Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PBS - News Wars

I’m watching a PBS Frontline special on the Bush Administration and how they are seemingly at war with journalism in this country. Early in the show a premise is put forth that the press acts as a system of checks and balances against the President over-reaching his power. Former Chief of Staff Andrew Card is quoted as saying that he rejected this premise and that the true checks and balances against the President are the judiciary and the Congress. I agree with Mr. Card.

I am struck by the hubris the journalists in this country and I immediately thought of their kid glove treatment of John Kerry when he was running for President. Kerry made his military awards a cornerstone of his campaign. Even after some of Kerry’s claims were shown to be false (his first Purple Heart and “Christmas in Cambodia” for example) and even after he pledged to release his full military records – the main-stream press gave him a free pass (Kerry has yet to honor this pledge). If there was a check and balance in play – it was a scale clearly weighted in favor of one party over another.

You can argue that Kerry’s military records were just a partisan attack or not relevant but I would argue the point. However, John Kerry is also a cancer survivor who was never “pressed” to release his medical records by the press. The same main-stream media made Dick Cheney’s heart condition a major story. Again – the bias for one side and against the other is clear as day.

Later the show got into the BALCO grand jury leak case involving Lance Williams and Mark Fairanu-Wada. Lance Williams is quoted as saying he “respects the court system”. The show completely glosses over the fact that their source was a sleazy lawyer who was leaking the grand jury information to undermine the judicial system in an attempt to get charges against his clients dropped. Their scoop was more important than our system of justice. Yeah – that was some real “respect for the court system.”

It seems to me that the issue at hand is not “checks and balances” – it is privilege. Some journalists like to believe that they have privileges that ordinary citizens don’t have. If you ask me – it is their hubris that needs proper checks and balances.

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