11/19/2005

Daily Kos: Fog of War.. is lifting ?

On Countdown tonight, Newsweek's Howard Fineman was tapped with commenting on the Republican attack on Murtha, which has now devolved into Republicans asserting they will launch an ethics probe of Murtha in explicit retaliation for his stance on the Iraq War. Fineman is a frequent guest on the program, an expert commentator, a solid reporter, and usually meets the challenge with the same plays of detached though good-natured bemusement that most reporters choose for such occasions. Punditry has to be light, it seems, to make up for the subject matter.

But this time around, on the heels of a report on the Iraq War debate in the House, Fineman was somewhere between somber and simmering, from the first moment of the interview to the last. Professional, yes, but the raw darkness of the mood was striking.

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Fineman was remarkably blunt in his assertions that the "ethics" and other attacks on Murtha are being orchestrated by Karl Rove -- by name -- and the White House, which intends to hit Murtha with everything "necessary". He stated directly that the White House sees everything as a political operation. He was blunt in Murtha's record and leadership position in the war, and in attributing to Murtha the behind-the-scenes voices of many top Pentagon voices who are unhappy with both the state of the war effort and with Rumsfeld's planning in the specific.

In short, he made it perfectly, bitterly clear that the White House itself sees Murtha as a tremendous threat, considers itself at war with Murtha, and that Rove -- again, by name -- intends to hit him with everything at the administration's disposal.

And without betraying any secrets of the Washington press corps, I'd have to say that Fineman, for one, met the airways today genuinely either angry or disgusted with the effort.

I encourage you to seek out a transcript, tomorrow, when it becomes available, but the transcript won't quite do the mood of the moment justice. It will be interesting to see if anyone else in comments or around the blogs had the same reaction.

There is something different in the air, the past few weeks. Murtha has managed to tap a tuning fork that the whole war sounds off of -- one I'm not sure he ever intended to find. The Libby indictments were the opening strain, but rather than fading out, the Fitzgerald investigation has continued to dog the administration, and threatens at any moment to break into entirely new revelations. Against that background, the White House is both furious, defensive and distracted; the House is, as we saw tonight, nearly dysfunctional in a new tainted-DeLay environment, and the press itself is, well... hmm.

The press isn't having fun anymore.

The battles are too acrimonious even for good television. The stakes, when even vaunted idols like Bob Woodward are finding themselves dashed upon the rocks, are getting too personal, and too close to home. And in cases like Fineman's, I have to wonder if what I am positive I saw, tonight, I actually saw: a man calling the White House out, rather directly. A man who was no more impressed with the attacks upon Murtha than anyone else watching, to the point where it shifted the tone of the debate, because a lighter tone, in this particular case, simply could not be conscripted.

Whether or not Karl Rove survives the excesses of being Karl Rove, I have to wonder if the same crass, one-note song will play, or if the audience has changed. When the only weapon the White House is capable of using is to impugn the very patriotism and Americanness of their opponents, what happens if the reactions to that attack change?

What happens if the press decides that dissent is, after all, patriotic? And is it happening, just the twinges, because of the utter collapse of the poll numbers, because of the Plame indictment(s?), because of the continuing quagmire of the war, because of the 2,000 deaths mark, because of the other Republican investigations and indictments, seemingly raining down like hailstones anywhere Abramoff has brushed up against the woodwork of power, and/or simply because of the continuing Republican political schtick that works so well for dismissing a minority, but considerably less well when you are calling sixty percent of the country traitors for not dancing to the tune?

Daily Kos: Fog of War

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