Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Media Cannibals and Zombie Messages

So, the Commerce Secretary got into a series of unfortunate car accidents over the weekend, seemingly stemming from medical issues. Nobody was seriously hurt, thank goodness.

But judging from the media coverage, the event -- hardly a scandal of epic proportions -- is hurting the president's "messaging". It is distracting from the "narrative".  It is making his Friday press conference gaffe about the wonderful private sector loom even larger in the public consciousness. 

John Bryson, the victim, has been lost in the shuffle of politics. He was apparently well enough to go back to work Monday morning, but by Monday night he was suddenly on an "indefinite" medical leave of absence.

The Republicans, of course, had pounced on the story immediately, only to quickly retract suppositions that Bryson was drunk (breathalyzer was negative.)  Then the press corps pounced, wondering if he had been properly vetted before being appointed, if a previous fainting incident had been the subject of a nefarious cover-up, if a seizure disorder might have impeded the secretary's task of conducting the nation's commerce. From yesterday's White House press briefing:

Q Thank you. Does Jack Lew consider the Secretary Bryson’s incident a serious one -- two car accidents? And any questions about his health?
MR. CARNEY: I think I just answered this. (he had --this was the second question about Bryson.) I don’t have a specific response to give you from Jack Lew. I think our response is what I said in general, which is concern about the incident, learning more about the incident, obviously the health-related aspect of this. But I don’t have any specifics for you and I would refer you to the Commerce Department.
Q Is health taken into consideration when the President vets somebody for a Cabinet position?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any specifics for you on those procedures. The President obviously nominated Secretary Bryson because he believed he was capable of serving as Commerce Secretary, and he has served effectively as Commerce Secretary since he was confirmed by the United States Senate.
Q Apparently he had some kind of episode when attending a board meeting a couple of years ago.
MR. CARNEY: I have no information on that and don’t know even if it’s true.
Q Is that the kind of thing a Secretary should keep in touch with the White House on? Do you know --
MR. CARNEY: Again, you just told me something that is speculation, and now you’re asking me if it’s something he should have made people aware of. I don’t know anything about that incident, and I do not know whether or not it’s accurate.
Q Should Secretary Bryson’s office have gotten in touch with the White House earlier than last evening?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re in discussions with the Commerce Department about this. Again, it was a unique -- let me just step back and say, whenever a senior official is involved in an incident of this nature or any kind of incident like it, it’s obviously important that the White House find out about it. This circumstance was pretty unique in that Secretary Bryson was alone, was not with a security detail, was on private time, which is common for certain members of the Cabinet, and it resulted in him being -- both having a seizure and ending up in the hospital. So, for that reason, you have to recognize this as somewhat unique. But in general, certainly it’s important that the White House be informed as soon as possible.

And there was this third hard-hitting exchange on Hit'nRunGate, in what passes for modern adversarial journalism:
Q Jay, on Secretary Bryson, what was the timing of the seizure in relation to the accident?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you, as I said in the past, to the Department of Commerce for more details.
Q I've been asking them for hours.
MR. CARNEY: I just don't have those details for you. So I think I would refer you to the Commerce Department.
Q Can you explain why there seems to be a parsing of -- it just seems the Commerce Department is saying he was involved in accidents and he had a seizure, but there's really nothing connecting the dots and it's really an important point.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, as I pointed out, there was -- the Commerce Secretary was alone; he had a seizure; he was involved in an accident. I would refer you to the Commerce Department for more details. Those circumstances I think speak to some of the difficulty in getting details. But beyond that, I just don't know and I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q Does it seem like it's causal, though, the seizure and the accidents?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm certainly not a doctor. I certainly didn't --
Q But you've seen --
MR. CARNEY: I was not a presiding doctor on this case, so I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q He was involved in several accidents. You said, "an accident" just now.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, I read the reports, April. He was involved in several accidents.
Q I mean, for the record --
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for the correction. I think I acknowledged what you all have read, is that there were several accidents as part of this incident.
Q And can you speak to how the White House came to be alerted?
MR. CARNEY: The White House was informed yesterday evening.
Q By?
MR. CARNEY: By the Commerce Department. I don't have an individual for you. And the President was informed this morning.
Q Jay, one more on that. Can you say whether the Secretary is now on medical leave or if you expect --
MR. CARNEY: Can I refer you to the Commerce Department? They would have the best information on that.
Q It's the kind of thing the President would probably know about, so that's why I'm asking.
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.

It has come to this. The journalistic class has nothing better to do than to wallow in its own manufactured drama, taking an obscure cabinet secretary's obscure traffic mishap and making it into a monumental issue. It ranks right up there with the unemployment crisis, the Euro crisis, the impending Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare and LeakGate. From The Hill:
A hit-and-run accident involving Commerce Secretary John Bryson threw the White House off message Monday just as President Obama sought to regain his footing after a series of political missteps.
How about the accidents throwing Bryson himself for a loop? How about disclosing how the press rabble itself threw the White House off-message? How about that old Marshall McLuhan adage -- the medium is the message?

