August 22, 2009

Chuck Todd got called out on Real Time by Jeremy Scahill for calling investigations into torture "political catnip". Apparently Todd has taken no lessons from his back and forth with Glenn Greenwald on the issue since he was still as defensive as ever when someone with well more than an ounce of journalistic integrity calls him out for his lack of it.

Todd went on Morning Joe defending Cheney, and Glenn Greenwald ripped him for the same thing Scahill took him to task for on Real Time:

NBC's Chuck Todd -- who, remember, is billed as a reporter covering the White House, not a pundit expressing opinions -- was on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday discussing reports that Eric Holder is likely to appoint a prosecutor to investigate Bush torture crimes. Needless to say, everyone agreed without question that investigations were a ridiculous distraction from what really matters and would be terribly unfair. This, along with Mika Brzezinski and Pat Buchanan, is what Todd argued after he was asked about the Holder story and the Cheney/CIA story (video is below):

Todd: Look, let's take all of these stories in one big thing: really, the only important thing -- the most important thing -- the President has to focus on is getting the public's trust on the economy, and pushing health care. Cheney, the CIA, and in some respects Sotomayor are cable catnip --

Brzezinski: Yep.

Todd: It's news catnip - but they're sort of clouding the two most important issues the President's got to get his arms around this week: winning back trust of the middle on the economy and pushing health care through.

Brzezinski: I would completely agree with you, yet the questions are being raised by news organizations like the New York Times. Pat Buchanan, chime in, because as I've been reporting [sic], and I'll say it for Chuck's benefit here: speaking to a former senior intelligence official yesterday on the phone for quite some time, saying that this program that Cheney was apparently blocking the CIA from giving Congressional intelligence officials information on, was not even a program -- it was not operational -- it was not even at the stage where you would tell Congress about it or talk to high-level administration officials about it.

Is this much ado about nothing to get the attention off what needs to be done?

Buchanan: Well it's exactly what Chuck said, it's a massive distraction . . . . Let me ask Chuck this: it seems to me you got a real problem for the administration if you go forward at Holder's level --

Todd: Right.

Buchanan: and they appoint a Special Counsel, the first thing the CIA guys do is say is: yeah, we did it; we waterboarded them; and here's the authorization from these lawyers who said we could do it --- the lawyers come in and say we were asked for our opinion and Cheney was the guy who asked us, and the President told us to go ahead and do it. Aren't you right into the White House of the Bush administration as soon as you appoint that independent counsel?

Todd: And I think that's why, in the President's gut, he doesn't want to do this. They've made that clear they don't want to do this. I think that's what you see a lot of the West Wing -- they don't want to get into this because of what you're saying.

Ultimately, a lawyer gets paid to not tell you what the law is -- but to interpret the law, to tell you how far you can push things until you cross a line that a judge will say is illegal. That's what lawyers get paid to do: they get paid to interpret the law, and interpret the law in a way that allows you to stretch things.

You are on a slippery slope - this is a very dangerous aspect to go after, because these CIA guys will say, as you said Pat, we got the letter from these lawyers in the Bush Justice Department that said we can do this. You can't suddenly change the law retroactively because there's another interpretation of this. I'm sure there are a legal minds that will fight and say I don't know what I'm talking about here, but it seems to me that's a legal and a political slippery slope.

This is about as typical a discussion as it gets among media stars as to why investigations are so very, very wrong and unfair and unwise. Still, this discussion in particular vividly highlights several important points worth noting about the role of the establishment media.

Todd later tried to defend himself by doing an interview with Glenn as anyone who reads this blog may recall. Todd didn't fare much better with Scahill on Real Time and was making the same sorry arguments that Glenn already ripped him apart on. Heaven forbid that might stop him from doing it again with an audience that probably had no idea what Scahill was talking about.

It's always enjoyable to me watching these beltway bobble heads who are in love with cozying up to power have to answer to someone who is not, and who actually wants some real reporting to take place, and to see how they react. I look forward to reading Glenn Greenwald's response to Todd's statements tonight if he decides it's worth taking the time to write about.

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