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Sayonara to Mike Wallace And The News Era He Led; Obama Goes Super Hawk

April 9th, 2012 - by:

Now On Aljazeera.com: My Complete Essay On Barack Obama Goes Superhawk

Obama turns super-hawk

Stealing George W Bush’s playbook, Obama has decided to repackage himself as a tough guy in the war against terror.

As Obama raises the bar with demands before negotiations with Iran get underway, the media seems to be reporting that Iran is preparing to hang tough—and that it is preparing a compromise position.

• Fluent: ‘Iran Holds Firm on Nuclear ‘Rights’ as Talks Loom’

• The Atlantic: Obama Should Run Against The Supreme Court

•Consortium News: More On The Power Of the Supremes

The Political and Money War At Home

NYT: GOP SuperPAC takes Aim At Obama With TV ad Blitz Costing Mucho Millions

American Crossroads, the biggest of the Republican “super PACs,” is planning to begin its first major anti-Obama advertising blitz of the year, a moment the Obama re-election campaign has been girding for and another sign that the general election is starting in earnest.

With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place.

Steven J. Law, the group’s leader, said the ads would address the challenge of unseating a president who polls show is viewed favorably even though many people disapprove of his handling of the economy. Basically, Mr. Law said, “how to dislodge voters from him.”

The ultimate goal of the Crossroads campaign, Mr. Law said, would be to better connect Americans’ disappointment with the economy to their views of the president, especially among crucial swing voters.

SAYONARA TO MIKE WALLACE AND THE NEWS ERA HE LED

By Danny Schechter

New York: Mike Wallace lived a long life and became one of America’s best-known non-anchor news stars, whose frequent appearances stirred controversies and broke countless stories.

The picture in the New York Times obit showed his wall of Emmys—I am sure he had a museumfull—all thanks to his relentless drive and unlimited energy.

Later in life, he would acknowledge that he was a manic depressive, but it was that manic part that pushed him to interview a who’s who of who was, and expose endless bad guys often with gimmicky confrontational interviews that showcased his considerable talents on 60 Minutes, for decades. America’s most watched news magazine.

My earliest memory of him was not on CBS where he achieved iconic status but on a network that came and went called Dumont, where he did an interview show for many years before he went national.

The show was called Night Beat, and was shot in black and white in a darkened studio that Mike lit up with his questions and chain smoking, very much in the Edward R, Murrow tradition.

The episode that stuck with me was his interview with Michael J. Quill, the late president of New York’s Transport Workers Union who liked to strike on New Year’s Eve to get the best deals for his members.

The two Mikes were going mano a mano, when Wallace, with black hair slicked back, posed a simple question that I’ve never forgotten.

He asked: “How did you organize such a diverse group of workers into one union?

Quill smiled, and then responded with that Irish brogue of his, saying, “Well Michael, there was one issue that brought the men together.”

And what was that?

“There was a lack of toilets for the subway workers.”

“And not only that, Michael,” he added, “where there were toilets, there was no toilet paper.”

That was the issue: the lack of tissue.

The two men had a great laugh and I learned a big lesson about how it is often the small things some times that piss people off enough to stand up for their rights.

Somehow, because of that late fifties moment, I thought of Wallace as some kind of a progressive until it was reported that he had voted for Richard Nixon. (His son Chris now works for Fox News, perhaps because of the values he was taught as a kid. I am not sure about that!)

Many of Wallace’s interviews were far more combative and he turned the macho face-off into a personal signature that resembled nothing so much as wrestling, a far more successful TV format. At ABC he was labeled, “the Terrible Torquemada of the TV Inquisition.”

Ironically, Wallace later said the interviews he enjoyed the most were the more honest probing ones he did earlier in his career.

Later in his life, he would become the center of an embarrassing scandal when 60 Minutes, at the behest of the CBS brass, killed an investigation of a cigarette company accused of knowingly manufacturing a product that caused cancer.

Wallace got into a very ugly spat with his long time producer Lowell Bergman that was later featured in a movie that exposed Wallace’s complicity. (He later did the story but his reputation suffered a blow.)

Wallace would became famous not for probing questions about the working class but for stagey interviews about the ruling class.

The New York Times cited one:

“Mr. Wallace created enough such moments to become a paragon of television journalism in the heyday of network news. As he grilled his subjects, he said, he walked “a fine line between sadism and intellectual curiosity.”
His success often lay in the questions he hurled, not the answers he received.

“Perjury,” he said, in his staccato style, to President Richard M. Nixon’s right-hand man, John D. Ehrlichman, while interviewing him during the Watergate affair. “Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Theft of psychiatric records. Spying by undercover agents. Conspiracy to obstruct justice. All of this by the law-and-order administration of Richard Nixon.”

