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The Left and the Blathersphere

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Before me are the three press releases for the recent “Campaign for America Future” (staged by “progressive” Democrats) conference announcing the three daily schedules for the mid-June sessions in Washington DC, entitled “Take Back America”. The Iraq war did not feature at all on the first two days, and slunk in to the proceedings briefly as one of the last panels, on the last day, featuring, of course, Joe Wilson, husband of V. Plame.

In other words, in an election year the organizers decided to avoid almost entirely any scheduling of political discussion of a war to which about 70 per cent of all Americans are opposed, and which is topic A on every newscast and newspaper front page.

There was no spot for Jack Murtha on these schedules. The Nation, politically speaking a consort of “Campaign for America’s Future”, pledges to support only candidates promising speedy withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. On that guarantee Nixon would have won the Nation’s endorsement in 1968. Of course they’ll promise you anything. It would be more convincing if the Nation said now it won’t endorse anyone who has continued to vote appropriations for the war.

The war grinds on, but the pwog Democrats prefer to talk about other matters, such as the fact that Rove is not going to be indicted. Thank God. the left will have to talk about something else for a change. As a worthy hobby horse for the left, the whole Plame scandal has never made any sense. What was it all about in the first analysis? Outing a CIA employee. What’s wrong with that? Many years ago a man came into the offices of the New Left Review in London where I was manning the portcullis at the time and said his name was Philip Agee and he wanted to write a book about the CIA. Did we call for a special prosecutor to have this fellow hauled over the coals? No we did not.

Rove has swollen in the left’s imagination like a descendant of Pere Ubu, Jarry’s surreal monster. There was no scheme so deviously diabolical but that the hand of Rove could not be detected at work. Actually the man has always been of middling competence. He makes Dickie Morris look like Cardinal Richelieu.

Since 9/11 where has been the good news for the Administration? It’s been a sequence of catastrophe of unexampled protraction. Under Rove’s deft hand George Bush has been maneuvered into one catastrophe after another. Count the tombstones: “Bring it on”, “Mission Accomplished”, the sale of US port management to Arabs. It was Rove who single-handedly rescued the antiwar movement last July by advising Bush not to give Cindy Sheehan fifteen minutes of face time at his ranch in Crawford.

And when Rove’s disastrous hand is wrenched from the steering wheel it passes to another bugaboo of the left, in the form of Dick Cheney. It was the imbecilic vice president who gave Jack Murtha traction last October when the Democrats were trying cold shoulder him for calling for instant withdrawal from Iraq. In his wisdom the draft-dodging Cheney insulted the bemedaled former drill instructor as a clone of Michael Moore, and had to apologize three days later.

Rove and Cheney, the White House’s answer to Bouvard and Pecuchet, are counselors who have driven George Bush into the lowest ratings of any American president. Yet the left remains obsessed with their evil powers. Is there any better testimony to the vacuity and impotence of the endlessly touted “blogosphere” which in mid June had twin deb balls in the form of the Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas and the above-mentioned “Take America Back” folkmoot of “progressive” MoveOn Democrats in Washington DC.

In political terms the blogosphere is like white noise, insistent and meaningless, like the wash of Pacific surf I can hear most days. But MoveOn.Org and Daily Kos have been hailed as the emergent form of modern politics, the target of excited articles in the New York Review of Books.

Beyond raising money swiftly handed over to the gratified veterans of the election industry both MoveOn and Daily Kos have had zero political effect, except as a demobilizing force.

The effect on writers is horrifying. Talented people feel they have produce 400 words of commentary every day and you can see the lethal consequences on their minds and style, both of which turn rapidly to slush. They glance at the New York Times and rush to their laptops to rewrite what they just read. Hawsers to reality soon fray and they float off , drifting zeppelins of inanity.

Take Truthout, the site identified with William Rivers Pitt and Mark Ash. After months and months of obsessive bloggings about the Plame scandal Truthout contributor Jason Leopold declared on May 13 that Karl Rove had been indicted on charges of perjury and lying to investigators. Leopold cited “sources” averring that prosecutor Fitzgerald had met for 15 hours with Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskind, that Rove had told Bush and his chief of staff Joshua Bolton that he was about to indicted.

“Details of Rove’s discussions with the President and Bolton,” Leopold confided , “have spread through the coridoors of the White House, where low level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high profile political scandals for nearly a year”. As his secret confidantes the apparently omniscient Leopold invoked “ half dozen White House aides and two senor officials who work at the Republican National Committee.”

In the days that followed, came immediate, categorical denials from Rove’s lawyer and the White House. The week progressed with no indictment. It looked as though Truthout would have to sponge the egg off its face. Truthout did nothing of the sort, insisting as vehemently as any lunatic claiming adbuction by aliens that it stuck by its story.

On June 12 Leopold even raised the ante: “Four weeks ago, during the time when we reported that White House political advisor Karl Rove was indicted for crimes related to his role in the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, the grand jury empanelled in the case returned an indictment that was filed under seal in US District Court for the District of Columbia under the curious heading of Sealed versus Sealed.” This, Leopold wrote, could be well mean the Rove indictment.

Rarely has a story been more swiftly and conclusively undercut. Later that same day Prosecutor Fitzgerald formally advised Rove’s lawyer that he did not anticipate seeking charges against Rove. Truthout’s reaction? On June 13, Truthout’s chief editor, Mark Ash told a reporter, that they were sticking by their story, and that Rove’s non indictment was “directly contradicted by the information we have.”

Only two days later did Ash reluctantly strike his colors, confiding to Truthout’s punch drunk audience that “Obviously there is a major contradiction between our version of the story and what was reported yesterday. As such, we are going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time. We defer instead to the nation’s leading publications.”

Game to the end, Ash added defiantly, “In that Mr. Luskin has chosen the commercial press as his oracle – and they have accepted – we call upon those publications to make known the contents of the communiqué which Luskin holds at the center of his assertions. Quoting only those snippets that Mr. Luskin chooses to characterize in his statements is not enough. If Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has chosen to exonerate Mr. Rove, let his words – in their entirety – be made public.”

Welcome to blog world. They’re loonies, beyond any sanction or reproof by reality. These people are going to stop a war, change the direction of our politics? They make Barbra Streisand sound like Che Guevara.

At the Kos convention if we are to believe – which I do – the hilarious reports by Michael J. Smith on our CounterPunch site – the ugly matter of the war in Iraq was scarcely raised, as the Kosniks reserved the surge of their passion for… Joe Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame.

Meanwhile there are lines around the block for Al Gore’s movie about global warming. Can we “take back” the weather? Of course not, unless by pharmaceutical means. The FDA has given final approval to GlaxoSmithKline to launch Wellbutrin XL, to combat “Seasonal Affective Disorder”. Is there any good political news? Yes, Jack Murtha says he will challenge Steny Hoyer for the post of Democratic leader, for the 2007/8 Congress, if the Democrats recapture the

House next November. Such would be an encouraging prospect, but this is the party that couldn’t pick up Duke Cunningham’s seat in southern California, after the Dukester donned his prison overalls.

Footnote: Portions of this column ran in the print edition of the Nation that went to press last Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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