Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Impeachment on the House Floor but not the Front Page

As a PR practitioner for nearly a decade, and as a voracious news hound my whole life (somewhere there's a picture of me reading the newspaper at age 7), I'm constantly fascinated by what makes the news and what doesn't. Today, I'm less fascinated and more saddened.

Last night, one congressman stood on the mostly-empty floor of the House of Representatives and read aloud 35 articles of impeachment of George W. Bush. He read for something on the order of 3 hours, pausing only to take an occasional sip of water as his words echoed and hung in the chamber. Taken in total, the articles are well-reasoned, detailed, annotated, and devastating.

And yet, the next morning, one must dig and dig hard to find any media coverage of the story online. The AP and Reuters broke the story as it happened, but then a funny thing happened, or didn't happen. The story failed to propagate.

These articles are a scathing indictment of a sitting president, highlighting the hubris and the incompetence that has pockmarked the past 7 years. From ignoring Richard Clarke's warnings of the impending 9/11 attacks, to grossly overstating Iraq's threat of WMDs, to awarding back-room billion-dollar no-bid contracts to Halliburton and Blackwater to operate above the law, to bungling the Hurricane Katrina response, to documented voter fraud and disenfranchisement, to firing US Attorneys for political reasons (and covering it up with "executive privilege"), to outing a covert CIA agent for political reasons (and covering it up with "executive privilege"), to the endorsement of torture and holding prisoners against the Geneva Convention and international law, to the systematic unconstitutional spying on Americans' phone calls and e-mails in ways that would make McCarthy blush, these articles of impeachment were ticked off eloquently and simply.
*Nota bene: None of the above is to say Mr. Bush is guilty of anything. He's innocent until proven guilty, of course. If guilty of any one of the 35 accusations, the president could be impeached. But to determine guilt, Congress must investigate, which is what the impeachment articles are asking to do. And to those who say Congress has "better things to do," I say what could be more important than maintaining the balance of powers our Founding Fathers held so dear and upholding the laws of the United States Constitution?
But regardless of the merits of the impeachment articles or of Mr. Bush's guilt or innocence, I am more concerned about the media's lack of response to them. If standing on the floor of Congress and calling for the removal of a sitting president doesn't rate as front page news -- and to most of the mainstream media outlets, it doesn't rate as any kind of news -- it makes one wonder. If they were baseless claims made in a reckless manner, would that constitute news? If they alleged sordid sexual dalliances of elected officials, would that constitute news? If they were delivered by someone taller or better looking, would that constitute news?

If the articles of impeachment were a vinyl LP record, the 35 tunes would read like the back of "Bush's Greatest Hits." Taken individually, each of these songs received tons of airplay. So why isn't the compilation album racing up the charts with a bullet? Because it's "old news?" Not with last week's Senate Intelligence Committee Report being issued, or with former White House Spokesperson Scott McClellan's book being released. In fact, at the same time the impeachment articles were presented, it was reported that McClellan will appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the Valerie Plame case. So current, relevant news hooks certainly do exist.

Obviously, the media is betting on this being a "non-story," i.e., insofar as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is "off the table," the proceedings won't proceed. But polls like this one show that the public is in favor of impeachment proceedings.

As I wrote this, a blog was just posted on USAToday that links to the PDF of the impeachment document, so now you can read it for yourself. But USAToday -- the newspaper and the "official" web site -- continues to offer no coverage of this historic event. Turn on the TV, and it's not even an item in the news crawler on CNN.

So what can we do about it?

1. Blog it. Buzz it up on Yahoo. Digg it. Share it on Facebook. Rate it up on YouTube. If the mainstream media won't report the news, then use our social media networks to spread the word.

2. Support independent and alternative media outlets by advertising and subscribing. Here in Portsmouth we've got the Wire and the grand-daddy of them all, the NH Gazette. (You know this will be front page news for their next issue!)

3. And while most of us don't feel comfortable calling our congresspersons, why not try your local paper. Ask them directly to cover the stories you feel are important.

1 comment:

longwaves said...

Scott, you need to read the book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" by Vincent Bugliosi. It just came out and is not getting media attention as well. I just picked it up and it's astounding.