By Ben Cohen
I was recently watching Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton's campaign managers debate on Chris Matthews 'Hard Ball' on MSNBC, and was struck by the hosts complete lack of journalistic integrity.
Howard Wolfson, the communications director for Senator Clinton‘s campaign and David Axelrod, the chief media strategist for Senator Obama‘s campaign squared off for a somewhat meaningful debate about their candidates stance on foreign policy.
Although Matthews challenged Wolfson on his assertion that Clinton would not grant the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahjmadinejad an immediate meeting if she were president (because he was a holocaust denier), Matthews could only quote Jack Kennedy when he said 'We should never fear to negotiate'. A nice sounds byte, but hardly a serious question.
Like many in the mainstream news media, he failed miserably to point out the massive inconsistencies in U.S foreign policy, the cherry picking of 'bad guys' that suit U.S strategic needs. Matthews did point out that Nixon negotiated with China, and that Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, but didn't ask any serious questions as to what constituted an 'enemy'.
For example, why did Matthews not point out the fact that the U.S negotiates on a regular basis with brutal dictatorships? Why did he not ask what special qualities Chavez, Castro and Ahjmadinejad have as opposed to the Saudi government or Hosni Mubarek of Egypt?
There is a bizarre voluntary vow of silence in the mainstream media that basically states that some questions just cannot be asked.
Orders are taken from the White House when it declares a country an enemy or friend, and no questions are asked as to why. The U.S supported both Iran and Iraq at various points in history, and dumped them when they did not support America's strategic interests. The media, compliant as always, accepted the governments assertions and did not question the support of some of the world's most brutal dictators.
The opposite same has happened recently with Hugo Chavez, the new U.S bogeyman. Matthews and his colleagues have all stepped into line accepting the Bush Administrations new categorization of the Latin leader, and have not thought to point out its massive inconsistencies.
Wolfson also referred to Chavez as a 'dictator' during the show, which is flatly not true. Chavez, like him or not, has been democratically elected three times in Venezuela, a fact that Matthews did not see fit to point out.
In fairness to Matthews, he was one of the only mainstream pundits to openly question the Iraq war during its build up, but he has consistently failed to ask the most basic questions about American foreign policy. It's something the U.S would greatly benefit from, and if Matthews is serious, he might start doing it.