Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eric Holder's childish tantrum

If you watch Modern Family (ABC), you may have caught "Arrested" (written by Becky Mann and Audra Sielaff) which aired back in November.  Away at college, Haley (Sarah Hyland) gets arrested and Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phi (Ty Burrell) have to get up in the middle of night and drive to help her after she's been arrested for assaulting a police officer (she landed on him as she tried to escape a bust for underage drinking).

After Claire and Phil pick her up at jail, they find out she now has to appear before a disciplinary board which will determine whether or not she's expelled from college.

Claire:  You are fighting for your future in front of a discipline committee, not entertaining the Secret Service

Haley:  In Legally Blonde, Elle won her case because she was true to herself and dressed cute.

Phil:  Haley, this is real life, not an excellent movie.

Claire:  Honey, just put on something else and take down the make up.

Haley:  Why are you guys acting like this is my fault? Everybody was drinking, everybody ran, I just got caught.  If anything, I'm the victim here.

Phil:  What!  Just stop -- Just stop talking.  Haley, you're not the victim here, you're the one who screwed up.  You made one bad decision after another and now you're about to blow everything your mother and I worked so hard to give you.  And the worst thing is you don't seem to care.  We all got up at three a.m. this morning to bail you out of jail.  We haven't eaten a thing.  And you know what I haven't heard from you yet?  "I'm sorry, Mom.  I screwed up, Dad.  Please forgive me."  Now put on some real clothes, we'll see you at the hearing, do not be late!

Phil was really needed yesterday to have a strong talk with Attorney General Eric Holder before he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee.

Two of the current White House scandals -- the seizure of AP phone records and the IRS targeting political groups -- fall on his shoulders.  He is in charge.

Maybe if Barack had pulled a Phil on Holder, he would have (like Haley) showed up at the hearing ready to take accountability.  Instead he was hostile and arrogant.

If you're an appointed official, you don't have that right.  You are answering to Congress which is asking on behalf of the people.  You may think US House Rep Darrell Issa is a piece of s**t.   Guess what?  Issa was elected to that office.  He represents a majority of voters in his district who agree with the way he conducts himself (or they wouldn't keep electing him).  Those voters are American citizens, so you shut your mouth and you take it because you are answerable to the American people.  If you don't want to be, you step down.  As a private citizen in front of Congress, you can be as hostile as you want.

But Holder was called out for two scandals that involve the Justice Dept and, as Attorney General, he is in charge of the Justice Dept.  It doesn't matter if he recuses himself or not, he is in charge of the Justice Dept.  Whether he's actively involved in an investigation or recused, he's the one who sets the tone.

At a time when conservatives are reeling from the confirmation that their political groups were targeted by the IRS for the 'crime' of exercising free speech, Holder didn't need to show up at the hearing yesterday attacking Republicans and laughing with Democrats.

What he doesn't seem to understand is he's not Attorney General for Democrats, he's not Attorney General for some Americans.  He is the US Attorney General and how he conducts himself matters.

The tone he set in that hearing, as Marcia points out, goes a long way towards how IRS employees thought it was okay to disrespect conservative groups and criminally target them.

In terms of damage control on the two scandals, the smartest thing Holder could have done was go in and sit still, answer questions politely and never lose his cool.

But, as we pointed out in yesterday's snapshot, in answer to his first question, he felt the need to bring up that the RNC had said something about him.

Does he not get that his position is not partisan?

Is that really a concept he can't grasp?

All he did with his rude and partisan actions yesterday was feed into image that the administration is out to get Republicans.

Again, he should have sat there, sat up straight, answered each question politely.

Did he think Issa was being rude?

Then keep your mouth shut and the press will note that for you.  If you conduct yourself in a professional and dignified manner and a member of Congress goes off on you, the press loves that, they run with it like crazy.  We were at the November 2011 hearing where the big news included (a) though the SOFA talks had failed, the US government was pursuing talks still and might find a new agreement with Iraq, (b) 15,000 US troops would move over to Kuwait and (c) even without the agreement, the US would keep a small number of US troops in Iraq.  There was also news regarding Camp Ashraf.  But all of that got ignored.  [Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs) appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee November 15, 2011 and for community reporting on that hearing,  see  "Iraq snapshot,"  "Iraq snapshot,"  "Iraq snapshot."  Ava reported on it with "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava), Wally reported on it with "The costs (Wally)," Kat reported on it with "Who wanted what?" and Third Estate Sunday Review's reports "Editorial: The silences that enable and kill," "Enduring bases, staging platforms, continued war" and "Gen Dempsey talks "10 enduring" US bases in Iraq." ]

What did the press run with instead of all that information that qualified for hard news, real news?

McCain goes off on Panetta!

It was milked like crazy and the press never noted that McCain and Panetta were just fine on the second round of questioning.

But if Holder had conducted himself in a dignified and professional manner (as Leon Panetta did), the press would have called out anyone who needed to be called out.

Instead of having the US Attorney General appearing before Congress, we had a petty, political operative.

Now the reality is that if Holder had conducted himself as he should have, he would have been playing politics -- he would have been playing smart politics.

America would have seen a calm and steady professional who could take flack from anyone without getting flustered.

Instead, they saw him blow up repeatedly.  They saw him open with an attack on the Republican National Committee.  They saw him yell at Issa.  They saw him pass judgment on Issa (calling Issa shameful among other things).

He came off like a hot head with a chip on his shoulder.

Repeating, the scandals are his fault.

