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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Long before he would become America’s 65th secretary of state, Colin Powell was a young Army officer who served two combat tours in Vietnam. There, Lt. Powell held in his arms a young American soldier whose body had been blown apart — and whose life would, in a few hours, be ended — by a land mine. Colin Powell understood the responsibility and the pain of comforting the dying, and of then writing a personal letter to the parents of the soldier whose remains would be coming home in a pine box, because powerful and important men in Washington had determined it was necessary for young Americans to fight and to die in the rice paddies of Vietnam in order to stop international communism.

From such painful, personal experiences would come, a quarter-century later, when he was serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, the “Powell doctrine,” which argued that the United States should only as a last resort, and only after all other nonviolent options had been tried, send our men and women into combat. Powell insisted that before such action, our vital national security interest be threatened by the identified adversary, and that we take action only when the U.S. forces were overwhelmingly disproportionate to the forces of the adversary; and only after the mission was fully understood by and strongly supported by the American public; and only when the U.S. mission had real international backing. Finally, before any such an action was launched, there had to be a coherent and agreed-upon exit strategy for the U.S. troops.

The Powell doctrine was accepted and followed in the first Gulf War after Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces had invaded their oil-wealthy neighbor Kuwait. Republican President George H.W. Bush, with Democrats in control of the Congress, won House and Senate support as well as the backing of the United Nations Security Council for military action to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. The United States also created a coalition of 39 nations and persuaded Saudi Arabia, Germany, Kuwait and Japan to pay 81 percent of the costs of $61 billion. The United States deployed 540,000 troops; the war lasted less than three months; 383 Americans died.

That was 1991. Sadly, in 2001, when the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11 and another Bush was in the White House and Colin Powell was secretary of state, the United States ignored the Powell doctrine. The cost of having done that is evident everywhere around us: As of this writing, some 18 bloody years later, 6,989 American families have buried a son, father, brother, husband, wife, daughter, sister or mother who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. An America that had taught for centuries that “war demands equality of sacrifice” forgot that value and instead asked no sacrifice of the privileged and the prosperous. Instead of the traditional American response of tax increases to pay for the cost of the wars, tax cuts of more than $6 billion — overwhelmingly skewed, more than 65 percent of them to the richest Americans — have been the signature of these wars that required no home-front rationing, or even required civilians to pay attention to the fighting and the dying of their fellow Americans.

Forget any new, bigger Fourth of July parade or empty “thank you for your service” lip service. Let’s be honest with one another: The Powell doctrine is dead, and we Americans (most of us, anyway), have shown ourselves unwilling, as we once were, “to pay any price, to bear any burden, to meet any hardship … to assure the survival of liberty.”

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

 

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Rep. Bennie Thompson

Photo by Customs and Border Protection (Public domain)

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.


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