"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

George W. Bush’s News Management

The Bush administration had shown enormous skill in information management. It built upon two decades of Republican success in information management and in framing the issues. Journalists have learned to avoid hard questions or presenting information that damages the administration will result in exclusion and persecution, while going along is rewarded with special access and exclusives. The George W. Bush administration insisted upon enforcing the Pentagon’s 1991 ban on taking photographs of coffins carrying the bodies of American soldiers at Dover Air Force Base. When the President held a huge rally for troops at Fort Carson, the press was ordered not to talk to any soldiers before, during, or after the rally. They obeyed, and only the Rocky Mountain News reported on the orders given to t he press. The skill of the Bush administration in manipulating the press was demonstrated in 2004, when the Social Security Administration ran many advertisements clearly touting the advantages of Bush’s prescription care plan. Few noticed that the advertisements could have a political effect. Social Security Administration employees protested that their Administration had been forced to twist the facts about the system’s solvency in order to generate support for the personal retirement accounts.

Later that year, the Department of Education, paid $700,000 to an agency to advertise Bush’s No Child Left Behind program, a major Bush bragging point. The department also paid TV talk show host Armstrong Williams $240,000 to talk up the program in the black community. When the payment came to light, what little discussion there was about blurring the lines between a journalist and a paid advocate. The federal government paid Maggie Gallagher $21,500 to promote the Bush approach to marriage, and another conservative columnist was paid $10,000 to do the same. The use of taxpayer money for political purposes was nearly a non-issue.

Even abuses of the White House press secretary’s briefings did not cause a great uproar. Minor conservative journalist and male escort Jeff Gannon--his real name was Guckert--was issued temporary passes to attend press conferences. Gannon once broke the story that John Kerry could become the first gay president. Scott Mc Clellan seemed to call on Gannon when he was in a spot and Gannon would get him off the hook, sometimes by manufacturing quotations from leading Democrats. Gannon was one of the reporters who broke the story that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent, and he was the only one to see a confidential CIA document revealing her identity. Gannon was a male prostitute with close ties to political operatives in Texas connected to Karl Rove. The male prostitute even kept a web site. In 2004, he was very active circulating information designed to damage Senator Tom Daschle in South Dakota.

There were many very effective publicists in the administration of the second Bush. One who was sometimes forgotten was Todd Leventhal, who was very skilled at generating propaganda and misinformation. Under Reagan, he was in charge of monitoring Soviet misinformation. Prior to that, he worked with lobbyist Jack Abramoff polishing the image of South Africa. For a time under the second Bush, Leventhal worked with the Pentagon’s Information Operations Task Force to produce positive, if not always truthful, news about the war on terror. His activities were later centered in the Sate Department’s International Public Diplomacy bureau, which answers to Deputy Secretary and master PR generator Karen Hughes.

Newsweek White House correspondent Martha Brant noted “We’re more dependent than ever on [Bush’s] top aides because everything is so closely held.” In 2003 and 2004, the press did not treat kindly the Democrat who ignited the most opposition to George W. Bush and his invasion of Iraq. The remarkable illustrator Art Spiegelman left The New Yorker in 2003 after it supported the invasion of Iraq. He was to observe, “The absolute cowardice of the mainstream American press at that time was overwhelming.” William Greider has argued that the mainstream reporters were “surrogate agents for Washington insider sensibilities.” Not only have they given Bush a relatively free ride, but they “ blew off” Democratic critic Howard Dean and were “hostile to his provocative kind of politics.” After Dean’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination was destroyed, they admitted “with giggly pleasure” that their coverage of him had greatly contributed to that result. Widespread suspicion that the press had a liberal bias must account for why most of the press was so careful to avoid being critical of the Bush administration. By 2004, only 24% of the public strongly agreed that the press attempted to report the news without bias. Given that 58% disagreed, the continuous complaints about liberal bias were bound to lead to self-censorship and an inclination not to provide information that would anger conservatives


Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!