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12/10/2018 "The Black Economy 50 Years After The March On Washington"

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Politics Mondays: E-Letter To Tim Russert And Meet The Press Re: Your Interview Of Vice-President Cheney

I have never seen you as passive, listless, scripted and even timid, it seemed, as I saw you yesterday, in your exclusive hour-long interview of Vice-President Dick Cheney. I have felt, for several years now, that you and Fox News Sunday’s Brit Hume ask the “toughest” questions, by far, of all of the interviewers who regularly appear on the Sunday political talk-shows on Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS or CNN. There have been a rare couple of times that I have felt that you have been way too aggressive and biased in your questioning but yesterday was the first time that I can remember you looking more like Regis Philbin than the tough, hard-nosed, and relentless interviewer that I have grown accustomed to. You seemed to be more interested in the fact that you snared the important leader as a guest, than you were in questioning him - caught up in your own growing sense of celebrity – it appeared. To a degree I can understand why you may have felt pressure to depart from your traditional style. After all, you are speaking to the man who is said to be the second-most powerful (some say first) political leader in the most powerful country in the world, who carries himself as if he is above the fray, is smooth and professional by all appearance and has a great voice that some say, in and of itself, conveys wisdom, authority and integrity. There are many reasons, I imagine, why a reporter would be tempted to be deferential to Vice-President Cheney or even “taken in” by his persona. And of course, there is always the possibility that the prize and cost of access to Mr. Cheney as well as the discussions and “negotiations” involved in arranging an interview with him could contribute to coloring a question and answer session with the man who is only one heartbeat away from the presidency. Unfortunately, I think we saw that happen with you and your prestigious show yesterday.

What follows are a few of the subjects, elements and portions of the interview where I thought you were unusually weak, disappointing or out of character. I hope you will consider what is offered in preparation for your next interview of a prominent member of the Bush administration.

Mr. Cheney And Oil. The biggest question of all was so obvious it is hard to understand how you missed it. He was standing right in front of you – Vice President Dick Cheney, himself. You, I, your crack research staff and your show’s producer all know that there were rumors and discussion that Mr. Cheney was being kept deliberately out of sight in recent months because of the notion that his relationship and involvement in the energy industry could be used to resist President Bush’s press toward invading Iraq, by political opponents. The fear was that the image of Vice-President Cheney at the forefront of the public effort to go to war against Iraq would only embolden the chants of “no blood for oil” in the United States among the anti-war movement and strengthen the international perception that this war is largely about getting access to more oil. So, it was striking to see how you allowed the Vice-President, making an exclusive and admittedly rare public appearance, to escape your show without having to answer any real serious questions regarding the war for oil argument. This is not your modus operandi. I have seen you in public describe that what makes your interview style seem so balanced is that you hurl at a guest, the most powerful, intriguing and serious arguments coming from their opposition. You certainly did not do that yesterday. Mr. Russert, the most serious charges on the opposite side of Mr. Cheney and against the possible invasion of Iraq are that the war on terrorism (which Mr. Cheney left no stone unturned in linking to a possible war on Iraq) serves the interests of oil companies, which have deep relationships with members of the Bush administration. This is a good question for you to ask, Mr. Russert. Is it a mere coincidence that one of the two pipelines that Union Oil Of California (Unocal) has been trying to build since last decade is suddenly materializing after President Bush and Vice-President Cheney take office and after the Taliban is defeated in a war? In 1995 Unocal vice-president, Marty F. Miller told the Washington Post that the company had plans for “two mammoth pipelines across Afghanistan to carry oil and gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan”. The investment that Unocal has made in acquiring a pipeline to run through Afghanistan has been staggering. The problem in getting the pipeline was primarily the Taliban’s lack of full cooperation with the initiative. Unocal’s vice-president told Congress in hearings in February of 1998, “From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company.” Now, since the tragic events of September 11th and the War on Afghanistan that removed the Taliban from power, the "recognized government", desired by Unocal, has been installed and the pipeline deal is on – since Turkmenistan, Pakistan (the premier U.S. ally in the war on terrorism) and the new government in Afghanistan signed an agreement last December clearing the way. Is it an accident that the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s new leader are reportedly both former Unocal employees? President Bush appointed a former aide to Unocal, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, as special envoy to Afghanistan on December 31, 2001. According to Jennifer Van Bergen of, “Zalmay Khalilzad was an advisor for Unocal. In the mid 1990s, while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Khalilzad conducted risk analyses for Unocal at the time it had signed letters of approval from the Taliban. The analyses were for a proposed 890-mile, $2-billion, 1.9-billion-cubic-feet-per-day natural gas pipeline project which would have extended from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. In December 1997, Khalilzad joined Unocal officials at a reception for an invited Taliban delegation to Texas.” Now, Zalmay Khalilzad is President Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition. On December 22, 2001, Hamid Karzai took office as President of Afghanistan’s transitional government. The French Le Monde reported on December 31, 2001 that Mr. Karzai was a consultant for Unocal when he lived in the United States. Vice-President Cheney is no stranger to that part of the world and pipeline deals. Halliburton, his old company, has been involved with pipeline work, drilling and exploration in Turkmenistan since 1993, and in 1997 signed a major exploration deal in the Caspian Sea with a Turkmenistan company - when Mr. Cheney was its chairman. Mr. Cheney worked extremely hard to position Halliburton in the emerging Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan market. Here is how a recent Dow Jones article described the importance of the Caspian Sea in the current geopolitical environment:

