Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holding Bush to Account?

Iconoclastic former NPR host Bob Edwards ("Morning Edition") posts a piece on HuffPost that relates the Obama victory to Jim Crow in his Louisville, KY hometown. He also warns that the press is still going to keep an eye on Obama:

I want to preface these remarks by assuring my listeners that if President Obama makes one false move, my producers and I will hold him to account and scrutinize him with the same fervor as we have President Bush.
As the first sentence in the piece, this quote sets the tone for the rest of the article. As much as I admire Bob Edwards and loved his folksy, easy-going manner as the host for ME, I couldn't get behind anything else in the article except for his overcoming his father's racism. No one at this point can seriously agree that the so-called liberal media scrutinized Bush in any meaningful way.

In comments to the article I wrote:
It was only after the Democrats took back Congress in 2006 that any significant ink or airtime was spent digging deeply into the Bush administration. Until then they were too afraid of appearing unpatriotic to say anything. And, understandably, they were human and wanted an end to terrorism in our country. Too bad they pinned their hopes on the wrong people for way too long.

This article got me thinking about the lengths we as a people are willing to go to keep from harm. I understand that it's normal to want to stay safe and to do whatever is needed to protect oneself or one's family and loved ones.

But "whatever it takes?"

It's true that we've had no terrorist acts on our soil in over seven years. But the price of this absence of terrorism (note that I didn't use the word "safety") has been dear, indeed. In a conversation with a relative the other day, we discussed whether preventing such acts from occurring justify doing "whatever it takes." This was in the context of my vehement insistence that Bush had radically undermined the Constitution, in particular the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and relates to a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. My relative disagreed, saying that Bush was justified in using extraordinary measures to secure peace in our country. In response, I asked where such measures stopped -- would it be OK to declare martial law and demand confiscation of all guns owned by private citizens? Would it be OK to shut down or take over the press? To deny people the right to peacefully assemble or to petition the government? At what point, then, do we stop being a democracy and become a dictatorship?

No, the press did a ridiculous job of "pressing" Bush to justify his actions and the actions of Cheney and the Cabinet secretaries. In some ways, they censored themselves, out of fear: fear of being painted as too "liberal" and un-patriotic; fear of losing readership and even more money in an already-dwindling marketplace; fear for their own personal safety. We were all understandably shocked and frightened watching the World Trade Center collapse and the Pentagon burn. Every ring of that bell at the 9/11 memorial service at ground zero, when the each of the victims' names was read, jolted like a strong aftershock. But the press had an obligation not to join us in the cocoon; they were supposed to be out there like the firefighters and police officers, risking their lives (or livelihoods) to get the information that we all needed. In particular, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the press stopped reporting news, and became an extension of the Bush administration's press office.

Mr. Edwards may have learned his lesson, but he shouldn't distort the recent past to justify his new-found love for his work.

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