Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blago vs. Bush: who abused press more?

Illinois Governor Rob Blagovich, President George W. Bush

The press, federal prosecutors, and even fellow Democrats are rightly outraged at the blatantly corrupt behavior of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

What is odd is how muted that outrage was when similar crimes were committed by the Bush administration.

Consider some of the complaints against Blagojevich:

He wanted the Chicago Tribune to fire their editorial board for being critical of him and used their desire to purchase Wrigley Field as leverage. Bush went a little further in manipulating the press. When Robert Scheer, the most progressive columnist at the Los Angeles Times was fired after 30 years, his publisher told him Bush hated every word he wrote. Since the Los Angeles Times parent company, the Tribune Company had just bought a TV station in a market where they owned the newspapers, which violated anti-trust laws, they needed an FCC waiver from the Bush administration to keep their purchase.

Likewise, Blagovich had several reporters willing to plant news for him to advance his political ends. We know the Bush administration had conservative columnists on the payroll like Armstrong Williams, who they paid hundreds of thousands to promote Bush flawed No Child Left Behind legislation. That violated laws against the government using covert propaganda.

Bush even had an entirely fake reporter (who was actually a male prostitute) planted in the White House press corps to pitch softball questions when Bush didn't like the flak he was catching from the real reporters.

In one respect, Bush entirely outdid Blagovich. He bombed a news organization. Twice.

He bombed the Al Jazeera headquarters in Afghanistan and Iraq, which puzzled Al Jazeera since they had given their coordinates to the US military. Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera's main headquarters in Qatar, but Tony Blair had to explain to him that it was bad manners to bomb an ally who was hosting your troops. That wasn't a rumor, it was from leaked minutes of a meeting between the two leaders.

People in the US may not like Al Jazeera because of the criticisms they hear parroted on Fox News and the like, but in reality, they are more like the BBC than Fox's mindless right wing cheerleading--so much so that an American Marine officer who did press briefings for Al Jazeera and other news outlets decided to become a correspondent for the Middle Eastern network.

Congress made noise about some of these offenses, but ultimately did nothing, even after Democrats won the majority in both houses in 2006.

In fairness to those who have done nothing about Bush's crimes, unlike Blagovich, Bush controls who gets wiretapped and who doesn't, and his justice department is unlikely to investigate their boss or appoint special prosecutors to do so. As we have seen with Karl Rove and others, when Congress does issue subpoenas, the Bush administration simply ignores them. Maybe when Bush is out of office, Congress and the new Attorney General will do their jobs.

Maybe Rob Blagovich's offense is not the particular crime but that he did them primarily for himself. When Bush abused the press, although it did benefit his own political fortunes, it was all in service of his political patrons like Ken Lay, big oil, and the sociopathic trust fund babies that run Wall Street. No one goes after Bush because you don't kick the dog of someone you hope will give you a job.

I'll compare some of Blagovich and Bush's other sins next time.

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