FOX NEWS HYPOCRISY: Lost IRS Emails vs. Lost Bush White House Emails

On Friday the IRS reported to the House Ways and Means Committee that some email from the account of Lois Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations division, were missing due to a computer crash that occurred in 2011. That morsel of news set the conservative media to salivating with hopes of a new controversy to wrap around the neck of the Obama administration. Never mind that after a year of congressional hearings, independent investigations, and media scrutiny, there has not been an iota of evidence tying any of the IRS activities to the White House, right-wing pundits and politicians scurried to spread innuendo and place blame.

Leading the pack, as usual, was Fox News. They pounced on the missing email story with a barely disguised glee, despite the fact that they had little information to report. However, they did succeed at what they do best: spewing outrage over alleged improprieties by President Obama that they cavalierly dismissed during the Bush years.

Fox News

Shameless self-promotion…
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To be sure, it is reasonable to be concerned, even suspicious, when government agencies announce that data critical to ongoing investigations is unavailable. But when a media enterprise pretends to exhibit such concern for blatantly political purposes, it can hardly be regarded as credible. What’s missing in Fox’s reporting is the context that would put this story into perspective. Their reporting went straight for the jugular with premature conclusions of wrongdoing and dishonesty. The story was presented as an outrageous and unprecedented act of probable criminality.

Flashback to April of 2007. The Bush administration was in the midst of dual scandals regarding: 1) the outing of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent whose identity was deliberately compromised as payback for her husband’s criticism of the Bush lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, and 2) the unethical firing of eight federal attorneys for politically ideological reasons. Additionally, there were questions about Karl Rove improperly using a Republican National Committee e-mail account that the White House later said disappeared. While Congress was investigating these activities, the White House announced that two years of emails were lost and unavailable to the committees of jurisdiction.

Hmmm. Sound familiar? In fact, it is identical to the story now being pushed by Fox. However, Fox News never blew a gasket over the lost emails from the Bush administration. Dana Perino, a co-host of the Fox News program The Five, was among those expressing outrage on Friday when the news of the missing IRS emails was released. She and her fellow co-hosts lit into the topic, bemoaning the administration’s “ignorance” and “incompetence.” And without any proof whatsoever, they implied that the administration was lying and covering up.

What makes this even worse is that Perino was Bush’s press secretary when it was revealed that two years of White House emails were lost. This, of course, cannot be waived off as an isolated problem that occurred at another agency. This was the White House itself that lost emails that were presently being requested by investigators. And it was Perino who came to the defense. Here she is downplaying the matter in a report on CNN by Ed Henry (now at Fox News):

Here is Perino & Co. aghast at the revelation that IRS emails went astray:

It is astonishing that Perino could be so rattled by the IRS email report when she herself was so intimately involved in spinning an identical controversy when she worked for Bush (Of course at Fox, she’s still working for the same gang). Either she has the memory of a gnat or she is purposefully deceiving the gullible waifs who watch Fox News. And since deception is an integral part of the Fox News mission, we can safely assume it’s the latter.

See also part II of this story featuring another hypocrite, Darrell Issa.

John Bolton’s ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Hypocritical Attack On Obama

This Memorial Day weekend President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan to thank soldiers there, and everywhere, for their service. As a matter of routine, a list of those meeting with the President was released to the press. Unfortunately, that list mistakenly included the name of the CIA station chief in Kabul.

While this was a serious oversight, its impact is mitigated by the fact that this person’s identity is not strictly secret. It is expressly released to Afghan officials and others in the region. What’s more, the list was prepared by the military, not the White House, so the knee-jerk reaction by conservatives in the media to blame Obama is misplaced and overtly political.

Among those crassly political knee-jerkers is former Bush era ambassador to the United Nation, John Bolton. Bolton appeared on Fox News in an interview with anchor Bill Hemmer. The tone of the exchange was set at the very beginning when Hemmer asked Bolton the fair and balanced question, “What do you think of this bonehead move?” Well, I guess we know what Hemmer thinks of it. Not surprisingly, Bolton unleashed a spittle-inflected harangue that accused the President of “jaw-dropping incompetence.” Hemmer later asks whether it is fair to compare this event to the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Bolton, of course says “I don’t think so,” and dismisses the Plame incident as “just a malicious piece of gossip.”

Fox News Bolton

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For the record, Valerie Plame was a deep-cover agent whose outing had the potential to result in the death of herself and those with whom she associated in some dangerous parts of the world. Her outing was not an accident, as was the Kabul station chief. Her identity was deliberately disclosed in retaliation for her husband’s criticism of the Bush administration’s lies justifying the invasion of Iraq. In other words, it was a petty and personal retribution for which Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted and jailed.

