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Paul Hayden

Where's the Tipping Point, Media?

May 18, 2009

I've often wondered, what with all of the wall-to-wall media slobbering over President Obama and, by extension, his Democrat allies in Congress and elsewhere, how the next major Democrat scandal will be handled. We may be about to get an answer.

There can be no question in any sane person's mind that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has crossed a line with her outrageous distortions of the truth regarding what she knew about the enhanced interrogation techniques and when she knew it. This is especially so in light of all the controversy generated by Pelosi, Obama et al about how horrible the use of these techniques was. Then she threw gasoline on an already growing fire by accusing the CIA of lying about what they told her in briefings. If a Republican speaker had disgraced her or himself to anywhere near this degree, the media would be literally helping to pack their bags and escort them out of town, and figuratively tarring and feathering them along the way.

While the drive-bys have been forced to swallow hard and actually ask Pelosi some tough questions, it's clear that their hearts are not in this game. The underlying smoldering resentment of actually having to cover this issue is undeniably present, as the media cannot help themselves in blaming George W. Bush, who hasn't said a word, and Dick Cheney (bless him) who has said plenty, for bringing on this whole mess by insisting upon using those nasty enhanced techniques in the first place. Why, if it wasn't for them, Pelosi would not have to be twisting herself into a pretzel in an attempt to extricate herself from the box of her own making.

What's fascinating is watching the internecine warfare among the Democrats, visible even through the smokescreen of media and Democrat politicians' obfuscation. It's clear that second-in-line Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has no lost love for Pelosi, although he denied he was referring to her when he called for hearings about what was known about the interrogation techniques and when. It will be interesting to watch to what degree Obama begins to distance himself from the beleaguered speaker as time unfolds, and how the tone of drive-by coverage will change in direct proportion to Obama's attitude. That is, the drive-bys will follow their anointed one's lead-of that we can be sure. And in the end, the media will have no qualms about placing the blame for Pelosi's exit, assuming that does occur, on anyone but the parties truly responsible. Too, they can and will, ad nauseam, point to previous Republican House speakers who left under a cloud such as Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston (although the latter never got to assume the speaker's position). Never mind that neither Gingrich's nor Livingston's offenses were within light years of what Pelosi has done.

From what we know now, it's by no means certain that Pelosi is finished as Speaker of the House. The Democrats at large will need to work her situation into their political calculus and, if they decide that she's outlived her usefulness to them, she will be quietly pressured to leave. Then, if Pelosi goes, the media will undoubtedly blame Republican pressure even as they continue to crow about the Republicans' so-called state of decline. If Pelosi refuses to be pushed out, then the media will blame Republicans for making way too much of this issue and the perp-as-victim mentality will rear its ugly head again. Whatever they do, the Republicans cannot allow either of these scenarios to unfold without a tremendous fight.

One potential mistake on the Republicans' part would be to make this all about Pelosi. She wasn't the only Democrat who knew what interrogation techniques were in use and said nothing until it was politically expedient to do so. And it is Obama, not Pelosi, who is suddenly pulling an about-face on the release of so-called torture photos that would cast U.S. troops in a bad light as they continue to fight and protect our interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not because he cares so much about the troops, but because he did the calculus and decided there was more political harm to him by releasing the photos than not releasing them. Same with Dick Cheney's request to release reports on the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques in extracting valuable intelligence from terrorists. Obama was all set to do it until Cheney asked him to do so, knowing that the information therein would serve to exonerate the Bush administration for using the techniques.

If every Republican who dares to criticize Obama has to begin his or her statement with, "I'm not a racist, and this comment is not about race, but...," then so be it, if that's what it takes to keep the media jackals somewhat at bay. Those who want to believe the Republicans are racists are going to keep on believing it anyway. But that should not stop those who need to speak the truth until enough people are willing to listen. The days of drive-by intimidation of anyone with a conservative point of view should be over, as of right now.

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