Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is a journalist, media critic and founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College

July 8th, 2013 4:03 PM

How Do You Know When President Obama Is Lying? MSNBC Won't Tell You

I was a young person when I first heard the quip: "How do you know when the President is lying? His lips are moving." At the time, President Nixon was expanding the war in Vietnam to other countries and deploying the White House "plumbers" to commit crimes against antiwar leakers.

Forty years have passed. Sadly, these days, often when I see President Obama moving his lips, I assume he's lying.

Like Nixon, our current president is prolonging an endless, borderless and counter-productive war ("on terror") and waging a parallel war against "national security" leakers that makes the plumbers' burglary of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office look almost quaint.

The World War I vintage Espionage Act, originally used to imprison socialists for making antiwar speeches, has been used by the administration against whistleblowers with a vengeance unprecedented in history: eight leakers have been charged with Espionage under Obama, compared to three under all previous presidents. The Obama administration has prosecuted not a single CIA torturer, but has imprisoned a CIA officer who talked about torture with a journalist. National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who was unable to get abuses fixed internally, now has a criminal record for communicating with a reporter years ago about sweeping domestic surveillance.

So there I was watching Obama's lips move about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at a June 27 press conference. Saying he wouldn't be "scrambling military jets to go after a 29-year-old hacker," Obama added that he would not "start wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited."

I didn't believe a word of it.

Given Obama's war on whistleblowers and journalists who utilize them, and given the Army's abusive treatment of military whistleblower Bradley Manning (apparently aimed at getting him to implicate WikiLeaks), it's inconceivable that Obama was truly blasé about Snowden. To deter future whistleblowers, Snowden would have to be caught and made an example of - and probably mistreated (like Manning, in hopes of getting him to turn against WikiLeaks and even journalist Glenn Greenwald).

As his lips were moving, Obama knew well that he would go to extreme lengths to prevent this articulate young man from securing asylum in some Latin American country, where he could continue to inform the world's media about the Surveillance State that has blossomed alongside the Warfare State under the Bush and Obama administrations.

That Obama wasn't truthful became clear when the U.S. campaign of "wheeling and dealing" led to possible asylum countries retreating in fear one after another (Vice President Biden was deployed to pressure Ecuador's president by phone). And even clearer with last week's outrageous, international law-breaking that effectively forced down the presidential plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales.

And if Obama eventually does scramble jets to force down a plane with Snowden on board, the commander-in-chief will be applauded for taking bold and decisive action by mainstream TV talking heads, "national security" experts and the opposition he seems most intent on pleasing: conservatives. Criticism from civil libertarian and peace voices (or unions and environmentalists, for that matter) has rarely daunted Obama.

The bipartisan consensus in support of our bloated Military/Surveillance State -- which so undermines our society as a whole -- is reflected in Congress and both the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as mainstream media.

When it comes to issues of U.S. militarism and spying, the allegedly "progressive" MSNBC often seems closer to the "official network of the Obama White House" than anything resembling an independent channel. With a few exceptions (especially Chris Hayes), MSNBC has usually reacted to expanded militarism and surveillance by downplaying the abuses or defending them.

Had McCain or Romney defeated Obama and implemented the exact same policies, treating whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden as foreign espionage agents, one would expect MSNBC hosts to be loudly denouncing the Republican abuses of authority.

But with Obama in power, a number of MSNBC talking heads have reacted to the Snowden disclosures like Fox News hosts did when they were in hysterical damage control mode for Bush - complete with ridiculously fact-free claims and national chauvinism that we've long come to expect from the "fair & balanced" channel.

As Snowden arrived in Russia from Hong Kong, MSNBC host Ed Schultz blustered on about Snowden as a "punk" and "coward." Railing about the "security of the country" in tones Hannity would approve of, Schultz questioned Snowden's patriotism and credibility, asking: "If the United States of America is doing something so egregiously wrong in its surveillance program, how come he's the only one speaking up?

In O'Reilly-like blissful ignorance, Schultz seemed unaware of the three NSA whistleblowers who'd loudly spoken up way earlier than Snowden -- and gathered for an illuminating group interview with USA Today a week before his tirade.

I watched one MSNBC host function as an auxiliary prosecutor in Obama's Justice Department, going after Snowden -- while trying to link WikiLeaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald to criminal flight.

MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry has been condemning Snowden by contrasting him with civil disobedients who "love their country" and submit to arrest -- while Snowden just wants to "save his own skin." She proclaimed: "This is different. This is dangerous to our nation." Should we similarly dismiss Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the top secret Pentagon Papers to a dozen newspapers in 1971 by going on the lam from the FBI. Or Watergate's "Deep Throat," who saved his own skin by hiding his identity for 30 years after leaking secrets that helped crash the Nixon presidency?

In a bizarre monologue attacking Snowden (who's risked plenty, in my view), Harris-Perry hailed those who engage in civil disobedience for being willing "to risk your own freedom, your own body in order to bring attention to something that needs to be known. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, attacked, smeared. Nelson Mandela went to prison for 27 years." (My emphasis.)

Nelson Mandela? He wasn't a civil disobedient who gave himself up. He was a fugitive, fleeing the apartheid police. He was on the lam domestically, like Snowden is now internationally. And some reports indicate that South African authorities were able to nab Mandela thanks to the U.S. CIA (one of the agencies now on the hunt for Snowden).

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has also disappointed. After doing a typically thorough presentation on the force-down of President's Morales' plane, she ended her report by expressing displeasure only that Washington had apparently gotten allies to go out on the limb "for nothing." Her objection to the harassment seemed to be: it hadn't succeeded. I didn't hear opposition to the action had Snowden actually been on board and apprehended.

The Snowden/NSA story proves once again that -- especially on so-called "national security" issues -- we need strong, independent media not enmeshed with the corporate/political power structure and not allied with one of the two corporate parties.

We can't count on MSNBC to heed the lesson taught by legendary independent journalist I.F. "Izzy" Stone, after years reporting from Washington: "All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed."

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles