....LMB: "Shortest Barrier Between Two Points"....

March 09, 2004

Wow, amazing how hard it can be to answer a simple yes-or-no question.

Several weeks back, President Bush had announced that he would meet with the 9/11 investigation committee to answer their questions-- for an hour. Yes, while people like your or I might be willing to give up hours, days, or even months of our time if we thought it might somehow help prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack, the president is only willing to give up about 60 minutes.

At this morning's press briefing with White House spokesman Scott McClellan, reporters asked a simple question: has the president changed his mind about that 60 minute time limit? Apparently the president had made some ambiguous statements lately which could be interpretted to mean that he would now spend as much time with the investigators as they liked, so the press was asking McClellan if that was a correct interpretation (granted, the initial question was phrased in a much more confrontational way:

Q: Does the President want to really get to the bottom of the cause of 9/11? If he does, why would he limit his interview with the commission to one hour and for other officials, and, stonewall on documents?

McCLELLAN: I'm glad you brought this up. This administration has provided unprecedented cooperation to a legislative body in the 9/11 Commission. We have worked closely with the commission in a spirit of cooperation. And you only have to go back -- and I would appreciate it if you would report some of the facts of the type of access we have provided to the commission. We have provided the commission access to every bit of information that they have requested, including our most sensitive national security documents. And the commission chairman has stated such --

Q: Well, the commission certainly is not satisfied.

McCLELLAN: -- and as far as the President, the President looks forward to meeting with the chairman and vice chairman and answering all the questions that they want to raise.

Q: Why don't you just open the books and get to the truth? The American people deserve it.

McCLELLAN: Did you not hear what I just said, Helen? Have you not looked at the facts? I think you need to quit reading some of the coverage and look at the facts.

Q: You just said, ďall the questions they want to raise.Ē That means heís no longer going to limit it to an hour?

McCLELLAN: Well, thatís what itís scheduled for now. But, look, heís going to answer all the questions they want to raise. Keep in mind that the commission --

Q: If theyíre still asking at one hour, heíll still answer them?

McCLELLAN: Keep in mind that the commission has already had access to all the information they requested, as I just pointed out, including our most sensitive national security documents. Thatís what Iím talking about when Iím talking about unprecedented cooperation. And the commission has also -- yes, let me finish --

Q: The issue is whether heís limiting it to an hour --

McCLELLAN: Let me finish, Mark.

Q: -- and Iím asking a very simple question. If theyíre still asking questions at one hour --

McCLELLAN: I think itís important to point out the fact. Mark, let me finish. Mark, can I answer? Let me finish. Itís important that we point out these facts when we talk about this issue, because the facts have not been pointed out. The facts have not been pointed out. But the President -- I mean, the commission will be meeting with the President, after having talked for hours on hour with White House and senior administration officials. Weíve provided more than 2 million pages of documents; weíve provided more than 60 compact disks of radar, flight and other information; more than 800 audio cassette tapes of interviews and other materials; more than 100 briefings, including at the head-of-agency level; more than 560 interviews. Dr. Rice met with the commission recently, and even though only five members of the commission showed up, she sat down and visited with them for some four hours.

Q: I appreciate that. You reported all that when you first told it to us. Iím asking --

McCLELLAN: No, I donít think it was widely reported.

Q: Forgive me, I take responsibility for what I report, and I reported it.

McCLELLAN: I understand you -- I understand. But I take responsibility of talking to everybody here.

Q: Okay. All the questions that they have, heís going to answer. If theyíre still asking at one hour, is he still going to answer?

McCLELLAN: I just said that the President will answer all the questions that they want to raise. I think thatís important to point out. I mean, itís important to point out the unprecedented cooperation we have provided to this legislative body. We have worked very closely with the commission.

Q: -- when?

McCLELLAN: Still working on the exact time for that, working with the commission...

And it goes on. And on. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the complete transcript for this back and forth is five times longer than the snippet I've just quoted. I would estimate that McClellan spends ten minutes not answering the question at hand.

