Last week, the Bush administration released its response: "Pbbbbbbth":
The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.
Steven Bradbury at the Justice department had the following arguments:
The legal counsel's office "does not agree with GAO that the covert propaganda prohibition applies simply because an agency's role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or 'covert,' regardless of whether the content of the message is 'propaganda,"
...which means, "Just because we covertly produce this propaganda doesn't mean that it's covert propaganda that should be prohibited by a law against covert propaganda," and...
"Our view is that the prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency."
... even though the videos have addressed such contraversial subjects as the administration's position on Medicare drug benefits.
Two things seriously frost my cookies about this whole deal. The first thing, of course, is the fact that TV stations are actually running these videos with no indication that they're just shilling for the administration. Print ads designed to look like editorial content are required to say "Advertisement" at the top, and children's TV shows are required to have a "We'll be right back!" buffer at the beginning and ending of each segment so kids can know when they're being entertained and when they're being advertised at. Yet the government can disguise their propaganda as news and slide it into our newscasts without warning? If Bush is that desperate to promote his policy, fine. I won't even get into the fact that his policy tends to be so shoddy that he can't even discuss it outright but has to sneak it in so the people don't even know they're being pandered to. But the viewing public deserves at least the courtesy of a "We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor."
The other thing can be summed up by the WaPo headline - Administration Rejects Ruling On PR Videos. Administration rejects ruling. There's that mandate again. Screw the established system of checks and balances, 'cause Bush gets what he wants. His budget, his religious beliefs, his position on Socia Security, on homeland security, his cabinet nominations - he gets what he wants, 'cause 51 percent is all the mandate he needs. So if a governmental agency tells him that he can't play the way he wants to play, who cares? He rejects it. The GAO can't tell him what to do, 'cause they aren't the boss of him.
If my dad told me to do something and I looked him in they eye and said, "Nuh-uh," I would get popped. I'm not saying that's what needs to happen with Bush. Y'know, I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'.
Hat tip to The Regular Staple for the link.