Scott McClellan’s remark, even before his book is released, that the media formed a team of “enablers” in the Bush Administration’s propaganda effort to sell the Iraq war, has turned the criticized media hotshots into a pack of angry dogs. Jeff Cohen writes about this in his column posted on Common Dreams (May 30, 2008), pointing out how Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson and others have scrambled to defend the “good job” they did. For me, it was ABC’s White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz, who took the excremental prize. We have seen her embedded with American troops in Iraq, usually cheerleading for the troops she seems to love and respect so much. We have seen her politely questioning the liar-in-Chief, George W. Bush, as he stumbles through press conference after press conference. Never have we seen her press or challenge an administration or a military that has made an art form of dissembling.
Last night, however, we saw Martha Raddatz with another kind of subject for her interview—the now politically powerless, former press secretary Scott McClellan, promoting his book. The book, for those who have been on another planet, makes some stunning charges against the Bush White House and the President himself: that he lied his way into Iraq, that the whole package, including what McClellan himself said in defending the war and defending those who championed it, was political propaganda meant to deceive the American people from start to finish. Martha Raddatz seemed to take this personally. It was as if she has all along been the secret press secretary for this administration, and McClellan’s pulling back the curtain to reveal the sordid shell game the whole affair really was, has exposed her sagging posterior for all to see. And so she attacked him almost from the outset, challenging him on why he never spoke up before, on the contradiction between what he had written and what he said as press secretary, on how he was “spinning” even as he defended himself. It was a remarkable performance—one that most Americans would have valued long ago if the target had been one of the lying, spinning administration spokesmen. Instead, Raddatz saved her aggressive investigating until this late in the game, to expose a whistleblower. She pushed and mocked and prodded McClellan in what appeared to be a determined attempt to undermine his very credibility as a White House insider.
What does this mean? This high-level “stenographer” who, as McClellan rightly says, was one of those who “enabled” the Bush administration to lie consistently about its so-called “intelligence,” now attacks the person who tries to tell the truth?
What it means is that truth seems to have lost its meaning entirely in our time. As Jeff Cohen testifies, those who told the truth in the runup to the war—Scott Ritter among them—were pilloried, mocked, and censored by major news CEOs as fantasists. Those who marched in the streets in hundreds of cities to stop the war—15 million of them worldwide—were also mocked and ridiculed and pitied for being naïve. And now, now that mountains of evidence have emerged proving that the marchers and dissenters were right from the outset, while the administration and its media enablers were not just dead wrong but criminally wrong, now that same media tries to discredit the very insider trying to add the “I was there” element to the story.
It is a spectacle that so shames and pollutes the very idea of press freedom in the United States of America that it is hard to see how this once-honorable profession so crucial to democracy will ever manage to restore itself. One thing is certain: the rehabilitation, if it comes, will not come from the major media, nor from lapdogs like Martha Raddatz.