Phil Donahue On The Iraq War, And Why We Still See Dick Cheney On The Teevee
Credit: Public Citizen
July 10, 2014

Interesting interview in Salon with Phil Donahue on the Iraq war, how media bookers decide who's on TV, and why Fox News bobbleheads repeat themselves over and over:

Do you think if the war had been debated more sincerely, and its presentation to the public hadn’t been so sanitized, folks like Cheney would have a harder time reemerging as they have?

Well, let’s understand that he’s reemerging on Fox, right? I mean, I haven’t researched this, has he been on any of the major networks? Has he been on ABC? He’s not been on “Meet the Press,” has he? I don’t know.

I don’t know for sure whether he has, but I do know if it wasn’t him it might have been Dan Senor, or Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle —

I haven’t seen Richard Perle … I mean, he don’t get around much anymore.

There was actually a piece recently featuring him.

Really? Who did it?

It was the National Journal, and he was the main source. It was an article about how the neocons are back to promoting Ahmad Chalabi.

I didn’t see that today, but I know Chalabi is resurfacing. Well, y’know, [the Iraq War proponents are] in the [TV booker's] rolodex, and it’s about the “get.” And the get value rises with proximity to the biggest get, and that’s the president. And so we still have Cheney, with the vice president identification historically, and so he becomes valuable. Media elite cover media power. That’s why you won’t see Amy Goodman on “Meet the Press.” That’s why people like Dennis Kucinich are marginalized. The liberal is “the political vision that dare not speak its name,” as Oscar Wilde said. It’s like, we’ve been so marginalized that we don’t call ourselves liberals anymore, we’re “progressives” now. Antiwar demonstrations are not really covered — they weren’t, certainly not with the gusto we heard when the bomb-throwers, at their rallies, they were all over the news. And now we have John McCain who seems ready to bomb everybody …

The other thing, Elias, you don’t hear, is Fox pundits [who] say anything positive about Barack Obama, because if they do they risk losing their base. They are trapped in a format which is hugely successful. I think Fox does a billion dollar profit a year, net. I mean this is the jewel in the crown of for-profit corporations … Rupert Murdoch reigns, and for somebody like Charles Krauthammer or George Will or Sean Hannity to say something positive about Obama — that would be akin to a rock ‘n’ roll radio station playing classical music. If you do that, if a rock ‘n’ roll radio station played Mozart, they would lose their audience immediately; and in the same way, if one of the Fox pundits said something even remotely positive about Obama, the base would say, “What, are you losing your nerve?” It’s too risky. You’re making $1 billion per year. “There ain’t nothing broke about our corporation; don’t fix it.”

The result is, I happen to think these were probably A students — Krauthammer, George Will, those who speaks in tablets, these were very gifted people; they’re the sons my mother wanted; these were the guys who raised their hand in class. And we’re getting only half their wisdom and insight, because they’re restricted by the format. We aren’t treated to what they might be sharing with us, other nuances. It’s like their arms can only extend so far from their bodies, they can’t go all the way because then we might learn something interesting and insightful that their gifts could bring us. So before their feet hit the floor in the morning, they’re thinking about what they can do to blast the president tonight. Krauthammer used the word “stupidest” a couple weeks ago. The “stupidest” thing a president ever did … But there aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to meet their denunciations of the president, and the result is they’re all becoming one-trick ponies, because they can’t get out of this straitjacket of the format, which earns Fox $1 billion per year. Who wants to fool with that? The issue now is, will they have legs? How long can they draw a crowd with this kind of narrow commentary?

Do you think that the same problems afflict MSNBC?

I do. But it’s not as bad. It’s not as bad. MSNBC people allow themselves to criticize the president — and the president is vulnerable. I’ve criticized him myself in one of my rare guest appearances. I was on Piers Morgan and I criticized Obama. I think these signature strikes are not only unconstitutional, I think they’re immoral. I think drones are the most cowardly instruments in the history of warfare. A guy sits in an air-conditioned cage on a padded chair, looking at a TV monitor at an image 4,000 or 5,000 miles away, and we are killing wedding parties and children … We killed an American citizen. I mean, and this is with the total support of the people who bragged about America the most; America, America, the Constitution. And they totally turned their back on the bedrock of the Constitution.

We have people in cages for 15 years, no Red Cross, no visitation, no letters, no nothing. For 14, 15 years. No habeas corpus. And these blatant violations are met with silence. We are a nation of law unless we’re scared.

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