Welcome to this weeks edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag! Today, Bob Chez and Ben answer readers questions on Obama's new ad touting the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the point of the White House Correspondent's dinner, and whether Newt Gingrich still has a career after finally pulling out of the GOP Primary.
What's your take on Obama's 'We killed Osama' ad? You think it's fair game? I don't know about you but I think it's highly questionable at best and really beneath the President to authorize an ad like that. I expect more from the President.
Bob: I absolutely think it's fair game and I'm glad they released the ad. It's not distastefully produced and it's about time the president ballyhooed one of his achievements. Actually, President Obama isn't even in the ad. And considering how Republican President X (say, Bush or McCain) would have handled such a thing -- probably with tickertape parades, a worldwide Bin Laden's Corpse tour and a bronze memorial to himself -- President Obama is remarkably restrained about this, considering how a policy decision he made on day one of his administration led to the successful assassination of the world's deadliest terrorist. For more analysis from me, read this item I posted here earlier in the week.
Chez: Bob and I talked about this on the podcast this week. I think there's really only one set of proper answers to this: No, there's nothing wrong with touting your victories as commander-in-chief, and killing Bin Laden was absolutely a victory; yes, it's tawdry and beneath the president to question whether Mitt Romney or anyone else would have the testicular fortitude to make the same call unless there was some kind of very serious precedent in that leader's career that could be indicative of future behavior; YES, if the Republicans had killed Bin Laden they'd still be taking a victory lap around the world and would be running frat-boyish ads right about now that featured them high-fiving each other while giving wedgies to effeminate Democrats and calling them pussies. I think it's unfortunate that we live in an age in which President Obama and his people feel like they need to question a GOP candidate's ability to govern effectively when American lives may be at stake, but please don't think for a second that the Republicans would somehow be above that kind of horseshit were the roles reversed. Those who detest the GOP and what it currently stands for do a lot of screaming about how the Dems need to stop kowtowing in the name of trying to remain dignified, so guess what? The Obama camp got into the mud a little bit -- which is exactly where its political enemies live 24/7. Any Republican outrage that's a response to that is just laugh-out-loud hypocrisy.
Ben: Hi Jerry, I kind of agree with you on this. Politically speaking, I can see the use of the Democrats hitting back at the Republican's ludicrous claims that they are weak on foreign policy. But as soon as they start playing this game, the Democrats have to one up the Republicans, and we end up with an even more militant foreign policy. I was not an advocate of Obama's action against Osama in Pakistan. While I'm not upset Bin Laden is dead, Obama violated international law by sending troops into a sovereign nation without permission from the government. Americans generally don't see this as being a big deal, but if Pakistan started doing extra judicial killings in the US, you can bet there would be an almighty outcry. Osama's death was great for Obama politically, but playing into this macho game about who is the best 'decider' doesn't do anyone any good.
While I found the speeches at the White House correspondents dinner pretty funny, I can't help but be disgusted at the supposed journalists who showed up to rub shoulders with the people they are supposed to be crucifying. Glenn Greenwald did a great blog on it calling out all the journalists who heaped praise on the President leading up to the event and then got front row seats. How can these people call themselves journalists? It's pathetic.
- Amy Fineman
Ben: The White House Correspondent's dinner really does sum up what is wrong with journalism and the media in America. While there are many problems with the media in the UK, the government fears the press and would never dare invite the major players to a glitzy dinner event and take photos with each other. The press in the UK are a vicious bunch and do their utmost to ruin the lives of politicians - as they should do. Politicians in the UK have to talk to the press and explain themselves or they risk being irrelevant. In the US, it works the other way round. The press literally beg for access to the White House and will go to extreme lengths to get it (ie. give up all pretenses of being an actual journalist). I've never seen an interview with the President where he was asked genuinely tough questions. Why? Because the journalist would never be invited back, cutting short their career as a relevant reporter. If you want to see how the press should treat politicians, I refer you to the legendary Jeremy Paxman of the BBC:
Bob: This is how America works. Politicians and the press beat the shit out of each other all day, and then, when the serious work is over, they attempt to have a civil relationship. In a practical sense, in order for the press to do its job, it has to have access to the people it covers, so members of the press have to carry on with cordial after-work shindigs. And let's face it, they don't have to personally hate each other in order to be effective. They certainly have to be critical as a matter of assignment, but they don't have to be segregated from each other. Now, all that said, the press absolutely needs to step up its game and get a lot more serious about its constitutional mandate, being the only industry to be singled out in the Bill of Rights. But when you rely upon the whims of the people you cover in order to succeed, you have to put on a show, drink some cocktails and shake some hands with those people, even if you're destroying their careers during the day. Yes, as Shep Smith said this week, "Politics is weird. And creepy."
Chez: I'm not a big fan of the idea of White House Correspondents' Dinner because, yes, I feel like any journalist worth his or her salt shouldn't be rubbing elbows and yukking it up with the people they're supposed to be taking a fair but skeptical stance against in professional terms. The Dinner has become a joke, a playground for people like Lindsay Lohan -- Lindsay Lohan, for fuck's sake -- and while it's fun to see the president let his hair down a little, so to speak, it perfectly speaks to the fact that the Beltway is one big insider's club, whether you're politico or press. That said, Greenwald -- as we all know because he's constantly reminding us: ethical journalism's Last Man Standing -- seems to believe that because he's tucked away in Rio most of the time he's really immune to influence by those he spends his days indignantly lobbing stones at. That's crap. While partying with the Beltway elite may not be an entirely ethical situation to put yourself in, neither is taking yourself off the field so that you're largely immune to the consequences of your actions in the game. It's easy for Greenwald to bitch incessantly because he's not risking very much should his vision of what the U.S. government needs to look like ever come to fruition. When he says the media aren't doing their job and they should be kicking Obama's ass for all of his supposedly illegal civil liberties failings and he makes asinine statements that amount to saying that it might be a good idea to let the Republicans win to teach America a long-term object lesson, he's not the one who'll have to live with the day-to-day catastrophe that would be the result should anybody actually listen to him.
Gingrich is finally gone!!!! Hooray!!! Where does he go from now? Do you think he can get a TV show? Apparently Fox won't go anywhere near him so I don't see where he goes. Will the liberal media have him on as an analyst? I'm going to boycott any network that puts him on.
Bob: Newt Gingrich will continue to write fantasy novels like the one he wrote about the Confederacy winning at Gettysburg, and he'll make a fortune on the speaking circuit. Oh, and he'll probably teach a history class at a college somewhere that doesn't care what its history profs are doing in the classroom. He'll also come up with new a different ways to race-bait. But I don't think he'll have his own show. He's terrible on television. But you can probably bet that he'll appear as a guest on all of the cable news networks, so you can probably go ahead and boycott them now. You'll be happier for it.
Ben: Sadly, I'm guessing he ends up on CNN. Newt still has some miles left in him as an attraction, and he certainly works hard. I'd personally like to see him on reality TV with a show based around his moon colony. 'Newt Goes to the Moon', or 'Newt's Lunar Life'. You could set up a fake moon colony somewhere in the Mojave desert where Newt would be leader and command his workers to build an alternative to life on earth. It would be great for him in so many ways....
Chez: Word has it they're bringing back Pink and the Brain and Newt will play the Brain. Bachmann will be Pinky. Can't wait.
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