OK, the whining from Village reporters about Nico Pitney's question at last week's White House press conference is well beyond ridiculous at this point. This morning, David Gregory used valuable airtime to grill David Axelrod about the question, as though there aren't more important things he could ask a top White House aide about.
Here's the thing: Nobody is actually claiming that Obama knew what question Pitney was going to ask. The allegations of "coordination" and "staging" are premised on the idea that the Obama folks knew what topic Pitney would ask about - Iran.
Well, it isn't all that unusual for a president to have a pretty good idea what topic a reporter is going to ask about. If you call on a reporter from Stars & Stripes or Army Times, you'll probably get a question relating to the military. Call on a Washington Post reporter, and you'll likely get a question about steroids in baseball or haircuts. Call on a New York Times reporter, and there's a pretty good chance he'll ask what enchants you about the White House. Call on a Huffington Post reporter, and they'll probably ask something a little more substantive.
But here's where the complaining gets really ridiculous. David Gregory hosts Meet the Press. Do you know what happens when Gregory and his staff book guests for Meet the Press? Much of the time, they tell guests what topics they want to discuss. That's right - they coordinate! The whole thing is staged! Quick, someone convene an ethics panel!
And it's not just Meet the Press. I'm pretty sure Dana Milbank knew what topic he was going to be asked about when he appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources opposite Pitney today. Ohmygod! Dana Milbank and Howard Kurtz coordinated! It was staged! What will the Iranians think?!?
Enough of this nonsense. Pitney has serious journalism to do; Milbank has his play-acting to get back to. Time to move on.
Connolly then asked me why progressives were picking a political fight on the public option, as opposed to another issue. I guess the fact that it's the #1 domestic issue of the day -- one that affects millions of American families -- wasn't explanation enough.
I figured she was looking for a quote summarizing the political stakes, so I though for a moment and said, "The public option has become a proxy for the question of whether Democrats will stand on principle and represent their constituents."
I was quite proud of that answer. It summarizes what a lot of people are feeling -- the public option is the "line in the sand" issue for Democrats, something Chris has written about here on OpenLeft several times.
Connolly's take on that quote:
Green, in an interview, was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan but said that it "has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents."
WHAT? Connolly asked me a question on the politics, and when I gave her an answer on that, she said I didn't answer on the substance? Did I mention Ceci Connolly is a r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s reporter?
FLASHBACK: In December 1 and December 2, 1999, Post articles, Connolly misquoted then-Vice President Al Gore, falsely claiming that he said he had discovered the Love Canal disaster. On February 17, 2000, Slate.com editor-at-large Jack Shafer wrote that New York Times reporter Katharine Q. "Kit" Seelye and Connolly were responsible for creating the false Love Canal story: "[I]t's Seelye's fault -- and the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly's -- that folks think Gore claimed credit for Love Canal in the first place. Which he didn't" [emphasis in original].
Dan Froomkin criticizes the press corps. In the press corps, if you're a liberal, that just isn't done.
Duh. We've explained this bone-simple point for years. If there's one thing you'll never see Dionne or Robinson do, it's criticize their cohort—the coven, the clan. Dionne established this point quite brilliantly all through Campaign 2000. Of course he knew that his cohort was talking all manner of bullsh*t about Gore. (On one or two very tiny occasions, he even tinily said so.) But in the mainstream press corps, liberals don't discuss the mainstream press. That's the price of getting those (very good) jobs. It's also the price of holding them.
UPDATED: Note what WashPost ombudsman Andrew Alexander reported this weekend:
Froomkin said his editors were urging changes in White House Watch, and he acknowledged disagreement over content. For example, he was urged not to do media criticism.
UPDATED: How angry do Beltway scribes get when liberals critique the press? So angry that one scribe called a critic a "dick" on TV.
NPR's On The Media ambushes the ambusher:
In the past few years, "The O'Reilly Factor" has adopted an old tradition from "60 Minutes"-era TV journalism: the ambush interview. We talk to John Cook, investigations editor for Gawker, who says that Bill O'Reilly uses the ambush to settle personal scores. Plus, OTM producer PJ Vogt describes shadowing Cook as he tried to ambush an ambusher.
Give it a listen.
Or, alternate headline: The WSJ supports the impeachment of Mark Sanford, right?
Do conservative media double standards come wrapped with more neon than this one? I suspect not. It's almost comical to watch the Journal's right-wing editorial page, which crusaded and cheerled for Bill Clinton's impeachment for years, suddenly turn a blind eye when the Republican governor of South Carolina admits an extramarital affair, and then remain mum even after reports surfaced that the governor used taxpayer money to travel to see his girlfriend in Argentina.
Based on the intellectual standard (and I use that phrase loosely) the Journal established under Clinton, Sanford absolutely, positively MUST be impeached from office. Yet not only hasn't the Journal's editorial page made that claim, but the Journal's editorial page hasn't written one word about Sanford.
