Monday, August 28, 2006

Fox News specials: Faith over science, Biden inserts foot, Rockey on message

The great thing about Fox News is its ability to keep hope alive for the deniers of factual reality. Witness the soliloquy yesterday morning by resident conservative analyst William Kristol, as he inveiged against science while discussing the FDA's Aug. 24 approval of the non-prescription sale of the emergency contraceptive "morning after" pill.

Notwithstanding the fact that, back in 2003, the Food and Drug Administration's own science expert advisory panel voted 23-4 in favor of non-prescription sales, concluding that the pill's availability would not encourage promiscuity, and notwithstanding the fact that a 2002 field study published in the British Medical Journal concluded the same thing (as referenced here), and notwithstanding the fact that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine all have concluded the same thing, Kristol nevertheless said yesterday that he still has faith:

"I don’t know, I came into Fox this morning and one of our younger colleagues who works here, a guy just out of college a couple of years, said all his friends who are still college are very happy about this — all his guy friends, his male friends who are still in college are happy about this. They have a wild night. Precautions aren’t taken. The burden is now totally off them. They tell their girlfriend to go out and get this drug and no problems at all. And I don’t think that’s a very good thing for the the country."

Stop the presses: Heresay from one young Fox News employe trumps science!

Kristol, of course, was merely reflecting the views of the FDA official who essentially blocked the pill's non-prescription approval back in 2004. That would be Dr. W. David Hager, a Christian conservative gynecologist whom President Bush appointed two years earlier to chair an FDA health advisory panel. Put it this way: For the past two years, and until the FDA reversed itself last week, scientific evidence was deemed less persuasive than the views of a guy who once wrote that he used Jesus as a model for how he treated women in his medical practice. (Hager left the FDA panel last year.)

The Christian right is exploring legal options, in the hopes of blocking the FDA's action. In the meantime, one prominent group is firing up the rhetoric, blaming the Democrats ("the party of death") for pressuring the FDA to give its OK, and even accusing Bush of "caving in." The bottom line is that, as usual, there is never any finality in America's culture wars. Not as long as a single Fox employe can be cited as compelling evidence.


Last Thursday, I examined the latest John McCain recalibrations, as the purported man of candor learns to pander. For more on the topic, check out this lengthy Washington Post Sunday magazine submission.


I wrote a print column yesterday about the political legacy of Katrina, and the potential '06 damage for Bush and the GOP. Ever wonder what kind of email I receive? Here is a typical entry, received this morning. I have removed the language that is more suitable for Deadwood on HBO:

"(Bleep) New Orleans. I will never go there, and I urge all Americans to boycott this (bleep) of corrupt murdering racists. After the savagely libelous way the mainstream media and Louisiana hack commie-crat incompetents have attacked european americans, I hope the whole place rots in the sun for a couple more years before it is washed into the gulf. Nagin, Landrieu, the governor and all the (bleepy) democrat (bleeps) who live in New Orleans can go (bleep) themselves. Hooray for George Bush. He was responsible for the fastest, most comprehensive aid in world history , but it was no match for the corruption, incompetence, and racism of the tawdry ingrates who bit his hand like rabid dogs. Drop dead, democrat (bleeps)!"

I guess this emailer missed the memo from his president, urging citizens to discuss politics with greater "civility and respect."


Joe Biden, the Democratic senator who on occasion has exhibited the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease, made a bizarre remark yesterday on the aforementioned Fox News Sunday show. It has already been "YouTubed" (which I suppose should be listed in the dictionary as a new transitive verb).

Host Chris Wallace, noting that Biden was touring South Carolina to test his long-stymied presidential prospects, asked how the man from Delaware might fare in a southern primary against home boys like John Edwards and Mark Warner. Biden replied that he would do well, because, "My state was a slave state. My state is a border state..."

What was he talking about, anyway? Surely he wasn't suggesting that he can successfully woo southern whites because they would feel an affinity for somebody who hails from a former slave state? What's he saying, 'Hey white guys, vote for me, my state used to tolerate slavery'?" Is he doing a reprise of the infamous '03 Howard Dean remark which implied that southern whites are still closet Confederates?

Fox reports, you decide.


And lastly, today we have Fox News filling its most familiar role, as designated media echo chamber for the governing party. Where else, after all, could President Bush's favorite Katrina victim --that would be failed Republican office seeker Rockey Vaccarella -- enjoy national airtime, as a series of softballs are gently lobbed his way?

Here was a tragedy where the disproportionate share of victims were African-American...and the one victim who gets national exposure at the White House is a white guy from the local GOP who wishes that Bush could get a third term. Enter Fox News. Here's the exchange today, complete with incisive journalistic queries.

NEIL CAVUTO: "You know what happens with an anniversary like this. You blame the authorities, the conventional wisdom, blame the big guy, blame the President. You met with the big guy, you met with the President. You’re saying, 'Too much of that'.”

VACCARELLA: "Whatcha mean, I’ve been saying 'too much of that'?"

CAVUTO: "— that the criticism’s been unfair? The criticism’s been unfair?"

VACCARELLA: "Well, you know what, like I told many people, I’m an optimistic-type person, I kinda look at the glass half-full instead of half-empty. And one of the things I wanted to thank the President for, part of what we went there for, is for all the FEMA trailers. I mean, here, you can always point the fingers and say shoulda, coulda, woulda, and been a Monday-morning quarterback. But I’m not a Monday-morning quarterback. I have a roof over my head, my family’s living there, we have air conditioning, we have running water, I can take a shower, shave. I can move on as I rebuild. I mean, the President didn’t order the Hurricane Katrina, she just came through with her whipping winds. And instead of, you know, sitting around complaining and saying, 'This is what they shoulda did, what they coulda did,' well, you know what? You ought to be thankful for what we got."

I guess Rockey didn't get the 600-page House Republican memo last March about what the Bush administration shoulda coulda woulda: "a failure of initiative...a failure of leadership...a blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision-making needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina's horror."