Any objective analysis of the facts show that there is no reasonable comparison between the two intelligence leaks. For Bolton and Fox News to try to turn this into another manufactured outrage without acknowledging their staunch defense of those involved in outing Plame is jaw-dropping hypocrisy. But what truly makes this rise to epic levels of hypocrisy is that Bolton himself has been implicated in the outing of Plame. Others involved include Cheney, Colin Powell deputy Richard Armitage, New York Times writer Judy Miller, the late Robert Novak, and (surprise) Karl Rove. Note: Miller, Novak, Rove, and Cheney’s daughter Liz, have all been Fox News contributors.

Nevertheless, watch for Fox News to churn up the heat on this editing error and cast all the blame on Obama as if he had personally approved the list for distribution. It is evidence of how little of substance conservatives have to criticize the President for, so they have to resort to fanning the embers of pseudo-scandals for which they have no proof, or even a basis for speculation.

How About An Apology Mr. Rove?

Karl Rove, the former Deputy Chief of Staff, and Chief Political Adviser to President George W. Bush, has a new book coming out. “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” is a memoir by the former White House aide and current Fox News contributor. The New York Times has an advance copy of the book and has published some interesting excerpts.

Chief amongst the revelations is that Rove acknowledges that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction severely damaged Bush’s presidency. He blames himself for not sufficiently countering the bad publicity generated by having started an illegitimate and illegal war. Specifically addressing the decision to invade Iraq Rove writes…

“Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it. Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”

Oh great! So tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of innocent Iraqis – not combatants or terrorists, but civilian men, women and children – are dead because of this brutal and unjustified assault, and the only thing for which Rove takes responsibility is a weak response to shore up Bush’s image in the press.

Rove admits that the Congressional authorization for war would not have been approved without W.M.D.’s. That certainly raises the likelihood that an administration determined to embark on this strategy would provide the Congress with what they wanted, whether or not it was true. And the administration’s determination has been well documented, even to the point of trying to pin 9/11 on Saddam Hussein two years before the Iraq war began.

Rove also admits that the administration could have developed “other ways to constrain” the Iraqi regime. So the oft-repeated insistence that war was the last resort is and was a lie. By conceding that alternatives were available, Rove makes it clear that the military solution was the only one to which they gave serious consideration.

And for all of the human costs, including more than 4,000 Americans, Rove is only sorry for not having conducted a better PR campaign. He does not apologize for the loss of life. He does not apologize for depleting our nation’s treasury. He does not apologize for soiling our reputation internationally. The only reputation he is concerned with his his own. And the thousands of grieving American families don’t enter into his consciousness – not to mention the many thousands more in Iraq.

If that isn’t enough, in another excerpt from the book Rove expresses his regret for the ill-advised fly-over of New Orleans after Katrina. Once again, his concern is for the unflattering appearance of his actions, not for the suffering of the people on the ground. His appalling egocentrism is displayed in utmost clarity when he reveals that, not withstanding the horrors of 9/11, Iraq, and Katrina, the thing that drove him to tears was when he learned that he would not be indicted by the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak case.

What a despicable waste of flesh. And this is the man presently employed by Rupert Murdoch to provide insight into the public affairs of our government and social institutions. The question I have is how would Rove know anything about the human interest stories he is being asked to comment on? Wouldn’t being human be a requirement for such a job?

The Daily Show Defense

A new legal precedent has been introduced by the Obama Justice Department. If permitted by the court, defendants nationwide may have a powerful new tool to assert in pursuit of legal vindication.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents containing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The documents were part of Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative. Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury for his role in the matter, but his sentence was later commuted by George W. Bush as he slinked from office.

The Bush administration originally denied a congressional request for these documents citing executive privilege. Now Obama’s Justice Department is also seeking to prevent this disclosure for many of the same reasons that Bush’s lawyers argued. But going further, civil division lawyer Jeffrey M. Smith, claimed that the documents should remain confidential because their release might inhibit future vice-presidents, or other officials, from speaking candidly to investigators researching criminal activity.

That is a rather surprising argument in that most Americans probably expect their representatives to be cooperative in criminal investigations. The notion that they would deliberately impede an investigation because their testimony might be made public is disturbing, to say the least. But the specific reference made by Smith as to what might scare off official witnesses is even more disturbing. He said that the prospect that “it’s going to get on ‘The Daily Show’, “ was enough for the judge to grant a denial of the FOIA request.

