortured. The U.S. Constitution, international treaties that are part of U.S. law, and other U.S. laws ban torture. When Congress recently redundantly banned torture, Bush signed the bill and added a signing statement explaining that he would not obey it.

Bush has openly confessed to engaging in illegal warrentless spying, and a federal court has found the practice criminal. Bush has overturned 800 acts of Congress with signing statements and is actively seeking to retroactively legalize his crimes, a process that will not make those crimes any less impeachable offenses.

This is the context in which conservative establishment types are beginning to express hesitations about supporting Bush’s agenda. This is why Lt. Gen. William Odom proposed impeachment at Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s hearing on Iraq on Tuesday.

But Brownstein calls those who oppose Bush’s challenging of assumptions the “prudence party.” Brownstein claims that this group is made up of “top-level corporate and Wall Street executives, former diplomats, retired military officers, and some veteran legislators on Capitol Hill.” Brownstein provides no names, except by indicating that he means to include the generals who supported John Kerry for President and those calling for Rumsfeld to resign, plus the Senators and others who have recently expressed support for the Geneva Conventions. Brownstein fails to include the Supreme Court or any federal judges in his list, much less the anti-war movement – the movement responsible for moving Congress to finally block spending on permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq (won’t it be refreshingly bold when Bush keeps building them anyway?)

Members of the “prudence party,” Brownstein says, “fear that Bush has too casually alienated world opinion in his pursuit of greater security for America.” Has Brownstein seen the public sections of the National Intelligence Estimate concluding that Bush is encouraging terrorism? On what grounds does Brownstein claim to know that Bush is pursuing greater security for America? A majority of Americans actually believe that Bush is making them less safe, as of course he is. Yet even the “left-wing” of the corporate media continues to “balance” any notice of Bush’s ground-breaking policy changes (in plain English, steps toward fascism) with the idea that these changes are being pursued for the purpose of security.

Brownstein concludes thus: “Through 2008, Bush’s dispute with these [right-wing] voices of restraint may shape America’s national security decisions more than his arguments with the Democrats.” What about his arguments with the American people? Don’t we count for anything? If we do, it is not at all clear that Bush will be around through 2008.

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