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David Sirota Headshot

Bumiller Again Happily Used As a White House Propaganda Tool

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Want to know why Americans think some of the most prominent journalists are blowhards who are more interested in their own self-promotion and in coddling powerful people than actually reporting the facts? Look no further than the turd that the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller produced today. It is a true tribute both to the Bush White House's cynicism, and the media's eager willingness to be used as a tool helping pull one over on the American public.

The story is about President Bush visiting a manufacturing plant – as if we're supposed to believe that an administration that actually went on record proudly supporting outsourcing and lobbying for job-killing "free" trade deals actually cares about manufacturing workers. Five paragraphs into Bumiller's transcription of Bush's rhetoric, she quotes him taking about pension policy. "My message to corporate America is 'You need to fulfill your promises,'" Bush says. "When you say to a worker this is what they're going to get when they retire, you better put enough money in the account to make sure the worker gets that which you said."

For a real journalist, this is the very moment to actually provide readers with information and facts about whether the President is trying to hide his administration's behavior, or whether he has a record to back up his words. Instead, Bumiller says Bush's remarks "reflected the desire of the White House to act aggressively on an issue of concern to many American workers." She follows this up with no proof whatsoever.

Of course, if she had spent about 30 seconds on google, she would have found that the one major, concrete action Bush has taken on pensions was his move to legalize a shady scheme called "cash balance pensions" that literally rip off workers' pensions. And remember - these are not schemes that affect just a few workers. They affect tens if not hundreds of thousands of American workers at hundreds of companies. Despite bipartisan congressional opposition to legalizing these schemes, and despite the fact that government auditors have documented that these cash balance schemes reduce the promised pension payout to longtime workers, Bush used his authority to circumvent court rulings against the schemes and unilaterally legalize them himself. In short, Bush's record on pension has been to actually help Corporate America NOT fulfill its promises.

But then, we shouldn't be surprised that Bumiller, the New York Times' top White House correspondent, refuses to actually challenge the President. Remember, she was the one who indignantly told an audience that the media was "deferential" to Bush before the Iraq War because "no one wanted to get into an argument [over intelligence and facts] with the president" before the war. Why? Because when Bush gave press conferences, she said, "It's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war." In other words, that's the attitude that often pervades some in the press corps – it's scary, he's the president, so just transcribe what he says and don't ask questions.

Of course, the White House knows how absolutely pathetic some in the major media are, which gets us back to why Bush thinks he can put on workers' goggles, show up at a factory, and know that the result will be a glut of stories about how Bush supposedly cares about jobs, and wants to protect people's pensions. Meanwhile, as soon as the cameras go away, he will no doubt be allowed to quietly try to screw over workers again as he did with cash balance pensions. And again few - if any - reporters will actually consistently tell the public about the wrongs being perpetrated against us. It is literally a propaganda system – and sadly, without an aggressive media, it continues to work very effectively.