Monday, January 24, 2005

Exposing Stephanopoulos

The brash, smooth-talking George Stephanopoulos was one of the most recognizable of Bill Clinton's young Turks in 1993. He parlayed his success into a job with CBS in 1997 doing tag-team political analysis with conservative Bill Kristol. Since the 2002 campaign he's been ABC's political analyst and host of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Has the young Turk matured into an objective analyst? Hardly, but his ABC job has gained him the patina of objective legitimacy. Tim Graham of the Media Research Center exposes GS in the NRO today.

On [his] first appearance for ABC [eight years ago], Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson asked: "I understand they're going to throw you in the pit with Sam and Cokie and George [Will]... Do you look at this as getting even, or do you look at it as being able to really contribute to the political dialogue of America?" With a smile, Stephanopoulos replied: "I'm hoping to contribute, but I wouldn't mind getting even every once in a while."

That might explain the pile of gloomy news from ABC as President Bush prepared to take another oath of office. On Monday night, ABC's first Nightline of inauguration week was guest-hosted by Stephanopoulos. The subject was more of the same: When will public opinion finally sink the war in Iraq? Formally, the topic was televised pictures of flag-draped coffins.

In case you've forgotten already this is the same ABC News that callously 'advertised' for military funerals scheduled for Inauguration Day which the blogosphere found and broadcast. We wrote about it here.

Stephanopoulos began: "Its roots are in Vietnam. But the phrase wasn't actually coined until 1999, when General Hugh Shelton, the military's top soldier, said that an American war must pass what he called the Dover test — the war should be fought only if public support could survive the flag-draped coffins, returning to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. For most of this war, that hasn't applied. The Pentagon banned press coverage of the dead coming home." If you were waiting for ABC to note that this policy began in 1991 — and continued throughout the Stephanopoulos era in the West Wing — keep waiting.

...The former Clinton spin doctor said President Bush is facing "growing doubts about the war in Iraq," and although Bush "told the Washington Post this weekend that his November victory ratified his judgments on ABC News poll out today showed more American disapprove of how the president is handling Iraq, more than at any time since the Abu Ghraib scandal."

In other words, what measure are you going to trust for a democratic verdict — an election counting up the voices of more than 120 million voters, or a random sample of 1,000 adults that ABC randomly selected out of the phone listings? ABC wants you to pick B.

* * *
[On a recent Good Morning America appearance] Stephanopoulos insisted to [ABC's Diane] Sawyer that Bush's big problem is "the conduct of the war right now. People are still being pummeled by these pictures of violence every single day from Iraq. We saw over the weekend the first photos in a year of flag-draped coffins coming home, those six National Guardsmen from Louisiana, and the White House aides again concede they know, as we head to this election in Iraq, it's going to get worse in Iraq again. More violence every day."

You have to smile at the passive-aggressive tone there. Bush is somehow being "pummeled by pictures," but by whom? Stephanopoulos is suggesting that Bush may have defeated Kerry, but he cannot defeat the Permanent Media Government. Stephanopoulos and all the "news" merchants who echo him believe that the "Dover test" is a sincere measure of democracy, even if it's a ruthlessly media-manipulated democracy suffused in daily images of hopelessness and death. The networks ought to end their newscasts with the slogan "Undermining America's Resolve for Military Action Since 1968."

What they are trying to do is not enlighten the citizenry, but badger it into submission, thinking that if they keep hammering the subject of casualties to death, eventually the public will grasp their enlightened point of view. Consider this: Would George Stephanopoulos consider hosting a Nightline program exploring candidates for high office in the Iraqi elections — who they are and what their platform might be? No, because ABC no doubt believes that would only help Team Bush sell the virtues of the war. "News" is defined by what harms Bush. Any more helpful subject isn't news, but despicable advertising for the military-industrial complex.

But all they're advancing is the strange vision of Presidents Carter and Clinton that the wisest and most honorable presidents never waste an American soldier's life on any risky military mission — and along with it, the strange notion that America was safer in the late 1970s or most of the 1990s, when we did nothing about gathering threats to our national security beyond babbling about the necessity of global arms-control agreements and kissing dictators on the cheek.

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