Seriously? Is the Daily Show now considered to be so influential that the mere mention of its name can squelch a court case? Does that mean that anyone previously convicted of a crime, who happened to have been the subject of satire by Jon Stewart can now seek to have the conviction overturned on appeal? Does Comedy Central need to seek legal counsel prior to Photoshopping public figures with funny hats or broadcasting video of them saying stupid things (which happens with way too much frequency). Is the “Daily Show Defense” this generation’s “Twinkie Defense”?

At this point the judge seemed to be unconvinced and asked the attorney to come back with more evidence to support denying the FOIA request. But just the fact that a professional, respected, government lawyer would advance this argument is pretty sad. I can’t wait to see what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert say about it.

Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder On The Media

President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and was asked briefly about a couple of issues related to the media. First, on the Fairness Doctrine:

Sen. Arlen Specter: Mr. Holder, there had been suggestions for a revival of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, and my question to you is do you think that as a matter of public policy, the so-called Fairness Doctrine ought to be reinstated?

Eric Holder: Senator, that’s a toughie I’ve not given an awful lot of thought to. If I could perhaps submit an answer to you in writing, I would have an opportunity to think about that. I wouldn’t want to commit myself to something and not give you the benefit of what is my best thinking on that.

Of course, Specter doesn’t specify who made these mysterious “suggestions for a revival” because the only ones to have done so are delusional Republicans. Holder’s answer, while vague, is evidence in itself that Democrats are not pursuing the matter. If they were, he would not have needed an opportunity to think about it. On the following question about a shield law for reporters, Holder was more specific.

Specter: Senator Leahy asked you about reporters’ shield. You said you’d be willing to consider it. We had a reporter held in jail for 85 days on the allegation that a source was not disclosed. At all times the special prosecutor in the case knew where the leak came from. I would appreciate it if you would be a little more definitive with your response. I don’t want to protract the discussion now.

Holder: Well, maybe, let me just say this, Senator. Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. I actually favor such a measure. All I was saying was that I’d want to work on what it actually looks like.

There’s a piece of legislation, I understand, there are going to be concerns, I can tell you I’m sure within the department. I want to work with you on that. But my position is that I think something can be crafted to deal with the issues that you have raised and the concerns I know I’m going to hear at the Justice Department. But I am in favor of the shield though.

Specter: Well, the critical question is a national security issue, right? If you would take a look at that and give me, us, your judgment, I’d appreciate it.

A national security issue? I can’t imagine to what he is referring that impacts national security. The underlying content of a specific story wherein the reporter’s shield is at issue could involve national security, but the shield itself is strictly a First Amendment concern.

The jailed reporter he referenced above was Judith Miller of the New York Times, who participated in the outing of former CIA operative, Valerie Plame. Holder took exactly the right position in declaring his support for the concept of a shield law, but retaining the ability to assess the legislation when the details are known. It would be irresponsible to make a blanket statement of support when the bill that eventually is drafted could contain language that would apply to someone like Miller who was not protecting a source so much as she was concealing an accomplice.

For bonus points, Holder spoke (pdf) at an event for the American Constitution Society in 2004, where he demonstrated his grasp of the media environment:

“With the mainstream media somewhat cowered by conservative critics, and the conservative media disseminating the news in anything but a fair and balanced manner, and you know what I mean there, the means to reach the greatest number of people is not easily accessible.”

Yes, I know what you mean. Good call, Mr. Holder.

Fox News Hires Disgraced Journalist Judith Miller

In an effort to further make a mockery of the phrase “fair and balanced,” Fox News has announced that former New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been hired as a commentator for the cable propaganda network. Coming on the heels of last week’s announcement that imbecilic blabber Glenn Beck will be getting his own show on Fox News, Miller should feel right at home, along with Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and her very own White House source, Karl Rove.

Miller is best known for spending 85 days in jail for protecting Rove and Scooter Libby, who had conspired with her to slander Valerie Plame. Plame was the wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson who had revealed the lies that the Bush administration was peddling with regard to Saddam Hussein’s alleged aspirations for weapons of mass destruction. Miller and her cohorts outed Plame as a covert intelligence operative with the CIA, ending her career as well as her important work gathering intelligence about Iran’s nuclear activities.

Miller is also the author of some of the most distorted propaganda in support of the Bush administration’s intention to invade Iraq. She operated as a functionary of the White House, retelling their lies on the pages of the New York Times so that they could cite her stories as proof of the need to initiate a preemptive war of aggression. After the fact, the Times’ editor was forced to apologize for the journalistic sloppiness and deceit of Miller and her colleagues:

“Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper…while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.”

Miller left the Times in disgrace and later joined the conservative Manhattan Institute. Now she will expand her reach to viewers of Fox News, who will likely appreciate her right-skewed world view. And Fox gets another mouthpice to further its propaganda assault on America and the world.

