It’s Time To Play The Exciting New Broadcast Media Ethics Game, “Biased, Lazy, or Incompetent!”

Time to play

Ready to play, contestants?

All right! For your first test, consider President Obama’s recent statement in response to signs that Russia is preparing to invade Crimea in the Ukraine as an opportunistic territory grab made possible by the collapse of the Ukrainian government. He said in part…

” …we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of the Ukraine. Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe… The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

For background in answering this question, President Obama has often made sweeping threats regarding foreign oppression and military adventurism, but has established a pattern of doing little or nothing when the actions he warned other governments against taking occurred anyway. His “red line” warning about Syria was the most egregious example, but there have been others. Reporting on the most recent “warning” by the President, CBS stated that his credibility in such situations was “somewhat shaken” by the Syria debacle. [LAUGH SIGN FLASHES] I know, that’s a good one, isn’t it? “Somewhat” shaken! Elsewhere, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer pronounced Obama’s statement as flagrantly weak:
“The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement. What he’s saying is, we’re not really going to do anything.”

Yes, Charles is shocked—shocked!—that the President is displaying weak resolve regarding foreign affairs! [LAUGH SIGN FLASHES] “Casablanca” was just on Turner Classics last night…I love that scene!
All right, now for your first question!  On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” news reader Alex Marquardt reported the President’s remarks this way:
“Crimea may technically be a part of Ukraine but culturally and ethnically it is mostly Russian. Crimea did not support the uprising in the capital Kiev and many would like to see it become part of Russia. Russia is already in Crimea with bases for its Black Sea fleet and around 15,000 troops. But President Obama on Friday issued a harsh warning against any further military action: “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
The question is this: In light of the President’s past “warnings” and their aftermath, consider the passive vague language of the statement itself. The warning mentions “costs” without any hint of what costs, or who would inflict such costs, if anyone, or if the President was even referring to the U.S. The convoluted and evasive “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs”—“Yup, there will be costs! Well, that’s affirmed! Mission accomplished!”—does not actually stating that the U.S. would participate in exacting said costs, either. In fact, the clear meaning of the “warning,” from a President who supposedly is a master of language, contains no real warning or threat whatsoever. So I ask you, contestants, is ABC’s characterization of this laughable non-warning from a President with a track record of not following through on what sounded like real warnings….
BIASED, as yet another example of the news media failing its job of objective reporting and warping the truth in order to bolster a President it is ideologically committed to support?
LAZY, as a reflex attachment of the adjective “harsh” is almost automatic whenever “warning” is used, and the writer, editor and reporter never bothered to consider whether that descriptor was appropriate, responsible or accurate? Or…
INCOMPETENT, as ABC’s news analysts are such flaccid-minded dolts that they really think the warning was “harsh” rather than pathetic?

40 thoughts on “It’s Time To Play The Exciting New Broadcast Media Ethics Game, “Biased, Lazy, or Incompetent!”

  1. I would say all three: “Biased, Lazy, and Incompetent”. By the way, I think that Krauthammer is being diplomatic and probably is NOT shocked.

  2. “If you kids don’t behave, I’m going to turn this car around” doesn’t mean much unless they know you’re willing to do it. Same principle works with ruthless dictators and those in-between.

    Maybe he should trying counting to Three. For some reason that almost always worked by “Two”.

    • Hard to see the “harsh warning” in a passive-voiced foreign-policy statement that ends up sounding like, “If you kids continue with your current behavior, this car may be turned around.” Ooooo, scary…

      • It’s even less threatening that that, no? It’s “If you kids continue with your current behavior,your mother and I will agree that the car COULD be turned around in theory.” There’s no implied threat to actually DO anything.

    • I’ve been waiting for one of the periodic commenter-fights on here to end with a post in a blue box that says “Knock it off right this instant or I will turn this Blog around and we will go home! Is that what you want?”

  3. See also:
    Rheinland, militarisation of, 7 March 1936
    Sudetenland, occupation of.
    Weserübung.9 April 1940
    Unternehmen Südost 15 March 1939


  4. What’s utterly terrifying by the statement “the Crimea is technically part of the Ukraine….” is because THE FUCKING CRIMEA IS PART OF THE FUCKING UKRAINE YOU DAFT PATHETIC PACIFIST PUSHOVER SISSY APPEASERS.

    “certain southern counties of Texas and California are technically part of the United States….”

