Frank Rich, Iraq, and the Liberal Media

Note to the Reader: I originally published this column on BuzzFlash () on June 10, just before the current apparent civil war broke out in Iraq.  It is very interesting to watch the liberal media on this one.  On the limited sampling I’ve seen (e.g., on June 13, The New York Times, and MSNBC, even as represented by Mika Brzezinski Morning Joe), they are hardly jumping in with both feet this time around, which is a good thing.  And now for the original.

 Close to ten years ago Frank Rich, formerly of The New York Times, presently of New York Magazine, wrote one of the best books on the Bush/Cheney War on Iraq. Entitled The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America, it definitively took the cover off the Bush/Cheney lies that led the United States into what to date has been the most disastrous war the nation has ever been engaged in.

In a recent issue of the New York Magazine, Rich visits the role of the so-called "liberal media" in making the Bush/Cheney initiative a "go." In a side-bar, he summarizes his overview of the initiative: "The massive blunder of Iraq remains the nation's inescapable existential burden two and a half years after our last troops departed." Now, one must say that in terms of BushCheney's true objectives, that is the establishment of permanent war or at least the permanent preparation for permanent war, that objective has been achieved. True, President Obama has announced that most U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2016.

However, one never knows A) what war or wars "of necessity" might pop up in the interim, B) what would happen were a Republican of the neocon persuasion (Ted Cruz, anyone?) were to win the Presidency in 2016. Why there might be just the smallest of gaps in the Permanent War sequence, and certainly the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War would be fully restored. (And even President Obama seems to be moving in the latter direction.) But for our nation as a whole, Rich is right: it was a "massive blunder."

But what is new this time around for Rich is his focus in this particular article: "What tends to be swept under history's rugs the leading role that the liberal Establishment played in this calamity." He proceeds to prove his point in great detail with many examples, and not just the most obvious ones like the Judith Miller/New York Times connection. He also highlights the few members of that Establishment who did not, from the beginning, go along with the crowd, like Paul Krugman, James Fallows, Michael Kinsley and John Judis. But my point here is not to retail Rich's story. He does the job very well for himself.

What needs to be also noted is how the "liberal media Establishment" for the most part has handled the major news stories of the last 40 years or so, especially when Republicans were the principal potential targets. Then they seem to become all "balanced." The last time a member of the group went after a Republican with hammer and tongs was of course The Washington Post on Watergate, through, of course, "Deep Throat" and Woodward and Bernstein. But let's summarize briefly just some of the major stories since then the "liberal media" either missed, or chose to suppress, or took the "other side" on.

In October of the 1980 election, there was some evidence that George H.W. Bush made an unannounced (later denied) trip to France, and perhaps Spain, to do something more than visit with his mistress in a Loire Valley chateau, which he apparently did on a regular basis (personal information from a highly placed security source in Europe). Rather, it is claimed, he negotiated with Iran to delay the release of the U.S. hostages until after the election (which the Iranians did). Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who became a regular "fixer" for the Republicans through the time of the official 9/11 investigation and subsequent report, helped them to cover up that one as well. No representative of the "liberal Establishment" ever went after that story.

Following the 1980 election, whether or not there was any conscious hostage-release-delay deal with the Iranians, Ronald Reagan broke the "the U.S. shalt not deal with Iran" law then on the books, in dealing, through Col. Oliver North, with the Iranians to supply them with "off the books" weaponry in return for "off the books" payments which were then used to illegally fund the "contras" in Nicaragua. The action to support the "contras" further broke the "Boland Amendment," which specifically forbade the U.S. government from doing any such thing. The whole mess came to a head with the 1987 "Iran-Contra" hearings. Reagan clearly should have been impeached. North should not have been offered immunity so that he could make speeches instead of either testifying to the truth, which would have implicated his boss, or being forced to take the Fifth, in which case the hearings would by a different direction possibly have gotten to the meat of the matter.

However, there was no "liberal Establishment" media outcry about all of this. Lee Hamilton was again able to rig the hearings (for example by keeping such liberals in Congress as Ted Kennedy off the Joint Committee). There was the "feeling" in those media that the country "just couldn't go through the 'threat of impeachment' again," (of course that didn't apply when media "balance" had to be achieved when Clinton's impeachment time came along), and the hearings were allowed to let the Reaganites A) brush the whole thing under the rug and B) make Reagan's flunky North a media star.

Of course, in the 1990s, when the target was a Democrat, all of sudden the "liberal media" went back for that "balance." In fact, under the editorship of Howell Raines, who had hated Clinton from their time together in Arkansas, for a while The New York Times was leading the charge on "Whitewater" (which proved to be nothing but a lot of foam and spray). Then, after Monica Lewinsky flashed him, and Clinton did not utter the two words, "Secret Service" that he should have, among many other omissions the liberal media were nowhere to be found in exposing the perjury trap that was set for him. That was done by the so-called "independent prosecutor," the Republican flunky lawyer from way back, Ken Starr. He illegally provided testimony that he had obtained to the lawyers for Paula Jones (with whom he had just happened to previously been partners) for use in her civil sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton. Did the "liberal media" go after that one? Well, no.

Then the role of the "liberal Establishment" in Iraq is beautifully exposed in Frank Rich's column. One could go (and on), right down to the present day. Since 2009, the "liberal Establishment" has generally gone along with the Republican mantra, rarely taken on by a weak President, that the "gridlock in Washington" is the "fault of both parties," of "both the Congress and the President," when there is ample evidence that, just like the Republicans were determined from day one to tie the Clinton Administration in knots, so from day one were they determined to do the same thing to the Obama Administration.

There is, of course, a left-wing media in this country, like the journal in which this column is appearing. We do take on the big issues, but to a limited audience. As far as the so-called "liberal media," when it comes to the really big issues, like war and peace (consider the very confused and confusing situation in Ukraine, for which the line of the Administration is generally taken at face value) and the true nature of the Republican Party and its long-term goals (which are there for the finding if one only looks a bit), the existence of a truly "liberal media Establishment," totally one-sided of course, is much more of a Fox"News"Channel/Sarah Palin/SavagelyLe-vinitatingO'Rhannibaugh myth than it is a reality.

This column was previously published on BuzzFlash@Truthout,

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books, and is a regular columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout, The Greanville Post, and The Planetary Movement.  He is also the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy. Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.