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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Playing president.

Journalist Robert Scheer has been around a long time. I first read his work in the 1960s, when he was writing for Ramparts [an excellent New Left magazine]. From the mid=1970s until earlier this year, he was national correspondent and a contributing editor for the LA Times. These days, Scheer hangs his hat mainly at The Nation and TruthDig.
Robert Scheer's book, Playing President
Scheer has covered every president since Richard Nixon, and has done in-depth interview with all of them — with the notable and not surprising exception of the current occupant of the Oval Office. Scheer has taken what he learned from those interviews and from being a close observer of the US poltical process and written a book, Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton -- and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush. The book examines how the presidency has changed over the past three decades, especially how television has affected the way presidents govern and the way that the press covers — or doesn't cover — important political issues.

Over at AlterNet, Onnesha Roychoudhuri has an excellent interview with Scheer about his book, the presidents he has met, and why US politics are so screwed up. You should read more than just the excerpt here.

OR: Has it been frustrating for you -- to see the same issues that plague our country come up time and again? Are you hopeful, or have you become more cynical?

RS: It is true that the same issues come up, and we don't make as much progress as we could. Immigration is a good example. I've been covering immigration for 40 years now. The truth of the matter is quite simple: If you don't want people coming here, don't have the jobs. The way not to have the jobs is to enforce the labor laws and to go after employers. Politicians aren't going to do that because they're important sectors of the economy that are dependent upon this cheap labor force.

Every four or five years, we get some new hysteria about immigration when the fact is that undocumented workers, illegal immigrants, are contributing much more to society than taking out. Anyone who really studies it knows that, but you can find all kinds of ways of using it to fan the flames of hysteria. It's a sign of progress that there was a recent outpouring of people who know better, particularly people in the immigrant communities. They stopped Congress from doing some terrible mischief.

There's the same old national security hysteria, the call for bigger and bigger defense budgets when we're trying to stop people who use box cutters and primitive knives to capture airplanes. But there are signs of progress: sites like AlterNet, MoveOn, Buzzflash and Truthdig, where you can go to get alternative information.

OR: You say in your book that George W. Bush is the first electronically projected president. Can you explain that?

RS: This administration doesn't feel they need a mindful audience. They don't care about facts, logic or consequences. They are the most cynical people that I've ever encountered in politics. This is the most cynical bunch -- just think about that "reality-based community" quote. They create their own reality. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of cynicism before, and I'm the guy who interviewed Richard Nixon.

These guys are, as John Dean keeps pointing out, far worse than the Nixon crowd because they think they can get away with it. Nixon, at the end of the day thought it mattered what the New York Times said. He felt that if there was a big contradiction, a big error, they would catch him and there would be all hell to pay.

There's no longer that feeling. Over the years, I'm not getting cynical -- they're cynical. If I were truly cynical I wouldn't be talking to you, and I wouldn't be writing and teaching. Mark Twain said a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on. Well, the fact is the truth does get its pants on, it does catch up, and right now 65 percent of Americans think Bush lied to them.

You can read the rest of the interview here. In addition, AlterNet has posted an excerpt from Playing Politics that you can read here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:01 AM | Get permalink

Liar, liar, pants on fire!


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