A possible war in Iraq and growing insecurity around the Middle East has given urgency to the development of new oil centers, mainly in Africa and the Americas. The Caspian -long known more for caviar than the other "black gold" -is suddenly moving high on the agenda of nearly every international fuel prospector. The 143,000-square-mile (366,000-square-kilometer) Caspian is the world's biggest inland sea and its second deepest. It is nearly five times the size of Lake Superior. As former Soviet republics Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan align with the West, some see a replay of the "Great Game" -the early 20th century battle for influence in central Asia between the Russian and British empires. Others see flaws in the analogy. The Caspian, they say, is just the latest stage for the timeless interplay of politics and profit. "All politics is a great game. States will always try to expand their power and extend their influence," said Brenda Shaffer, research director of the Caspian Studies Program at Harvard University. "Every area is up for grabs if there is something to be grabbed. In that sense, the Caspian is perhaps a greater game than most." In the late 19th century -at the dawn of the oil age -wildcat drillers hit gushers using just hammers and spikes. The Caspian had its first taste of petro-wealth. The Soviet Union later swallowed most of the Caspian, leaving Iran with just its southern edge. But offshore exploration was limited in favor of plentiful supplies on land. Everything changed with the Soviet disintegration. The new Caspian countries -Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan -offered Western oil companies a new frontier with possible vast rewards. Almost every big player has come calling. In Azerbaijan, British Petroleum (BP) is leading an international consortium planning a $2.95 billion pipeline to a Turkish Mediterranean port, Ceyhan. The project, scheduled to be ready in early 2005, is a who's who of big oil: France's TotalFinaElf (TOT), Italy's ENI Agip (E) and U.S. firms Unocal Corp. (UCL) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM). Across the Caspian in Kazakhstan, American energy giants ChevronTexaco Corp. (CVX) and Exxon Mobil have joined a host of major European partners.

Is the laser-like focus on oil regarding this war, maintained by many, really as illegitimate or given to conspiracy theory (in a derisive sense)as some argue? What about the reality of the Bush administration’s background and nearness to oil interests, with President George W. Bush affiliated with Harken Energy; National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice of Chevron-Texaco; Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Occidental Petroleum; Interior Sectrary Gale Norton Of BP Amoco and Vice-President Cheney of Halliburton?

