Sunday, January 02, 2005

And that's the way it is ...

Jan. 2, 2005

On most days, I consider Frank Rich required reading. His column in today's New York Times is no exception. "So the soldiers soldier on, and we party on," he writes. "...We have our tax cuts, and a president who promises to make them permanent. Such is the disconnect between the country and the war that there is no national outrage when the president awards the Medal of Freedom to the clowns who undermined the troops by bungling intelligence (George Tenet) and Iraqi support (Paul Bremer)."

As is the way in my house, I'd heard half the column before I managed to pick it up. My wife Kathy read it to me while I tried to focus on Page 1. "Frank Rich is talking about how everyone is so mealy-mouthed," she said. "Nobody stands for anything anymore."

And might that include the vaunted free press? I caught the tail end of Tim Russert's interview with Colin Powell on this morning's Meet the Press. Powell didn't care to say a word, thank you, about reports that the United States is planning to hold prisoners in Guantanemo Bay for life -- that's right, life -- without any trial. His non-answer seemed OK with Russert. Why should the Secretary of State have an opinion on the desecration of American law and the Constitution? TV is an entertainment medium, right? Minutes later, Russert's star-studded, four-person media panel started its year in review by agreeing to the man and woman (it has one) that all the grousing about America's slow reaction to the tsunami just didn't make sense. Case closed. Boob box banned.

Which is why Frank Rich gives me just a glimmer of hope. He may be back in the Arts & Leisure section of The Times again, but his message is political and, in a sort of New York cultured way, in your face. On the flap over America's unprotected troops in Iraq, he writes: "When Mr. Rumsfeld told Specialist Thomas Wilson in Kuwait that the only reason the troops lacked armor was 'a matter of production and capability' he was lying." Thank you, Mr. Rich, for a bit of truth.

I wish there were more like him. Remember Abu Ghraib? Early on, Seymour Hersh made a compelling case in the New Yorker that the torture there was part of a Deep Black operation approved to the highest levels of the Department of Defense. Subsequent articles in the New York Times and Washington Post connected the dots of abusive interrogation policies all the way to the White House. I leaned forward and waited. I still am, but I'm slouching now. The President blamed all those yucky photos on a few bad apples. The media, with cable television taking the lead, dutifully took note. The Republican-led Congress held a few pro-forma hearings. And Democratic nominee John Kerry -- handed one big opportunity to build a campaign around American values of honesty, democracy and fairness said ... absolutely nothing about Abu Ghraib in his campaign.

A few reporters still are nibbling around the edges. But do editors and other media decision-makers care? I found this story in my Boston Globe today on Page 14, prime real estate right next to an ad for The MBA Program at Simmons School of Management. It was a shortened version of the story Russert got no answer to from Colin Powell. The lead went like this:

WASHINGTON -- Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

Page 14. Below the fold. To which I can only say -- !*$#@!!!!!. Does anyone out there have a pulse anymore? Because if the government can decide to hold anyone it likes for as long as it likes without representation, without trial and without any rights -- and nobody says peep, we are all screwed.

Golf anyone?


Blogger Maria said...

Jerry, I love your writing. I look forward to reading throughout the year.

January 3, 2005 at 6:04 AM  

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