If They Cut Off Your Rent-A-Generals, Just Buy-An-Advisor

I highly recommend checking out this Media Matters database, which lists all 4500 appearances the Rent-A-Generals named in NYT’s article on the program (I hope Media Matters expands it to include other Rent-A-Hacks listed in the full document dump). Here, for example, are the appearances made by David Grange, the most prolific Rent-A-General, just as the Iraq War began (Update: as drational points out, Grange appears to be the most prolific in this sample because Media Matter’s methodology over-represents CNN).


Kind of hard to see, I know, but it basically reads CNN CNN CNN CNN CNN CNN CNN CNN CNN CNN.

Now, as it turns out, the last CNN appearance from David Grange was on April 25, just a few days after the NYT story. The other CNN favorite Rent-A-General, Donald Sheppperd, actually stopped appearing in March.

So what’s a poor cable news network to do, now that its Rent-A-General addiction (Lou Dobbs has a particularly bad habit) has been exposed?

I would suggest today’s finalization of the news–first announced about a week after the NYT story–that Fran Townsend is joining CNN as a Buy-A-Hack might answer your question.

Frances Fragos Townsend, who recently stepped down as President George W. Bush’s chief anti-terrorism and homeland security adviser, will join CNN as an on-air contributor providing analysis and insight on national security issues, it was announced by Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. Townsend, who has spent more than two decades in the fields of intelligence and criminal justice, has served during the past three administrations, most recently as assistant to Bush for homeland security and counterterrorism. She chaired the Homeland Security Council from May 2004 until January 2008. Prior to that, she was a deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2003 to 2004. She has been at the center of America’s effort to fight terrorism through her work in the U.S. Coast Guard, the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton and the George W. Bush White House.

If you can’t continue to present Administration propaganda with the Rent-A-Generals anymore, I guess, you might have to suck it up and hire the Administration’s own security "expert" to present the Administration’s spin.

CNN has not announced whether Townsend will get favorable access to Administration briefings–beyond those available as a member of the PFIAB.

30 replies
  1. WilliamOckham says:

    Sorry to go OT on my first comment, but I just saw over at TPM Muckraker that the House Republicans filed an amicus brief to side with the WH on the Miers/Bolten contempt charges. That’s not too surprising, but I did not know that Richard Hertling had gone from the DOJ to the House Reps. He signed the motion.

  2. drational says:

    Methodology of Media Matters is overrepresenting CNN:

    “NOTE: Transcripts for all programs on CNN are available in the Nexis database, but for the other cable news networks transcripts are available for only some shows.”

    They only logged shows with Nexis transcripts, so there are tons of appearances undocumented. CNN comes out looking stink(iest) only because they provide a transcript service.
    This is just the tip of the iceberg…..

  3. hwmnbn says:


    I’ll welcome the days when you, Jane, Christy, et al are the “go-to-guys” when the networks need insightful analysis.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      When did CNN decide to drink more hemlock?
      In the larger media context, it sure doesn’t look like the ‘audience’ that is fed up with the war in Iraq, paying $3.80/gallon for gas, starting to take more transit trips, and paying a whole lot more for food is really going to tune in simply because CNN paid a BushCheney wingnut to opine. The costs of gas and other goods are all driving ‘lifestyle shifts’ that in turn prompt additional changes in behavior — including where the tv, the TiVo, or the browser are aimed.

      In the larger media context, note something intriguing that showed up last night at FDL:


      Let CNN hire whoever they damn well please.
      People are fed up and moving on.
      My hunch is that sane, civil, informative formats like GRITtv are simply the first cusp of a new phase in media transformation.

      Mindless stupidity on CNN’s part.
      They are totally missing the bigger picture.
      Unbelievably stupid.

      • bobschacht says:

        When did CNN decide to drink more hemlock?
        In the larger media context, it sure doesn’t look like the ‘audience’ that is fed up with the war in Iraq, paying $3.80/gallon for gas, starting to take more transit trips, and paying a whole lot more for food is really going to tune in simply because CNN paid a BushCheney wingnut to opine. The costs of gas and other goods are all driving ‘lifestyle shifts’ that in turn prompt additional changes in behavior — including where the tv, the TiVo, or the browser are aimed.

        With anti-war sentiment so high, and George “Wrong Direction” Bush at the helm, the MSM is having a hard time getting its mind around the idea that its audience has moved on and no longer is content with right-wing schlock. MSNBC allows KO to run amok, but what else is there? Many people now get their “news” from comedy shows, like the Colbert Report.

        I’d like to see a graph of KO’s ratings compared with GWBush’s ratings. But I wonder if there’s a “lag factor,” whereby it takes the MSM a bit of time to realize the public mood has shifted, and undertake a course correction.