And Politico, of course, was also just being its own political self with the headline: "John Bryson's Leave of Absence Adds to Obama's Bad News."
It was an uncomfortable way to start the week, making it impossible for the White House to reset its economic message after Obama had to walk back his “the private sector is doing fine” comment from Friday. That self-inflicted wound came in a news conference meant to divert from a series of bad news cycles: the massive Democratic loss in the Wisconsin recall, Bill Clinton’s off-message adventures, national security leaks, the dismal May jobs report and his own fundraising numbers for the month showing him millions of dollars behind Mitt Romney.
Gloria Allred, celebrity attorney to the stars of media victimhood, nailed it the other day when she announced what is really important: "Cannibalism is a serious issue and is very dangerous to the health and the well-being of the cannibal and the victim.”

She was speaking, of course about that drug-crazed face-eater in Florida. But she might as well have been talking about the state of national politics in general and the Washington press corps in particular. They are not only poisoning the public discourse with their meaningless drivel, they are eating democracy alive by not serving the public interest. They are endangering our health with their stenographic reporting and vacuous questions. They are a menace to our well-being. They truly are, in the words of Allred, "the scourge of our time."

I am no fan of the Obama Administration, but press secretary Jay Carney had it absolutely right when he admonished the ravening White House press corps to "do your jobs and report context."

Too bad he also didn't suggest that they pivot to the illegality of those targeted drone assassinations by presidential decree, rather than mindlessly concentrating about who leaked what. Here's his exchange with Norah O'Donnell of CBS about LeakGate:

Q Senator McCain over the weekend accused the Obama administration of intentionally leaking information to enhance Obama’s image as a tough guy for reelection. Do you have a response to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, my response is the same as it was last week, which is that is wrong and absurd. The President addressed this himself from this podium on Friday. He takes very seriously the need to protect classified and sensitive information, and that has been his posture since he took office.
Q How can you say unequivocally that it’s wrong and absurd? Have you done an internal investigation?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that this administration -- this White House, under the guidance of the President, takes very seriously the need to protect classified and sensitive information, the need to do so for our national security interests to protect our counterterrorism operations and other operations that are undertaken by our forces and our government.

Stop the Scourge of Absurd Questioning by Journalists!

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/06/08/3647003/commentary-gloria-allreds-valiant.html#storylink=cpy


Will said...

I know the Zombie Apocalypse is already underway, but this is one hell of a high school commencement speech. Try to catch it before we're all goners.

"You are not special."


4Runner said...

I feel kind of sorry for Jim Carney having to deal with this moribund bunch of news "reporters" a/k/a the White House Press Corpse.

Anne Lavoie said...


Anyone know about the federal 1033 Program? The Pentagon has been GIVING AWAY millions of dollars worth of 'surplus' military equipment and gear to police agencies nationwide, including Humvees, helicopters, firearms, computers, clothing, etc.

The Arizona Republic newspaper did an honest-to-goodness journalistic investigation and discovered that a Pinal County Sheriff was lending surplus military gear, designated only for law-enforcement agencies, to private organizations not involved in fighting crime.

Now there is a temporary halt on the gift of weapons. Helicopters and (probably soon drones) will continue to be passed out like candy. The temporary halt is merely to develop new accounting methods because it was suspected that some departments were selling the surplus Fast and Furiously to raise money for their budgets.

'The distribution of unused gear, known in military jargon as DRMO, was authorized by Congress as a way to enhance U.S. policing and save tax dollars' it is reported.

So now we know how it is that our nation has become militarized so fast from head to toe. The value of equipment distributed in just FY 2011 was close to half a billion dollars, double what it had been in FY 2010. You can bet it won't be shrinking anytime soon either.

Jay - Ottawa said...


Humvees, helicopters, firearms, computers, clothing -- peanuts -- you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Check this out (less than two minutes, not counting the repeat looks in disbelief}. If you're ever in the Tucson area, you can sign up for a tour of what your tax dollars bought then parked in this vast Air Force Used Car lot, called The Bone Yard.

Bring your wallet, in case you see something you like. Generals brag about making money on resales from the Bone Yard. That's were taxpayers' dough went instead of repairing bridges, building schools, paying bigger bonuses to Wall Street ... and other worthy causes.

When our conservative friends get wind of this, they may, with their usual sense of proportion, ease off about the waste, fraud and abuse by unions.


Denis Neville said...

And they wonder why the public doesn’t trust the media.

But it is just part of the trend.

Ron Fournier and Sophie Quinton, “In Nothing We Trust,” Muncie, Indiana’s story is the story of America:

“Government, politics, corporations, the media, organized religion, organized labor, banks, businesses, and other mainstays of a healthy society are failing. It’s not just that the institutions are corrupt or broken; those clichés oversimplify an existential problem: With few notable exceptions, the nation’s onetime social pillars are ill-equipped for the 21st century. Most critically, they are failing to adapt quickly enough for a population buffeted by wrenching economic, technological, and demographic change.”