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September 08, 2006

The Censorship Doctrine

Reading about the flap over ABC's caving in to pressure from former Clintonistas, it's hard not to worry just a tad about the future of democracy.

For starters, let's drop the comparisons with The Reagans; conservatives were up in arms about that miniseries because it was factually inaccurate.

And factual inaccuracies - no matter now niggling, even in docu-dramas produced by the infinitely well-meaning - rankle everyone who has an ox to gore.

But the Clintonistas' line is that Bill Clinton's administration was anything but worthless in combatting terrorism during the nineties. One of their big beefs is that the miniseries shows Clinton was indecisive to the point of worthless - which understandably rankles the former president (via Gandelman:

Clinton pointedly refuted several fictionalized scenes that he claims insinuate he was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to care about bin Laden and that a top adviser pulled the plug on CIA operatives who were just moments away from bagging the terror master, according to a letter to ABC boss Bob Iger obtained by The Post.
Except that it's not "fiction" (via KAR:
THE WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM was buzzing. It was fall 1998 and the National
Security Council (NSC) and the "intelligence community" were tracking the whereabouts of
Osama bin Laden, the shadowy mastermind of terrorist attacks on American targets overseas.

"They've successfully triangulated his location," yelled a "Sit Room" watch stander. "We've got him."

Beneath the West Wing of the White House, behind a vaulted steel door, the Sit Room
staff sprang into action. The watch officer notified National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, "Sir, we've located bin Laden. We have a two-hour window to strike."

Characteristic of the Clinton administration, the weapons of choice would be Tomahawk
missiles. No clandestine "snatch" by our Special Operations Forces. No penetrating bombers or high-speed fighter aircraft flown by our Air Force and Navy forces. No risk of losing American lives.

Berger ambled down the stairwell and entered the Sit Room. He picked up the phone at
one of the busy controller consoles and called the president. Amazingly, President Clinton was
not available. Berger tried again and again. Bin Laden was within striking distance. The window of opportunity was closing fast. The plan of attack was set and the Tomahawk crews were ready.

For about an hour Berger couldn't get the commander in chief on the line. Though the president was always accompanied by military aides and the Secret Service, he was somehow unavailable. Berger stalked the Sit Room, anxious and impatient.

Finally, the president accepted Berger's call. There was discussion, there were
pauses - and no decision. The president wanted to talk with his secretaries of defense and state.

He wanted to study the issue further. Berger was forced to wait. The clock was ticking. The
president eventually called back. He was still indecisive. He wanted more discussion. Berger
alternated between phone calls and watching the clock.

The NSC watch officer was convinced we had the right target. The intelligence sources
were conclusive. The president, however, wanted a guaranteed hit or nothing at all.
This time, it was nothing at all. We didn't pull the trigger. We "studied" the issue until it was too late - the window of opportunity closed. Al-Qaeda's spiritual and organizational leader slipped through the noose.

I suspect the extreme reaction of the Senate Democrats is based on the sudden recogntion that the fall campaign will be waged on the single issue of which party is serious about national security. The president's demand for action on key fronts yesterday has clearly thrown the Dems into disarray as they realize that the American electorate will not reward more fecklessness on the part of Democrats. Now arrives a major television event that exposes the specifics of Democrtaic-era "stewardship" of national security, and they are in a frenzy to do whatever it takes to keep that memory down the memory hole.
Like Gandelman and John Fund, I'm uneasy with the whole notion of the "Docudrama" - dramatizations of documentary events. But the "fictionalizations" of the events dramatized in the miniseries seem (at first, unviewed glance) not to bear on the facts drawn from the 9/11 Commission report so much as use a minor convenience of dramatic licence. Would it bother me were I a Clinton supporter? No - but the point would still stand. As the 9/11 commission noted:
Lieutenant General William Boykin, the current deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence and a founding member of Delta Force, told us that "opportunities were missed because of an unwillingness to take risks and a lack of vision and understanding."
I'd have preferred that the miniseries took no such liberties - but the liberties do not undercut the larger conclusion that the Clinton Adminstration...:
  • built the "wall" between CIA and FBI
  • Let Bin Laden go untouched several times
  • Reacted ineffectually to repeated terrorist strikes - the '93 World Trade Center bombing, the Khobar Towers, the Embassy bombings and the USS Cole.
But a flap over a miniseries is nothing compared to what this portends for conservatives if Democrats take over the White House - and the Federal Communications Commission. John Kerry and Howard Dean have both expressed a willingness to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine" - which would gut conservative broadcast media, the backbone of modern conservative activism - with a swipe of the pen and doing for Democrats by executive fiat what they couldn't do via the free market; stifling conservative dissent.

They've shown their willingness in this flap to go through back-channels and call in markers with network executives (as opposed to taking their case to the American people - a people who rejected the Democrats on exactly such grounds two years ago). Who knows what they'll do to take, and hold, power?

Posted by Mitch at September 8, 2006 06:38 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Conservatives were up in arm over "The Reagans" because it was facually innacurate... where as we liberals are up in arms over the fact that the filmmakers made up scenes that never happened...

Ummmmmm... OK...