        Bob in HI

      • watercarrier4diogenes says:

        Great image, rOTL. Maybe bumper stickers in NYC with the CNN logo on them:


        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Remind me not to drink that toxic brew ;-))
          … still chuckling… (and wincing)

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    Representatives Dingell and deLauro On May 6 wrote FCC’s Martin about the patent bias of the Rent-A-Generals, so the network news’ removal of those commentators likely is a policy that will remain in place, though some observers opine that KMartin is unlikely to show a legalistic interest in treating the Rent-A-General issue as surreptitious propaganda, yet, if the networks continue the new ban the effect is nearly the same, less the sanctions that could be imposed. One of the processes toward the end of a president’s term is placing favorites in jobs elsewhere to tide them over, as election uncertainty renews government for us again and many positions could become filled from the other party if it wins the election. Some of Bush’s nominees who were not approved might be waiting for some of these placements; consider the matter of US Ambassador to the EU, where after a ‘recess’ appointment C. Boyden Gray’s nomination was delayed in congress, and finally quietly withdrawn, substituting a nominaton Kristen Silverberg. Evidently the Whitehouse made the announcement of withdrawing Gray’s name from congressional consideration by placing it footnote-like on a Saturday newspage, according to the linked article on April 26 2008.

  5. Anna says:

    Just what do Republicans need to apply the same standards of the law to the criminals in the Bush administration that they applied to Clinton and the laws that would be applied to the peasants?

    Oh so telling

    • watercarrier4diogenes says:

      In the finest Rethuglican traditions, anything to do with sex gets you impeached (David Vitter and Vito Fossella notwithstanding), actual criminal behavior, up to and including war crimes, not so much…

      Ohio Dems Impeach the Dannimal

      Enough to piss you off for an entire lifetime…

  6. Mary says:

    Did they leave off her resume the allegations floating around that she was tied in with lots of “truthy” FBI FISC applications and spun from the court bc of her role in the “truthiness?”


    By Chitra Ragavan/US News & World Report/December 6, 2004

    Others say the real root of Lamberth’s anger at Townsend was the false information given by the FBI in dozens of wiretap applications to the FISA court.


    Then, in September and October 2000, the OIPR submits two pleadings to the court regarding approximately 75-100 applications with errors starting in July 1997. Many of the errors concern misleading statements about the nature of collaboration between criminal and intelligence agents. Most of these applications stated that the FBI New York field office, where the I-49 squad focusing on al-Qaeda was based (see January 1996 and Late 1998-Early 2002), had separate teams of agents handling criminal and intelligence investigations. But in actual fact the I-49 agents intermingled with criminal agents working on intelligence cases and intelligence agents working on criminal cases. Therefore, contrary to what the FISA Court has been told, agents working on a criminal investigation have had unrestricted access to information from a parallel intelligence investigation—a violation of the so-called “wall,” the set of bureaucratic procedures designed to separate criminal and intelligence investigations (see July 19, 1995). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002; Newsweek, 3/29/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 36-37 ] The information about al-Qaeda in these cases is also shared with assistant US attorneys without FISA permission being sought or granted first. Other errors include the FBI director wrongly asserting that the target of a FISA application was not under criminal investigation, omissions of material facts about a prior relationship between the FBI and a target, and an interview of a target by an assistant US attorney. [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, 5/17/2002] This leads the FISA Court to impose new requirements regarding the “wall” (see October 2000).

  7. Ishmael says:

    Ah, CNN, the most trusted name in news….by the Pentagon. It’s not just Dobbs who loves a man in uniform, Blitzer and Barbara Starr are also very Pentagon friendly.

  8. maryo2 says:

    “the FBI New York field office” is (supposedly) where the FBI dropped the ball prior to 9-11-2001. That is where the July 10 Phoenix email was sent. And according to the 9-11 Commission Report Chapter 3, the ball was dropped precisely because there was no “access to information from a parallel intelligence investigation.”

  9. JohnLopresti says:

    FFT appears to have appropriate credentials in concocting verisimilitudinous stories the way mainStream media experts often do. It is interesting to read the latest Procera deepPacketInspection apparatus now can sift thru 5-40 million realtime simultaneous online data exchanges, and tailor bitstream by recipient, sender, and content or software employed, a feature the Uof Ottawa’s Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic has protested in a court action filed Friday of last week. The tech trade journal article linked has background explaining besides snooping the gear helps internet portals groom traffic, save money, and de-spamize data transported. Evidently Canada has strong privacy constructs, and this kind of equipment adds a nuisance factor to communications there.

  10. FormerFed says:

    One technique for getting people employment at the end of an administration is to move political appointment people into career jobs. Then they get Civil Service protections, etc.

    The process is most annoying and frustrating to us career types, but both parties have done it in the past and I am sure it is going on big time right now.

  11. Mary says:

    17 – JL, I meant to thank you for the link to the Marjorie Cohn testimony you provided earlier. I missed that until you pointed it out.

  12. AZ Matt says:

    How about rent-a-pimp, Karl Rove who has lotsa time for Faux News but no time or desire to talk under oath to the House Judiciary Committee.

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      And there was that noxious putrid quote in the NYT – or maybe Jon Meacham is just making shit up.

      Mr. Meacham said Mr. Rove had been received surprisingly well in the magazine’s newsroom, where he has been a reliable colleague who files his articles on time and works diligently with fact checkers.

      “After one editor dealt with him,” Mr. Meacham said, “the editor called me and said, ‘This just complicated my world view. I may like Karl Rove.’ ”

      Maybe he’s also fetching coffee for the secretaries and washing Meacham’s feet with his hair.

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