A former employee of the LA Times opinion section, Welch took issue with my piece last week about how the LA Times' political blog, led by Laura Bush's former flak Andrew Malcolm, as adopted a juvenile and insulting tone when writing about the president, and how the blog is completely one-sided in favor of comically inaccurate, Drudge-Lite gotcha attacks. Welch set out to debunk my effort, but in the end all he did was prove my point.
For instance, note that that Welch didn't even touch the challenge I laid out here:
Show me the Times blogger, for instance, who shows up on liberal talk radio, makes regularly appearances on The Rachel Maddow Show, and is linked to by key liberal bloggers while writing critically of the GOP leadership. That Times staffer does not exist.
Welch couldn't point to any liberal bloggers who write about national politics at the LA Times because they do not exist. That, despite the newspaper's claim that, "The Times' goal is to provide views across the political spectrum in its coverage as a whole."
That's simply not true. And Welch's silence on that point simply confirms my point: Liberal bloggers are not allowed at the LA Times.
Secondly, Welch tried to undermine this claim I made about the Times' unprofessional tone regarding the Oval Office [emphasis added}:
And I don't even have to do a Google search to know for a fact that when President Bush was in office, there was nobody on staff at the Times, and certainly nobody writing off the opinion pages, who was allowed to so casually insult the office of the presidency on a regular basis.
Not true, claimed Welch who then posted a serious of links to LA Times colums that were critical of Bush. That's great, but of course that wasn't my point. I specifically claimed nobody at the Times was allowed to regularly insult the office of the presidency the way the Times blog does today. I never suggested Times writers weren't allowed to be critical of Bush.
And that's why the links Welch provided don't prove me wrong. For instance, Welch claimed that because a Times writer in 2007 referred to the Bush administration as being "willfully blind" about the war in Iraq, it was proof that Times writers had trashed the presidency when a Republican was in the White House.
Gimme a break.
That "willfully blind" stuff centered on a policy dispute. And that's what partisan writers do. As I clearly noted in my piece, I don't think there's anything wrong with raucous debate. And I don't take issue with most anti-Obama columns that appear in newspapers across the country. (As long as they're factually accurate.) It's the sneering, contemptuous tone the Times has adopted online that so obviously crossed a professional line. And it's a sneering, contemptuous tone that was simply not allowed at the Times during the Bush years.
But Welch appeared not to follow along too closely, because as proof he also pointed to a 2006 anti-Bush column that included the highlighted phrase "distracted and incompetent." (A-ha! More Times writers being mean to Bush.) But that "distracted and incompetent" wasn't even a reference to Bush, it was a reference to White House "backers." (Pretty sloppy stuff, Matt.)
But if Welch wants to keep searching for links to prove his point, be my guest. But until then, my points still stand: the LA Times online coverage is dominated by Obama-hating bloggers who have been given free reign to use juvenile, casually insulting language when writing about the presidency in a way that previous Times writers were never allowed.
UPDATED: LA Observed's Kevin Roderick weighs in on the Times' odd, get-Obama editorial strategy:
But if you're the Times suits, why not double your pleasure with smart voices whose loyalty is to Times readers over ideological water carrying? If you're gonna go down the cheap hits route with shtick that wouldn't make the LAT's Op-Ed page, at least play the rest of the spectrum. The LAT may soon have to compete at home with the Wall Street Journal and New York Times — and they want to make a stand by boasting they're only interested in engaging the reddest of Republicans? Yeesh.