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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ah, Media Criticism (it's been a while, no?) 

I think my WH correspondent friend still reads this site, and I think she won't like this. But, Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News makes a good point:
Yes, it was the annual White House Correspondent's Association dinner, and unless you just returned this morning from a trek in Kathmandu, you've surely seen the video of "Desperate Housewife"-turned-comedienne Laura Bush -- over and over and over. The only "break has been the endless blather about a "runaway bride" who has breathlessly captivated the entire nation by doing something -- just a tad more spectacularly -- that thousands of Americans, including your blogger, have done before her: Backed out of a wedding.

The two stories kept looping together, overlapping and back and forth, so by the time we left for work we thought that Laura was W's "runaway bride," or something like that. It wasn't even just the video: This morning, print pundits analyzed the First Lady's monologue with the kind of detail once reserved for the State of the Union.

As our former Newsday colleague William Douglas wrote for Knight-Ridder Newspapers:

The first lady's surprise skit brought down the house and illustrates her shifting role in the president's second term -- from a so-called traditional first lady whose primary duties were ceremonial, to a more active and visible partner with a meaningful portfolio. . . .


Oh, you cynical journalists! Nevermind that Laura Bush's monologue was a FAKE NEWS STORY, as real as that yellow-cake uranium in Niger. Her jokes were written by a professional joke writer, Landon Parvin, and would have gotten just as much laughs, and would have been just as authentic, if delivered instead by Jay Leno.

In fact, Laura Bush has never seen "Desperate Housewives," although the joke guaranteed non-stop play on ABC, which has become the 24/7 "Desperate Housewives" network, airing even more FAKE STORIES about the show to the point I swear Charlie Gibson thinks Wisteria Lane is a real address he can pinpoint on a Google map.

It's not. And Laura Bush telling a scripted joke isn't news anymore than is a troubled woman walking out on a wedding and panicking. There's one striking thing we didn't see on all the First Lady video overkill, and that was any of the guffawing journalists -- that pack of predators -- bolting from their fancy tables to cover a big breaking news story.

Because there was one. Oh, yeah. Didn't you hear? The president lied to the American people. He started a war on false pretenses, and more than 1,500 Americans -- and an untold number of Iraqis -- died.

Well, OK, you sort of knew that already, didn't you? But there wasn't a smoking gun...until now. The Times of London got hold of the secret memo from Tony Blair's pre-war deliberations that show that in the summer of 2002 -- months before the Colin Powell charade at the UN -- that Bush had decided to invade Iraq...he just hadn't decided why. The story broke right around the time that Laura Bush was telling a joke about her husband jerking off a horse.

Red meat for a cynical press corps, no? If, as Shaw insisted, "'Gotcha' journalism is the order of the day," then surely this was the ultimate 'gotcha' story -- the leader of the free world, caught in a bald-faced, and deadly, lie.

That's why we've been anxiously waiting for the American press to pick up and banner the news. And yet we're still waiting. The Washington Post...nothing, really. The New York Times obtusely backed into it on Page A9, next to an ad for Mohan's Custom Tailors, with a headline -- "For Blair, Iraq Issue Just Won't Go Away" -- that seems to barely hide the newspaper of record's apparent contempt for the issue.

And it's being played exclusively as "a Tony Blair story," as if Britain were some kind of bizarro world and the PM's dealings were with some anti-matter George W. Bush, not the real one, that guy over there guffawing in a tuxedo.

We don't get it. Maybe the Bush-and-Blair-lied story needed a cute name that plays off "Desperate Housewives" or some Julia Roberts movie. If only they could have called the scandal "Mystic Memo," or "Sleeping With the Contrived Enemy." Actually, some of her movies are too perfect a fit -- "Conspiracy Theory," or "Dying Young."
Every year, we're treating to this bullshit kabuki about WH correspondent's dinner, as if whether or not the President and his family are self-deprecating enough to satisfy Chris "Codpiece" Matthews matters one iota. Not only do we have the Bush/Blair memo, but does anyone seem to care that, as of last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that, over the past year, we've made absolutely NO PROGRESS against the Iraq insurgency? And that, once again, the army didn't meet its recruitment goal for enlisted men in April even though normal recruitment standards are flying out the window?

No, it's true, the fact that some guy wrote some jokes for Laura Bush is a bigger news story. I apologize for this post.
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