While the mainstream media is recounting minor events of the campaign and pundits analyze the tactics of the candidates, Internet bloggers (keepers of running diaries called Web logs, for the uninitiated) are busy by the hour working on the under-reported issues of the campaign. Many are sensational and unreliable. But some are keyed to links and commentary from foreign newspapers and reputable writers with information way ahead of what's making it onto TV or into the local daily newspapers.
Credibility is certainly a factor, so look closely at sources and documentation. But credibility is an issue these days with the mainstream media, as well. They must be failing; otherwise the blogs would not be so essential.
Here's a brief look at some of the news they are reporting:
Going Easy on the Father of the Pakistani Bomb: Just two weeks ago, Dr. A.Q. Khan of Pakistan admitted to selling nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. On Feb. 9, investigative reporter Greg Palast (www.gregpalast.com) reminded his readers about BBC and Guardian of London stories in 2001 that said, "The [then-]Bush administration thwarted investigations of Dr. A.Q. Khan, known as the 'father' of Pakistan's atomic bomb... [A]fter Bush took office, 'There was a major policy shift' at the National Security Agency,' " a top CIA official told the BBC. Investigators were ordered to 'back off' from any inquiries into Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks, especially if they touched on Saudi royals and their retainers." Palast maintains that this also included the Bin Laden family, with the exception of Osama.
Where was airman Bush?: Blogs have led the way recently in exploring the president's service in the National Guard, and the mainstream media are finally paying attention. The White House continues to release documents--old, new and revised. But many questions remain. Eschaton, on his blog atrios.blogspot.com , has reported that, "[T]wo members of the Air National Guard unit that President George W. Bush allegedly served with as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to expect him and were on the lookout for him. He never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop are certain." Atrios continues, "Bush did not even ask for an official transfer until nine days after he moved to Alabama in May 1972. The Air Force quickly rejected Bush's request, saying the fighter pilot was 'ineligible' to move to the Alabama unit Bush wanted--a squadron of postal handlers. Nevertheless, Bush stayed in Alabama until his Texas commanders finally gave him written authorization five months later to train there." Furthermore, "Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense for personnel and a Navy flier in Vietnam, said a pilot losing his flight status was a serious matter. 'We spent $1 million to train him to fly,' Korb said. 'You're supposed to be ready to fly if we need you. If you didn't show up for your flight physical, good heavens!'"
And, on the questionable/missing flight physical, "in 1999, Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said Bush missed his physical because he was in Alabama, and there were only a few special doctors who could do physicals. [Presidential press secretary Scott] McClellan would not even let the question be asked on Feb. 11. When a Daily News reporter tried several times to ask about the missed physical, McClellan said, 'I'm not going to engage in gutter politics. I'm going to focus on what we're doing to make the world safer, to make the world a better place.'"
For the full transcripts of McClellan's recent failures with the White House press corps, see www.whitehouse.gov and click on "Press Briefings." Also visit www.cal pundit.com for a recent summary of G-Dub and TANG.
On so-called "independent" commissions: Probes into the Bush administration are (or could be) floundering in a sea of controversy, from the extension of the deadline for the 9-11 probe to the new commission on intelligence failure leading up to the Iraq War (scheduled to submit their findings in 2005). Last week, the Bush administration appointed a committee to look into these intelligence failures and, as Eschaton reports, "Laurence H. Silberman, a conservative judge who is one of the commission's two chairmen, has drawn particular criticism... Several other commissioners also have financial links to groups in the Middle East and the defense industries that could become involved in the inquiry."
Where to start (and finish) blogging: "Blogging of the President: 2004," www.bopnews.com, is a great place to start, a blog dedicated to recording the role blogs are playing in this year's campaign. Journalist Christopher Lydon, who runs the site, has dedicated it to Theodore H. White, the late journalist whose Making of the President series of books changed the way we look at presidential campaigns.
And a good place to finish is www.cam paigndesk.org, a site put together by the venerable Columbia Journalism Review. It reviews campaign coverage in both print and on the blogs and seeks to "get inside the news cycle and enrich campaign journalism in real time." Think of it as instant critique of the instant analysis of instant news.