Mr. Russert, you should have known before last week that a subsidiary of Halliburton has already been selected to oversee oil fields in Iraq. Here is how the Wall St. Journal reported this on March 7, 2003 in an article written by Chip Cummins and Thaddeus Herrick called “Halliburton Unit Is Tapped To Oversee Oil Fields in Iraq”:

The Pentagon said it is tapping a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, to oversee efforts to control oil-well fires, should Saddam Hussein torch Iraq's oil fields in the event of a U.S. attack. The Pentagon said it intends to use a plan developed by Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., a unit of Houston-based Halliburton , if Mr. Hussein sabotages his fields. The plan also addresses assessing damage to oil facilities, the Pentagon said. Mr. Cheney served as chief executive of Halliburton until 2000, when he stepped down to become the running mate of President Bush. The development positions Kellogg Brown & Root as a leading candidate to win the role of top contractor in any petroleum-field rehabilitation effort in Iraq. The job could involve coordinating dozens of smaller specialty contractors that do everything from helping clear mines and build roads to putting out fires and repairing damaged wells. Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton , said the announcement comes as no surprise, since Kellogg Brown & Root has a long history of doing work for the government. "This business has been doing government contracting since the 1940s," she said. Iraq has oil reserves second only to those of Saudi Arabia, and oil-services firms such as Halliburton and Schlumberger Ltd., New York, are seen as favorites for what industry analysts say could be as much as $1.5 billion in contracts to jump-start Iraq's petroleum sector following a war.

The Guardian Unlimited reported last Wednesday, March 12, 2003 that Mr. Cheney is still receiving payments from Halliburton, of up to $1 million a year. It is a legitimate question to ask the Vice-President about all of this, and whether the war on terrorism, which he says now includes Iraq is colored in any way by oil interests and relationships. Why did you choose not to do so?

Halliburton’s Role In Rebuilding Iraq, After War. I watched your interview of Mr. Cheney almost in disbelief over the fact that you did not ask him about the major story this week, mentioned on the cover of the Wall St. Journal about the fact that Mr. Cheney’s old energy company Halliburton is one of only a handful of companies that are in line for government contracts from the United States Agency For International Development (USAID) to rebuild Iraq. Here is an excerpt of the article headlined, “US Is Quietly Soliciting Bids For Rebuilding Postwar Iraq” by Neil King, Jr.:

The Bush administration is preparing to award a contract valued at as much as $900 million to begin rebuilding a postwar Iraq, in what would be the largest government reconstruction effort since Americans helped to rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II. The U.S. Agency for International Development quietly sent a detailed "request for proposals" to bid on the contract to at least five of the nation's infrastructure-engineering firms. All have already submitted bids or are preparing to do so.…U.S. officials last month asked at least five large domestic construction companies with international operations to bid on the main contract. They are Bechtel Group Inc. of San Francisco; Fluor Corp. of Aliso Viejo, Calif.; Houston-based Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg Brown & Root; Louis Berger Group Inc. of East Orange, N.J.; and Parsons Corp. of Pasadena, Calif. "We are interested in participating in this," said Jonathan Marshall, Bechtel's spokesman. Parsons spokeswoman Erin Kuhlman said, "We feel this is right down our alley because of our previous work with USAID in Bosnia and Kosovo," where the company did similar reconstruction work. The other three companies declined to comment publicly. The Pentagon already has tapped Kellogg Brown & Root to lay out a plan for fighting oil-well fires in Iraq should that prove necessary. Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton's chief executive until 2000, when he quit and sold his stock in the company to join the Republican presidential ticket with George W. Bush

Mr. Russert, isn’t this a little bit peculiar, especially in light of the fact that so many eyebrows have been raised regarding Halliburton’s relationship with the Vice-President? How could you not ask Mr. Cheney about this? By the way, the author of this article, Neil King, appeared on C-Span last week to discuss this article. You didn’t hear about it?

The Cost Of War. The pass that you gave Mr. Cheney when questioning the cost of war in Iraq was stunning. Here is the exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: Every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can’t say that, Tim. There are estimates out there. It’s important, though, to recognize that we’ve got a different set of circumstances than we’ve had in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan you’ve got a nation without significant resources. In Iraq you’ve got a nation that’s got the second-largest oil reserves in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia. It will generate billions of dollars a year in cash flow if they get back to their production of roughly three million barrels of oil a day, in the relatively near future. And that flow of resources, obviously, belongs to the Iraqi people, needs to be put to use by the Iraqi people for the Iraqi people and that will be one of our major objectives.

