Monday, May 10, 2004

GOOD RUMMY, BAD RUMMY. From William Safire's New York Times column today:

Shortly after 9/11, with the nation gripped by fear and fury, the Bush White House issued a sweeping and popular order to crack down on suspected terrorists. The liberal establishment largely fell cravenly mute. A few lonely civil libertarians spoke out. When I used the word "dictatorial," conservatives, both neo- and paleo-, derided my condemnation as "hysterical."

One Bush cabinet member paid attention. [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld appointed a bipartisan panel of attorneys to re-examine that draconian edict. As a result, basic protections for the accused Qaeda combatants were included in the proposed military tribunals.

Perhaps because of those protections, the tribunals never got off the ground. (The Supreme Court will soon, I hope, provide similar legal rights to suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens.) But in the panic of the winter of 2001, Rumsfeld was one of the few in power concerned about prisoners' rights. Some now demanding his scalp then supported the repressive Patriot Act.

From Seymour Hersh's latest, in this week's New Yorker:

The Pentagon's impatience with military protocol extended to questions about the treatment of prisoners caught in the course of its military operations. Soon after 9/11, as the war on terror got under way, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly made public his disdain for the Geneva conventions. Complaints about America's treatment of prisoners, Rumsfeld said in early 2002, amounted to "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation."

Safire is a serious civil libertarian who doesn't mind whacking his fellow conservatives, so his observations about the Good Rummy can't be dismissed lightly. But it's pretty obvious that Rumsfeld's occasional good deeds have been overwhelmed by his disdain for anyone and anything that interfered with his ability to do what he damn well pleased.

CREDENTIALS? THEY DON'T NEED NO STINKING CREDENTIALS! Joanna Weiss reports in today's Boston Globe on the Democratic National Committee's plan to issue press credentials to some bloggers. There's a numbers game going on, and apparently not everyone who wants credentials will get them.

This isn't going to matter to establishment types. For instance, Weiss mentions Josh Marshall, who writes Talking Points Memo; but Marshall's got nothing to be concerned about, since he also writes a column for the Hill, a print publication. (Media Log plans to be at the convention as well, blogging and also reporting for the print edition of the Phoenix.)

Bloggers have just as much of a right to be there as anyone else. Particularly out of it is Jerry Gallegos, head of the House Press Gallery, who told Weiss, "Anyone with a computer and home publishing can call themselves whatever they want. If it's a retired couple that just decides they've got an opinion, that doesn't make them a news organization. It just makes them a retired couple with an opinion and a website." Yeah, but Grandma and Grandpa might just be kicking the ass of the hometown daily to which Gallegos would issue credentials without a question.

Still, there's some serious naïveté on the part of bloggers if they think credentials are going to do much for them. There are lots of great stories at conventions, but very few of them take place inside the convention hall. Even fully credentialed mainstream journalists are only rarely able to gain access to the floor - not that there's any great thrill in that other than to be able to say you were there. Mainly you wander the building checking out the news-org set-ups and looking for interesting people to talk to.

Outside is another story, and it strikes me that that's where bloggers could do their most important work: at the protests, at the parties, panels, and seminars, and at the numerous events that will be staged by those trying to get their message out. I'm not aware of anything being planned that's as cool as the "shadow conventions" Arianna Huffington put together in Philadelphia and Los Angeles four years ago, but certainly something - no doubt many somethings - will pop up.

Here's a dirty little secret: even credentialed reporters inside the hall watch the convention on television. So bloggers ought not to worry about credentials and bring their laptops to Boston. They'll have plenty to write about.

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