Friday, September 04, 2009

Elite journalists stick up for their friends

David Broder, a columnist for the Washington Post, has been a faithful defender of the ruling elite -- pardon the redundancy -- and criminal immunity for the powerful for the past four decades. Indeed, he boasts of his support for Gerald Ford’s “courageous” pardoning of disgraced war criminal Richard Nixon in his most recent column, and openly sides with former Vice President Dick Cheney (also a disgraced war criminal . . . noticing a pattern?) and his belief that it is “a dangerous precedent when a change in power in Washington leads a successor government not just to change the policies of its predecessors but to invoke the criminal justice system against them.” Expressions of extreme sycophancy like this are why Broder maintains his tremendous access to power, and helps explains why he’s considered “the most respected and influential political journalist in the country” -- by the groups and corporations that pay him thousands of dollars to hear him share his banal observations live.

But even a soon-to-be octogenarian like Broder doesn't know everything about life and still needs to ask questions. Here he is perplexed by what might happen should CIA torturers and murderers -- over 100 people died in U.S. custody -- be prosecuted for their crimes:
If accountability is the standard, then it should apply to the policymakers and not just to the underlings. Ultimately, do we want to see Cheney, who backed these actions and still does, standing in the dock?
Um, yes? And get Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush while you’re at. Somehow I doubt locking up a few powerful people who committed and/or authorized violent crimes -- notice Broder doesn’t spend much time challenging that latter fact -- will adversely impact the lives of 300 million Americans. Not prosecuting powerful people who commit crimes (“the Broder rule”), however, seems like a fine way of ensuring future members of the ruling establishment flaunt the law with impunity. You certainly can’t argue that Ford’s courageous pardon of Nixon, for whom Cheney once worked, did anything to make future crimes by the executive branch less likely.

Perplexingly, Broder and his fellow media stars are consistently more incensed over the prospect of the rich and powerful going to prison than the scandalous fact that the U.S. is home to the largest prison population in the history of the world. One in 100 Americans are incarcerated, or 2.2 million people, many for the non-violent drug offenses. Yet the tangible harm inflicted by the state via the prison-industrial-complex on millions of families torn apart because of punitive (and profitable!) laws criminalizing peaceful behavior is of much less concern to the Washington establishment than the hypothetical harm that may befall lovely people like Dick Cheney. That's probably because all their friends are the powerful, who as we know don't go to prison as easily as the rest of us -- the very idea that they might is shocking to the Washington power structure.

Broder and his ilk's willingness to defend those who have everything from the specter of accountability -- and the prospect of facing the same justice system that regularly tears apart those who have nothing -- is merely another way of saying thanks for last weekend's dinner party.

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