Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: As C.I. mentioned, my plan was to do a report on Monday. Thursday was my next opening and there were more problems with Blogger/Blogspot. As Mike guessed, I was in bed before it was possible to log on. Last week, Rebecca suggested that I come by later on Fridays because of the Friday morning group in my neighborhood where we discuss Iraq. So last weekend, I found out what would be on yesterday's agenda. One thing was the way the mainstream media was covering Iraq. I thought of watching a chat & chew and reporting on the way that went to the group; however, it seemed they were all signed up for already. Then I remembered The McLaughlin Group and, sure enough, no one had signed up.

So last weekend, that is the program I watched. It airs on PBS, John McLaughlin is the host. "From the right," you have Pat Buchanan and Tony Snow. "From the left," you have Eleanor Clift and a rotating seat. The "right" and "left" really translates as party diehards from each of the two major parties. If you have never seen The McLaughlin Group, I hope that provides you with enough background.

Watching, I was shocked. Who knew I would ever in my life agree with John McLaughlin but after the discussion of escalation, which I will cover in a second, Mr. McLaughlin made the point that when the 3,000th US service member died in Iraq, it got very little attention from the press. Mr. McLaughlin is correct and he went on to compare the lack of coverage of the 3,000 when contrasted to the non-stop coverage of the show-death of Saddam Hussein.

On the issue of escalation, Eleanor Clift struggled bravely to get a word in when it was actually her turn; however, she was up against Tony Snow. Even with Mr. McLaughlin asking Mr. Snow to let Ms. Clift speak, she really did not have much luck. It did not help that the other "left" chair was occupied by a U.P.I. correspondent who seemed to be taken aback that shouting, screaming and cutting each other off passes for a "dialogue" in this country. (The correspondent was from England.) In bits and pieces, Ms. Clift tried to mount a case against escalation.

Mr. Snow was obviously for it. Mr. Buchanan? Though he's presented as a voice against the illegal war, he came off as in favor of escalation. That may or may not be his position. No one gets to express their position in full except, of course, Mr. McLaughin who is the host. But Mr. Buchanan was repeating the tired, false line about how people do not grasp what will happen in Iraq when the U.S. forces leave. That tired line also got repeated in The Nation, sadly by Katha Pollitt.

I cannot speak for the "anti-war movement" because I am part of a peace movement. From the people I know in it, we are all fully aware that when the U.S. troops leave, it will not lead to instant peace. We are also aware, even if Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Pollitt are not, that it is the U.S. presence that fuels the resistance. We are aware of that because we are not idiots. We are smart to grasp that if a foreign country entered the U.S. tomorrow to 'liberate' us from the Bully Boy, some might be initially grateful but, after four years of occupation, we would be wondering excatly when we get our country back?

That would be true even if the country invading us did not feature leaders making insulting remarks about us. That is a basic fact because no country wants to be occupied by a foreign presence.

Friday, I shared the above and was not surprised to learn from the others reporting on a chat & chew that they felt I had more substance in the program I watched than they found in their programs. Reflexive thought and conventional wisdom pass for a "dialogue" on the network chat & chews. To be sure, party lines were trotted out on The McLaughlin Group but the nature of the exchange (hostile) means that the paid pundits are not all nodding and agreeing with one another, speaking in the mildest of terms, while they convey as bipartisan and journalistic. I do not know that more honesty emerges in statements on The McLaughlin Group, but I do think the exchange manner is far more honest than what Ellie termed, "We all love you Tim!" to Mr. Russert on Meet The Press.

As we noted throughout, no genuine left voice was present. Ms. Clift argues for the Democratic Party and one wonders if the D.N.C. has ever thought to provide her with a neckbrace for the whiplash she must suffer as they dramatically move from one position to the next?

As Crossfire and other shout-fests have disappeared, one wonders if Mr. McLaughlin has ever considered the value in adding a genuine left voice? A show that exists for the sheer volume it can produce might be able to really up the level if they invited on a Norman Solomon, Medea Benjamin, Alexander Cockburn, Margaret Kimberley, etc. That is not to imply that any of those voices is a "shouter." It is to state that if Mr. Snow head reels from what Ms. Clift attempts to say, it might explode and shoot off his shoulders if an actual voice from the left joined the panel.

On escalation, Ms. Clift managed to get across that more U.S. troops are not the answer and that the violence will only continue. Any other point she had made was lost due to Mr. Snow's constant interruptions. Which is not to imply she is a shrinking violet but, after all these years, this viewer was surprised to tune in after a long absence and still hear Ms. Clift insisting, "Tony, let me speak!" After all these years, Ms. Clift should have resorted to much stronger words though, if she had, it might have led to punches joining the words thrown.

[Ruth is referring to Pollit's "Happy New Year!" which runs on page of the January 22, 2007 edition of The Nation. The column will be addressed in a roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review tomorrow.]