Sunday, November 27, 2005

Andersen Mocks Reader and His Profession

by Kyle Michaelis
In today's column, long-time Omaha World-Herald hatchetman Harold W. Andersen writes:
An angry caller left a message on my voice mail, including blistering criticism of a column in which I had suggested that I think the so-called outing of CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson had been blown out of all proportion by Bush-bashers determined to make the White House look bad.

The angry caller said: "I don't know how you can call yourself a newspaperman."

It's easy. In fact, I'll show how easy it is right now: I'm a newspaperman.

Saying it doesn't make it so. The very legitimate criticism answered with such childish mockery and disdain was in response to Andersen's Nov. 6 column, in which he claimed:
The anti-Bush hard core of journalists in the national press has been hammering away at the White House for close to two years now, reporting (frequently quoting anonymous sources) how a special prosecutor is proceeding and how the White House is reacting (fearful almost to the state of panic, if you would believe some news reports).

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff - a man whom I would suspect 99.9 percent of the American public never knew existed but is described by the press as a key White House insider - has been indicted not for the alleged crime of "outing" a "covert" CIA operative. Rather, he has been indicted for allegedly obstructing justice, making false statements and perjury. (I. Lewis Libby Jr. pleaded not guilty on Thursday.)

The truth is that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald - who spent two years trying to determine if anyone was guilty of a crime in knowingly revealing the name of a so-called covert CIA employee, Valerie Plame Wilson - gave no indication during a press conference that he has yet discovered evidence of such a crime....

Surely this seemingly endless investigation must come to an end. Consider the time lag between the questioning of Libby in March 2004, the questioning of NBC commentator Tim Russert in August of that year and the special prosecutor's decision in October 2005 (15 months after Russert had been questioned) to prosecute Libby for lying about his conversations with Russert.

Andersen may very well be a "newspaperman" but that doesn't prevent him from frequently being an insult to journalism. Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of his declaring the national press "anti-Bush" after their being so complicit in the campaign of misiniformation and propaganda that gave birth to the invasion of Iraq (of which the Plame investigation is very much a part), Andersen's chief sin is his totally hypocritical disregard for the historical precedent of this investigation.

Where was Andersen's outrage in the 1990s when Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr's "Whitewater" investigation dragged on for for more than 4 years at a price tag of more than $40 million? Meanwhile, the "seemingly endless" 15 month investigation that has him so in up in arms has cost a mere $723,000 according to the GAO.

Oh wait...that $40 million went to investigating a Democratic administration, so that was money well spent. Nevermind that the offenses being investigated there were not nearly as serious as a treasonous manipulation of classified intelligence at time of war.

Andersen's mere suggestion that Scooter Libby was a nobody in the Bush Administration shows the full extent of his perverse way of thinking. Libby was a central player in the build-up to invasion - a man you could not escape reference to in any in-depth reporting on the Bush Administration's actions and strategy. No matter his made-up numbers, I can guarantee Andersen knew who Libby was, as did most any attentive observer of the political scene. Trying to manipulate his readership's assumed ignorance of the man to portray this as a universal state, implying that Libby was some peripheral character, is simply a despicable abuse of his position in the press.

The better question for Andersen to answer is not how he can call himself a newspaperman but rather how dare he call himself a journalist.


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