    Hey, jackass appeasing leftists, there are BAD people in this world, and sometimes those bad people like to take things from other people…. and there’s only one way to stop bad people…. and that is by being a good person willing to force them to stop…

    Sorry Jack for the profanity, but this entire conflict is just a symptom of something that makes me sick.

    • Yes, but this is true all over the world. Many regions in Africa have been experiencing genocide for generations. We aren’t invading the Congo. I don’t think it makes me a pacifist, but more of a realist, to say that we can’t police the world, nor should we try. In my view, this is the EU’s problem more than it is ours — it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t help, but the US shouldn’t be the one doing the saber rattling. Plus, land wars in Russia tend to end badly…..

      • Did I call for action?


        We can do something or we can do nothing. But the dishonest reporting on is establishing a narrative of doing nothing based on a falsely established rationalization.

          • Nothing at all, since he didn’t intend to actually do anything. Fake and feckless threats are worse than none at all. A leaders who does this stuff has no credibility, and is, in fact, a joke. “If you do X, we will make you regret it by doing Y” followed by really DOING y is what teh situation calls for. “If you do X, you’ll be sorry, because mmmmmmmmmmmmmmhaumanhumana so there” is neither competent, honorable or effective leadership. It’s embarrassing to the country, and dangerous to the world.

            • I agree with you Jack. He could have said something like, “We are analyzing the situation,” but really nothing more than that.

              • Of course its all moot, had he had the brains to say the right thing now, he would have had the foreign policy brains in 2008 not to start immediately rolling back America’s prestige and influence in the world like a milquetoast.

                This whole conflict would have only been limited to Putin’s wet dreams if our foreign policy since 2008 had consisted of visionless and accidental reactionary crap wrapped in a tone of apology and weakness.

                • Just so you know the kind of President I’d be—I would have called Putin on the red phone and told him, privately and without fanfare, to return Edward Snowden to us withing 72 hours, or the United States would not be competing in or broadcasting his precious re-make of Hitler’s propaganda Olympics.(Too bad for the athletes. Some things are more important than games.) Snowden would be in the US today. And when Snowden arrived, I would praise Putin to the skies for his cooperation and friendship.

                  Eisenhower’s Presidency was full of deals like this. But to pull them off, they have to know you’ll do what you say. With Obama, everyone knows that he is 100% talk.

                  • Yup, and that’s being proactive and getting inside the other guy’s OODA cycle, keeping him off balance and reacting while you set the conditions necessary to achieve your end state.

                    Also, my last line should say “had not” after “2008”

                  • Excellent Development! Great Leader has decided to cancel the US delegation to the Paralympics over the invasion of the Ukraine. Maybe he saw your advice on tough diplomacy.

      • To open this can of worms:

        Yes, we easily could be the world’s police. Easily.

        Since Teddy Roosevelt established us on the international scene as a world power, we have consistently outmatched every enemy, with fewer men and fewer casualties, in every theater that we have entered with the will to win. We’ve done this without degrading our economic comforts and without degrading our political liberties (arguably some, most recently, have been threatened, but efforts are being made to refresh them) and without severely restructuring our political system. Considering that in terms of resources and potential in just our homeland, we are one of the world’s least developed nations, the only thing holding us back is us.

        Not saying it’d be right to compel the world to our ideals, but saying “we can’t be the world’s police” is patently false. Literally the only thing stopping us is the pathetic self-guilt with which we’ve allowed the America haters to educate us.

        And of course, I’m not saying it is wrong either.

        You do realize that despite all the little bush wars and all the little flairs up here and there, that the 1945-2008 era has been one of the most peaceful and stable that mankind has ever experienced? thanks to the Pax Americana….

        The world has enjoyed nearly uninhibited trade across borders and oceans vastly growing wealth for everyone, even the poorest, for one reason: because the world’s most powerful military was backed by a commercial republic… not a monarchy, not a command economy, not a theocracy, not a hand wringing leftist state, not an oligarchy, not one step up from anarchy democracy, not a feudal state: a commercial republic. Do we really want a world where there isn’t one single power that is a commercial republic keeping the peace?

        Maybe it is better for regional powers to handle things… maybe the centralized oligarchy of china can handle the pacific? Maybe the schizophrenic and paranoid kleptocracy of Russia can handle the Baltic and the northern middle east? Maybe the theocracies that are really just tribal countries under their thin veneers of western style governments in which power changes hands just as quickly as the necks are cut can handle the Arabian areas?

