As you all know, I’m a pretty experienced journalist…a former TV producer (I was the man who told what questions the host should ask), and now a newspaper editor (I’m the dude who assigns stories). Lately a lot of us have been talking about to what extend the messaging has hurt the Democratic party and the progressive agenda, and we wonder if perhaps the administration or the party hasn’t used “it’s bully pulpit” enough to change the media narrative.
But as someone who works in the media, I tell you that person who decides the media narrative isn’t the voters, and it isn’t the President, it’s people like me who decide what the public hears, when they hear and what they don’t.
I’ll use this morning’s interview of Vice President Biden by David Gregory to show how even when the bully pulpit is used, the message doesn’t exactly get out there.
DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you about some of the criticism that’s been leveled at this Administration by former Vice President Dick Cheney. He has argued that this Administration has failed to treat the fight against terrorists as war. He cites the decision related to Khalid Sheik Muhammad to offer him a civilian trail as one example. Giving the Christmas Day Bomber the privileges of the American criminal justice system is another example. The decision to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison. What do you say?
This is a fairly legitimate question, however look at his lists of “criticisms,” Gregory frames them deliberately in a right wing view point. For example, the American judiical system is NOT a prviledge, it is a right that is placed upon all accused criminals who are accused of committing a crime in the United States no matter where they come from. The question could have been “Dick Cheney has leveled some criticisms at your administration as far as how you are proceeding with trials of accused terrorists, the Christmas bomber, and Gitmo. What do you say?” This question is an attempt to put the Vice President on defense, defending himself and his administration against these right wing frames, and now allow Biden to go on offense.
Here’s how Biden responded;
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Let me choose my words carefully here. Dick Cheney’s a fine fellow. He’s entitled to his own opinion.
Here Biden very intelligently turns the tables, reminding the views that what they just heard was an opinion, not a fact, and allowing him to return to offense, which he does.
He’s not entitled to rewrite history. He’s not entitled to his own facts. The Christmas Day Bomber was treated the exact way that he suggested that the Shoe Bomber was treated. Absolutely the same way. Under the Bush Administration there were three trials in military courts. Two of those people are now walking the streets. They are free.
There were 300 trials of so-called terrorists and those who engage in terror against the United States of America who are in federal prison and have not seen the light of day. Prosecuted under the last Administration. Dick Cheney’s a fine fellow, but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged. I don’t know where he has been. Where was he the last four years of the last Administration?
End result, Cheney is a hypocrite. We’re just doing what’s normal and btw, where were you media guys in criticizing that administration like you are to us?
DAVID GREGORY: What about the general proposition that the President according to former Vice President Cheney doesn’t consider America to be at war and is essentially soft on terrorism? What do you say about that?
I don’t really have an issue with this question, except that once again, Gregory isn’t directly quoting Cheney, thus regurgitating right wing memes like “soft on terrorism.” This is also a question that forces Biden on defense. He has to defend the administration as not being soft on terror.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t think the Vice– the Former Vice President Dick Cheney listens. The President of the United States said in the State of the Union, “We’re at war with Al Qaeda.” He stated this– and by the way, we’re pursuing that war with a vigor like it’s never been seen before. We’ve eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. We are making, we’ve sent them underground. They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don’t know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it’s one thing, again, to– to criticize. It’s another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?
Biden, of course, is forced to go on defense here. He is forced to prove that the Obama administration is taking terrorism seriously, however he does start a meme of his own, accusing Cheney of “rewriting history” for the second time in an interview…also this is an indirect shot at Gregory and the media in general; “You guys should already know Cheney is a lying douchebag, it’s obvious.”
DAVID GREGORY: You have often said, when I’ve asked you and others, that you never impugn a man’s motives. But why do you think Dick Cheney is speaking out and being so critical of the President and the Administration so publicly?
This is really idiotic question, one that is asked clearly hoping for a Biden gaffe. “Because you guys are letting him” would become “Desperate Biden attacks media.” “Gee Dave, I don’t know, he’s desperate to save his political legacy” would equal “Biden trys to downplay Cheney”
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t know. I– I– I’m not gonna guess about his motive.
“Nice try David, but I am not walking into that trap”
All I know is he’s factually, substantively wrong. On the major criticisms he is asserting. Why he’s insisting on that. He either is misinformed or he is misinforming. But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate.
Remind the public of the “rewriting history” and “misinformed” meme.
DAVID GREGORY: You would not be this outspoken or critical when you’re out of office. Is that fair to say?
“Are a wimp or do you think Dick Cheney needs to STFU because he’s hurting you guys”
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I– I– I would hope I– look, it’s one thing to be outspoken. It’s another thing to be outspoken in a way that misrepresents the facts.
“misrepresent” “misinformed” “rewriting history”
And I– I guess– again, I– it’s almost like Dick is trying to rewrite history. I can understand where the– why that would be– you know, an impulse. And maybe he isn’t– literally, I’m not being facetious. Maybe he’s not fully informed of what’s going on.
Once again, Cheney is “misinformed”
I mean, the progress we have made. There has never been as much emphasis and resources brought against Al Qaeda. The success rate exceeds anything that occurred in the last Administration. And they did their best. I’m not– I’m not impugning their effort. It’s simply not true that the President of the United States is not prosecuting the war against Al Qaeda with a vigor that’s never been seen before. It’s real. It’s deep. It’s successful.
Bidens ends by going on a little defense, but he does throw in a direct reminder that the administration has been successfull.
All in all, Biden did a good job trying to create a media narrative- “Cheney doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about” “Cheney is misinformed” “Cheney is rewriting history” “Cheney is lying” but did it take?
Of course not;
Even NBC, which did the interview, has the story on the side of it’s home page, with Palin as their top political story.
No sign of this on CNN, but CBS did something interesting as well. They have their headline followed by;
Cheney Belittles Obama’s Handling of Fight Against Terror, KSM Trial; Biden Calls Former Vice President “Misinformed”
Notice Cheney comes first, and notice they use the very “belittles” while saying Biden simplys “calls” (not “attacks” or “slamms” or even “criticizes”). The goal here is to make Cheney look in control, putting him first and giving him a more colorful verb, and place Biden in defense. Notice the photos as well, Cheney looks angry and forceful, Biden resigned and defeated.
And my former employer ABC, well they’re pimping Cheney for all he’s worth.
The headline: CHENEY: Obama Team Should say “Thank You, George Bush” on Iraq.
How they can post that tripe with a straight face is beyond me.