Call me stupid, but when I read these comments and the links embedded in them, it was like I was hit by a thunderbolt. I never really understood how guys like Russert and Mathews went from being eager and earnest Democratic liberals to shills for Bushco. Well it all comes down to one man... The widely revered eminence gris of American Corporatism, Jack Welch.
Read on if you want to understand how a pernicious form of Fascio-Corporatism has been mastered.
The thing that they all [Matthews, Russert et. al.] seem to be terrified of is that the Democrats will gain a majority and start impeachment proceedings (or at least launch investigations) of the White House (it seems to be Chris Matthews' deepest, darkest fear).
I have to ask -- is this matter really polling that well? Are Americans trembling in fear that the GOP might have it's dirty laundry tossed by the Democrats? It all sounds a bit Tell Tale Heart to me. Now I know why DeLay doesn't want it to happen, but why are Matthews and Russert so consumed with fear of Congressional oversight?
I'd like to harken back to probably my favorite story I've ever written on. It has to do with a footnote in a Fitzgerald filing when Russert was fighting tooth and nail to keep from having to answer the Special Counsel's questions. Russert was claiming that the general waiver signed by Scooter was "coerced," and that if he testified his "sources" would never trust him again. To which Fitzgerald said:
It is also relevant to note that Russert has treated an asserted waiver of the reporter's privilege quite differently when convenient. When Richard Clarke published his book Against All Enemies and testified before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the September 11 Commission), Clarke became subject to intense media scrutiny. On March 24, 2004, the White House disclosed Clarke's identity as the "senior administration official" who gave a "background" briefing in August 2002. When Clarke appeared as a guest on Meet the Press on March 28, 2004, Russert noted the White House had been aggressive in attacking Clarke's credibility and had identified Clarke as the source for the background briefing -- without indicating any concern about the "voluntariness" of the waiver, in which Clarke apparently played no role. (Copy of the March 28, 2004, Meet the Press transcript, Exhibit 1). Russert did not hesitate to broadcast out of any concern that such disclosure might chill future background sources.
I just love that tight, brutal paragraph. I have to resurrect it every now and again if only for my own amusement.
Russert fucked Richard Clarke, Fitzgerald knew it and he called him on it. Russert was willing to sell the high journalistic principles he claims to cherish so much down the river for the party and the access he values even more. He fought relentlesslyl to keep from helping Fitzgerald (and the public) nail Scooter Libby. How is he going to feel when people like John Conyers (whom he smeared this morning -- and Conyers fires back here) start looking into the all-too-cozy relationship that the press had with the White House in leading the country down the garden path to war?
The next time Russert and Matthews start quaking in their shoes at the thought of Democrats with subpoena power, I think it's time to remember that it's not their beloved Republicans they fear for, and given their ecstatic participation in the Cliniton hunt it sure isn't the public. Could it be their own sorry asses they fear being exposed? Is that why they're working overtime to spread GOP narratives and attempting to strike fear in the hearts of their viewers at the specter of impeachment?
I thought Jane's entry was brilliant and illuminating on how these guys work. But what has always nagged at me is the question of how Russert and Matthews came to sell their Democratic liberal souls.
Well in the comments, EUREKA courtesy of everhopeful!
I remember reading that Jack Welch considered Tweety and Timmeh his best pupils - so proud of the way he "convinced" them to give up their "liberal" ways and make GE's bottom line their new god - apparently right after Karl Rove personally convinced Welch that a dumbya victory in 2000 would result in $megazillions for Welch and GE.
Welch scoffs at the idea of real journalism and has fired journalists who asked real questions that were not in GE's best intereests. His media enterprises (NBC, MSNBC) became nothing but vehicles to get republicans elected - period.
I think Welch is retired now, but Tweety and Timmeh are still his "boys."
Jane then asks him...
everhopeful -- is that in Welsh's book?
And everhopeful and diogenes point to a web article by David Podvin and Carolyn Kay called DEMOCRACY, GENERAL ELECTRIC STYLE that lays out that "[Jack] Welch believed that it was his responsibility to operate in the best interest of GE shareholders, and that now meant using the full power of the world's biggest corporation to get Bush into the White House." Now I don't know anything about Podvin and Kay, and I have no idea who their sources are, but they paint a compelling case for how consent is manufactured at GE/NBC by process similar to the way a jet engine turbine is manufactured.
In the article, Podvin and Kay assert that...
Shortly after George W. Bush declared his candidacy for president in June of 1999, General Electric Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch was contacted by Bush political advisor Karl Rove. Welch later informed associates that Rove told him a Bush administration would initiate comprehensive deregulation of the broadcast industry. Rove guaranteed that deregulation would be implemented in a way that would create phenomenal profits for conglomerates with significant media holdings, like GE. Rove forcefully argued that General Electric and the other media giants had a compelling financial interest to see Bush become president.
The philosopher Ayn Rand wrote, "The actual performance of men in society is a constant, fierce, undefined struggle between the genius and the parasite..."
To Welch, although George W. Bush might not be a genius, his policies would encourage those who were geniuses to be even more innovative and productive. Fewer government regulations and lower corporate taxes would create technological advancement, thereby benefiting society more than all of the do-gooder social programs combined ever could. The country would be run for the benefit of the "A" people who achieved great things, not the "C" people who merely existed. In such a laissez faire environment, the powerful would be unshackled to become even more powerful, and no corporation in the world was more powerful than General Electric.
By contrast, Welch viewed Al Gore as the candidate of the parasites. Gore voters were not the generators of wealth; they were the consumers of taxes. Welch privately described the typical Gore voter as "someone who needs all these goddamned social programs because she's too goddamned dumb to keep her legs crossed and too goddamned lazy to get an abortion."
