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This story has been diaried a few times recently, but I have a slightly different take on the news. On Tuesday, Dick Cheney had a radio interview with a wingnut from North Dakota, Scott Hennen. In it, Hennen pressed Cheney to strongly endorse water-boarding and denounce its critics, and Cheney obliged. Hennen is an extraordinary fool, and he also urged other extreme positions on Cheney, like a return of 'Shock and Awe' (!), which Cheney did not disavow.

Quite a few blogs have picked up this story in the last day, since McClatchy News published an excellent report that puts Cheney on the spot over his admission that he favors water-boarding. None of the diaries at dKos quite got the attention they merited, so it's worthwhile drawing attention again to the facts.

More to the point, though...

this was in fact another blog story that has migrated into the traditional media. It's a demonstration once again how bloggers have the power to influence the way the news is reported in the U.S.

Until just a few minutes before I posted this diary, the Cheney/water-boarding story was front and center at the McClatchy website. The report itself, by Jonathan Landay, pulls no punches:

Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture.....

The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al-Qaida suspects...

You'll want to read the whole thing. McClatchy quotes Cheney's spokeswoman, who denies that Cheney said that the U.S. employs water-boarding or that he personally endorses it. Then the report quotes the radio interview at length, demonstrating unequivocally that Cheney's spokeswoman is lying. The website also links to an article entitled Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of water torture in U.S. Courts, which is devastating to the Cheney administration's position.

In short, it's everything you want and too rarely get from news reports in the traditional media.

And once again, I'm proud to say, it was a story covered first on-line. On Tuesday I posted a commentary at Unbossed on Cheney's interviews that day with Hennen and Sean Hannity, drawing particular attention to Cheney's admission that he supports water-boarding. This was the nudge, I think, that McClatchy needed to pound the story home.

For a long time I've kept an eye on the interviews that the triumvirate give, particularly the radio interviews, and occasionally I post a commentary on one or more of them. I decided it was one of the most obvious contributions I could make to holding this administration accountable. The triumvirate has demonstrated a remarkable preference for granting interviews to right-wingers, especially on local or regional radio shows. These shows fly under the radar (if you will) of most journalists and even bloggers, so what the triumvirate is doing is reaching around those who might hold them accountable and communicating more or less unobserved with their base.

SOP in most respects, of course, but it's worth emphasizing that these radio interviews bear watching. That's particularly true because the hosts frequently are pretty damned nutty, and will put extremist GOP talking points directly to the Great Men in the form of softball questions. Cheney's exchange with Hennen about water-boarding is a case in point. This is one of the places where the triumvirate is most easily exposed to devastating criticism, because of course the White House and Department of Defense post transcripts of these interviews.

So as I said, I made this my beat and have uncovered some strange stuff. For example, this summer I found strong evidence that Rumsfeld was feeding scripted questions to radio hosts in advance of interviews, as I also reported on Unbossed. This led to correspondence with the head of McClatchy's Washington Bureau, who said they would dig into that story. Unless I missed it, they never did produce a report on Rumsfeld's curious radio interviews. But in the long term, I think it pays to bring the best on-line work to the attention of serious journalists in the traditional media. Even if they don't use one story you bring to their attention, they may be alerted where to look in the future for good leads. In fact, I've noticed that at least one journalist at McClatchy posts occasionally here at Daily Kos on diaries that intersect with their own news coverage.

I won't repeat here what I said on Tuesday about Cheney's obnoxious interviews with Hannity and Hennen. You can head on over to Unbossed and check it out if you wish, and in addition we've already had several good diaries at dKos on the McClatchy/Cheney/Hennen story (linked above).

Is the effort we're investing in blogging actually helping to expose this foul administration to the criticism it so richly deserves? I'd say the verdict is in. This is just another piece of evidence to toss on the pile.

A tip of the hat to my fellow bloggers at Unbossed, who prodded me to shop the Rumsfeld story around this summer. One way or the other, we're going to expose this administration for what it really is.

Originally posted to smintheus on Thu Oct 26, 2006 at 03:14 PM PDT.

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