Thursday, June 09, 2005

More on the Downing Street Memo

The Salon has a good article on the idiotic situation we find ourselves in right now with respect to this "famous" memorandum:

Halfway through Sunday's "Meet the Press," host Tim Russert, interviewing Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, asked about a secret, top-level British government memorandum. Consisting of minutes from a July 23, 2002, meeting attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest advisors, the memo revealed their impression that the Bush administration, eight months before the start of the Iraq war in 2003, had already decided to invade and that Washington seemed more concerned with justifying a war than preventing one.

The memo was leaked this year to the Times of London, which printed it on May 1. The story, coming on the eve of Blair's reelection, generated extensive press coverage in Britain. In setting up his question to Mehlman on Sunday, Russert said, "Let me turn to the now famous Downing Street memo" (emphasis added).

Famous? It would be famous in America if the D.C. press corps functioned the way it's supposed to. Russert's June 5 reference, five weeks after the story broke, represented the first time NBC News had even mentioned the document or the controversy surrounding it. In fact, Russert's query was the first time any of the network news divisions addressed the issue seriously. In an age of instant communications, the American mainstream media has taken an exceedingly long time -- as if news of the memo had traveled by vessel across the Atlantic Ocean -- to report on the leaked document. Nor has it considered its grave implications -- namely, that President Bush lied to the American people and Congress during the run-up to the war with Iraq when he insisted over and over again that war was his administration's last option.

Hilarious, isn't it? Or it would be hilarious if we were reading about it as a story happening in some other, preferably imaginary, place. The media is scared of this administration, and quite honestly, I don't really blame them on a purely personal level. But the old saying about the kitchen and heat applies here, nevertheless.

I'm naturally not the only one who has noticed all this. There is criticism of the mainstream media's cowardice, in all sorts of lefty places:

The fact that it took five weeks for more than a handful of Washington reporters to focus on the memo highlights a striking disconnect between some news consumers and mainstream news producers. The memo story epitomizes a mainstream press corps that is genuinely afraid to ask tough questions and write tough stories about the Bush administration. Worse, in the case of the Downing Street memo, it simply refuses to report on the existence of a plainly newsworthy document.

"This is where all the work conservatives and the administration have done in terms of bullying the press, making it less willing to write confrontational pieces -- this is where it's paid off," says David Brock, CEO of Media Matters for America, a liberal media advocacy group. "It's a glaring example of omission."

"I think it exacerbates the sense among some [of our] listeners that NPR is not taking on the Bush administration," notes Jeffrey Dvorkin, ombudsman for National Public Radio, who continues to receive listener complaints about the missing memo story. As of Tuesday, NPR had aired just two references to the Downing Street memo, and both occurred in passing conversation, without giving listeners the full context or the details of the memo. Asked about the network's slim coverage, Dvorkin says, "I was surprised. It's a bigger story than we've given it. It deserves more attention."

Instead, attention in the media seems to be going towards stopping the use of anonymous sources. To avoid another Newsweek episode. This will also pretty much put a stop to all real revelations about any future government mistakes, I fear.