This view of the world led Welch to implore associates at GE that doing whatever it took to get George W. Bush into the presidency was not only good for General Electric, it was good for America.
And here is the genius of Welch, because unlike Rupert Murdoch, he is not obvious...
Welch was absolutely determined to make his employees at NBC News finally genuflect to the most sacred words in his vocabulary: GE bottom line.
He perceived that there was a widely believed American myth of well-intended journalists selflessly seeking the truth, and that there would be hell to pay if a business leader like him were to overtly force reporters to be good corporate soldiers. So, being a very bright guy, he largely left the journalists at NBC alone.
In private, Welch was proud to have personally cultivated Tim Russert from a "lefty" to a responsible representative of GE interests. Welch sincerely believed that all liberals were phonies. He took great pleasure in "buying their leftist souls", watching in satisfaction as former Democrats like Russert and MSNBC's Chris Matthews eagerly discarded the baggage of their former progressive beliefs in exchange for cold hard GE cash. Russert was now an especially obedient and model employee in whom the company could take pride.
Podvin and Kay then contrast the experience on Russert and Kay with that of Claire Shipman...
It was bad news for NBC correspondent Claire Shipman, who made the mistake of offering a positive opinion of Al Gore on the air. Jack Welch, chairman and chief executive officer of a $350 billion conglomerate, responsible for overseeing the highly diversified activities of hundreds of thousands of employees working in over one hundred countries, was so incensed by her disobedience that he took time out of his busy schedule to personally confront her about it.
She no longer works for NBC. And her managing editor, Tom Brokaw, did not stand up for her right to journalistic independence from the corporate lord.
"I think Jack Welch's the smartest boss I've ever had and he signs my paychecks," said Brokaw, exhibiting a profound understanding of the situation.
And Welch used this standard across the board in measuring the value of his GE/NBC employees...
Welch believed that the promotion practices at NBC News encouraged disloyalty to General Electric. It was his observation that "journalistic excellence" seemed to be the flimsy, intangible standard for getting ahead in the news division. He decided that the criteria had to be changed to encourage loyal contributions to the employer, which was GE. The crucial step that Welch took was to make it well known throughout NBC News that the standard for the promotion of journalists would be the same as it was for every other employee in the corporation: outstanding contribution to the financial well being of General Electric.
The journalists who had their paychecks signed by Welch knew that favorable coverage of George W. Bush would be considered an outstanding contribution to the financial well being of General Electric.
And then it all comes back to Timmeh...
Following the conversation with Rove, Welch instructed a subordinate to impress on senior NBC executives that the news division would now be expected to show the same unqualified devotion to General Electric that was required of every other unit. He was unusually circumspect because he realized that Clinton appointees in the Federal Communications Commission would have taken a dim view of his activities. Welch knew from his company's countless run-ins with the law that the authorities could be outmaneuvered if things were handled with finesse.
He quietly began to dramatically change the way that things were done at NBC News. A link was established between the producers of the Sunday morning program Meet The Press and the opposition research team of the Republican Party. Delighted G.O.P. operatives were soon boasting that Tim Russert would go on the air just minutes after receiving their allegations of wrongdoing by Al Gore, and would repeat their charges verbatim. Russert was not functioning as a journalist; he had crossed the Rubicon and was acting as a mouthpiece for General Electric's favorite political party.
Welch greatly appreciated Russert, whose multi-million dollar contract he personally negotiated. The message circulated throughout NBC News that Russert was an excellent role model for reporters who wanted to succeed in the organization. Reporters at NBC News did not have to be verbally instructed on how to get ahead; they clearly saw that the Russert approach was handsomely rewarded by top management.
Oh yeah and Andrea Mitchell, as usual, makes a cameo...
Reporter Andrea Mitchell of NBC Nightly News was married to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was a longtime Republican and protégé of Ayn Rand. Mitchell was a Welch favorite because he liked her "objectivity", which meant that she never had a positive word to say about Democrats. After the election, it was Mitchell who repeatedly lied when reporting that Clinton aides had vandalized the White House and stolen from Air Force One. Bush operatives were later quoted as saying that the phony vandalism story was a big help in creating the desired contrast between the "sleazy" Clinton years and the "breath of fresh air" that George W. Bush wanted to represent. Mitchell never retracted or apologized when the Government Accounting Office proved that she had been dishonest, and she was never disciplined.
There is also no evidence of Mitchell ever being angrily confronted by Jack Welch.
And in the end, the Wizard makes one appearance from behind the curtain...
Welch's successful behind-the-scenes campaign to influence media coverage in a way that would get Bush into the White House has not been visible to the public, with one exception. On election night, according to an eyewitness, Welch was so angry that his own NBC News team would not call the race for Bush that he personally went to the studio from which Tom Brokaw was anchoring the coverage. Welch quietly watched the broadcast for a few minutes. Two people who were present claim that, when Brokaw and Tim Russert did not take the hint that their boss had come into the newsroom because he wanted something from them, he explicitly announced that he wanted them to call the election for Bush.
They did. As a result, Bush entered the Florida recount phase with the tremendous advantage of having already been declared the winner.
Congressman Henry Waxman questioned NBC News president Andrew Lack about the incident. Waxman requested that Lack turn over to Congress the in-studio tapes that were recorded that night, so that what Welch had allegedly done could be verified. Lack, testifying under oath, agreed to do so.
As of this writing, he has refused to honor his commitment.
Again, read the whole article by David Podvin and Carolyn Kay, it is a fascinating example of what Noam Chomsky called Manufacturing Consent... in fact, that would be a great title for a Business School Class taught by eminence gris... Jack Welch.
p.s. If anyone tells you that network neutrality doesn't matter, send them the link to this diary.