In recent days, conservative media figures have been sounding the alarm, attacking President Obama and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for employing lawyers who previously represented terrorism suspects or supported their legal arguments in their private practices. It really is just the latest case of Bush-nesia, in which media conservatives block all memory of the Bush administration in an attempt to tar the Obama administration with politically motivated, half-baked smears.
The fact that President Bush's DOJ also hired lawyers who represented terror suspects hasn't fazed right-wing media shills.
Fox News host Sean Hannity led the charge on the conservative network, doing his best impersonation of Sen. Joe McCarthy, saying, "If you're going to work in our Justice Department ... and you represented Al Qaeda, I want to know who you are." He later stated, "Obama is weak. He's an appeaser. Obama is making this country and every citizen vulnerable to attack."
S.E. Cupp, a Fox News contributor, said, "If what these guys are doing is so great and they're so proud of it, then why can't they tell us who they are? I think they're -- the silence is a tacit admission that they're not doing -- that they're something controversial," later adding, "These are people who specifically make their bread and butter defending terrorists." Similarly, on the network's crown jewel, The O'Reilly Factor, Cupp's fellow Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said, "These people chose to do, for free, defense work for people in Guantanamo, for people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who not only was the architect of 9-11, but he boasts of slitting the throat of Daniel Pearl." He then said of Attorney General Eric Holder, "He's choosing at least nine people who chose that this is the work they are going to do on the side. That tells you there is some ideological affinity here," adding, "And that's very troubling, because it tells you why the Justice Department has ended up with some of the absurd decisions it's made in the war on terror."
Worse still, it appears Bush-nesia is highly contagious.
Copying Fox News and Investor's Business Daily, which both used headlines asking, "Department of Jihad?" CNN's The Situation Room ran a graphic with the same text and spent eight minutes asking if DOJ lawyers are "disloyal." (Wolf Blitzer apologized for the caption the following night.)
As the attacks from Fox News continued, media gadfly Liz Cheney's Keep America Safe produced a video attacking the DOJ attorneys, which prompted former head of the Office of Legal Counsel Walter Dellinger to pen an op-ed calling the smears "shameful."
Salon's Glenn Greenwald points out that the Washington Post editorial board -- which Fred Hiatt runs -- has now denounced the video attacking the Obama administration as a "smear" that plays on "ignorance and fear" at the expense of reason. Perhaps Hiatt and the editorial board could have taken just a moment to look inward, because one of their own opinion columnists, Bill Kristol, sits with Cheney on the board of directors for Keep America Safe -- the organization responsible for the disturbingly misleading video. Hiatt, whose op-ed pages have been plagued with problems of late, praised Kristol when he hired the neocon last year, saying, "I think he's a very smart, plugged-in guy," adding, "I thought he wrote a good column" at The New York Times, which tired of Kristol after only a year.
Perhaps there are media conservatives out there looking for a cure to Bush-nesia. If you or someone you know fits that bill, please consult your physician and be sure to read Media Matters' memo to right-wing media: Bush DOJ lawyers also represented terror suspects.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.