        No sorry, I’ll be content with America keeping the peace. The world before America kept the peace consumed itself to the detriment of 100,000,000 people in 2 decades.

        But of course my hopes won’t play out since we’ve convinced ourselves that the American way is evil.

        • I don’t have the time or energy to go through this line for line Tex, but your little essay is so full of apple pie and Sousa music that it makes me nauseous. Just look at our actions in Central and South America over the last 200 years. Most of them cannot be defended by right-leaning historians and are simply ignored when teaching history in our schools because there is no way to teach those events with any type of pro-America gloss.

          The only reason some of our current and past leaders are not in prison is because we have the strongest military in the world. You know the saying about poking the bear …. don’t unless you have more nukes than him, or something along those lines.

          That’s not to say that we haven’t done great things internationally as well, but don’t pretend that we are the good guys most of the time, or hell, even half the time.

          • Apple pie and Sousa music, you must have not read a word I wrote. You may not have noticed that I didn’t specifically endorse being the world’s police, but asserted that it is false to say we can’t.

            It’s best you don’t try to rebut it, it is accurate. We easily have the resources to quadruple our army and probably double or triple our navy without hampering our material comforts. Even more without severely hampering them.

            • Do you support what we’ve done in Central and South America over the last 150 years?

              As for “material comforts,” it might be nice to repair our infrastructure before spending trillions on more foreign wars.

              • It would be nice to eat before we go to the bathroom? Infrastructure repair is unavoidable, but we seem to keep avoiding it. As with avoiding responsible foreign interventions, its a suicidal course. You have just provided the perfect example of a false dichotomy.

              • You are aware that my opinion on our efforts in Central and South America are pretty irrelevant to the assertion I made right? Please tell me you realize that…

          • Who belongs in prison, Beth? Who’s on your list of leaders who were actually criminals? I want names and statues violated and specific facts, not left-wing talking points. I’d be willing to bet that list will come down very heavy on the R-side of the aisle, while you look the other way on Carter’s incompetence, Clinton’s perjury and misuse of the office, LBJ’s fraud, and Kennedy’s myriad of issues.

            I’d look at the history of South and Central America before I go criticizing the United States’ dealings with them. They’ve been independent for 2 centuries and they still have yet to reach anything like their potential as a continent. Want to know why? Because they can’t seem to break off this love affair with strongmen and populist frauds. Hell, Mexico and Brazil didn’t even start off as republics, they became independent empires, who then had to go through second revolutions to even be democratic. Mexico couldn’t even hold to that path, and went through one revolution after another, battling us for control of the West’s destiny (they lost), occupation by France, and another invasion later after they couldn’t control their own territory to the point of preventing lawless invasion of ours. I sometimes wonder if all concerned would have been better off if we’d simply picked up the pieces after the fall of Maximilian.

            It might also interest you to know that, as our Civil War was winding down, South America came within an inch of tearing itself apart in a war that killed four times as many people as our conflict and reduced the population of Paraguay from 1,400,000 to 229.000. Since that it was all about strongman rulers who promised the people what they wanted, even if they didn’t actually deliver, and who had a disturbing tendency to simply expropriate whatever wasn’t nailed down and try to make common cause with this nation’s enemies. Have we intervened? You bet your ass we have, but it’s not simply a matter of the nasty white rich superpower stepping on the poor brown people who just want to be left be.

            I hate to play the love-it-or-leave-it card, but I have to say there is an ethical duty of a certain amount of loyalty to the nation you were born in and choose to live in and enjoy the benefits of, especially in this era of relatively easy travel and emigration. I have zero respect for those who sit at the computer, probably sipping their Starbucks coffee, and simply pour invective on this nation and say everything would be so much better if everyone would just listen to them. If you have such a problem with this nation, Beth, why don’t you run for public office and try to change it? If that’s not your style I’d be willing to chip in for a plane ticket to New Zealand, which is hopefully progressive enough for your tastes.

  5. I can’t leave this alone. Even as late as yesterday, when it was obvious that Russian paratroopers were the invaders, I still read and heard reporting to the effect of “gunmen seize airports in Crimea” and “Russia preparing to possibly invade the Ukraine”….

    Uh, Russia DID invade the Ukraine.

