I’m a little late commenting on the bogus charge that John McCain was heckled by Michael Ware, but it’s been weighing on me so I’ll comment anyway.
I sometimes wish videos of President Lyndon Johnson’s press conferences were available on the web (if they are, let me know). As I remember it, at some point after the Vietnam War began the Washington press corps began to hound LBJ mercilessly. The press became openly antagonistic to Johnson, and I won’t say he didn’t deserve it. When reporters began to treat Richard Nixon the same way they’d treated LBJ, Nixon sent out Spiro Agnew to stir up faux outrage against the nattering nabobs of negativism and whine about liberal media bias; thus a myth was born. The fact is, as I remember it the press was a shade gentler to Nixon than it had been to LBJ. And by the time Reagan came along they’d become sufficiently defensive about “”liberal media bias” that reporters generally treated Reagan with kid gloves compared to the way they’d treated presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. And in comparison to the press corps in Johnson’s day, today’s White House reporters are a neutered and toothless lot, indeed.
I thought of LBJ’s press conferences yesterday after I saw this post by the Instaputz:
DISINTERESTED JOURNALISM: John McCain heckled by CNN reporter.
UPDATE: Hard to argue: “Michael Ware’s behavior here is flat out unprofessional. If CNN keeps him on staff after this incident, that says something, doesn’t it?”
ANOTHER UPDATE: John Tabin: “Heckling at a press conference is very rude, and wouldn’t be acceptable even from an opinion journalist (I wouldn’t dream of laughing in Nancy Pelosi’s face during a press conference). That said, isn’t it better when guys like Ware let their biases hang out, rather than embedding them in reports that are ostensibly objective?”
Wouldn’t it be better still if they just did an honest job of doing, you know, their jobs?
Later, Raw Story posted videos of the alleged heckling and, um, it wasn’t heckling. And to be fair, several rightie bloggers, including Reynolds, retracted their allegations.
But I want to address the part about reporters being “disinterested,” which means objective or neutral. Objectivity and neutrality are splendid. But “neutrality” and “objectivity” don’t translate into “pretending not to notice when a politician is lying his ass off.”
“Objectivity” used to mean that one shouldn’t allow personal biases to get in the way of telling the truth. Now it seems to mean one mustn’t tell the bare-assed truth about what politicians are up to, especially if they’re Republicans, because it makes the politicians look bad.
Regarding John McCain’s stroll through a Baghdad market (accompanied by 100 troops and two Apache helicopters), Kirk Semple writes in today’s New York Times:
A day after members of an American Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain pointed to their brief visit to Baghdadâ€™s central market as evidence that the new security plan for the city was working, the merchants there were incredulous about the Americansâ€™ conclusions.
â€œWhat are they talking about?â€ Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market, said Monday. â€œThe security procedures were abnormal!â€
The delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees â€” the equivalent of an entire company â€” and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.
â€œThey paralyzed the market when they came,â€ Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. â€œThis was only for the media.â€
He added, â€œThis will not change anything.â€
At a news conference shortly after their outing, Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and his three Congressional colleagues described Shorja as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and warmly welcoming Iraqis â€” â€œlike a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,â€ offered Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who was a member of the delegation.
McCain and Pence and everybody else who staged that little stunt in support of the war deserved whatever razzing they got from the press. The fact that we are still being told about the soldiers and helicopters is not “media bias“; it’s “what a free press looks like.”