Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Obama versus the Press

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By Larry Johnson

Since when did Barack Obama become the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland? When it comes to dealing with pesky reporters asking tough questions we see an emerging pattern–No Questioner Goes Unpunished. Barack might as well be screaming, “off with their heads.”

Notice anything missing in the list of moderators chosen for the upcoming presidential debates? Each campaign had a veto. And they agreed on three debates and three moderators: Jim Lehrer of PBC, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Bob Schieffer of CBS.

Who’s not here? You guessed correctly if you said: ABC. McCain has no motive to exclude ABC. What about Obama? What would his motive be? Is there a pattern of Obama shutting out news organizations and correspondents who have raised inconvenient questions or reported facts he wishes were not dug up?

On Obama’s foreign trip, his campaign excluded The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, unable to find him a seat, after he wrote a lengthy factual account of Obama’s story in Chicago that depicted a young man in a hurry, willing to ride roughshod over even those helping him up the ladder, ambitious to a fault, never staying in a job long enough to accomplish anything.

Then, Keith Olbermann, host of “Countdown” on MSNBC, the chief Obama cheerleading section, in effect fired Dana Milbank from his show. Milbank, a columnist for the Washington Post, and a regular on Olbermann’s program for four years, had committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing Obama as “presumptuous” and citing some of his arrogant statements. For suddenly breaking with the pack, Milbank was removed.

About Milbank’s purge, questions hang in the air. Did Olbermann act entirely on his own in firing him? Or did he discuss the move beforehand with members of the Obama campaign?

Now, ABC finds itself excluded. The reason why isn’t hard to figure out. Just go back to the debate in Pennsylvania between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton moderated by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson. Stephanopolous asked Obama a question he never wanted raised.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A gentleman named William Ayers. He was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He’s never apologized for that. And, in fact, on 9/11, he was quoted in the New York Times saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” An early organizing meeting for your State Senate campaign was held at his house and your campaign has said you are “friendly.” Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won’t be a problem?

OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I’m talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense, George.

Obama’s reply, as Steve Diamond has made clear in a series of articles in No Quarter, was a series of falsehoods and distortions. Ayers, the domestic terrorist, had been more than a political funder of Obama’s ambition. He had served with him for years on a private foundation, the Woods Fund, giving money to mutual political allies, like the radical Palestinian group created by close Obama friend, Rashid Khalidi.

And Ayers had been instrumental as co-founder of the Annenberg Challenge in Chicago, a private fund intended to reform public education in the city, in having Obama named as its head.

This was Obama’s first big break, his first big responsibility, at which, by the way, he failed miserably. And it’s something he never likes to mention or to draw attention to Ayers as one of his early mentors. Obama also knows very well that Ayers is a professor of education, not English, having praised his book on reducing sentences for violent youth criminals in a review in the Chicago Tribune. Obama was not then eight years old.

Now we begin to see a pattern of Obama’s thin-skinned responses to media criticism. Obama will cut out any news group or reporter for being so impertinent as to raise factual questions about his past or current record. Anything less than cultish worship will be treat as an enemy attack. Obama’s enemies list will undoubtedly grow. For now it’s Lizza, Milbank and Stephanopoulos from The New Yorker, The Washington Post and ABC. Who’s next?

Obama as JFK? With his enemies list, he’s more like Nixon.

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