Published on Monday, August 11, 2008 by The Capital Times (Wisconsin)
Questions Journalists Never Ask
by Roberto Rodriguez
Having recently returned from a national journalism conference, I was reminded how most national mainstream journalists nowadays fail to ask the most basic of questions of powerful corporate executives or government officials. This is especially true in regard to issues of war and peace, where many journalists and commentators seemingly continue to act as government stenographers at best, and cheerleaders at worst.
Since 9/11 of 2001, many journalists have begun to fear that being watchdogs of freedom will brand them as disloyal and anti-American. Here are some questions you will most likely not hear in the next few months from mainstream journalists.
Questions for President Bush:
If everything you warned about regarding Iraq was demonstrably false, why should you — or anyone who has supported your policies — be believed about anything regarding Iran or anything else for that matter?
If the United States is the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons in wartime against civilian populations, where does this nation get its moral authority on this issue?
On Iraq, you defer to “the commanders on the ground” to make decisions regarding war and peace. Under the U.S. Constitution, have you not surrendered your role as commander in chief?
Why have you deliberately equated “supporting the troops” with supporting your war policies — a practice that has encouraged the questioning of the loyalty and patriotism of those that have questioned your policies?
Conventional wisdom holds that “the surge” has worked and has thus vindicated you. How many Iraqis and American soldiers died during this “surge” and has your idea of “progress” made the war legal?
Questions for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
By taking impeachment hearings “off the table,” did you not unilaterally disarm Congress in your effort to end the Iraq war and to hold the president accountable for starting an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war?
What has Congress done to ensure that the president cannot wage yet another illegal war before his term is out?
Questions for John McCain:
You voted to prohibit U.S. military personnel from utilizing torture (”enhanced interrogation techniques”), yet you sided with the president to exempt the CIA from this prohibition. Doesn’t this loophole render the prohibition meaningless?
In response to heat from your own party, you have backed away from your own legislation calling for comprehensive immigration reform. You now state that it will come only after the border is “secure.” What is the definition of “secure” and does it involve a timeline? Is your change of position on the issue an example of “straight shooting”?
All your experience did not help you in making the decision to support the president on illegally invading and occupying Iraq. You now support an open-ended deployment in a volatile environment, depending on conditions on the ground. How much are you prepared to spend — in dollars and lives?
Questions for Barack Obama:
One of your steadfast positions in the primaries was your opposition to granting immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the White House in spying on Americans without warrants. Why have you now changed positions?
The president and vice president have amassed unprecedented executive power. Will you reverse this, including ceasing the practice of signing statements that thwart the intent of Congress?
You appear to believe that the war in Afghanistan is a “just war.” How long are you prepared to stay there? How much money and how many lives are you prepared to lose?
Questions for CNN’s Lou Dobbs and other anti-immigrants:
You are always quick to point out that you have nothing against legal immigrants. However, on “the street,” this disdain (and the accompanying hate crimes) is focused on brown people. How do you, and the people you have stirred up, distinguish between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants without resorting to racial profiling?
Every evening, you tie the notion of broken borders and illegal immigration to the future of this nation. Do you honestly believe that your nightly obsession is contributing to a more perfect union?
Question for the mainstream media:
You in fact do ask the tough questions — not of the strong and powerful, but of those who question the strong and powerful. When can we expect to see a return to the journalism that is preoccupied with protecting freedoms as opposed to the bottom line?
Roberto Rodriguez, who formerly lived in Madison and now lives in Tucson, offers a Latino/indigenous perspective of the Americas.
© 2008 Capital Newspapers