Friday, May 07, 2004
Dumb politician of the day: It's so hard to choose just one, but as I was listening to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's testimony on the radio today, Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton revealed himself to be the winner.
Dayton, a (you guessed it) Democrat, accused Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Richard Myers of contacting CBS News and trying to "suppress" the broadcast of the images of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.
The wonderful thing about the First Amendment and the way it has been adjudicated over the past 200 years, is that the media isn't scared or intimidated by the U.S. government one iota. The media worries about libel lawsuits and how advertisers may react, but the government? Couldn't care less.
Over the years, however, the media has occasionally come across information that, if disseminated, could put American troops in harm's way. Responsible news organizations will oftentimes sit on such news until it no longer proves a danger to troops in the field. Part of that comes from patriotism, another part is just common sense. You think networks have problems with boycotts based on some TV show's content? Just imagine what a boycott would look like if a decision was made to run a story to pump up the ratings and American soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines died because of it.
No one's going to take that chance.
Knowing all of that, Dayton demonstrates his double-digit (in the negative) I.Q.
MYERS: I want to take as much time as we need to straighten this out.
This report -- the report was already out there, the news was out there about the abuse...
DAYTON: General, if the news had been out there and we had all known about it...
WARNER: Senator, I ask that the witness be allowed to respond to your question. They're very important questions.
General, would you proceed?
MYERS: Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Senator Dayton.
This was not to suppress anything. What I asked CBS News to do was to delay the release of the pictures, given the current situation in Iraq, which was as bad as it had been since major combat ended, because I thought it bring direct harm to our troops; it would kill our troops.
We talked about it, and I said, "I know this report will eventually come out. But this -- if you can delay it for some period of time -- it would be helpful."
DAYTON: What period of time is that?
MYERS: I did it based on talking to General Abizaid and his worry was like mine, and he convinced me that this was the right thing to do. There was no -- this report has been around since January. What was new were the pictures. I asked for the pictures to be delayed.
DAYTON: Did you discuss delaying -- calling CBS to ask them to delay their report, with the secretary of defense, or the vice president or the president?
MYERS: Of course not.
DAYTON: None of those.
MYERS: Of course not.
DAYTON: I would just say, General -- and I agree with your assessment of the consequences of this on our troops, and that's the great tragedy of this, but attempts to suppress news reports, to withhold the truth from Congress and from the American people is antithetical to democracy.
MYERS: You bet it is. And that's not what we were doing.
DAYTON: And whatever the intentions may be, sir, the result is always the same. And it's, I think, terribly tragic that the president, who wants to expand democracy around the world, by actions of his own administration is undermining that democracy in the United States.
DAYTON: That's always the result when people try to control information, delay it, manage it and suppress it, it has that result. It's antithetical to a democracy.
RUMSFELD: May I speak a minute, Mr. Senator?
Throughout the history of this country, there have been instances where military situations have existed that have led government to talk to members of the media and make an editorial request of them that they delay for some period disclosing some piece of information. It is not against our history. It is not against our principles. It is not suppression of the news. And it's a misunderstanding of the situation to say it is.
Rumsfeld has it exactly right.
Dayton needs to lay off the lead paint chips.