Friday, February 24, 2006
By BONNIE ERBE
Scripps Howard News Service
Those blasphemously "liberal" media outlets have once again deprived the American public of widespread coverage of nothing less than startling poll results. The non-partisan polling firm Zogby International last month found that by a margin of 52 percent to 43 percent, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush "if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval."
Well, there's no "if" about it anymore. The president approved warrantless wiretaps in 2002. Two years later, during a campaign appearance in Buffalo, N.Y. he volunteered he'd done nothing of the kind. That's called breaking the law and lying about it.
Yes, the poll results have been reported on a few Web sites. But they have not exactly been trumpeted by the Blow Hard Boys on the Fox News Channel, nor even "front-paged" on the New York Times. Nor have they appeared as the lead story on any of the evening newscasts. From the right to the left, this poll has been ignored _ as has a recent Gallup poll showing a majority of Americans consider the Bush presidency to be a failure. Why? Because it's seen as risky.
Media inattention to the growing American pro-impeachment sentiment is not a partisan issue. Reasonable, honest Republicans such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have criticized Bush's wiretapping "sans" court approval as a violation of the law and basic civil liberties.
Former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., now a conservative TV commentator, also sees the president's actions as law-breaking. Conservative legal analyst Bruce Fein, who worked in the Reagan Justice Department, wrote in The Washington Times that Bush should face "possible impeachment" if the practice is not stopped.
Personally, I do not find illegal wiretapping to be the worst offense committed against our nation by this president. I'd rate purposefully destructive federal overspending as the most egregious transgression. Did you happen to notice last week Treasury Secretary John Snow "informed Congress that he would begin borrowing from the federal employees' retirement fund to avoid exceeding the nation's statutory debt limit of $8.184 trillion"? That, as reported by my Scripps Howard colleague, Dale McFeatters.
I'd rate "tricking" Americans into a costly, deadly, unwinnable war in Iraq and alienating most other nations as second. I'd rate wanton disregard for science and the promotion of so-called junk science _ to wit, global warming is a gossamer concept _ as an excuse for environmental destruction as third. Abramoff-related partisan corruption and the outing of CIA agent Plame would figure in there somewhere. And somewhere lower down the list would come warrantless wiretaps.
But grassroots passion for impeachment prompted by this president's circumvention of Congress and the Constitution is what's driving growing public support. And America's transition from "Bush fan" to "Bush foe" is being ignored by the mainstream media.
Surprisingly, the media did anything but ignore the Republican-led impeachment movement against former President Clinton, even when the public was decidedly more supportive of that president than it is of the current one
In December 1998, after the House voted to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate, 59 percent of Americans told Washington Post/ABC News pollsters they disapproved of the House action. A minority of 40 percent said they favored it. And that followed months and months of nonstop, primetime, mainstream media coverage of Clinton's lie. If anything, the constant chorus of conservative calls for Clinton's ouster coupled with unending coverage of same should have pushed the public into a more solidly pro-impeachment stand. It did not. But the media did not relent. (For the record, I wrote at the time that Clinton should step down.)
Of course, U.S. leadership is rearranged now. Clinton, a Democrat, faced an opposition-led Congress. Even if congressional minority party Democrats could muster the backbone to make a unified call for impeachment hearings, they lack the votes to succeed in either chamber. At least Republicans succeeded in the Republican-controlled House against Clinton, although they ultimately lost in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Where are the oft-denounced "liberal" media on this issue? Truth is, the "liberal" media is and always was a figment of extreme (not mainstream) conservative rhetoric. The corporate media stays where it almost always has been _ to the right of center and shying away from risky topics.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)