Dissecting Rachel Marsden’s Awful October 29 Column

Rachel Marsden is the master of The Blanket Statement.   Take her October 29th Toronto Sun column, as a recent example.  It’s loaded with them.  But a word of caution.  You might not be able to contain your laughter.  (A persuasive letter writer complained about her piece in today’s Toronto Sun and received a baffling and lame, anonymous retort.  It’s the fifth letter.)
In a piece entitled “Hindsight will help us see through the Bush”, an awkward pun of a headline written by someone else, she opens thusly:
“George Bush is still right. While his critics assume the kiss-your-behind-goodbye position and reach for the barf bag with every bit of turbulence — he remains focused on the ultimate objective of his political journey.”
Reading through the entirety of her column, there isn’t one factual assertion that backs any of this up.  No confirming quotes from like-minded Democrats, Republicans, TV talking heads, print pundits or political experts.  No referencing of any viable news reports.  No comments from either The President himself or any member of his Administration.  Nothing.  Furthermore, her typically sloppy attempt at exaggerated humour reduces legitimate criticism of America’s dangerous and immoral foreign policy to that of doomed cowardice.  But what would you expect from a pretend journalist who claimed that voting for The Democrats last year meant death to all of us?  And she calls herself a “political strategist”?  The Republicans are so lucky to have her.
Moving on.  Marsden, who filed her column from Washington, D.C., mentions Bill Sammon.  He’s written a book about George W. Bush called The Evangelical President.  In paragraph three, she claims with a straight face that he’s “a registered Independent who brings the usually foreign concept of fairness to journalism…”.  That’ll come as a shock to Bob Somerby of Daily Howler and the tireless liberal watchdog group, Media Matters For America.  They’ve documented numerous instances where The Washington Examiner White House Correspondent and Fox News Channel contributor has been dishonest and misleading about progressives both in print and on Television.
Sammon has indeed claimed publicly that he is “a registered Independent” but didn’t Bill O’Reilly do the same thing?  (As Al Franken pointed out, the latter is actually a registered Republican.)  Considering the fact that Sammon has written books with titles like At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried To Steal The Election and Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry, and the Bush Haters, his assertion of political independence, echoed by Marsden, is extremely difficult to swallow.  Where are the examples of him praising Democrats and criticizing Republicans?  Where is the documented proof of his Independent status, for that matter?
The truth is he’s just another drone in The Republican Noise Machine, just like Marsden.  His “reporting” for The Washington Times, his former employer, played a major role in Al Gore losing the 2000 Election, as repeatedly noted by Somerby, who has long established the media’s irrational and phony War On Gore.  The real reason Bush has granted Sammon more interviews than to anybody else working in the public eye isn’t because he’s “fair”.  It’s because he’s a political ally who doesn’t hold him accountable.  That’s not responsible journalism but rather, transparent propaganda.  Ethics is a foreign concept to this crowd, the party of torture, racial & sexual bigotry, religious extremism, rank hypocrisy and endless war-hungry paranoia.
Back to Marsden’s very silly piece.  She spends the next, several paragraphs desperately and laughably trying to rescue the rightfully tattered reputation of President Bush.  Like a number of like-minded conservative pundits, instead of acknowledging the indisputable reality that he’s been a disaster domestically and globally (poor fiscal and foreign policies are but two of his serious, far-reaching blunders), she claims that many, many years from now, he’ll be hailed in hindsight for his political brilliance.  (“Greatness usually appears in the rear-view mirror.”)  As John McEnroe would say, “You cannot be serious!” 
She references Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and, believe it or not, notorious US Senator Joe McCarthy.  (Yes, the guy that was obsessed with communism to the point of lunacy in the 1950s.  Thanks to his alcoholism, he died of acute hepatitis at age 48.)
Let’s go through these one by one, starting with Churchill.  Marsden claims, and she isn’t alone, that the former British Prime Minister was the only one to see the real danger that Hitler posed.  (“Winston Churchill was dismissed as a nut when he first warned the world about Hitler.”)  Despite Churchill later portraying himself in this manner, he was neither a lone voice in the wilderness nor the first to speak out.  There was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cardinal Van Galen, individual Catholics (who demonstrated against T4, the barbaric mass murder of the mentally and physically handicapped), Sir Anthony Eden, (more here), Sir Horace Rumbolt, Duff Cooper, Harold Nicolson, George Lloyd (who briefly served in Churchill’s cabinet before dying on the job in 1940), even The Winnipeg Free Press, whose then-editor-in-chief criticized in print the infamous Munich Pact in 1938.   
Finally, and most importantly, Churchill had contradictory views about Hitler.  In his 1937 book, Great Contemporaries, he actually praises Hitler:
“One may dislike Hitler’s [political] system and yet admire his patriotic achievements. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”
Not so black and white, as Marsden tries to paint it.  
Then, there’s Ronald Reagan.  She notes that in paragraph five that he “hit a 42% approval rating in 1983, as unemployment peaked prior to his visionary Reaganomics policy kicking in.”  More sloppy writing.  The unemployment rate actually peaked at about 10% in 1982, the previous year.  Furthermore, while Reagan did indeed have a 42% approval rating in 1983 (late July), his worst overall rating was 35% (late January).  So, it was even lower than the figure Marsden mentioned in her column.  (Click here to see all of Reagan’s popularity numbers for 1983.  Click “Reagan” and then scroll down.)
As for his economic program being “visionary”, that remains a debatable positionAs noted by Wikipedia, Reagan lowered rich people’s taxes considerably (70% to 26%) while increasing payroll taxes “as well as the effective tax rates on the lower two income quintiles.”  The debt increased from 700 billion to 3 trillion, thanks to relentless deficit spending.  Today, thanks to more fiscal mismanagement and addictive borrowing from other countries (Reagan did the same thing), it’s up to 10 trillion.
