Saturday, May 30, 2009

Getting Away with Murder

There is an epidemic of murders in this nation. You won’t find them in the FBI statistics and there are no detectives or investigations. These are virtual murders—character assignations. And staying with the metaphor, the New York Times is a serial killer of historic proportions.

There is an MO that can help you identify and maybe even prevent a murder. A reporter or a columnist thinks they have a story—usually a deep, dark, insidious plot that must be revealed to protect the American public—and they are sure it is true. But they do not have facts or proof, they cannot corroborate their theory through confirmed sources, not even through sources who wish to remain anonymous because they fear retribution. The writer could contact the victim directly and get their side of the story, but that would likely dispel the mythical plot and exonerate the villain. Left with no place else to go and a faint twinge of commitment to the journalist’s code of ethics—they go where they can say what they want about anything or anybody without fear of libel suit or being bound by any sense of honor—they go to the Op Ed page. The murder in the form of character assassination is committed in the office, with the pen, by the journalist.

I have witnessed two attempted murders recently by Maureen Dowd. And her intended victim, who she has been trying to kill for years, is Vice President Cheney.

In the first recent attempt, Ms. Dowd claims to have obtained a copy of the Top Secret testimony of Dick Cheney before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Then she proceeds to fabricate the most outlandish concoction of the Vice President’s testimony about torture and the war on terrorism. But, it is not enough just to write a fictional piece; Ms. Dowd uses quotation marks to add an air of authenticity to her diatribe of lies.

The second attempt was the omni-present Maureen Dowd listening in on a private conversation between Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield at a Georgetown cafĂ©. Again, she uses quotation marks to suggest that this was a factual report of an actual meeting of the former VP and Secretary of Defense. And, if it was not bad enough that she completely made up the conversation she “listened” in on, consider her moral outrage at the trampling of her Constitutional “rights” if it had been the omni-present NSA listening in of her private conversation at a public place.

Ms. Dowd does such a great job of building these fantasies about Dick Cheney that I even found myself wondering if they could be true. I suspect that 90% of the readers were left wondering the same thing. The difference for this reader is that I know Dick Cheney. I worked for him for four years when he represented Wyoming in the US Congress and I have remained a personal friend through the years. Suddenly, I snapped to full consciousness and realized I had witnessed two attempted virtual murders.

Moreover, I have had personal experience with the media’s new penchant for character assassinations, fabrications, slander, and manipulation of their readers through the unethical perversion of the Opinion Editorial. At least three lead editorials in the NY Times have impugned my character, my professional qualifications, and outright lied about an action I had taken as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior. The NY Times never consulted with Interior or me about the veracity of their fabrication. In fact, they twice refused to even print a 150-word letter to the editor correcting the record. And if it is not enough to be the subject of lies and even likened to the devil himself in a major national newspaper, the story gets reprinted in thousands of smaller papers across the country.

You see the real danger here is that once it has made it to newspaper print, then in the eyes of every journalist out there, the fabrication is now incontrovertible fact. This happens even though the original piece is printed on the Op Ed page, where journalistic license allows the authors a certain degree of factual latitude when expressing their “opinion.” But, the follow up stories are not printed on the Op Ed page; they are now news and that is how they get reported.

I feel sorry for the “Maureen Dowds” of the journalistic world. She just can’t get over the fact that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were elected twice. She can’t get over the fact that Dick Cheney is still making news about issues for which his qualifications are undisputed. To my knowledge, no journalist has suggested Al Gore “shut up” about global warming even though several reputable scientists have caught him in his own fabrications on the issue. I haven’t heard anyone suggest Jimmy Carter go away and stop his interloping, dare I say, cowboy brand of diplomacy.

Two things will continue to frustrate Maureen Dowd. The first is that Chaney is right and polls show that the American people know he is right. Second, she is frustrated that her multiple murder attempts, each more deadly than the previous, have failed to kill Dick Cheney’s credibility. By now she should know that, if you want to kill a cowboy, you can’t just cut off his head; you have to hide it from him.

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