The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 12, 2014

Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Special-interest politics, pressure trumping policy

JOPLIN, Mo. — Sharyl Attkisson, a veteran CBS News investigative reporter, on Monday reminded us once again of the sorry state of broadcast journalism with the tweet “I have resigned CBS.”  

From reporting on the Firestone tire scandal to GOP fundraising to her most recent work on the botched ATF Fast and Furious operation — which left a Border Patrol agent and hundreds of Mexican civilians dead and whose lost guns are still killing people — Attkisson accumulated one award after another during her 20-plus years at CBS. From Edward R. Murrow to Emmy, she’s earned them.

CBS News defenders and Attkisson’s detractors cite a perceived lack of “objectivity” of late as cause for her departure. Being cursed with the common-sense gene, I’m of the inclination that it had more to do with the fact that her boss, David Rhodes, is the brother of Ben Rhodes, current deputy national security adviser.  

The same Ben Rhodes who, in the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack that left four Americans dead, penned in a memo: “We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.” That resulted in the now infamous “blame it on the video” narrative.

Attkisson’s veracity and tenacity in reporting didn’t change, but the controllers of power in Washington did. As her reporting became more embarrassing to an administration mired in one scandal after another, Attkisson found herself appearing less and less in front of the CBS cameras.  

Data from television news analyst Andrew Tyndall reveals that she dropped in story air time from consistently being in the top 20 before Barack Obama to a lowly 78 in 2013. Leading Tyndall to tell Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: “She was definitely being sidelined.”

On Nov. 21, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, convinced that Obama should have his nominees rubber-stamped by the Senate, invoked the “nuclear option” and removed the minority party’s ability to force a 60-vote threshold on presidential appointments.  

Three weeks later, Reid used his new power to push through Jeh Johnson as the director of Homeland Security. Some senators had serious concerns over Johnson’s views on immigration and border control — concerns that we now know were fully warranted.

One of Johnson’s first acts was to bow to illegal immigration advocates and order a review of U.S. Border Patrol agents’ use of force. The resulting revised guidelines were released Friday and, in essence, tell our agents that they are no longer in charge of their own lives. Henceforth, Washington bureaucrats and immigration activists will decide their fates. Agents are no longer to discharge their weapons at fleeing vehicles, nor are they allowed to fire upon illegals should they choose to start pelting agents with rocks.

In a statement regarding the new restrictions, Johnson said that they “lessen the likelihood of deadly force situations as we meet our dual goals of ensuring the safety and security of our dedicated agents as well as the public that they serve.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I consider the American taxpayer as the public to be served, not Mexican drug cartels and illegal immigrants.

Shaw P. Moran, union vice president for Border Patrol agents, summed it up in the Los Angeles Times with: “Seems to be a response to political pressure from special interests.”

Very special interests indeed, Mr. Moran.

The one overriding theme here: It’s not the policy; it’s the politics.  

And if you don’t agree? Well, perhaps it’s time to resign.

Geoff Caldwell writes on national and international affairs. He lives in Joplin. Contact him at gc@caldwellscorner.com.

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