Posted by: Doug at September 8, 2006 08:06 AM

Yep, can't have it both ways, Mitch. It's hard to get too riled up over the artistic freedom of people who produce cheesy network docudramas, but either get worked up or don't. You can't complain about inaccuracies in the Reagan movie and ignore 'em in the 9/11 movie.

I anticipate, by the way, that I'll read a thoughtful opinion from a certain source in Florida in another forum, to precisely the opposite effect of yours. He'll be wrong too.

Fortunately Angryclown, the most rational of creatures, is able to navigate around the self-serving arguments of partisans and reach the correct conclusion on the issues of the day.

Posted by: angryclown at September 8, 2006 08:22 AM

The Reagan film was a biopic. The docudrama is a film about the events leading to the single most deadly attack on the US in this country's history. to compare them is facetious.
The 9-11 docudrama vexes the left because they need to believe that 9-11, as well as everything they consider bad that has happened as a result of it, must be laid at the feet of the Bush administration. The left these days is like one of those hopeless barbarian religions that's all devils and hell and no heavan. Poor bastards.

Posted by: Terry at September 8, 2006 09:24 AM

Terry said,

"The Reagan film was a biopic. The docudrama is a film about the events leading to the single most deadly attack on the US in this country's history."

So Terry, wouldn't you expect that there would be a higher level of accuracy - especially since it is allegedly based on the official 9-11 report?

There are scenes and scenarios that are complete fabrications.

How in Gods name can that be acceptable to Conservatives? It wasn't acceptable with the Reagan film? How can it be acceptable here?

Posted by: Doug at September 8, 2006 09:35 AM

Terry, 9/11 is the fault of Democrats and Republicans, stretching back into the Reagan administration. Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, both Bushes, and their subordinates failed. Some failures were understandable, some were not--but all had ample warnings, and all made significant mistakes.

That is not in dispute. If you want to put together an accurate assessment of Bill Clinton's failures in fighting al Qaeda, please do so--such an assessment can help us avoid those mistakes in the future.

But this isn't an accurate assessment; it's fantasy. It's third-rate, hackneyed spy novel junk. And when you're dealing with 9/11, you need to be better than that. Period.

Posted by: Jeff Fecke at September 8, 2006 09:40 AM

Conservate Senators never threatened censorship over the Reagan flick. That's the stand-out difference in the reaction between then and now.

Posted by: Rich at September 8, 2006 09:44 AM

"The Reagans" was a personal assault on a sick old man no longer capable of defending himself. "The Path to 9/11" is apparently a dramatization of well-known and well-documented events, subject to interpretation, exposing the feckless leadership of our effete elite. The Bush Administration, however feckless, has determined that the enemy is Islamic terrorism and has somehow managed to fight it at home and abroad. The Democrats, having first stolen documents out of the national archives to obscure the historical record, and having only recently exhausted themselves, after 3 years, lying in bed with Joe Wilson, have finally determined the enemy is Walt Disney, ABC, and the television film industry, which they intend to censor.

Apparently, the brave legacy of America's first black president cannot even withstand the power of a television mini-series. Is it that fragile? Why does the party of "count every vote" and "Bush lied" not want us to see a TV show? Are they afraid? Do they have something to hide? Afterall, it's only a TV show. And as angry clown has said, any rational creature is "able to navigate around the self-serving arguments of partisans and reach the correct conclusion on the issues of the day." So why are the Democrats censoring Walt Disney and ABC?? Are they not rational?? Are they against free speech??

Afterall, if Bush can be Hitler, why can't Bill Clinton be Mickey Mouse??

Posted by: Eracus at September 8, 2006 09:51 AM

"Afterall, if Bush can be Hitler, why can't Bill Clinton be Mickey Mouse??"

Reminds me of that joke...

What do Clarabelle and (in this case, Bill Clinton, since he is Mickey Mouse) have in common?

They're both (BLEEP)ing Goofy.

Posted by: Bill C at September 8, 2006 11:38 AM

Babs Streisand said this in 2003 in response to “The Reagans” being under fire:


“Can you imagine what a biopic of Clinton would include? Of course, Clinton fans understand and accept the truth about the former president. They know that although he was a great president in many ways, overseeing economic prosperity and making great strides in creating a more peaceful world, he was also flawed. They don't try to prevent depictions of the truth from getting out there.”

Yesterday’s Reuters story said this:

“Amid an election-year debate over who can best defend America, U.S. congressional Democrats urged ABC on Thursday to cancel a TV miniseries about the September 11 attacks that is critical of former Democratic President Bill Clinton and his top aides.”


Babs, where are you now? You said three years ago that you libs “don't try to prevent depictions of the truth from getting out there.” Let the Congressional Democrats know you meant it!!

Posted by: Brad at September 8, 2006 01:55 PM

Jeff & Doug-
It's called a docuDRAMA. It's not a documentary. I understand that there are legitimate complaints about the way the authors compressed the action so that certain individuals appeared to be more at fault for 9/11 than history tells us they really were. On the other hand, even the most scrupulously accurate documentary 'Path to 9/11' would have to show that Clinton administration didn't take al Qaida seriously for 8 years while the Bush administration didn't take it seriously for just eight months.