But the point is this is not a nation without resources, and when it comes time to rebuild and to make the kinds of investments that are going to be required to give them a shot at achieving a truly representative government, a successful government, a government that can defend itself and protect its territorial integrity and look to the interests of its people, Iraq starts with significant advantages. It’s got a well- trained middle class, a highly literate work force, a high degree of technical sophistication. This is a country that I think, but for the rule of Saddam Hussein and his brutality and his diversion of the nation’s resources and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, can be one of the leading, perhaps the leading state in that part of the world in terms of developing a modern state and the kind of lifestyle that its people are entitled to.

MR. RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?


No rigorous follow-up. No questioning of why there is no estimate for the costs of war. Your lack of secondary questioning is almost unbelievable. Last week, I had a discussion with respected economist Reuven Brenner of McGill University. He could not understand why the Bush administration was failing to make arguments to justify its intended war, on economic grounds. There are certainly some arguments that the administration could make in order to defend the massive spending that could be involved. The administration is passing up available arguments, from the Cold War era, which show that the Soviet Union was “defeated” by the U.S. and that a peacetime dividend was produced, by the massive military spending the America engaged in during the 1980s. Pentagon analyst Andrew Marshall is credited with the insight that increased military spending on the part of the United States, would eventually break the Soviet economy due to the fact that defense spending was eating up so much of the communist country's national income. Therefore, following this line of reasoning the increased government spending on weapons programs was "worth it". Of course others have different views on the opportunity cost of those billions but the point is the administration acts as if its frightening references to weapons of mass destruction are enough and money is no object, or a side issue. Yesterday, Vice-President Cheney shamelessly compared this current President to Ronald Reagan, but on the subject of defending military spending, President Bush and his administration pale in comparison. Black Conservative Armstrong Williams just sent a column where he attempts to argue how the war can actually help the economy. Why isn’t the Bush administration making these arguments if it believes so strongly in this war? No matter what side of the issue one is on it is an important and interesting subject. You should have devoted more time to it. Historian Donald Kagan and Professor William Nordhaus have some very interesting arguments regarding the costs and benefits of war that you could have presented to Mr. Cheney, I think. Professor Nordhaus believes that a worst-case scenario will have this war costing the United States $2 trillion! And Mr. Kagan argues that the discussion of costs and benefits in war also has to be broadened beyond just monetary terms. On March 5, 2003, while on NewsHour he said, “Honor, fear and interest. Interest means, you know, economics, let’s say. Honor can mean prestige, it can mean esteem, it can mean respect. The opposite of it is dishonor, and that’s very important to remember – humiliation, resentment. To my mind, these are the major forces in bringing about wars forever, as I have studied them. And that I think is one of the things that is a problem when you try to bring cost-benefit analysis, if all you mean by that is economic costs and economic benefits, because that’s not what’s in the minds of the folks who are making these decisions most of the time.” Mr. Russert, you interviewed one of those few people “making these decisions” and you let slip an opportunity to get into his mind regarding the real costs (or benefits) of war.

The Pat Buchanan and Seymour Hersh Articles. Perhaps the only thing more surprising than your omission of Halliburton’s reported role in rebuilding Iraq is your total lack of reference to this past week’s controversy over the bombshell articles written by Pat Buchanan and Seymour Hersch. Mr. Buchanan’s “Whose War?: A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest” in The American Conservative is explosive. The article charges that a “cabal of intellectuals” are guiding the administration’s foreign policy since September 11th in a manner that serves the most belligerent interests in America and Israel. He writes, “ What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel. They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it…The necons seek American empire, and Sharonites seek hegemony over the Middle East. The two agendas coincide precisely. And though neocons insist that it was Sept. 11 that made the case for war on Iraq and militant Islam, the origins of their war plans go back far before. In the article, Pat Buchanan singles out Richard Perle, chair of the Defense Policy Board, as the “principal draftsman” of the thesis now guiding the Bush administration. Interestingly, in the very first paragraph of the political magazine article that, in my view, has caused more shockwaves to ripple through Washington D.C. than any other in the last four years, you are quoted. Mr. Buchanan writes, “In a rare moment in U.S. journalism, Tim Russert put this question directly to Richard Perle: ‘Can you assure American viewers…that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?’ Mr. Russert, why didn’t you ask Vice-President Cheney the exact same question you asked Richard Perle? Then, there is, of course Seymour Hersh’s article about Richard Perle, “Lunch With The Chairman: Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Khashoggi?” in the March 17, 2003 issue of The New Yorker which reads, “ The Defense Policy Board is a Defense Department advisory group composed primarily of highly respected former government officials, retired military officers, and academics. Its members, who serve without pay, include former national-security advisers, Secretaries Of Defense, and heads of the C.I.A. The board meets several times a year at the Pentagon to review and assess the country’s strategic defense policies. Perle is also a managing partner in Trireme Partners L.P., which was registered in November, 2001, in Delaware. Trireme’s main business, according to a two-page letter that one of its representatives sent to Khashoggi last November, is to invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense. The letter argued that the fear of terrorism would increase the demand for such products in Europe and in countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore…The letter said that forty-five million dollars had already been raised, including twenty million dollars from Boeing; the purpose, clearly, was to attract more investors…” Mr. Russert, you should have asked Vice-President Cheney what he thought of this article and was he concerned about the allegations contained within it. What does the Vice President of the United States of America think about the possibility that one of the Bush administration’s closest advisers, who has been advocating the U.S. go to war with Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran is in business profiting from the climate created by the tragedy of September 11th and using that climate to raise money from the multi-national members of the military-industrial complex like Boeing and others? Don’t you want to know his opinion of that Mr. Russert? I sure do.

