The Defense Department
Columnists getting paid to promote government programs, torture, a shock jock named Mancow -- the ConWeb sure spends a lot of effort justifying or trying to explain away things most people find abhorrent.
By Terry Krepel
The ConWeb of late has expended a notable portion of effort finding ways to cover for, explain away or otherwise defend things that on first glance would seem to be indefensible.
Like, for instance, Armstrong Williams. NewsMax has contorted itself into positions previously considered humanly impossible to gloss over Williams' acceptance of $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind education policy through his TV appearances and in his syndicated radio and TV shows and his newspaper column.
Then, in a Jan. 13 article, NewsMax tried to drag liberal radio host Ed Schultz into it, suggesting that he "admitted he was on the air thanks to the generosity of the Democratic Party." Wrong -- as even the story itself later details. The transcript NewsMax excerpts clearly identifies "Democratic donors" as Schultz's backers, not the party itself.
Despite the article contradicting itself, it still goes on to claim: "Mr. Schultz's position doesn't seem to be all that different from that of Mr. Armstrong, who maintains that he never touted a position on any issue that he didn't already believe in -- even if some cash did change hands." ("Mr. Armstrong?" NewsMax again demonstrates what happens when you don't have copy editors.)
But that's not true either. It has been documented (not only by Media Matters but by liberal-basher Daniel Flynn, author of "Why the Left Hates America," in a Jan. 11 article at Accuracy in Media) that the money did appear to change Williams' tune on No Child Left Behind. Prior to taking the money, Williams was attacking President Bush for dropping support for private school vouchers from the plan before its passage, saying that by doing so, "Bush scooped out the soul of his own education proposal." Flynn didn't turn on his conservative colleague completely, however; he cited several Democrats as examples of "countless lesser men than Armstrong Williams who have rebounded from bigger scandals."
NewsMax then moved on to an even more specious comparison on Jan. 14, using a Wall Street Journal article rehashing the old news that lliberal bloggers Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (of Daily Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (of MyDD) were paid consultants to Howard Dean's presidential campaign, calling it "a deal reminiscent of Armstrong Williams' arrangement with the Bush administration." NewsMax was careful not to report the full story about the two bloggers from the Journal article that would show that it wasn't reminiscent at all -- Moulitsas posted a disclaimer on his site about his work with Dean, and Armstrong stopped blogging completely while he was working for Dean. (Another example of what happens when you don't have copy editors, NewsMax insists that Moulitsas' last name is Zuniga; this explains why it's not.)
The article rehashed its bogus allegation against Schultz and added: " Al Franken's Air America radio network has a similar financial arrangement with party fat cats." As long as NewsMax can't tell the difference between private investment or properly disclosed consultancy fees and federal tax dollars paid to a media figure to promote a government policy, NewsMax leaves itself open to the question of just who the conservative "fat cats" are who have enabled NewsMax to lose more than $10 million since its inception.
Don't hold your breath, by the way, waiting for NewsMax to conform to the demands it makes of others.
WorldNetDaily and CNSNews.com have been virtually silent about Williams; both reprinted a syndicated column by Michelle Malkin complaining that mean ol' lefties are now accusing her of being paid off as well. It took more than a week for any non-syndicated WND columnist to weigh in, and that was Joseph Farah on Jan. 17 (he wrote about the report on the CBS News' Bush National Guard story, which was released after the Williams scandal broke, the day after its release, on Jan. 12), and he's more offended about the use of government money to tout "intrusive, unconstitutional federal policies on education." And Slantie winner Mychal Massie weighed in on Jan. 18, devoting most of his column to pointing out the alleged foibles of those who have criticized Williams. He revived his insistence that Senate minority leader's statement that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' legal opinions were "poorly written" somehow translates into "a racist, hate-filled screed." You sure you aren't talking about yourself, Mr. Massie?
The attention of WND and CNS has instead been directed elsewhere -- such as telling us why it's OK for Americans to torture detainees in Iraq and elsewhere.
Farah complained in a Jan. 11 column that we weren't being mean enough in the War on Terror. He called the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal "that tempest in a teapot" noting: "We're going to have to do things in this war that you don't do at Georgetown cocktail parties."
And that would, of course, involve torture. So Farah tries to define it down: "But what is torture? Interrogators are trained to use tough methods to extract information, but not to cross certain lines. Now those lines are increasingly moving and getting blurrier all the time because of criticism from arm-chair generals like Teddy Kennedy."
So it's not the interrogators' fault that prisoners are being tortured, it's Teddy Kennedy's. Huh?
Farah's not the only one trying to make torture patriotic. CNSNews.com ran a Jan. 14 column by Frank Salvato ("a political media consultant and managing editor for TheRant.us") that, hiding among all the I-don't-defend-what-happened-but statements, tries to make the case that the bad guys have it coming to 'em anyway:
As the champions of freedom and democracy, we need to understand that sometimes, in our efforts to defend, attain and enable those very principles, we might have to do distasteful and perhaps "politically incorrect" things.
So we should whistle while we cut off their heads? So confusing.
Slightly more popular than torture are morning-radio shock jocks. NewsMax paid tribute to one named Mancow Muller in a Jan. 10 article touting his intention to fill the void when fellow shock jock Howard Stern departs the airwaves for satellite radio. Mancow, who calls himself a "conservative libertarian," also appears regularly on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends."
NewsMax tries to whitewash Mancow's past, writing that he "characterizes his shock jock phase -- both the dirty skits and the publicity stunts -- as something he did 10 years ago." Well, not exactly:
Hey, if NewsMax can find a way to gloss over a columnist getting paid for pushing government propaganda, it can certainly find a way to make a shock jock look squeaky clean.