NPR Publishes an Annotated Version of Trump’s Inaugural Speech

Working in what I presume they see as the interest of factual accuracy, NPR has published an annotated version of Trump’s inaugural speech. In theory, this is probably a good idea.

My problem with it lies in the network’s clearly selective use of this practice. They did not, to my knowledge, ever do anything of this sort with Obama’s speeches which, predominant liberal impressions notwithstanding, were regularly filled with whoppers. Indeed not only did they not point out his many fibs, but they regularly imputed to him and his words realities and intentions that were clearly absent in the text.

For example, Obama gave a much ballyhooed speech given at the National Archives in May 2009 that was touted a blueprint of his views on national security. As you might recall, Dick Cheney gave a speech on the very same subject the very same night. Given that Cheney’s speech was clearly meant to defend the torture and detainment policies of the Bush administration, NPR (and much of the media) seems to have leapt to the conclusion that Obama’s speech signaled a return to traditional notions of jurisprudence.

In that speech Obama stated that “We do need to update our institutions to deal with this threat. But we must do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process, in checks and balances and accountability.”

Later on in the same text, however, he made clear to that he would continue to abridge the cornerstone of all western systems of justice, habeas corpus, whenever he deemed it necessary to do so, referring to “detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.”

To speak of “detainees that cannot be prosecuted” is to vitiate all the nice words about due process used earlier on. Either you believe in habeas corpus as a principle and apply it to all people or you don’t. There is no middle ground in such matters.

If ever there was a time for an annotation, this was it. But NPR, and indeed all the media it seemed, was completely untroubled by this glaring and unresolvable contradiction in the president’s words.

Indeed, if NPR is as interested in factual accuracy as it now purports to be with the coming of Trump, it should probably begin by annotating the missives of its own reporters.

This past week, I heard their Pentagon correspondent Tom “The Transcriber” Bowman present the origin of the DNC leaks as an open and shut matter, an unequivocal case of the Russian intelligence services giving the leaks to WikiLeaks when in fact we no one, not even the so-called "intelligence community", has produced such clear-cut evidence on the matter. Indeed, WikiLeaks has unequivocally denied this to be the case.

Moreover, former Ambassador Craig Murray of Great Britain, someone who works closely with WikiLeaks says that DNC information came from a leaker inside the DNC whom he has met.

But for "The Transcriber” none of this is worthy of mention, none of this merits even the slightest bit of introspection regarding the possible fallibility of his bald assertions. Indeed, Tom goes one step better, claiming to know what’s behind Trump’s desire to have better relations with Russia.

Said Bowman (the italics are mine) in his report of 18 January, 2017:

“Now, the new administration of President-elect Trump has embraced WikiLeaks because it played of course such a big role in releasing the leaks during this recent election, the leaks of documents from Democratic operatives embarrassing to Hillary Clinton. And they – these were hacked of course by Russian intelligence.”

The following night Kelly McEvers was interviewing a guy from the neo-con friendly Atlantic Monthly on Obama’s policy approach on Syria and stated flat out that the Syrian government gassed its own people in 2013.

Since that story broke, the idea that the government did this has been strongly discredited by, among others, Seymour Hersh and a number of former intelligence agents with important contacts inside the government.

You think all this might, if nothing else, induce a little circumspection in our reporter. But not the rising star, Kelly McEvers. She charged right ahead a treated the discredited story as absolutely settled fact, saying (The Italics are mine):

“McEVERS: Yeah. Let’s talk about that one for a second. I mean, it’s 2013. It’s the so-called red line moment, right? I mean, I think it’s a moment a lot of people are going to look back and talk about. Obama says if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons on its own people, that his calculus would change. It was a strong hint that the U.S. was going to strike. The Syrian government does use chemical weapons. Obama decides not to strike, and instead there’s this multilateral agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. I mean, the administration now calls that a victory. You say it’s not a victory. Why?”

As you can see, McEvers, like Bowman, also goes one step further. Not only does she accept the widely discredited story as fact, but uses it, in typical beltway consensus fashion, to raise questions about Obama’s toughness, as if the only real problem of consequence with man who has bombed countless countries and completely destroyed the material and social fabric of a few of them in the process, was that he was not sufficiently bellicose enough in his approach to Middle East affairs.

While I welcome NPR’s newfound drive for veracity in reporting I nonetheless feel the need to remit the folks over there an old maxim from Luke, “Physician, heal thyself”

Author: Thomas Harrington

Thomas Harrington teaches Iberian studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.