McClellan knows his talking points, and refuses to diverge from them for even a second: the administration has provided unprecedented cooperation to the investigators; 2 million pages of documents; the president looks forward to being questioned; the president will answer all the questions the investigators want to raise. And that's about it. Any words outside of that extremely narrow scope will not leave McClellan's mouth.

Of course, he's no Ari Fleischer. Fleischer was slipperier'n a teflon snake at the WD-40 convention. He'd've found a way to either subtly change the subject to one which made the president look better, or pretend that the reporter had asked a different question, or say "I think we've already covered that" and force the press conference to switch to another topic. You remember that scene in "The Matrix" on the rooftop, where Keanu starts firing bullets at an Agent, and the Agent twists and bends in 12 directions at once and dodges every bullet? That's Ari Fleischer. You know that scene shortly after where Keanu is firing a helicopter's machine gun at a room full of Agents, and when the dead reincarnated Agents run back into the room, Keanu shoots them and makes them fall down? That's Scott McClellan. Ari evades. Scott gets hit, goes down, but can't really be defeated.

[Jake pauses, gives himself the "worst political analogy of the week" award]


The Bush administration really doesn't have a leg to stand on here. There simply is no reasonable explanation for why the president wouldn't give this commission as much time as they asked for to answer their questions. There just isn't. Their only hope is to point out how "cooperative" they're being or try to confuse the issue.

And why don't they want this commission to be able to do its job? Because it's unlikely to say anything positive about the Bush administration. It's a report geared to (allegedly) find flaws and errors in US defense, security and intelligence in hopes of correcting those flaws. As a result, the report will be rife with ammunition that Bush's political rivals can use to attack his administration.

Am I suggesting that Bush is more concerned with re-election than with really dealing with protecting the country from future terrorist attacks? Yes and no. I think that Bush and his team are arrogant and crazy enough to think that only they can protect America (by invading countries that could possibly, maybe, potentially one day think about harming some aspect of the United States), and therefore stonewalling a commission in order to get re-elected and protecting the country are the same thing. Fucking loons.

Posted by Jake at 07:09 PM | TrackBack (0)

"This administration has provided unprecedented cooperation to a legislative body in the 9/11 Commission."

Lord, every-time you ask a politician about cooperation (or lack thereof) this is the kind of doublespeak they give. Have any of them ever really been forthcoming or candid? I really suspect the answer is no.

Which is not to say it isn't repugnant conduct.

Posted by: Damelon Kimbrough at March 10, 2004 11:25 AM


I don't mean this as a slight at you, but I find it interesting that a lot of people complain about the President "imposing restrictions" on the Commission. He hasn't imposed anything. He offered up an hour of his time. There are only twenty-four in a day and he clearly has other pressing matters to attend to (especially when considering Congress has already completed its 9/11 review). What specific details could the President have about gathered intelligence and such that would be of use anyway? While I'm glad that he's willing to sit for longer now, an hour certainly seems sufficient to me.

Posted by: Amaryllis at March 10, 2004 02:01 PM

Interesting how Bush finds the time to defend his use of Sept. 11th in his re-election ads, but can't decide (according to his spokesman) how long he'll take to answer questions about 9/11. Well, to be fair, it's more absurd than it is interesting.

Posted by: Indira at March 10, 2004 03:25 PM

"an hour certainly seems sufficient to me"

And let's be honest, with an hour you can really discover everything Bush knows anyway. Come to think of it, 15 minutes should really suffice.

Posted by: Damelon Kimbrough at March 10, 2004 10:57 PM

I agree that there are only 24 hours in a day, but when you consider that the other things that the President considers to be more important than testifying in front of this commission include hundreds of hours of fundraisers (when he already has an obscenely large war chest), well, that one hour looks more and more paltry.

Posted by: Nora M. at March 11, 2004 12:11 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

Posted by Jake at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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