Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yes, It's a Washington Post Edition)

Even when you have no expectations of the Washington Post, it continues to disappoint. This time it's John F. Harris:

All three episodes [Clinton, Allen, and Foley]... originally percolated in the world of new media... before charging into the traditional world.... In each case, the accusations quickly pivoted into a debate about the motivations and alleged biases of the accusers....

I was astonished when I was told that even a Washington Post reporter would claim that George F. Allen's calling a native-born Virginian a monkey "quickly pivoted into a debate about the motivations and alleged biases of the accusers." What accusers? He was caught on tape, speaking into the camera.

I could not believe my eyes when it turned out that Harris made the same claim with respect to the Foley scandal--that America was debating the "motivations and alleged biases" of ABC and of the pages who saved their interactions with Foley and brought Foley's behavior to light.

This is not the way for the Washington Post to try to rebuild its lost credibility.

Yet here it is, unbelievable as it is, complete with a big wet kiss from John F. Harris to Matt Drudge:

New Media A Weapon in New World Of Politics - By John F. Harris: At first glance, three uproars that buffeted American politics in recent weeks have little in common. Former congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.) ended his political career over sexually charged e-mails to former House pages. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) stumbled over his puzzling use of the word "macaca" and his clumsy response to revelations about his Jewish ancestry. Former president Bill Clinton had a televised temper fit when an interviewer challenged his terrorism record.

All three episodes, however, were in their own ways signs of the unruly new age in American politics. Each featured an arresting personal angle. Each originally percolated in the world of new media -- Web sites and news outlets that did not exist a generation ago -- before charging into the traditional world of newspapers and television networks. In each case, the accusations quickly pivoted into a debate about the motivations and alleged biases of the accusers....

Cheney's wife, Lynne, people close to her say, is an avid consumer of Matt Drudge's online Drudge Report, which often either breaks or promotes stories with a salacious angle and in recent days has bannered every new disclosure in the Foley case....

In any generation, the disclosure of Foley's sexual overtures to teenage boys would have been a big story and ended his public career. But it was the confluence of new media trends and a trench-warfare mentality pervading national politics that turned the story into a round-the-clock furor. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), fighting for his career amid allegations that he did not respond properly when told of Foley's e-mails, has gone to conservative media outlets to make his case.... Hastert agreed when the host said the Foley story was driven by Democrats "in some sort of cooperation with some in the media" to suppress turnout of conservative voters before the Nov. 7 elections. Limbaugh offered no evidence. But the same accusation was leveled in Hastert's interview with Hugh Hewitt, another prominent conservative radio host and blogger, who said the speaker is a "target right now of the left-wing media machine."...

[A]ny politician in trouble can count on some sympathetic forums to make his or her case. It often ensures that any controversy is marked by intense disagreement over the basic facts or relevance of the story, and obscured by clouds of accusation over the opposition's motives...

Eric Boehlert writes:

Eat The Press | Eric Boehlert: Oops, I Thought Matt Drudge Was the "Walter Cronkite of His Era" | The Huffington Post: Famous for doing the GOP's bidding by launching smear offensives against Democrats (see the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth), Matt Drudge this week became completely unglued over the widening Mark Foley scandal, flailing around trying to help Republicans get back on the offensive.

First Drudge claimed Foley was the victim of underage teenage "beasts" who were "egging the congressman on" with their lurid communications. When that trial balloon went over like a lead zeppelin, Drudge posted a screaming headline about how one now-famous IM exchange was between Foley and an 18 year old page, as if that made everything okay. Strike three came Thursday when Drudge went into high alert "world exclusive" mode (would anybody else really want to claim it?) that "the now famous lurid AOL Instant Message exchanges that led to the resignation of Mark Foley were part of an online prank that by mistake got into the hands of enemy political operatives."

I'm laughing even harder than everyone else because I just got done reading The Way to Win, the brand new conventional wisdom Beltway blueprint to electoral riches by ABC's Mark Halperin and the Washington Post's John Harris. Wildly impressed by Drudge's acumen and--readers are assured--his nearly limitless media power, Halperin and Harris devote an entire chapter to Drudge, toasting his "visionary" "insights" and anointing him "the Walter Cronkite of his era."...

UPDATE: Harris in today's Washington Post continues to sing Drudge's praise, while conveniently ignoring the fact the online hitman's made a fool of himself this week. Go read the very odd, page-one piece, which cobbles together portions of The Way to Win with random thoughts on the Foley story...


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