The 35-Percenters

I just wanted to mention a couple of videos that have been making the rounds recently, in case any of my loyal readers have missed them. One isn’t exactly new, it dates back to 1994, but it’s suddenly the subject of a recent surge of interest. The other is a recent creation, and is being circulated in slightly more quirky circles to which some readers here may not have had much exposure.

The first video is current Vice President Dick Cheney in a 1994 interview with the American Enterprise Institute. He was explaining the decision of the first Bush administration (in which he served as Secretary of Defense) not to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, saying such an attempt would have led to a “quagmire”.

For the bandwidth-challenged, or just those who would rather read than watch, here is a transcript of his remarks. I especially like the line:

“And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.”

At the time of this interview, Mr. Cheney was no longer in the public sector. I’m not sure exactly when he moved to Halliburton, but apparently in 1994 he hadn’t been there long enough to realize, as he now does, that a paltry few thousand dead American soldiers is a small price to pay to line the pockets of war profiteers.

The next video, Peaceman vs the Chenguin, once again features the photogenic Mr. Cheney, who is a natural for the Chenguin role. This cinematic masterpiece is brought to us by The 35 %ers, a group formerly unknown to me.

When I first saw the name in the film credits, I assumed it was a sarcastic reference to the small but stubborn minority whose faith in the Bush administration is apparently unshakable in spite of the constant stream of atrocities. This number fluctuates, but seems to be in the mid-30s. In my family, “30 percenters” has become a nickname for these people, whose IQ is probably somewhat lower. My brother recently claimed they’re the same 30 percent who believe that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church.

But a quick visit to The 35 %ers website showed that I was wrong about the meaning. In fact, far from being a reference to a group on which I would heap scorn, it turns out that I am a 35%er.

According to a recent Pew poll, just 35% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters have heard of Dennis Kucinich. That’s right, the majority of the voters who are going to choose the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee have not even heard of the best candidate.

The reasons for this are complex. On one hand, it’s easy to blame voter apathy. Certainly voters should make some effort to find out who all the candidates are and learn a little about what they stand for before choosing one. But I think a larger share of the blame goes to the mainstream media, who make it extremely difficult for the voters to learn about all the candidates. The media have picked their favorite candidates, and they’re going to make sure those candidates stay in front by denying coverage to the others they have deemed not worthy.

For example, look at the coverage of the debates. In the debates, the candidates are given equal time (or as close to equal as the moderators can manage). Yet, when the media report on the debates, they will not give anywhere near equal coverage to the candidates. When reporting on a debate where all candidates spoke for roughly the same amount of time, one would think that the media could get at least one quote from each. Yet it’s common to read reports in which the names of some candidates are not even mentioned.

And, in some cases, the media don’t just omit information, they actually lie. A recent New York Times article said “Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.” and then went on to say “Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico stands apart” in calling for immediate withdrawal. The Times wants their readers to believe, contrary to fact, that no Democratic candidate other than Bill Richardson favors immediate withdrawal.

Why do they do this? I hate to sound like a tin-foil hat conspiracy nut (and did you know that tin-foil hats don’t really work and may even be a conspiracy?), but it certainly appears that they have decided how they want to report the news, and they’re going to make sure that the news their readers get fits their goals. Having decided that Kucinich is not a candidate they want to report on, they’re going to do everything in their power to make sure his voter awareness, and hence his popularity, stays down at a level low enough to justify their non-coverage.

I think part of the problem is that so much of the mainstream media, including (especially) the Times, were basically cheerleaders for the Iraq war at the beginning. They fed us press releases from the White House and called it investigative reporting. When Cheney and Libby wanted to blow Valerie Plame’s cover, one of the first reporters they called was Judith Miller, the so-called “investigative reporter” for the Times whose “investigation” usually amounted to no more than rewording whatever the White House fed her. She was responsible for much of the Times pre-war reporting, for which they later issued a half-hearted apology. Having been so wrong, when it would have been so easy to be right, makes them reluctant to cover those who were right all along. They’d rather perpetuate the myth that everybody was fooled than tell the truth. But they’re not fooling us 35%ers.

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