PATH TO 9/11 CONTROVERSY
The big news buzzing throughout the left blogosphere is the ABC miniseries supposedly based on the 9/11 Commission report entitled The Path to 9/11. Charges swirl that the movie is nothing more than a smear job against Bill Clinton while painting Bush as a saint abound. The fact that the movie was written by a Cyrus Nowrasteh, a noted conservative filmmaker and a man who is referred to by Rush Limbaugh as a "friend." Think Progress has been doing masterful work covering the topic and I will not bore you with a take that has already been done to death by my brethren on the Left. Suffice it to say, I think the movie looks like a clear hatchet job on Clinton and not a simple dramatic presentation of the facts laid out in the 9/11 report.
What I wanted to address was what I feel are two similar situations that occurred over the last three years, namely the Right's uproar over a CBS Reagan movie and the Left's uproar over a slanted John Kerry "documentary" at the height of the 2004 presidential election that bear more than a passing resemblance to what's going on with ABC's fake-umentary today.
In 2003, CBS planned to air a two-night miniseries focusing on Ronald and Nancy Reagan called, appropriately enough, The Reagans. From Wikipedia:
About a month before it was scheduled to air, portions of a draft script of the documentary-drama were leaked and published by the New York Times and the Drudge Report. As a result of these stories, the miniseries began to be widely criticized by conservatives as an unbalanced and inaccurate depiction of Reagan. CBS reportedly had ordered a love story about Ronald and Nancy Reagan with politics as a backdrop, but instead received what they later claimed was an overtly political film. Supporters of the film claimed that these criticisms were simply partisan bias, and were an attempt to censor a film because it did not always portray the former president in positive light.In late 2004, in a blatant effort to swing public opinion against Democratic presidential contender John Kerry by airing a one-sided "documentary" purporting to tell the "whole story" about Kerry's Vietnam record. From Wikipedia:
Conservatives began criticizing it before it was broadcast and claimed that it put words in Reagan's mouth and condemned it as "leftist" historical revisionism. Some of the criticism was based upon early drafts of the script and featured scenes that were either never shot or dropped from the final version. Eventually, after several weeks of outspoken criticism by conservatives, on November 4, 2003, CBS withdrew the broadcast claiming that it did "not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans". The network chose instead to broadcast the miniseries on the premium cable channel Showtime, which along with CBS is owned by Viacom.
CBS's denial that it was yielding to the furor did not persuade its critics. The producers of the movie noted that, before the outcry from Reagan loyalists, CBS had approved both the script for the miniseries and had seen dailies as they were shot, and the film had been approved by two sets of lawyers. Jeff Chester, head of the Center for Digital Democracy, a communications lobbying group, said that CBS had chosen not to offend Republicans at a time when the federal government was considering rules restricting ownership of local television stations. CBS executives "made a business decision," he said. "In doing so, they clearly caved in to the political pressure." Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, commented that the decision "smells of intimidation to me."
In October 2004, it was reported that Sinclair Broadcasting Group would order all 62 of its affiliate stations to preempt prime time programming to air Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, a documentary critical of U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry's anti-Vietman War activism, just two weeks before then November 2 election. The film was produced by Carlton Sherwood, a former associate of Tom Ridge, and accuses John Kerry of prolonging the Vietnam War because of his anti-war activism. The organization Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an anti-Kerry organization whose name become well known in the 2004 election year, was cross-promoting the film as part of a $1.4 million advertising campaign.Now, there are obviously two big differences between the two films. One was a biopic that dramatized various events throughout the Reagans' lives. Some of those events didn't necessarily portray Reagan in an altogether positive light, which is apparently akin to blasphemy in many conservative circles. Remember, Ronnie is a guy that most wingers feel should replace Hamilton on the ten dollar bill or FDR on the dime. He ranks highly in their pantheon and to speak ill of him is to invite scorn and anger, a fate which befell CBS. But ultimately, even if aired, it would have had no impact on the political climate at the time given that it was an off-election year and the only entity that stood to be affected was Reagan's legacy.
In response, the Democratic National Committee filed a legal motion with the Federal Election Commission stating that it is inappropriate for the media organization to air "partisan propaganda" in the last 10 days of an election campaign.
The other was a supposed documentary that had more holes in it than a cheese grater and was clearly designed to paint a negative picture of John Kerry just weeks before the presidential election. The fact that Sinclair Broadcasting attempted to pass the travesty off as some sort of PSA only makes the issue more disgusting.
So, with that being said, where does this "Path to 9/11" thing fall?
Any right thinking person who has even an inkling of the political landscape as it currently stands knows that the Democratic Party is struggling to wrest control of the security issues from the Republican Party. Regardless of the opposition party's incompetence on every single issue that comes before them, they are still regarded by many voters as the authority on security and defense. The Dems recognize this and further recognize that this movie does nothing but set back their cause. By portraying Bill Clinton as the guy who wouldn't pull the trigger when bin Laden was literally in his sights (at least, that's how the movie is attempting to package it; a claim that is vociferously disputed by Richard Clarke), it does almost irreparable harm to the Dems. And given that there is an incredibly important election approaching in two months, the movie could certainly have an impact as far as negatively reinforcing the notion that Dems are "weak" on defense.
Given the prior to examples, I question whether Path to 9/11 will ever be seen by the wide audience it hopes to garner by airing on ABC. Given that the program is set to air in five days, it may not be enough time to mobilize an effective boycott against the network and its sponsors, but the negative press the movie is getting should soften some of the impact that the creators had originally intended. Also, keep in mind that the Sunday debut will be up against NBC's debut of Sunday Night Football, a program that features the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants (the country's largest media market) in a matchup that features the first meeting between the Manning brothers, Eli and Peyton, which should be of some national significance and will further dilute potential ratings for the 9/11 program.
Overall, I believe that this program has no redeeming value, but that it's impact will be muted by tough competition for viewers. And though the program could reinforce negative stereotypes of Dems, with two months until the election, that's two more months for this administration to keep screwing up its own national security record.