Mr. Ehrlichman paused, and said, “Is there a question in there somewhere?”
No, Mr. Wallace later conceded. But it was riveting television.”

Later he was caught paying for interviews and usually became more important in television terms than the person he interviewed. In TV, landing a big interview is called “Getting the Get” and he got some amazing ones including Ayatollah Khomeini.

His producers would be seductive and patronizing in setting them up, but then Wallace would find a way to go in for the kill.

He took pleasure in being seen as a tough guy, the role he played on TV. David Bauder of AP said of him, “Wallace didn’t just interview people. He interrogated them. He cross-examined them. Sometimes he eviscerated them. His weapons were many: thorough research, a cocked eyebrow, a skeptical “Come on” and a question so direct sometimes it took your breath away.”

I hate to break this to you but that posture quickly became a ratings winning game, an act, a shtick, like so much of TV News. He later abandoned the sandbagging entrapment interview when others like Geraldo Rivera “borrowed” the technique.

Having worked at ABC’s 20/20, a 60 Minutes wannabe, I could see how many high profile segments were invariably dramatized and hyped. I wrote about my experience in “The More You Watch The Less You Know,“ a title that expressed my vie, but I did get to meet some of the 60 Minutes crew where a close friend of mine has worked for years at a senior level

Don Hewitt, the demigod who ruled the roost there could be arrogant and and condescending with his emphasis on telling stories, more than slaying evil individuals and institutions, but he created a family that took on important issues even as so many other TV stations began pandering by exploiting celebrities and kowtowing to power.

He and Mike were often at each other’s throat before they kissed and made up. Of them all, Andy Rooney was more of a stand-up union loyalist than an ego-maniacal personality.

I did get to know CBS’s Walter Cronkite who endorsed our Mediachannel.org in glowing terms. When Walter couldn’t show up for a discussion we organized about the decline of journalism with Professor Ben Barber, Mike Wallace graciously sat in for him.

Mike didn’t relate to much to our brand of harsh criticism of network journalism but he gave as good as he took. In that moment, I saw him as a mensch, a phase of affection that I can use on this Passover weekend.
In a way, as serious as some of the subjects he took on were, it became more show business more than news business.

He was very competitive and in some cases competed against Barbara Walters who also grew up in Brookline MA. where he lived as a kid. He was not above stealing interviews and was tough taskmaster to work with, but TV News was less when he left late in his own life.

He needed the oxygen of media attention and began slipping away when he lost it.

TV News is not what it once wanted to be. It had a way of losing its greats. Murrow was forced out and, now the anchor who aspired to be like him, Keith Olbermann, has lost his own job perhaps because a personal failingor impatience with what the Business has become Dan Rather was set up, and Peter Jennings died too young.

The values of the market have torpedoed whatever senses of mission most of our media may have once been seen to have, although there is more nostalgia than reality about the glory days.

But, even knowing what we do about Big media’s function on behalf of the status quo—selling its wars and pumping deference to authority—let’s still say a dayenu for Mike Wallace who for a long time really cared and taught us real lessons about right and wrong.

News Dissector Danny Schechter has worked in TV News at the local, cable and network levels, before defecting to independent journalism and spend too much of his time challenging official journalism and its service to the status quo on his Newsdissector.net blog. He edits Mediachannel1.org and hosts a show on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.FM) . Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

More on Mike

—-A device meant to let Dinah Shore sell you Chevrolets was drafted to explain Vietnam, the Civil rights movement, and later Three Mile Island…

News To Know

Daily Beast: Article: U.N. Peace Plan Crumbling in Syria

Fluent News: ‘U.S. policy questioned as Maliki consolidates power’

Fluent: ‘North Korea shows off its launch pad and satellite’

Slate: A Big Fracking Deal

Telegraph (UK): Israel ‘would not be able to destroy Iran’s nuclear program with pre-emptive air strike’

AlJazeera: German author Grass banned entry in Israel

Slate: Where Were You When Trayvon Was Killed?

HP: Chicago Teachers Union Teachers Fed Up, Ready To Strike At 150 Schools

As negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and
Chicago Public Schools continue, the union announced
Thursday that, according to their own informal polling,
support for a strike among the city’s public school
teachers is widespread.

CLG: CIA agent who publicly opposed waterboarding charged with leaking classified secrets to journalists

A high profile CIA agent made famous by his public opposition to waterboarding has been indicted by a grand jury for leaking government secrets to reporters. John C. Kiriakou is accused of telling journalists the name of another operative and his role in the capture of ‘al-Qaida’ financier Abu Zybaydah shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The indictment of Kiriakou, returned by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, is part of an aggressive Justice Department crackdown on leakers and is one of a half-dozen such cases opened during the Obama administration.