Posted by: Terry at September 8, 2006 08:15 PM

Terry, you're presenting a false premise. The Clinton administration DID take al Qaida seriously. It was the American public, American media and most importantly, Congress didn't take al Qaida seriously.

This country was fixated on Clinton's sperm on a blue dress and people like Drudge, Hannity and Limbaugh preached the "Wag the Dog" crap ad-nauseum every time he took military action in any part of the world. Remember guys, the "liberal media" showed clips from "Wag the Dog" when Clinton spoke about terrorism. Yeah... We took it real seriously didn't we.

There was a new Clintongate scandal every week popping up in the Conservative media and now you guys have the balls to complain that Clinton was too pre-occupied with distractions like the Lewinski matter to focus on terrorism?

Golly. I wonder why He was so distracted... Maybe because that was you goal.

Why in the F*** did Republicans demand that we spent 6 years and 80 million dollars to find out Clinton couldn't keep his dick in his pants when we should have been listening to the real warnings that his administration WAS talking about? Why did Trent Lott and Jesse Helms openly and sarchastically dismiss the threats that Clinton was talking about?

All this crap about what what Clinton or Bush didn't do is complete BS. It's typical victim attitude crap - blame someone else for the conditions that we created.

Posted by: Doug at September 8, 2006 09:58 PM

Doug-
In your last comment you seem to be arguing that the left should leave off attacking the Bush administration because it might distract him from the more important job of catching Osama and winning the War on Terror.

Posted by: Terry at September 9, 2006 09:01 AM

That was beautiful. Thank-you, Doug. You have finally admitted that Clinton was more concerned about his public image than he was about national security.

"Golly. I wonder why He was so distracted..."

This from someone who crows with delight everytime some half-a55ed poll show Bush's popularity is tanking. Thank God President Bush doesn't allow the sniveling sycophants of public opinion to distract him. Five years, no major attacks.

Posted by: Kermit at September 9, 2006 09:14 AM

Yeah, thank God we don't live in some pansy-ass democracy where the leaders have to care whether two thirds of the citizens think they suck.

Posted by: angryclown at September 9, 2006 05:29 PM

Terry said,

"you seem to be arguing that the left should leave off attacking the Bush administration because it might distract him from the more important job of catching Osama and winning the War on Terror."

Gee Terry. You seem to be suggesting that Democrats criticizing Bush for getting us into an unnecessary and unjustified war in Iraq is the same as Republicans convening a Grand Jury to investigate a real estate transaction and a charge of sexual harrasement.

Kermit said,

"You have finally admitted that Clinton was more concerned about his public image than he was about national security."

Ummm... No I didn't. I said Republicans were more interested in attacking Clinton with charges of illegal real estate transactions and sexual harrassment than national security.

"This from someone who crows with delight everytime some half-a55ed poll show Bush's popularity is tanking."

Really? Example please.

"Thank God President Bush doesn't allow the sniveling sycophants of public opinion to distract him. Five years, no major attacks."

Five Years, no Democratic Congress pursuing Bush for real estate transactions and sexual harrassment accusations.

Posted by: Doug at September 9, 2006 07:11 PM

Your case would be a LOT stronger if you didn't quote from a Regnery book. If that's all it takes to be persuasive, I guess I should quote from books put out by the Socia[not an erection medication!]list Workers Press.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at September 10, 2006 11:00 AM

Brad said: "Babs, where are you now? You said three years ago that you libs 'don't try to prevent depictions of the truth from getting out there.' Let the Congressional Democrats know you meant it!!"

That would make sense, Brad, and perhaps even be as funny and winning a slam on Babs and other liberals as you intended, if it were truthful depictions of the Clinton administration in "The Path to 9/11" that were so troubling. But it's not. It's outright lies and fabrications.

Posted by: Beeeej at September 11, 2006 09:04 AM

Not only that but it's becoming clearer who is behind it.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060925/path_to_911

Read it carefully - especially the part about the Christian Reconstructionists.

Posted by: Doug at September 11, 2006 08:53 PM

"It's outright lies and fabrications."

Exactly my point!! "The Reagans" was proven to have lies and fabrications. Babs stuck up for it anyways.

Posted by: Brad at September 12, 2006 09:21 PM

Brad said,

"Exactly my point!! "The Reagans" was proven to have lies and fabrications. Babs stuck up for it anyways."

And it was sold as a drama based on an stupid unauthorized biography. Everyone pretty much knew that it was going to be crap.

The Path was sold as the truth about 9-11 based on the official 9-11 report. They were persuaded to change their marketing and say it was a docudrama but over seas, it was still advertised as the truth about 9-11.

Understand the difference Brad? One was sold as fictionalized... The other was sold as based on fact.

The producers and filmmakers knew this was going to be inflamatory Brad. For ABC to broadcast this blatant partisan hit piece on the 5 year anniversary of 9-11 is shameful.

You may need to believe this is about free speech but it's nothing more than another divisive, Democratic bashing stunt.

Posted by: Doug at September 13, 2006 07:15 PM
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