AP?  'I recused myself' does not excuse what happened.  It does not mitigate what happened.  He did not recuse himself and assign the matter to the EPA.  The matter, as it should, remained with the Justice Dept he heads so all actions by the Justice Dept are a reflection on him.  If they overreach it goes to the tone he sets, it goes to the training and motivation he provides.  It was his scandal.  It's appalling that not only is the recusal not in writing (and he can't remember when he recused himself) but when he put James Cole in charge, he didn't bother to check first as to whether or not Cole was also questioned by investigators about the leak?  (Holder recused himself because being questioned by investigators about leaking to the AP means he's a potential suspect.  He needed to know, before he turned it over to Cole, if Cole was able to be in charge of it or not.  He didn't determine that first, as he admitted in the hearing.)

The IRS scandal?  That's even worse.  That's worse because Congress was asking about it last year and getting denials.  When Congress was asking last year, what should have happened immediately is Eric Holder should have picked up the phone and started making calls, "Hey, no one's asked me about it yet but let's find out and be sure that nothing is going on here.  Congress seems to think this may be a problem.  Let's make sure it's not."

That is what he is paid to do.  That is his job.

He didn't do his job.

Like Haley, he wanted everything his way.  It's a shame there wasn't a Phil to break it down to him yesterday morning.  Barack could have told him, "What!  Just stop -- Just stop talking.  Eric, you're not the victim here, your department's the one that screwed up.  You made one bad decision after another and now you're about to blow everything I have worked so hard to give you.  And the worst thing is you don't seem to care."

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, L-Studio, the Guardian, Media Channel, Adam Kokesh,, Jane Fonda, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pacifica Evening News, NPR Music and NYT's At War blog  -- updated last night and this morning:

In the above are links to a joint piece written by Betty, Ann, Dona, Ruth and Elaine -- the credit to which reads, "(This piece was written by Ann, Betty, Dona, Ruth and Elaine with help from C.I. in the form of an unpublished draft about Hedges' October 2001 NYT piece.)" For those in the public account having a fit that Chris Hedges was called out by me?

First, Chris Hedges isn't allowed to redefine rape.  If a man enters a woman while she is sleeping and she begs him to stop and struggles and he doesn't stop?  That's not willing sex, that's rape.  And that's what one of the women says happened.  Chris Hedges is not allowed to redefine rape.  And it's appalling that he thinks he can.  (But we've noted he has no respect for women -- we've noted that for some time.)

Second, Chris Hedges' comments needed to be called out.  And those comments are exactly why people on the left walked away from Julian Assange.  And Julian was a part of that strategy.  He wrote a book and by the time it was published, his new attorneys (including one I'm very close to) said, "This attacking the women has to stop."  That's the real reason he didn't want that quickie book he churned out published.  He wrote it under advice of his previous legal team -- the one that failed so badly and did not deliver him for questioning before he left the country.

Attacking the women, smearing them with every kind of rumor, putting their names online, all of that hatred?  That's what caused your backlash.  Those aren't methods that honest or innocent people have to resort to. (I'm not saying Julian Assange is guilty.  I have no idea.)  Chris resorted to them again by insisting yesterday that what the women were describing was not rape.

That's a lie and every time they lie about those women, it turns people off.

Chris is probably sensitive to the fact that three lawyers for Julian now realize that the interview Chris (and Michael Ratner) did with Julian was a huge mistake and that it did nothing to help the case.  I've said before (hear and to his attorneys I know), if you want to save Julian Assange, you talk WikiLeaks -- what accomplished, what's it is going to accomplish.  That's the only way you build support for him.

Third, I'm really sorry Chris Hedges sold the Iraq War but that's on him and not on me.  We told the truth.  We spent 2006 and 2007 and 2008 calling out the fact that he wasn't being held accountable.  FAIR and Democracy Now! erased him from the October 2001 report -- which he co-wrote -- falsely linking Iraq to the September 11th attacks.  That was front page.  He should have disowned that article and he should have named both Iraqi defectors he spoke to and he should have told how they were supplied to the New York Times.  He did none of that.  But he's happy to go around pretending like he had nothing to do with the illegal war.  I dropped the issue in 2008 when I heard _____ (someone we quote and cite here fairly often) mocking him because Hedges was about to come out for Ralph Nader.  _____ was explaining how doors were about to close for Chris.  So I made the decision that I was going to table my criticism because if I had continued it, some of the holler monkeys down the chain from ____ would pick up on it and use that to discredit Hedges' endorsement and him.  I'm not trying to discredit him.  I'm noting he sold the Iraq War and did so on the front page of the New York Times in a report so shoddy that it holds even less well than Judith Miller's work for the paper.  That's on him.  I'm not playing ignore the elephant in the room.

Fourth, I tabled it for 2008.  I didn't table it forever here.  I did ask others to consider tabling it at their sites.  They did.  It was a request and they could have rejected it.  It was not table forever.

Fifth, 'my section' is the part about Iraq.  Chris has pissed me off several times with his sexism in the last 12 months (and once with his homophobia).  Each of those times, I've dictated it into the snapshot and then said, "Pull the section about Chris Hedges but copy and paste it into a draft in case we need to use it later."  Dona pulled it up last night from the drafts.  That was my 'participation.'  (I have no problem with Dona doing that.  I had told people six months ago there were drafts on that if they needed to reference it for a piece.)

At the end of the day, Chris Hedges sold the Iraq War, did so on the front page, promoted the false link between Iraq and 9-11 that the White House would then hard sell, based his 'reporting' on the testimony of 'defectors' which any first-year reporter knows is questionable since they have motive to distort, and he's never outed the sources (Jack Fairweather outed one source -- Hedges article says they spoke to two) or explained how the US government helped with that piece.  Millions of Iraqis are dead.  The country's a land of orphans and widows.  Yet Chris goes around finger pointing at Judith Miller, at Michael Gordon, at the paper itself and never once takes responsibility for the fact that he was part of selling the Iraq War?  I shed no tears over what Betty, Ann, Dona, Ruth and Elaine wrote.  I applaud them for it.


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