Just observe the attitude toward Dick Cheney of two top Washington reporters - ABC News' Rick Klein and CBS' Chip Reid. If you want to know why, for example, the MSM's discourse on the interrogation tactics of Bush and Cheney is still dictated by the last administration, check out their reflexive sense of deference to a man who left office with an approval rating barely in double digits.
Now take John King's interview with Dick Cheney on Sunday. King is a usually fair and very well-informed reporter. So informed that he was aware of the newspaper Human Events, and even bragged of his insider knowledge of it on the air, but apparently was unable to read the New York Times on the day of the interview. In the Times, we found out that the International Red Cross unequivocally called the treatment of terror suspects by Cheney and Bush torture. With that news breaking, King asked the following question:
[S]ince taking office, President Obama has done these things to change the policies you helped put in place. He has announced he will close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. He has announced he will close CIA black sites around the world, where they interrogate terror suspects. Says he will make CIA interrogators abide by the Army Field Manual, defined waterboarding as torture and ban it, suspend trials for terrorists by military commission, and now eliminate the label of enemy combatants.
I'd like to just simply ask you, yes or no, by taking those steps, do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?
Notice the formulation that King used with respect to what the Red Cross has now called torture. In King's words, the black sites were simply "where they interrogate terror suspects," in almost the exact same terms that the last president used to conceal what was done there. King then follows up by saying that Obama has "defined waterboarding as torture", where the truth is that Obama has no more power to define waterboarding as torture than Cheney has in denying it. The law has always clearly and categorically defined it as torture.
But telling the truth - and confronting the powerful with it - ruins the aura of objectivity; and offends sources whom one needs for future scoops. It makes an interview unpleasant and confrontational, when both Cheney and King go out of their way to signal their familiarity and almost friendship with one another. King did ask some tough questions in this interview, but not the question that every historian will want to ask and that Cheney didn't want to answer.
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