The Woeful Washington Post
by Robert Parry
The Washington Post's editors never tire
of basking in the faded glory of Watergate, a scandal that occurred
nearly four decades ago. Some outsiders also still call the Post
"liberal." But the reality is quite different as the
Post routinely takes neocon stances and has become a scandal onto
Though there are still a few liberal voices,
like Eugene Robinson, the Post's opinion sections are dominated
by neoconservatives and right-wingers who pile up mountains of
misinformation that then shapes the potent conventional wisdom
of the nation's capital.
The fact that there is no viable counter-pressure
to what the Post does in Washington, where two other dailies are
even more right-wing, goes a long way toward explaining why the
Obama administration has found the struggle for any meaningful
change such an uphill climb.
Take, for instance, the Tuesday op-ed
page. You have two articles, attacking Democrats on health-care
reform, one by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and the other
by Post editorial writer Charles Lane. If you look down a little
further, there's a column by Richard Cohen, labeling as a racist
pretty much anyone who is alarmed at Israel's mistreatment of
Israel "is not motivated by racism,"
Cohen declares. "That's more than can be said for many of
Cohen is especially outraged by anyone
who would compare the plight of Palestinians in and around Israel
to South African blacks under "apartheid." Yet, while
the parallel is far from perfect, many friendly critics of Israel
have grown increasingly alarmed at Zionist extremists seizing
Palestinian lands on the basis of Biblical mandates in which God
supposedly grants all the territory to the Israelites.
Even thoughtful Israelis are beginning
to grapple with this moral and political dilemma. For instance,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has argued that serious efforts must
be made now for a two-state solution because otherwise the Zionist
vision of a Greater Israel could lead to either a single state
with a Palestinian majority or special rules to limit Palestinian
"If, and as long as between the Jordan
and the sea, there is only one political entity, named Israel,
it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic,"
Barak said at a recent security conference. "If the Palestinians
vote in elections, it is a bi-national state, and if they don't,
it is an apartheid state."
Yet, on the Washington Post's op-ed page,
this serious question of Israel's slide toward either an endless
military occupation of Palestinian lands or an apartheid-style
government can only be demonized.
Racists and Anti-Semites
To the Post's Cohen, whose column ignored
Barak's apartheid comment, you are a racist if you suggest that
some form of apartheid looms in Israel's future if it refuses
to allow a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and insists
on the Zionist vision of a Greater Israel ordained by God.
Cohen scolds Henry Siegman, who wrote
an op-ed for the Financial Times and mentioned the word apartheid
several times in an article. Noting that Siegman was a former
executive director of the American Jewish Congress, Cohen conceded
that "anti-Semitism is not the issue here."
Cohen then added, however, "anti-Semitism
is not so easily dismissed with others."
In other words, any non-Jew who dares
echo the words of Defense Minister Barak stands pre-judged as
a racist anti-Semite. [For more on Cohen, see Consortiumnews.com's
"Is WP's Cohen the Dumbest Columnist?"]
As ugly - and anti-intellectual - as Cohen's
article was, it fits neatly within the attitudes of the Post's
editorialists and contributors who also spew out disinformation
and one-sided arguments on a wide variety of other topics.
Take, for instance, Hatch's op-ed. Granted
one gives politicians a bit more leeway in making their arguments,
but the Post has imposed strict standards on other writers whose
views significantly differ from those of the neocon editors, i.e.
they rarely get published.
But Hatch was allowed to rail against
the idea of the Democrats passing health-care reform via a majority-rule
provision called "reconciliation." Hatch calls the tactic
an assault on the Constitution, which he claims "intends
the opposite process," although he offers no citation to
support that opinion.
Indeed, the Constitution spells out the
handful of situations in which super-majorities are needed, such
as ratifying treaties and passing amendments. Under the Constitution,
other legislation requires only a majority vote.
The Constitution makes no mention of filibusters,
and there is no indication that the Founders ever envisioned one
political party organizing itself as a minority determined to
thwart the will of the majority on all manner of legislative proposals,
big and little, as the Republicans are doing now.
Hatch then goes on to offer a selective
and misleading history of reconciliation to buttress his argument
that using it to modify health reform legislation was outside
its original intent. Hatch does correctly state that reconciliation
was originally designed to pressure Congress to make the tough
votes on taxes and spending that would balance the federal budget.
I was the Associated Press congressional
reporter covering the budget in 1980 when the procedure was first
used. The idea then was to rein in a deficit of around $40 billion,
which was considered large at the time. Reconciliation was later
applied to other policy initiatives as long as they didn't widen
Hatch writes: "Reconciliation was
designed to balance the federal budget. Both parties have used
the process, but only when the bills in question stuck close to
dealing with the budget." He then notes a few policy exceptions,
but he adds they had strong bipartisan support.
But what Hatch leaves out of his history
- and what the Post editors did not insist that he put in - was
the greatest abuse of reconciliation: when President George W.
Bush turned the process on its head in 2001 and 2003 to pass about
$2 trillion in tax cuts weighted heavily to the rich.
Instead of using reconciliation to pay
down the government's debt, Bush and the congressional Republicans
used it to create massive federal deficits. [For a detailed history
of reconciliation and its uses, see the Center for Budget and
Policy Priorities' Jan. 27 report.]
By leaving out this significant fact,
Hatch misled the Post's readers, presumably with the approval
of the Post's editors.
Similarly, Charles Lane's Post-Partisan
column faults a supposed "flaw" in the logic of House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who argued that health-care reform would
help create jobs in both the health-care industry and the larger
Though Lane acknowledges some merit to
Pelosi's arguments - including the potential savings for large
U.S. companies that are now saddled with rising insurance costs
for employees - he ultimately challenges Pelosi's reasoning on
the grounds that President Barack Obama's proposed delay in implementing
a tax on "Cadillac plans" would undercut any savings.
Lane calls that tax "the strongest
cost-containment provision in the Senate bill" and says Obama
flinched on its starting date - moved back to 2018 - "largely
to appease organized labor and its allies in the House Democratic
caucus - led by Speaker Pelosi."
Typical of the Post's neocon leanings,
Lane's gotcha column ignored other much greater cost-containment
proposals, such as a possible move to a full-scale "single-payer
system" or the inclusion of a robust "public option"
that would generate competition to private insurers that are now
jacking up rates on big companies and small.
However, as the Post sets the acceptable
parameters of Washington's public debate, certain realities are
excluded while myths and misleading arguments are ushered in.
This pattern is a true threat to American democracy.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His
latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W.
Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be
ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy &
Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq
and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'
are also available there.
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