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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unmasking a "Giant" of Journalism

If someone had asked me two or three years ago to name the most respected reporters in journalism, I probably would have put David Broder of The Washington Post near the top of the list.

Why? Gosh, I'm not sure. Broder's been around forever. He long has worked for one of the great "brand names" in journalism. He seems knowledgeable and deliberative. And he comes across as so darn serious about things.

Scott Horton, of Harper's magazine, is doing a bang up job of convincing me that Broder's lofty reputation is not deserved. In fact, I'm starting to think Broder is little more than a lofty shill for the Beltway status quo.

The latest evidence comes from Broder's Sunday column, calling for a halt to pesky questions about the Bush administration's torture program. Horton dissects the piece with a sharp scalpel, leaving Broder's reputation in a crumpled heap.

Broder goes so far as to question the psychological makeup of those who would dare seek to hold the Bush regime accountable. That doesn't sit well with Horton:
Since I am an advocate of accountability, and Broder presumes to question my mental health, I’ll offer a personal response. I have no interest in vengeance or retribution, but I have a strong interest in upholding the rule of law and in stopping torture. Unlike Broder, I do not consider the law to be a political plaything but rather a repository of our highest values. The United States has a series of criminal statutes which apply to this situation and which were violated. Further, the United States signed a very important international convention under which it promised to open a criminal investigation into any credible allegations of torture. At this point there is a uniform consensus that the United States is in breach of its treaty obligation. (A matter of indifference to Broder, apparently). Moreover, its conduct is sending a clear message around the world: the prohibition on torture is a trivial matter which can be defeated by a tyrant in any corner of the world. All he needs to do is hire a lawyer and have him issue an opinion that when he tortures, it’s completely lawful.

The issue of torture hits home in a personal way for Horton. Apparently it does not for Broder. He's been too busy eating quail with Karl Rove. Just shows you how easily journalists are "bought off" these days:

In the frivolous world of David Broder, flitting between corporate-sponsored vacations and eating quail with his old friend Karl Rove, the question is just about a “policy difference.” In the real world, it’s about whether people will be beaten brutally in the Congo, boiled to death in a police station in Uzbekistan, or have their genitals slit in a prison in Morocco. The international prohibition on torture makes a vital difference in the lives of thousands around the world today and tomorrow. Coming from an Air Force family, I also think about the fate of an American airman captured behind enemy lines in a conflict of the future. The likelihood that this serviceman will be tortured has been greatly heightened by the Bush Administration’s reach to torture, and the failure of any subsequent administration to hold them accountable adds to that risk. But David Broder doesn’t see this. He can’t fathom the world outside the cocktail lounges, restaurants, and ballrooms of Beltwelt. Apparently, unlike Bill Clinton’s affair with an intern, the issue of torture is not a truly serious matter that affects the moral climate of Washington and the world beyond it.

Horton zeroes in on Broder's bizarre notion that President Obama should soft-pedal torture issues himself, without bothering to involve the Justice Department:

And note the means that Broder sees for resolving the matter. President Obama should resolve the question of criminal accountability himself, Broder says, bypassing the Justice Department. This surely is advice Broder has taken straight from his friend Karl Rove’s playbook. But just think about this for a while. Do we really want to live in a country in which the president is the constant arbiter of who is and who is not criminally investigated? That is the very hallmark of a banana republic, a practice that the Founding Fathers worked very hard to insulate us against. But for Broder, all the talk of independent judgment exercised by professional prosecutors is rubbish. No Washington pundit worth his salt really believes any of this. The White House calls the shots, Broder tells us, and that’s the way it should be. Broder is so deeply steeped in Beltway cynicism he hardly knows how to disguise it.

Looks like I've had my head in the sand about David Broder. Not anymore. Thanks to Scott Horton for shining light on what the "dean" of the Washington press corps is all about.

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