The Perfect War. The portion of your interview that struck me the most powerfully were those moments where you raised risks and the possibility of things going wrong in a war in Iraq. Vice-President Cheney was so dismissive of these scenarios and questions. It was alarming. Yet, you did not press him as to whether or not the Bush administration had thoroughly thought through these possibilities or whether there were really any back-up plans if things go wrong in war. Vice-President Cheney was so nonchalant in his answers regarding this that I thought that his spirit bordered on more than just hubris or even arrogance, but had risen to the level of supremacy. You allowed his attitude and thinking to go unchallenged with your “one-and-done” or scripted questioning. Here are some of the excerpts that I am referring to:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY:Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Now, if we get into a significant battle in Baghdad, I think it would be under circumstances in which the security forces around Saddam Hussein, the special Republican Guard, and the special security organization, several thousand strong, that in effect are the close-in defenders of the regime, they might, in fact, try to put up such a struggle. I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and
are likely to step aside.

Now, I can’t say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad. We have to be prepared for that possibility. But, again, I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action.

"No doubt", "no question"? Interesting.

Next, is this portion of the discussion where you allow Mr. Cheney to minimize the impact that the war will have in moderate Muslim countries who have significant segments of their populations who are adamantly opposed to war in Iraq:

MR. RUSSERT: But a lot of countries, Mr. Vice President, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the neighbors of Saddam, other than Kuwait, are not supportive.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think we will find, Tim, that if in fact we have to do this with military force that there will be sighs of relief in many quarters in the Middle East that the United States finally followed through and deal effectively with what they all perceive to be a major threat, but they’re all reluctant to stand up if Saddam’s still in power and if there’s a possibility he will survive once again to threaten them and to threaten their region. So for the United States to follow through here, be determined, be decisive, do exactly what we said we were going to do, I think we’ll find we’ve got far more friends out there than many people think.

MR. RUSSERT: And Jordan and Pakistan and countries like that will be stable?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think so. I think weakness, vacillation, and unwillingness of the United States to stand with our friends, that is provocative. It’s encouraged people like Osama bin Laden, as I say, to launch repeated strikes against the United States, and our people overseas and here at home, with the view that he could, in fact, do so with impunity and now he knows different.

I see a great deal of denial and more in Vice-President Cheney’s answer, apparently you don’t. The subject deserved better and more questioning. You, instead, decided to move on, at that moment, to discuss North Korea.

There is a book that we are offering in the bookstore, “How Wars Are Won: 13 Rules Of War From Ancient Greece To The War On Terror” that you should read. If you did read it I think you would know how dangerous Vice-President Cheney’s expressed thinking is regarding how smoothly and “controlled” a U.S. war on Iraq will be. I don’t doubt that you already may have this thought, but you certainly did not express it yesterday, for whatever reason.

