Friday, September 15, 2006

Democratic Ideas Struggle to Be Heard by a Very Lazy Media

The Today show had as its lead segment Thursday morning, the subject of the Iraq war, terrorism and the midterm elections and host Matt Lauer fired an opening question at Democratic pundit James Carville that was straight out of a Republican National Committee (RNC) sound-bites book.

After saying that "the Democrats can't get their act together," Lauer went on to say this to Carville: "On this issue of can we make you safer and win the war on terror, why haven't the Democrats come up with a better answer than 'that's not a fair comment'?"

Aside from how embarrassingly uninformed Lauer's question was, Carville bungled an opportunity he should have jumped on like a pit-bull on a poodle. Just the day before, S.Amdt. 4936, a comprehensive security bill by Senate Democrats, based on their "Real Security" plan for America, was killed by the GOP leadership by a 41-57 vote that went almost straight down party lines.

"Today is another example of Republicans talking tough about national security, but then failing to do what it takes to keep America safe," said Reid after Wednesday's vote on his Real Security Act of 2006. "Our country is not as safe as it can and should be five years after 9/11, and votes like this in the Republican Congress are a reason why."

Reid continued: "The Bush White House and its Do-Nothing Congress have left our ports, borders, chemical plants and mass transit systems vulnerable. It is time this Congress finally learn the lessons of 9/11. Politics won't protect the American people. Only a serious commitment and tough and smart strategies, like the Democrats Real Security Act, will."

The bill, which was designed "to provide real national security, restore United States leadership, and implement tough and smart policies to win the war on terror," never stood a chance, despite covering in detail the following key areas -- to which the Republicans have paid almost zero attention -- and giving the Democratic ideas for executing their plan:
  • Implement all 41 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including providing adequate resources for first responders, distributing homeland security funding based on risk, improving intelligence oversight, bolstering Congressional oversight of homeland security, strengthening public diplomacy and improving tracking of nuclear weapons material.
  • Equip the intelligence community to fight against terrorists by passing the Intelligence authorization bill, giving the CIA the resources to conduct aggressive and effective intelligence gathering. For the first time in 28 years, the Republican-controlled Congress has failed to pass the bill providing these desperately-needed resources.
  • Invest additional money to secure America's ports, rails, roads, airports, chemical and nuclear plants and mass transit systems by improving and increasing screenings and increasing security of containers and radiation screenings.
  • Refocus America on the real war on terror by making sure the U.S. continues to pursue Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice and increase levels of Special Operations forces to kill and capture the terrorists where they are and to better protect Americans at home.
  • Provide updated tools, consistent with true American values, so we can bring terrorists to justice, while also following the law and the Constitution and work to revise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as needed to ensure intelligence agencies have the tools needed to defeat the terrorists.
  • Begin a new era of sensibly dealing with the quagmire that is the U.S.'s occupation of Iraq. Democrats would begin redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq to face terrorist threats around the world, including the new countries hosting Al-Qaeda since the Iraq war began. It also provides for real Congressional oversight to avoid further big-money losses to crooked defense contractors, accustomed to no-bid contracts and a tolerance for fraud and abuse.
For my money, those all sound a hell of a lot like ideas.

"Five years after September 11th, America is still not as safe as it should be. Despite years of tough talk and rhetoric, the Bush Administration and Washington Republicans have failed to learn the lessons of September 11th that rhetoric alone will not get the job done," says a press release announcing the Real Security plan. "Democrats are determined to provide the tools we need to develop the tough and smart policies that provide the Real Security that the American people deserve."

But that's the problem Democrats have faced in being the minority party at the same time that we're stuck with a corporate media that, when not overtly pushing right-wing spin, is simply ignorant about what new ideas actually exist for those curious enough to listen.

Do I think Matt Lauer is a closet right-winger? Not at all. I just think he's either intellectually lazy or has a research staff that is truly not doing him any favors.

While I don’t expect that Lauer could reasonably have the time to read all 528 pages of, yes, ideas, contained in the Real Security Act of 2006, it would have been nice if his fact-checkers had done a fraction of the job obviously being done by the dapper Lauer's wardrobe person.

Maybe then, he would not have asked such a patently stupid question, on national television, and displayed that he didn’t know that a major package of Democratic ideas, on the very subject of his show's lead segment, had been killed in a partisan political hit less than 24 hours before.

It's high time for the media to stop parroting RNC talking points about a mythical lack of ideas from the Democrats and start focusing on, as journalists, how lazy and embarrassing they have become.