It's obvious Kurtz, the Post's media critic, thinks the pre-emptive right-wing attacks on the show were bizarre since nobody actually knew what the content would be. But as I previously mentioned, Kurtz never actually wrote about that in the Washington Post itself. In fact, the Post newspaper has barely covered the controversy; a controversy, I think, that showcases right-wing media critics as loons.
Kurtz is back online today to make the same point; that it made no sense to attack a news show before it even aired:
My point is that if you don't like what ABC aired, criticize away. But the media-political culture that denounced the special beforehand is all too typical of today's partisan warfare of shoot first, lose interest later.
But note the language. It's a "media-political culture" that led to the attacks. It was just another symptom of our "partisan warfare." Pretty general stuff. i.e. Everybody does this kind of nonsense.
Wrong. The loopy war that was declared on ABC News carried with it all the hallmarks of an irresponsible right-wing crusade. That's not something the left engages in. And before the emails start coming in, recall that the pre-emptive campaign against ABC's "The Path to 9/11" in 2006 was based on the fact that the final script contained obvious factual errors.
Kurtz seems to be awfully careful not to offend conservatives even though he thinks their attacks on ABC were baseless and pointless.
UPDATE: Kurtz did include this nugget, which is just more proof that right-wing bloggers and their errant stabs at media criticism provide more comic relief than anything else:
ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider tells me the network offered three prime-time specials to the Bush White House: on Iraq, school violence and No Child Left Behind. ABC was turned down each time. Those scoffing about the All Barack Channel might keep that in mind.
I've been giving the press, and especially Politico, a hard time recently for treating the Republicans as all-important news makers during the Obama era, even though Republicans are essentially powerless. I think it's quite odd how whenever Republicans inside the Beltway say boo, the press corps snaps to attention and types it up as news. It's odd because, particularly during Bush's firs term, I don't remember the same press corps caring much what Democrats had to say. The press certainly did not treat Tom Daschle's every utterance--his every WH critique--as being noteworthy.
Recently though, in the wake of admission by South Carolina's Republican governor Mark Sanford that he'd had an affair, ABC's The Note took this double standard to a whole new level.
The Note published just three stand-alone items. The first was the entirely predictable, and appropriate, "Sanford Admits Affair."
The second was headlined, "Sanford in April: No 'Grand Plan' Because 'Anything in Life Can Happen." In that one, ABC noted the irony of Sanford's springtime quote given the revelations of this week.
The third Sanford item was this: "Huckabee: 'Remains to Be Seen' Whether Sanford Can Stay in Office; 'Broken Trust' With People." In that one, ABC extensively (exclusively, actually) quoted a Republican at length about the ramifications of the Republican controversy.
Do you see the double standard? Since Obama the Democrat has taken office, the press has decided that whatever his political opponents in the GOP say must be treated as deeply important news; that the opposition party's musings and strategies are of paramount importance.
Yet when news broke of a Republican scandal, it was a Republican that ABC News turned to for insight. In fact, in its three items on Sanford, The Note never once quoted a Democrat. Suddenly, the opposition party wasn't so important or newsworthy.
Yesterday I noted the hypocrisy of the WashPost's Dana Milbank swooping in with an indignant column just hours after the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney asked a question at a WH press, yet in 2005 Milbank showed no indignation following the news that Jeff Gannon was waved into the GOP WH nearly 200 times without proper credentials to ask softball questions.
Milbank never wrote about the Gannon caper.
After I posted the item, several people noted that in 2005 Milbank did appear on MSNBC's "Countdown" to talk about the Gannon controversy, so it wasn't like he ignored the story altogether.
But I still think the double standard is blatantly obvious and here's why. Nine times out of ten the way those TV bookings work is the show's producers come up with the topic and then ask guests to comment, which is what I assume happened in the case of Milbank/Gannon. Meaning, it was MSNBC's idea to highlight the controversy, not Milbank's.
And secondly, if Milbank truly thought the idea of the Bush White House completely rigging the WH press room rules for a GOP partisan was objectionable, than he would have written about it in the Washington Post. But he never did, even though the Gannon story unfolded over a period of several weeks. Therefore, I can only assume that Milbank didn't think the Bush era media controversy was that big of a deal. Yet within minutes of Pitney appearing inside the WH press room, Milbank sprang into action to denounce the ""planted question" and the "prepackaged entertainment" that unfolded there.
UPDATE: According to an NPR report about the Pitney kerfuffle:
Milbank raised similar questions about apparent collusion during the Bush administration when a pro-Republican blogger who wrote under the name Jeff Gannon showed up routinely in the White House press room and was allowed to ask questions that took a clearly conservative line.
That's wildly misleading. Milbank never once raised questions about Gannon in the WashPost. Milbank only commented on the story when MSNBC asked him to.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent provides additional context in terms of Milbank's sudden concern for White House stagecraft. Two words: Mission Accomplished.