One of the most inexcusable problems with the modern press is that it collectively allows politicians and political parties who traffic in bullshit to do so unchecked. The whole idea of the Fourth Estate, the reason it’s specifically protected within the Constitution, is that it’s supposed to stand as a bulwark against leaders who would ostensibly lie their asses off to our faces if they could. These days, they can — and they know they can — because the media that’s supposed to protect us spend most of their time sleeping the day away under the guise of being fair and impartial. We see this constantly, most obviously whenever a news outlet simply parrots each side of the political debate rather than dissecting what’s being said to find out who the hell is telling the truth and who’s entirely full of shit.
Well, last night, as Josh Marshall over at TPM reports, something surprising and pretty impressive happened: CBS News’s Major Garrett called out the Republicans for trying to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes when it comes to the ridiculous ongoing non-story that is Benghazi. Last week, Republicans on the Hill breathlessly claimed to have found a smoking gun in their silly seven-month-long witch hunt aimed at hitting on something that would stick not only to President Obama but also to Hillary Clinton, who they know is likely going to clean their clocks in 2016. They claimed to have gotten access to a series of White House e-mails which showed that the talking points the Obama administration was going public with following the September attack had been edited and watered down in an effort to make the White House and the State Department look blameless leading up to the 2012 presidential election. Someone on the inside issued quotes to the press from these supposed e-mails and of course the political press — specifically ABC’s Jonathan Karl — being the lapdogs that they are, ran with them. The result was that, yes, the GOP looked like it was kind of right all along and the White House was hiding something.
Here’s the thing, though: The actual e-mails were released a couple of days ago, and — surprise, surprise — it turns out the Republicans had exaggerated what was in them to the point of just about creating an entirely fictional narrative. The gambit the GOP was engaging in by “leaking” the e-mails to the press was the height of political cynicism: It knew that what matters is what’s reported first, that corrections generally don’t even happen and when they do no one really pays much attention since the damage is already done. It’s impossible to un-ring the bell when you’re talking about people frothing at the mouth to believe anything negative about Barack Obama and his administration. With that in mind, the press often just stays quiet, even with the sudden uncovering of new revelations, and lets the original narrative stay in place because, well, what the hell.
Last night, though, Major Garrett reported on the information in the real White House e-mails, the information that proves that what was leaked last week — likely by a Republican staffer who’d only taken a brief look at the e-mails and was quoting them from “memory” — was mostly nonsense. The reality of what the White House was saying in the communications about Benghazi was nowhere near as damning or damaging as the right would have you believe. This should come as no surprise at all, given that these days the Republicans are the party of birth certificates, and teleprompter jokes, and straight-faced claims that Benghazi was worse than 9/11 and a non-scandal at the IRS is an impeachable offense that makes Watergate and Teapot Dome look like a pair of free tickets to a ball game provided to the local police chief, and on and on and on.
CBS did something that should be standard for any news organization, but which, let’s face it, isn’t these days. So good for Major Garrett and good for CBS. If more journalists followed their lead, the political hucksters of today’s Republican party would be forced to clean up their acts or go out of business.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.