Democracy

Pentagon Pundits, Media Reform and Talking Back to Bill O'Reilly

FCC Commissioner Jonathan AdelsteinAs Paul Schmelzer wrote on the Minnesota Independent website, "There were two National Conferences on Media Reform in Minneapolis over the weekend: the one I attended and the one Bill O'Reilly, Juan Williams and Fox News talking head Mary Catherine Ham didn't."

O'Reilly's show tried to manufacture controversy about the conference, which I and others from the Center for Media and Democracy attended. But before addressing that, how about some real news on a genuinely controversial issue?

During Sunday's closing plenary, FCC Commissioner and fake news foe Jonathan Adelstein pledged to push for multiple thorough investigations of the Pentagon military analyst program. So far, the Pentagon's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, have launched inquiries into the Defense Department's secret cultivation of military pundits. But those investigations aren't enough.

Obama, McCain Battle for the Mr. Clean Campaign Image

NPR reports that "Barack Obama, exerting his new power as leader of his party, has told the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to eschew all contributions from Washington lobbyists and political action committees (PACs). ...

No

Waste Not, Want Not for Friends on the Campaign Trail

After top campaign aides resigned over unsavory lobbying activities, Republican presidential candidate John McCain "adopted a five-point policy ... to help restore his reputation as a Washington reformer," reports the Wall Street Journal.

No

Superdelegates to Decide the Fate of Michigan and Florida Votes

On Saturday the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to decide the fate of Florida and Michigan's delegates to the Democratic National Convention. As DNC members, the 30 rules committee members are all superdelegates and also have a vote at the convention. Between them, 13 have endorsed Hillary Clinton, eight have endorsed Barack Obama and nine are uncommitted. They also include one DNC member from Michigan (uncommitted) and one from Florida (endorsing Hillary), who are unable to cast a vote concerning their home states. (See the full membership here.) The committee will hear challenges to its earlier ruling that Michigan and Florida's delegates would not be seated at the national convention, with their votes thus not counting towards the presidential nomination. Bringing the challenges are Florida superdelegate and DNC member Jon Ausman (undeclared for either Clinton or Obama) and a representative from Michigan's state democratic party. Other representatives from the two state parties and the presidential campaigns will also make their case to the committee. The committee will hear three specific challenges:

"10 Percent Intellectual": The Mind of Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice deplaning

"I tell my students that policy-making is 90 percent blocking and tackling and 10 percent intellectual."--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, cited in Mary Beth Brown, Condi: The Life of a Steel Magnolia (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2007), p. 180.

"When you never accomplish anything, your weekly summary of what you've done all week is just a bunch of 'accondishments' -- how you've filled the days."--Noah, a reader of "Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog: I keep track of Condoleezza's hairdo so you don't have to" (May 5, 2008).

Notwithstanding the low poll numbers of the president she serves, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is one of the few people within the Bush administration who has managed to remain relatively unscathed by the public and by pundits. Unlike some in the president's entourage who have left Washington due to criticisms of their performance or ethics, Rice's current standing at home is sufficiently adequate from a PR perspective to allow her (up to now) to stay on in her job without too many embarrassments. True, there have been calls to remove her from her current position because of her recently disclosed role in the administration's use of torture. And doubts about Rice's qualifications as Bush's foreign-policy guru have existed for years, with, for example, her former National Security Council boss in the administration of George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft, stating in 2005 that her "expertise is in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Less on the Middle East." More recently, an article by Patrick Seale, a British writer on the Middle East, talks about "The Tragic Futility of Condoleezza Rice."

But Condi, rising as she has from her solidly middle-class origins in Birmingham, Alabama to the highest echelons of the US government, remains a subject of admiration. Earlier this year the Harris Poll reported that Rice was "still the 'shining star' of the administration." A 2006 profile by BBC News gushed that "Rice's intellectual brilliance is undisputed," and she "has consistently been one of the most popular members of the Bush administration." Pundits have repeatedly floated her name as a possible Republican vice presidential running mate for John McCain. "For a party that up to now has been clueless about how to run against either a woman or a person of color, Condoleezza Rice is pure political gold," explained Nicholas Von Hoffman in a commentary for CBS News.

In fact, Rice's genius and foreign-policy expertise are more image than substance, as recent biographies by Elisabeth Bumiller and Marcus Mabry suggest. In her ascendance to power, Rice's main instrument has not been ground-breaking thinking about important international issues, but rather what Mabry characterizes as "her phenomenal skill at spinning."

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