I hope that you will honestly take the time to reflect over yesterday's program and your line of questioning. Mr. Russert, I think you should ask yourself whether or not you are being influenced by your increased celebrity and access to seats of power. You might want to lose the yes-men and yes-women who may be around you, and seek honest feedback from people who care less about your guests and more about what you draw out of them.

Please don't become a publicist or prop for the United States government on our time.

Your immense talent is wasted there, and our intelligence insulted.


Cedric Muhammad

P.S.There are many other factors regarding Iraq that I think you should have questioned Vice-President Cheney about. You can find them in the first and second part of my letter on Iraq written to members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) last year. Mr Russert, there are a great many people in Washington D.C. and elsewhere who are concerned that President Bush’s thinking is being narrowed and shaped by a small group of self-interested advisers from within and outside of the White House; a personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein; and spiritual blindness. It may not mean much to you but I am greatly concerned by the manner in which Minister Louis Farrakhan’s (who I have seen on your show three times since 1995) two letters to President Bush have been handled. There is concern over whether the President even read the letters or knows about them. This, even after Polyconomics, Inc. Chairman, Mr. Jude Wanniski, who knows both Minister Louis Farrakhan and Vice-President Dick Cheney, attempted to get Minister Farrakhan’s first letter to President Bush. This is not the first time this type of thing has happened, in the way of a President not getting his mail, so to speak. Please read the book Bible Code II and you will see how a letter to President Bush written by former Wall St. Journal and Washington Post writer, Michael Drosnin, warning him that he was leading the world into the most horrible of wars, was handled by the president’s chief of staff, Andrew Card and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. According to what Mr. Drosnin has written, this is what he was told by Mr. Card’s chief assistant on September 10, 2001, when he followed-up on the letter he had written to President Bush: “Mr. Card gave your letter to Dr. Rice. It was read by the two highest-ranking people here. But it is their decision not to give it to the President.” In his first letter, Minister Farrakhan warns President Bush that the War on Iraq will take a turn for the worse that he (President Bush) and his advisers do not expect. That turn will eventually bring the United States further into a conflict involving China and Russia. The Minister's second letter amplified the points made in the first letter with additional insights and details. On February 23, 2003 at his Saviours’ Day address the Minister spoke of how Iraq looked easy to America but that assessment was a misperception.

Next to the role of spiritual leaders like Minister Farrakhan, it is the press - the fourth estate – who, in my view, has the great responsibility of correcting and challenging political leadership. The thorough public investigation of political leaders' ideas, attitudes, thoughts, policies, practices and feelings, through proper questioning of them, is the linchpin of this process. If members of the American media do not fulfill this function their abdication of responsibility allows wayward or misguided political leadership to become increasingly corrupt and to make decisions that cause the country to embark upon policies and practices that violate the noble principles that the founding fathers of the United States espoused. Ultimately, this leads to the degeneration of the social and moral fabric of the country and the demise of government and society, as the disconnect between the masses and the classes becomes so great that dissatisfaction among the populace produces revolution which manifests in a variety of forms. While I am almost certain that you do not see it at present, it is performances like yours yesterday, which are contributing to the fall of America.

By the way, Mr. Russert, your public capitulation and unjustified deference to Vice-President Cheney yesterday morning is part of a pattern that some are noticing about you, in the wake of September 11th, 2001. Here is how you are positioned in the book “The News About The News: American Journalism in Peril” by Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser:

In the days that followed the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Russert again demonstrated his sense of his own status. When he interviewed Vice President Dick Cheney from Camp David on the Sunday after the attacks, he wore a large red, white and blue ribbon on his lapel. Two days later after the attacks Russert held forth on Today in a discussion with host Matt Lauer. “Matt,” he said, discussing public opinion, “the anger is just boiling over. You can feel it in every corner of this country. People want someone to pay a price for this, even if it means protracted war. And I believe that that only is going to build when we see the brothers and sisters of [the victims]….We feel violated. We’ll try to absorb it…. We’ll do our best; we’ll hold our flag high; we’ll tell people – we’ll be defiant, but we also know that we’re going to be a lot more security-conscious and a lot more careful.” Was this news analysis, or a political speech?

Good question. I hope in the future you will give a better answer than you did yesterday.

Monday, March 17, 2003

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