Onto Joe McCarthy.  A number of right-wing pundits, like Marsden’s friend, Ann Coulter, have been trying in vain to restore the dead Senator’s reputation in recent years.  Marsden does her part by offering the following:
“Poor GOP Senator Joe McCarthy was persecuted and vilified for audaciously suggesting the U.S. government was rife with communist spies at its highest level. Now that the VENONA Project has successfully decoded encrypted Soviet communications, we know his assessment was bang-on.”
The VENONA Project was a World War II-era secret surveillence program that only became public knowledge long after it was cancelled during President Jimmy Carter’s time in office.  Contrary to Marsden’s trademark Blanket Statement, there remains some criticism regarding its effectiveness, as noted by Wikipedia.  As for McCarthy himself, his overreaching antics got him censured by the Senate.  His anti-Communist witchhunt ruined many lives and prematurely ended many careers.  He’s no hero, by any definition of the word.  Furthermore, it’s not certain how many Soviet sympathizers his actions legitimately exposed, if any.
Then, Marsden takes a shot at President Carter:
“Even president Jimmy Carter — who let American hostages rot in Iran for 444 days and was drop-kicked from office with a 39% approval rating that year — went on to win a Nobel Prize for his, um, efforts.”
Note the words “that year”.  She obviously means 1980, which was the same year The VENONA Project was discontinued, the subject of the earlier paragraph.  Whether it was an editing mistake or simply bad writing, the fact that no actual year is mentioned in either of those passages is embarrassing and a bit confusing for readers.  Also, pay close attention to “president Jimmy Carter” and “Senator Joe McCarthy”.  Does she think so lowly of the Nobel Prize Winner that she can’t even be bothered to capitalize the “p” in “President”?
At any event, it’s simply not true that he let the hostages “rot” for over a year.  She’s obviously trying to make it sound like he sat on his hands the whole time, which is deeply unfair.  There were economic sanctions, oil stopped being imported from Iran, and, of course, there was the botched rescue attempt in April 1980.  Furthermore, there’s this passage from Wikipedia:
“While Carter kept his promise (all 51 hostages returned home alive), he failed to secure the release of the hostages prior to the election. While Carter ultimately won their release, Iran did not technically release the hostages until minutes after Reagan took office. In recognition of the fact that Carter was responsible for bringing the hostages home, President Reagan asked Carter to go to Germany to greet them upon their release.”
So much for letting them “rot”.
Furthermore, while Carter was indeed soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election, his approval rating wasn’t 39% just before the vote.  According to Gallup, it was actually 31% (paragraph three, line two under second heading, “Bush’s Free-fall Best Known”).  According to The Roper Center (click “Carter”), it was only 39% in late March and early April, half a year before the electorate went to the polls.  (They also note that it remained at 31% three weeks after Reagan’s electoral landslide.  Carter had a couple more months left before the official transition of power.)
As for Marsden’s rather immature and transparently idiotic sneering of Carter’s much deserved Nobel Peace Prize, it speaks for itself.  Carter won the award in 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”  His work with Habitat For Humanity and the fact that every single American hostage “returned home alive” as he promised during the Iran crisis speaks volumes about his character.  Until stalking, making false accusations and using a fake name to get a job with a Conservative MP become established criteria for the award, Marsden will have to settle for writing toothless cheap shots in a declining tabloid.
Meanwhile, let’s continue.  In paragraph eight, she complains about the media making President Bush look like “a dolt” to the point where they don’t notice that his Iraq strategy is “a play ripped from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War'”, something “any political strategist ought to recognize”.  Firstly, as anyone who’s watched Bush speak in public has long known, the media doesn’t have to do a damn thing to make him look stupid.  He does it all on his own.  (“Childrens do learn”, anyone?)  As for The Art of War, what “play” has this Administration been using from that book?  She doesn’t specify.  Whatever strategy they’re using, it’s not working.
She further notes Bill Sammon’s assertion that if Hillary Clinton is elected President, there will be a continuation of Bush’s Iraq policy.  Once again, no evidence is provided to strengthen that position.
The next paragraph is perplexing:
“Bush’s policies even preclude recent major political changes in Europe, despite an article in this week’s New York Observer saying of European conservative victories: ‘…a moribund economy and a general sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo fuelled the victories of candidates whose pro-free market reform credentials were more important than [candidates] pro-Americanism.'”
She’s referring to The Fantasy Of A Pro-America Europe.  (According to my Cage Canadian Dictionary, the word preclude means “shut out; make impossible; prevent”. )  Again, she doesn’t bother to back up what she says and one wonders why she threw in that quote without really disproving it.
Then, we come to the end where she makes up a quote falsely attributed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  (A Google search in quotation marks produced exactly one hit.  Yep, Marsden’s column.)  Guess she’s trying to be funny again.  Yawn.  There’s a hint of anti-Muslim rhetoric when she says the following:
“In countries like France, these changes in government centred largely on immigration and culture…And there couldn’t possibly be a connection between Bush’s war on terrorism and conservative victories in Switzerland and Germany amid public opposition to the emergence of certain places of worship.”
As always, an empty statement backed with no evidence.  (What would you expect from a columnist who calls Islam “the dynamite religion”?)
But she saves the biggest moment of hilarity for the end:
“For Bush’s critics to have to admit that his vision has even caught on in France would likely be too much to take.
George W. Bush is the Winston Churchill of our time. Don’t see it? Keep an eye on that rear-view mirror.”
That’s funny.  I thought President Sarkozy was against the War in Iraq.
As for Bush being this generation’s Churchill at some point in the future, I think I hear someone rolling in their grave.  I also hear uncontrollable laughter.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
4:45 p.m.
Published in: on October 31, 2007 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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