Sunday, April 08, 2007

About-Face the Nation

Reporter Bob Schieffer is a great example of exactly how useless — and potentially dangerous — the mainstream media are. On today’s Face the Nation broadcast, he helped theocratic candidate Mike Huckabee spread misinformation that, if accepted by enough viewers, would lead the country backward into the church-dominated Middle Ages.

Huckabee, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is a Baptublican who served as a pastor from 1980-1992. That should make him no stranger to bilking money from the gullible. But, so far at least, Huckabee’s candidacy doesn’t seem to have a financial prayer.

A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the candidate is a firm believer in a woman’s right to have a baby whether she wants to or not. He also supports a Constitutional ban on unbiblical gay marriage, and opposes federal funding for soul-killing stem-cell research. His view of science education was enunciated a few years ago on “Arkansans Ask,” a radio call-in show:

I think that students should also be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution, but to the basis of those who believe in creationism....I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally.
No, what he necessarily buys into, personally, is a collection of unsubstantiated fairy tales. The sad thing is that if he had his way, it would be U.S. citizens’ taxpayer dollars that he uses to make his purchase.

In introducing this medieval crank, Schieffer twice told viewers how remarkable Huckabee was.

SCHIEFFER: Even he would admit he’s at the back of the pack, but he is among the most interesting of the candidates this year.
SCHIEFFER: He is also a candidate who says what he thinks, and he is one of the more interesting people around politics, if I do say so.
Schieffer’s idea of “interesting” sets an unprecedentedly low standard for the usage of that word.

During the interview that followed, the reporter kissed the candidate’s behind so hard, that Huckabee will have trouble sitting down for a week. Schieffer spoon-fed the blandest of questions at the interviewee, and accepted without question the predigested answers. An early response of Huckabee’s showed the audience just how interesting he is:

HUCKABEE: ... [T]hose who claim that they represent a certain branch of our party, primarily the Christian evangelicals, got into politics because of adherence to certain moral principles. Now, if those moral principles no longer are the driving force, they render their whole purpose for being in politics irrelevant ...
At least Huckabee was honest in this blatant endorsement of a taliban-style state. But Schieffer was so uninterested in the implications of Huckabee’s statement that he let it go.

The most infuriating interchange during the interview was this one:

SCHIEFFER: Well, let’s talk a little bit about what you’re for and what you’re against. I noticed that you said at one point, “We have to stop driving god out of the public square.” You are an evangelical, I take it?


SCHIEFFER: What is the connection between government and god in your view?

Notice that Schieffer gave Huckabee yet another opportunity to thump for theocracy.
HUCKABEE: Well, the First Amendment’s pretty clear, and it’s simply this, that government should neither prefer or prohibit the practice of religions. Government shouldn’t go and tell people how to worship or even that they should worship. Government ought to have a hands-off attitude. [Correct so far: The Exterminator] But what government shouldn’t do is tell people that they can’t, or put restrictions. And so I think we’ve made something complicated out of something that the founding fathers really made very simple in the First Amendment. You neither prefer one religion over another, but you don’t prohibit the free exercise thereof. And so when there are efforts made, whether it’s because of political correctness or court decisions that have run amok, where you say you can’t have a nativity scene or a menorah on capitol grounds, that’s absurd ...

SCHIEFFER: All right.

HUCKABEE: We ought to welcome the discussion of faith in the public square.

Now, Schieffer could have said any of a number of things here that would have gently — not adamantly, but amicably, and merely for clarification’s sake — pointed out how Huckabee’s reading of the First Amendment is wrong, wrong, wrong. He might have explained to Huckabee that Congress is forbidden to make “any law respecting an establishment of religion.” The clause does not say a religion, but religion in general, religion of any kind. Thus, according to the Constitution, the government is most definitely not prohibiting the free exercise of religion when it refuses to spend public funds supporting anyone’s beliefs.

Perhaps Schieffer might have at least said, emulating Huckabee’s phraseology on evolution: “I do not necessarily buy into your interpretation of the First Amendment, personally.”

Instead, here’s what he did say:

SCHIEFFER: And where do you come down on the war?
New subject. Huckabee’s antihistorical drivel went undisputed.

Shortly thereafter, the candidate ended the interview by pulling a familiar rabbit out of his hat:

HUCKABEE: Thank you, and happy Easter to you and all your viewers.
Schieffer did not remind Huckabee that at least some of his viewers — say, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Zarathustrans, and, of course, atheists — might not care for such a benediction. Instead, the great reporter replied:

Thus, in just a few short minutes, Face the Nation became a venue for unchallenged propaganda. The program helped a godpushing humbug hurl his half-truths without rebuttal. Is that an example of irresponsible journalism? To quote Schieffer: You bet.