Over the last seven years, the lunatic fringe in control of the Republican Party — the people who believe in torture but don't believe in evolution — have hijacked our democracy, aided and abetted by the news media. The heart of the problem is not the bias of Fox News or the blowhards on AM talk radio but a mainstream media that has completely internalized how the right frames all political debate. The right-wing message has become a part of the news media's DNA.
The latest confirmation came with last week's announcement that Tony Snow, formerly a host at Fox News and press secretary for the White House, where he earned high marks as a gifted purveyor of Bush-Cheney propaganda, would be joining CNN as a commentator. I guess Karl Rove was too busy with his Newsweek gig and Bill Kristol with his New York Times column. What's next, NPR signing up "Scooter" Libby and David Addington?
Certainly other White House insiders, such as William Safire and George Stephanopoulos, have made the leap to TV and print news. But this current crop remains unabashed propagandists. By embracing them, the mainstream media have revealed a mile-wide streak of self-loathing.
Have they been so cowed by the Republicans' relentless branding of them as "liberal" that they feel compelled to sleep with the enemy? Make no mistake, Rove, Kristol and Snow are the enemies of honesty, truth, facts, reality and the public's right to know.
Rove's commitment to deception is legendary. His entire career as a GOP shot-caller was built on it. Kristol, Dan Quayle's chief of staff in the George H.W. Bush administration, is neoconservatism's crown prince. As editor of the Weekly Standard, he was a prime pusher of invading Iraq, and his claims about the war's progress have been discredited again and again. His reward: a column in Time magazine in 2006-07, and then this year a conservative slot on the Gray Lady's Op-Ed page. The New York Times might as well have given a weekly column to infamous fabricator Jayson Blair.
Now CNN, the self-anointed "most trusted name in news," has thrown its arms around Snow.
Are the cable network's execs suffering from collective amnesia? Do they not remember the extremely distant relationship Snow had with the truth during his time as President Bush's mouthpiece? Because, in the end, the crux of this problem isn't Snow. It's the people who hired him — and Kristol and Rove — and their reasons for doing so.
The prerequisite for any TV pundit is credibility. Viewers won't agree with every opinion expressed, but they do need to trust that it's an honest opinion, not some prepackaged PR line cooked up in the White House to keep us in the dark. That was always Snow's specialty — along with a dismissive glibness.
When the U.S. death toll in Iraq hit 2,500 in June 2006, Snow commemorated the news by saying "It's a number." When it was announced that in order to have enough troops for the "surge," a number of U.S. brigades would have to forgo the customary training in the Mojave Desert, Snow shrugged it off: "Well, but they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq."
Snow regularly displayed a gift for obfuscating rhetoric. In August 2006, faced with a rash of bombings and killings that had left 3,400 Iraqi civilians dead, Snow insisted that "there is not a civil war going on." Instead, he chalked the carnage up to "a number of sectarian violence operations going on."
In December 2006, trying to put a positive spin on the highly critical Iraq Study Group report, Snow insisted that it agreed with Bush's "goal" in Iraq. Reminded that the report found that the president's policies in Iraq were "not working," he replied, "No, what they said is that you need a new policy."
And he never let little things like the facts get in the way of his mission. In September 2006, just days after a Senate report unequivocally concluded there had been no prewar relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Snow insisted that such a relationship did exist.
The fanatical right has put a modern media twist on Vladimir Lenin: "Self-loathing liberals will hand us the microphone with which we will bludgeon them."
Arianna Huffington is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times' Opinion section and editor in chief of the Huffington Post.