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Distraction Here, Distraction There

Reported by Nancy - January 24, 2005 -

Today (1/24) FNL was the usual mishmash of blurbs for the short-attention-span crowd. But two of the interview segments stood out -- as signposts both of where FNL is going (let me distract you from the issue at hand) & where they've already been (let me distract you from the issue at hand).

At 11:49am (all times ET), saying that Rehnquist made "a brave public appearance last week" to swear in Bush but his illness is serious & "some wonder" who Bush might appoint to replace him as Chief Justice, David Asman interviewed Stuart Taylor (National Journal) & John Flannery (former Special Counsel to Congress). Taylor felt that geting Scalia through Congress wouldn't be hard, but Thomas would be. When Taylor called Thomas a "radical" Asman jumped right in to clarify that Taylor shouldn't have used that word, prompting with by "more radical you mean strict constitutionalist." Taylor stuck to his guns, saying that Scalia would overturn "some" precedents, not all, while Thomas would sweep aside any that get in his way. Flannery said that "Scalia's the pick" & Thomas isn't in the running; he noted that "they [GOPs] woodshedded Specter" to make sure he'd stand by whoever Bush nominates. Asman asked what might happen if "Ted Kennedy & others" try to hold up the nomination. Taylor said there would be a fight, with "hostile hearings," but "ultimately Sclaia will be confirmed." He added that Dems won't filibuster because the "more ammo they shoot at Scalia" the less they'll have left over to "shoot at" his replacement. Asman brought up Roe v Wade, & Flannery said that Scalia's actions on the bench are "infused with his religion." He noted that Scalia "doesn't respect" the Caesar premise in the New Testament (render unto Caesar ...) & cited an example of Scalie speaking at a synagogue & referring to the US as a "Christian nation." Asman interrupted again to go back to Roe v Wade, & Taylor said that "putting Scalia in place of Rehnquist changes nothing" because what's important is who the new member(s) will be.

[Comment: This was as subtle as a brick to the head: make Scalia look acceptable by comparing him to Poppy Bush's gift to the Supreme Court. Not least, note that Asman, as usual, includes personal opinion ("brave public appearance") & the now-obligatory bash at Kennedy. Has anyone ever tracked whether Asman routinely refers to other Senators simply by name, without the title?]

At 11:58am, teasers included: the "Pentagon's little secret may be out." At 12:01pm Kelly Wright reported on a story in the Washington Post on Sunday about how the Pentgon "bent rules to create a secret spy org," called the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), to end Rumsfeld's dependence on CIA to gather intel. Wright read extensively from an official Pentagon statement [comment: saying essentially "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"; if Wright & Shaw (see below) are simply going to be mouthpieces for the Pentagon's PR efforts, why not simply let a Pentagon spokesperson read the official statement?] & noted that "some members of Congress are asking questions," showing a clip of Jane Harman (D-CA). At 12:03 there was another teaser for more on this story. At 12:09pm Asman read yet another teaser: the "Pentagon's secret intel gathering unit."

Saying the SSB "takes on tasks" the CIA can't or won't do, at 12:11pm Asman interviewed Reps Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) & Clay Shaw (R-FL). Asman opened by asking Shaw what he thought about all this. Shaw said "I have the statement from the Pentagon" & quoted some lines about "no unit directly reportable to the Secy of Defense" [comment: reminds me of Condi Rice saying she "never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything", which is not at all the same as saying "I didn't lie"]. Shaw said that he had read the article, but he's "not sure they're even suggesting anything improper" & noted that while he was "watching Fox&Friends this morning" the "chief Dem" was complaining.

At 12:13pm Asman apologized for interrupting to go to Bush speaking by phone to a "March for Life" anti-choice rally. FNL audioi of course included the hysterically cheering throng (Halleljuah!"). [Comment: wouldn't want to miss a single word from Bush; it was the equivalent of praising mom & apple pie, & certainly doesn't merit inclusion on a "hard news" program, except as a nod to the radicals. Isn't it funny how FNL audio seems to auto-filter only protesters?]

At 12:15pm, back to the interview, Asman asked "Who's leaking this stuff?" [Comment: not too subtle attempt to distract attention away from the issue of secret spy units in the Pentagon; & who leaked Valerie Plame's identity?] Sanchez noted that "already McCain has said he'd call for hearings" & she hopes "my chair on the House side will also" because it's important to know not who's leaking but whether these special units are operating against the law. Asman trotted out that hoary old chestnut -- "in time of war" -- when our troops are being killed & secret info leaked might put them at higher risk, & stated categorically that the "first order of business is finding out" who leaked [comment: ties in nicely with the "anything is justified" excuse they've trotted out to explain why torture is okay]. Shaw agreed, saying "absolutely" & that "we don't know accurate some of this stuff [in the WaPo article] was." Asman noted that "Rumsfeld has some enemies" at the Pentagon & wondered "Is this an attack?" Shaw again agreed, saying it "may be" & adding that the "traditional military" may be upset about losing jobs & Rumsfeld "ruffles feathers." Sanchez repeated that this "doesn't have to do with leaks, it has to do with law" & began to cite other examples of where the Pentagon has been shown to be breaking the law (e.g., torture, Abu Ghraib). Asman cut her short to interject that "We all know it had nothing to do with Rumsfeld" because of the Schlesinger report. There was some back-&-forth with Sanchez noting that it wasn't just 6 isiolated people at one prison but a "pattern in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo" & Asman citing the Schlesinger report. Sanchez got the last word, saying "If the pattern's there, the pattern's there" & adding that it's "up to people in the Pentagon if they see things against the law, they have to come forward & tell Congress."