In Sunday's New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Michael Cooper, the ace political reporters, hand over 17 of their 29 paragraphs either entirely or in part to John McCain's own words. About two-thirds of Nagourney and Cooper's article is LITERALLY "stenography." Just because a presidential candidate wishes to compare himself to Theodore Roosevelt doesn't mean that prominent reporters should help him do it. When was the last time John McCain stood up to a giant corporation? Or did something substantial to protect the environment? Their final paragraph is a peroration from McCain that could have been lifted from one of his campaign commercials:
"I believe less governance is the best governance, and that government should not do what the free enterprise and private enterprise and individual entrepreneurship and the states can do, but I also believe there is a role for government [...] Government should take care of those in America who can not take care of themselves."
It looks like the George W. Bush-Emperor's Clothes scenario is going to play out all over again. In a news week when the Iraqi government called for a timetable for an American troop withdrawal contradicting McCain's promise to stay in Iraq for a hundred years, and when McCain's top economic adviser, the odious Phil Gramm, revealed himself totally out of touch with the hardships of working Americans, Nagourney and Cooper ignore those issues to assist McCain in promoting his political image.
Last Sunday Zev Chafets wrote a puff piece on Rush Limbaugh for the New York Times Magazine. This week the front page features an even puffier piece by Nagourney and Cooper on McCain. The fix is in. In 2000, Bush was labeled a "compassionate conservative" and a "reformer with results"; in 2004 he was a "strong leader" and "wartime president." In 2008, McCain is the "maverick." These types of self-reinforcing frames and macro-motifs, internalized by reporters like Nagourney and Cooper who want access, are difficult for any Democratic candidate to overcome.
We never got a real apology from the Times for allowing Judy Miller and Michael Gordon to help the Bush administration lie us into the Iraq war. And the "paper of record" has never regretted running William Safire's bogus stories about non-existent meetings in Prague between Iraqi intelligence agents and 9-11 terrorists.
And after I trudged through Nagourney and Cooper's campaign advertisement for McCain, I turned to the opinion section only to find a piece by the perennial "expert" on the Middle East, Kenneth Pollack, about the dire effects high oil prices have in the Arab world. Pollack, who was a cheerleader for the Iraq war, ignores the recent failures of American policy in the Middle East that have contributed to the region's "problems." He doesn't even mention Iraq or the Israel-Palestine conflict. But the most peculiar part of Pollack's "analysis" is his thumbnail history of Iran, the nation he is supposed to know the most about. He simply passes over the Shah of Iran's role in furthering U.S. policy objectives:
"It is worth keeping in mind the worst case from the history of the first Middle East oil boom. Under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran tried to use the influx of oil revenues after the 1973 oil-price increases to build new industries, eradicate unemployment, transform the economy and modernize society [...]. But the projects were mismanaged and riddled with graft. The royal cronies became fabulously wealthy while the plight of the average Iranian worsened because of protracted unemployment coupled with soaring inflation. Rather than solving Iran's problems, the oil boom sparked the Iranian revolution."
Pollack decided that it's not important that the Central Intelligence Agency imposed the Shah's regime on Iran in the first place. Pollack might have reminded his readers that in August 1953 the CIA engineered a coup d'etat in Iran that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossedegh and installed the Shah. The United States policy contributed greatly to stunting the development of Iran's nascent democratic institutions in the 1950s and 1960s and planted the seeds for the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979.
I might not be an "expert," but I wouldn't attribute, as Pollack does, the Iranian Revolution to the oil boom of the early 1970s. The Shah had been in power for over 20 years by then, and the opposition was building the entire time. I think the causes of that revolution ran much deeper. But as Victor Navasky's school of "expertology" has shown, if your ideas serve power you can be proven wrong again and again, yet you can always count on column inches in the New York Times -- just ask William Kristol.