When A Confidential Source Is A Partner In Crime

When Judith Miller of the New York Times and Time Magazine’s Matt Cooper faced imprisonment for not revealing Karl Rove as the source for reporting that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert agent with the CIA, many observers, including me, objected to their perverse interpretation of what constitutes a “confidential source.”

“Reporters do need to be able to protect their sources without fear of legal consequences when engaged in the conduct of their profession as journalists, but not when they are acting on behalf of government hitmen and promoting propaganda. That’s not protecting your sources, that’s protecting your accomplices.”

Now that it is old news that Rove leaked classified information, Time’s former editor in chief, Norman Pearlstine is coming clean:

“Outing Valerie Plame, exposing a valuable (CIA) agent for no particular reason, didn’t, in my mind, merit protecting confidentiality,”

Thanks Norm. It only took you two years to realize that reporters who act as conduits for political operatives who are engaging in smear campaigns may not extend confidentiality to their comrades.

New York Times On It’s Plamegate Reporter: Judy Who?

After months of silence, The New York Times has finally published an article about their reporter who spent nearly three months in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Judith Miller claims she was protecting a confidential source and defending the principle of freedom of the press. In fact she was protecting herself and her complicity in an administration smear campaign. The Times, to it’s credit, at least acknowledged that that position existed saying, “Critics said The Times was protecting not a whistle-blower but an administration campaign intended to squelch dissent.” And then they ran as far away from her as they could get.

We had no idea…
“Mr. Sulzberger and the paper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, knew few details about Ms. Miller’s conversations with her confidential source other than his name. They did not review Ms. Miller’s notes. Mr. Keller said he learned about the “Valerie Flame” notation only this month. Mr. Sulzberger was told about it by Times reporters on Thursday.”

It was all her fault…
“Interviews show that the paper’s leaders, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control.

We tried to stop her…
“Once Ms. Miller was jailed, her lawyers were in open conflict about whether she should stay there.”

We’re really very sorry…
Mr. Keller said the case was not ideal: “I wish it had been a clear-cut whistle-blower case. I wish it had been a reporter who came with less public baggage…Mr. Taubman said he felt bad for his reporters, but he added that he and other senior editors felt that they had no choice.

With friends like that, who needs enemas? Judy does still have some friends. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has announced that Miller will be receiving their First Amendment Award in Las Vegas Tuesday. It’s too bad the SPJ’s standards include honoring hacks who engage in propaganda. Their colleagues at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) considered giving Miller their Conscience in Media award earlier this year. The ASJA’s First Amendment committee voted to honor Miller, but that decision was later reversed by the full board. The SPJ would do well to reconsider also. The first amendment codifies freedom of the press. When you act as a willing conduit to plant damaging stories about your political opponents, you are not representing first amendment principles. Stumbles On Shield Law For Plame Leakers

media is the issue: has begun a new campaign to promote the passage of a Federal Shield Law for reporters and are making Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper their poster children. The folks at FreePress are amongst the biggest heroes of the media reform movement. The criticism that follows should not be construed as a call to withhold support from them. But, in my opinion, they are off-track on this matter.

There is a distinction between bona fide whistleblowing and conspiring with individuals or agencies in government to pursue a political vendetta against their enemies.

All the facts are not in yet, but I don’t believe that the reporter’s privilege applies if, for instance, Karl Rove called Judith Miller and recruited her to plant a story for the purpose of punishing Amb. Joe Wilson for criticising the administration.

There is nothing even remotely resembling a whistleblower case here. A whistleblower seeks to disclose information of wrongdoing that the government or others want to keep secret at the public’s expense. Valerie Plame was not engaged in wrongdoing and the disclosure of her identity was not in the public’s interest. It was political payback and the reporters involved are acting as co-conspirators, not journalists.

I support a Federal Shield Law for reporters, but by citing the Miller/Cooper case they are infecting the argument with the illegitimacy of their claims. Reporters do need to be able to protect their sources without fear of legal consequences when engaged in the conduct of their profession as journalists, but not when they are acting on behalf of government hitmen and promoting propaganda. That’s not protecting your sources, that’s protecting your accomplices.

Update: There are reports swirling that Karl Rove was, indeed, Matt Cooper’s source. Despite the White House’s protestations to the contrary, It appears that Rove was planting the Plame story. He has denied having done so, but now his denials are getting murkier. He may still weasel out of this because it is not illegal to disclose the identity of a covert agent if you didn’t know she was covert. It might be difficult to prove what Rove knew when he outted Plame. But he may still have some legal headaches. If he told Special Counsel Fitzgerald, or the grand jury, that he was not the source, he may be facing a perjury charge.

We can dream can’t we?