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Is honest journalism dead?

Last Friday the 13th was an unlucky day for Americans who attempt to navigate the treacherous waters of television news journalism: Our last lighthouse, Tim Russert, stilled his revolving light and left election-year America in the dark.Its not my intention to memorialize Russert in this column, but we should all mark his passing with a bowed head and an internal 21 gun salute. Russert had integrity, and if thats the only descriptive that adorns our headstones maybe thats enough.In the decades that I have sampled news production in this country, theres been a steady decline in quality, objectivity and professionalism. Television news producers have turned network and cable outlets into entertainment franchises driven by ideological loyalties, ratings wars and corporate balance sheets. Nobody seems to care about the objective truth anymore, and yes, people there is an objective truth, and it still needs honest reporting. Im not talking about the brand of truth thats run through an ideological filter: the brand of election-year truth that filters out positive news from Iraq, because Democrat media mavens view such gains as contrary to Barack Obamas election interests.How many valley readers are aware, for instance, that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikis volunteer army has routed the bad guys in Basra and driven out the Shiite militias? Malikis hastily assembled force did the job the British army couldnt do in four years, and they did it in three weeks. This same impromptu army has swept the Mahdi fighters before them, from Basra to Baghdad, and occupied its citadel in Sadr City. With the Iraqi Army (the real freedom fighters) subduing the militias, U.S. casualties have dropped to levels not seen since the earliest days of the occupation. Oil revenues are being distributed to the provinces, and there have been meaningful gains on the political front, too. Sunnis now safe from Shiite militia retribution have begun to participate in the political process, and are negotiating in earnest with the Maliki government.The war in Iraq has been fraught with bone-headed blunders mostly borne of White House staff arrogance but also the result of a completely incoherent president. (I think Bush would starve to death in a McDonalds, if Laura werent along to order him a Happy Meal.)Its clear that the prewar hype about WMDs our casus belli was overstated and under-planned. This president seems incapable of FDR-style fireside chats, and the country needs that sort of leadership and reassurance, now, as never before. Is Bush tossing horseshoes in the Rose Garden? Is he whacking brush in Crawford? Having his Stetson shrunk in Shreveport? Where the hell is Bush?I dont give a rats nasty about political point scoring or Iraq War postmortems; 4,000 Americans have watered the tree of Iraqi liberty with their blood, and we cant dishonor that commitment. Weve ransomed Iraqi freedom with too many aborted American dreams. Bush is irrelevant, at this point. The Republican Congress under his tenure has been a disgrace. Theyve shredded the American conservative movement, and theyve earned their Babylonian exile; in fact, I wish we could fit them all with flack jackets and send them, en masse, to the Fertile Crescent there to dodge shrapnel alongside real American conservatives: our fighting men and women. I dont play political baseball; I have no team in this electoral pennant race. Im looking for leadership, and Im disgusted with both the Republicans and the Democrats. Theyre two sides of the same steaming pile of self-interest, corruption and entrenched power grasping in Washington, D.C. McCain is far too liberal for my liking, but he loves this country with a broken-boned obduracy, and he wont make a mockery of Americas sacrifice in the Middle East. Its not about oil its about blood. Our blood.The medias march to an Obama coronation is deeply wrong. Barack has a head start in this celebrity contest because our puddle-deep culture prizes youth, cut physiques, and porcelain smiles. McCain is old, scarred and moves like he was run over by a John Deere combine. Barack bounced off the Mattel toy assembly line, blemish-free, and the pull string between his shoulder blades produces Change we can count on! with Energizer dependability.What does change mean, Barack? Does it mean, pal of Tony Rezko? Chicagos recently convicted political fixer? Does change mean that Americans who disagree with your political take are marginalized as, embittered, Bible-grasping, gun-clutchers?Does the wellspring of post-racial America flow from a 20-year tutelage in the poisonously anti-white Trinity Church? Do we want a Commander in Chief who befriended Billy Ayers the Weatherman Pentagon bomber and celebrated Louis Farrakhan, the Jew hater?Ask questions, people. Put aside team politics, just this once. Theres too much at stake.The medias swooning infatuation with the Obamas is embarrassing. I dont know if I can stomach another Reuters annunciation image of Barack or Michelle hands clasped and gazing heavenward artfully applied Photoshop filters. First circular vignette, then soft blur. The perfect haloed couple.You shouldnt have checked out, now, Russert: We needed you in the ring preventing clutches, ensuring an absence of head butts, eye gouges and fixes from the stogie-smoking billionaires in the front row.Ask tough questions in heaven, my friend.

Addison Gardners column appears every other Tuesday in The Aspen Times.


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