Downtown Experess: City unprepared for end of rent laws by U.S. Supremes

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this month whether to take a case challenging the constitutionality of New York’s 1943 rent regulation law that gives tenants the right to renew their leases and limits rent increases to a variable percentage. If taken, the case would be heard in the high court’s October term — and a decision would be rendered by June 2013.

While the rent laws have withstood numerous court challenges over the years, the highly conservative court led by Chief Justice Roberts — which has already declared corporations to have the rights of people and may strike down the federal Affordable Health Care Act — has tenants all over New York nervous. But our elected officials have yet to contemplate actions government could take to ameliorate the effects of an abrupt end to rent stabilization and rent control.

This article is not about the merits of the rent laws from a tenant or landlord perspective, but a look at what would happen if James D. Harmon, an Upper West Side landlord, gets the U.S. Supreme Court to take his challenge to the constitutionality of the laws. The lower courts have rejected Harmon’s case almost out of hand, given the long legal history of U.S. courts upholding the constitutionality of the rent laws — but tenants in regulated apartments are alarmed about what this right-wing court will do. All we know at the moment is that one anonymous justice asked for the city and state’s answers to Harmon’s appeal.

“It would remove the foundation of my existence,” said Melpo Caravolas, 78, of the potential loss of the rent-controlled apartment in London Terrace where she has lived since 1964. She started out paying $164 a month, but contrary to the canard about older people paying next to nothing in rent, hers is going up to more than $1,800 this year. “It’s not like I’m a freeloader,” Melpo said. (Full disclosure: I, too, have since 1987 lived in a London Terrace flat that is rent stabilized — as are the bulk of the one million rent-regulated apartments in New York — and have a rent hitting $1,800 this year, too.)

London Terrace is advertising a market-rate studio for $2,925 at the moment — and a three-bedroom penthouse for $18,000 a month. One-bedrooms are hovering in the $4,000 range.

While many tenants say they would have to leave if their rents rose to market levels, landlords maintain that market rents would decrease in the absence of regulation. But after the 2008 economic meltdown, market-rate tenants only got slight reductions from landlords who bet that most of them would not take on the trouble and expense of moving.

Bloomberg View: Pro-Business Ideology Justifies Corporate Abuse

“Almost five years after a financial crash nearly thrust the world into depression, a peculiar paradigm still dominates economic thought,” writes View columnist Mark Buchanan. “Known as the neoclassical school, it aims to give Adam Smith’s notion of the invisible hand its mathematical form. It asserts that markets naturally seek an equilibrium that harnesses individual self interest to allocate investment capital in an optimal way. Even if that perfectly efficient ideal is never reached, the logic goes, markets work better insofar as they approach it.”

Let me guess — it’s not only “peculiar,” but wrong, right? “Anyone who thinks our recent financial travails would have discredited this vision is underestimating the mental inertia of theoretical economics,” answers Buchanan, who, as a theoretical physicist, knows a thing or two about inertia. “To this day, the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank go right on making plans using so-called general equilibrium models of the economy. In these models, financial firms don’t exist, asset bubbles are inconceivable and there’s no such thing as an international market in derivatives.”

NYT: Funds for Training Jobless Are Drying Up

Are You Happy?

The Atlantic: Everything You Need to Know About Happiness

The Atlantic: Forget the GDP: Let’s Adopt Bhutan’s Approach to The Happineess Standard.

Slate: June Thomas, A Conversation With Edie Falco

Your Letters

Marika writes re Mike Wallace: “Vanishing”

Those days seem to be gone and are replaced by complying hand-maidens on the interviewing side, corrupt mind-dead politicians who have nothing to say on the other, or the few left, who if they have anything to impart remain silent.

Robert Drury writes:

You admit to the utter defeat of millions of people who voted O’Bamba in 2008, by the elites and their operatives who now are clearly tired of their charades, who have simply stripped off their costumes and their boxing gloves, and stand butt-naked in absolute defiance of the people and the people’s better interests. But you offer no solutions, and you don’t even offer a sliver of acknowledgment of the people’s determination, energy, ideas, visions, plans, initiatives, agendas, actions, protocols/processes, productivity, progress, successes. Maybe these ARE the solution! I can’t even hear the elites’ feeble little squeaks now. But I hear the people loud and clear. I hear alternatives in the people’s messages, songs and slogans that render the elite enterprise irrelevant now. What do you think?

Johnathan Welter writes:

During the Obama presidency there was a troop “surge” in Iraq?

Huh?

Though yes, I’d agree with the rest.

I remind you of the FISA vote by senator Obama!

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