    Oh, and dear Ukrainian parliament, or whatever you call your legislative body, voting on whether or not to continue the Black Sea naval base agreement with Russia as possible punishment for their invasion is DAMNED moot, don’t you think??

    Tantamount to capitulation

  6. Biased: ABC states that Crimea is only “technically” part of the Ukraine, that Russia already has troops there and that lots of Crimeans want to be part of Russia. That sounds to me like the building up of a “Why should we care anyway?” rationalization.

  7. Obama was correct. There will be costs. He just did not say who will be stuck with the bill. The cost is credibility of American foreign policy and our ability to negotiate terms on a global stage.

  8. It does not help that Obama said from the beginning that military action was “off the table,” so the worst Putin has to face from him is language and maybe we won’t attend the G8 in Russia, which means not a damn thing. The US may well not be willing to go to war over this, and it might well not be in our best interests to do so, but there’s no reason to tell Putin that from the get-go and take the big stick out of sight. If I were pressident I’d raise the alert status of our forces in Europe and send the 6th Fleet steaming east, with some rhetoric about being prepared to help the Ukrainian people keep their nation and their sovereignty. I might not actually intend to intervene, but Putin doesn’t need to know that, and the sight of American flattops might give him pause.

    As it is, we look weaker than we did when Russian tanks rolled over Free Hungary and froze the Prague Spring before it could go anywhere. Couple this with the recent announcement of shrinking the military to the smallest level since before World War II, and I submit it’s not entirely out of line to ask whether or not the current administration is looking to significantly damage this nation’s military capability the way Frank Church trashed our intelligence capability 30-some-odd years ago.

    I was only just out of college when the Cold War started to thaw, but I’d certainly spent enough time studying it and seeing its impact to know now that we had a classic tension between morality and ethics then as we do now. Oh, I read the US Bishops’ pastoral letter on the immorality of strategic weapons and the articles that talked about how moral it would be if the US led the way in disarming by doing so unilaterally. I also remember the out-and-out cowardice of the chattering classes when Reagan walked away from the table in Rekyavik and their mocking of the strategic defense initiative as “Star Wars.” The bottom line is that peace may be moral and desirable, and that the image of the lamb lying down with the lion might be nice, but national weakness was bad policy and bad ethics then, and it’s bad policy and bad ethics now. We stumbled pretty badly in the Cold War with Carter’s feckless and incompetent peace-with-everyone, Vietnam-is-over approach and we’re lucky we had Reagan to make it right. Who will make this right? Obama lost most of his credibility in Syria, the rest is about to go.

    Just a thought – they say history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. Would I be out of line to say this time out the farce came first with Jimmy Carter’s feckless bumbling, while the real tragedy is going to be now, where Obama promised a future of hope, but led the US into a decline it probably won’t come out of?

    • Despite our worst fears but the greatest hopes of the Left, America isn’t in a decline.

      The muscles of our civic virtue may be atrophying from lack of exercise, our eagerness to project power may be softening, but no, we aren’t declining. We still remain the world’s least developed nation in terms of resources and land mass and we still retain the sleeping giant that essentially gets mad only when you seriously threaten its way of life directly. None of that is going anywhere.

      We avoided the Revolution for 1 decade before deciding to oppose evil.

      We avoided the Civil War for 3 decades before deciding to oppose evil.

      We avoided WW1 for a bit, and arguably we’d have avoided it outright.

      We avoided ww2 for several years and would have avoided further if we hadn’t been pulled kicking and screaming to oppose evil.

      And yet every single time Americans have woken with might and vigor to dispatch the bad man and we’ve done it without reducing our material comforts permanently or altering our way of life.

      Just because our current culture and national attitude is complacent and our current leadership and political majority would enjoy an America fading away, we aren’t going to.

      • Thank you. It’s not often that I get a chance to go back to my history/political/science roots. History’s full of reminders of the evil we keep pushing back, and we keep seeing rise again with a new face.

    • Your point about how, even if military intervention is off the table, we shouldn’t SAY so in front of everyone really struck a nerve with me. I’m an advisor for a college group and constantly have to tell the leadership not to broadcast everything they consider, every exception they’ll allow, everything they agree to let slide. You’d think national leadership would know that as least as well as I do.

  9. Oh thank goodness! I was really worried, but now we can rest assured:

    President Obama had declared Russia to be on the wrong side of history in regards to the Ukraine.

    Whew, now we really know how to act towards the Russians…

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