7.31.2009

Provoking Thoughts

I continue to be fascinated by the (at times direct) interplay between the rising forces of "New Media" and the established "Old Media" forces, particularly when it comes to political analysis. A couple weeks ago, there occurred a very interesting discussion between Glenn Greenwald and NBC's Chuck Todd. (Transcript)

Greenwald originally called out Todd for being a "spokesman" for the Obama Administration when he went on MSNBC and characterized hypothetical torture investigations/prosecutions as a "distraction from what matters." Todd's statement was an example of the all-to-typical behavior of "media stars," Greenwald argued, behavior that helps create an environment in which politicians can break the law with little fear of investigations or prosecution. Todd responded by agreeing to a debate.

A particularly compelling point in the discussion was when Greenwald conceded that it's unrealistic to expect presidential administrations to relinquish powers grabbed by their predecessors--even if, as Todd pointed out, they campaigned against those very expansions of Executive power. Is that true?

I think this was the key exchange:
CT: And the problem is, there is a department, and you can't, whether this, you can sit here and say, you know what, that's exactly what's wrong with the Beltway. But there has been this fatigue about it because the use of prosecutions has been too politicized, to the point where I think it has made it where it's just unfortunately too easy to dismiss an investigation.

GG: And as a result, powerful politicians know that they can break the law and get away it.

CT: I don't disagree with your conclusion here.

GG: Politicians know that they can break the law and get away it because there is that quote-unquote 'fatigue', that dislike, that contempt for holding political officials accountable in Washington, because these are the people you go to work and see every day, and it's unpleasant when they're having to respond to subpoenas--

CT: That's not--

GG: ... and go to court and be accused of criminal wrongdoing. And that's why the political class typically insists that politicians not be subjected to the criminal process. And they know that they can break the law and get away with it for exactly that reason. And I think that's a huge problem.

CT: Well, look, I think the problem, though, sits not with the media in this respect. And this is what frustrates me a little bit, is that the problem, the people we should be upset with are the folks on the Hill, folks in the White House, folks at the Justice Department. Those are the ones who have the power of the subpoena, and the power to do these things, not the media. And I know we get beaten up about it. But the power does lie in Congress. And the power does lie in the Justice Department.

GG: Agreed. And that's why I think that's the appropriate place for these investigations and prosecutions to take place, is in the Justice Department. That's why I'm in favor of what Eric Holder's about to do.

A couple questions: In listening the the whole conversation, do you think Greenwald is naive to discount the significance of the "political reality?" Conversely, does Todd put too much stock in its significance?

1 comment:

Ian said...

Todd seems to be all wrapped up in the game and unconcerned about the outcome. I am becoming less and less of a fan. Of course, David Gregory is the real prize-winner at NBC. What a tool.