The Woodward Affair


Today’s New York Times (Mar. 1) carried the story of veteran Post reporter Bob Woodward’s apparent fracas with the White House over his criticism that Obama changed the goal posts in the debate over the so-called budget crisis.  The collective wisdom of media and NYT posters is that Woodward overreacted, and that the White House beat is always full of clashes.  Score another free pass for the Obama camp!  Republicans were quick to jump on the Woodward bandwagon, if only to score points against the administration.  (Their own integrity, whether on freedom of the press or civil liberties in general, is hardly any better.)

The truth is, Obama by his actions has repudiated the principle of a free press, a free government, freedom in about every dimension (victims evaporated in drone strikes hardly were extended the basic juridical freedoms of due process and rule of law) one can think of—far more dangerous, because of cunning sophistication, than the Bush/Cheney cowboys whose pernicious actions were always and easily detectable.  Woodward, here, has unfortunately papered over the event—the warning that the White House would be out to get him—rather than expose the stale, canned, vicious erection of WALLS against any and all criticisms of Obama.  Given his disdain of and hostility toward critics, Obama reveals the kind of unstable personality that makes him dangerous, whether in domestic policy (Espionage Act prosecutions against whistleblowers, Bradley Manning being only the most visible case) or foreign policy (aggressive moves via the Asia “pivot” toward China, modernization of nuclear weaponry, or the morally reprehensible policy of targeted assassination).

News management is the tip of the iceberg, and itself is interconnected with the increase of Executive Power, the use of covert operations, the warmth shown the intelligence community, the employment of JSOC (often in partnership with the CIA), and even these become the tip of the iceberg for for the Obama transformative moment—no, not a belief in democratic change, but instead, the very real militarization of the social framework, from political economy to social structure, for purposes unclear even to himself: more power, of course, but beyond that, systemic change consonant with such power.

Woodward will let the matter rest.  We should not.  The disguise must be torn away, revealing how liberalism in America shares precisely the same retrograde features as its purported enemies, not least, the blind admiration of wealth, the despisement of the poor, the fear of self-criticism as a nation, the belief that America can act with impunity in world affairs.  Here follows my New York Times  Comment (Mar. 1) on the Woodward news article.

[NYT Comment, Mar. 1.  Access trumps truthful reporting.]

There is more to this than meets the eye. First, how claim press freedom when Obama has condemned transparency by his actions, is obsessed with SECRECY, and builds on the trend toward the National Security State? Your posters hide the facts in order to protect him. Woodward, I’m sure, can take care of himself. But the public has been condemned to ignorance on every meaningful issue, starting with armed drones for targeted assassination.

The White House has a rotten record under Obama in its forceful efforts at NEWS MANAGEMENT. I fear the press has buckled (including all media), lest they be denied access to their sources. Access has trumped candid, truthful reporting. One common example, when Cornel West called Obama “the black mascot of Wall Street,” Valerie Jarrett was dispatched to chastise him.

I, for one, am disgusted with the Obama public relations JUGGERNAUT, the fear he has struck into what had previously been responsible journalism. Yes, Republicans want to make hay out of the Woodward business, but in this case they are right. Obama has one foot solidly planted in totalitarian territory. I’m waiting for the other foot also to cross the line.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War