Wash. Post starts Red America conservative blog

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Washingtonpost.com launched its Red America weblog, authored by Ben Domenech, an editor at the conservative Regnery Publishing Inc. But while Domenech's partisan political credentials are well-established -- he served as a speechwriter for the Bush administration and for Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and is a co-founder of the partisan weblog RedState.com -- his journalism credentials are much more thin.

March 21 marked the launch of the Red America weblog on washingtonpost.com, authored by Ben Domenech, an editor at the conservative Regnery Publishing Inc. But while Domenech's partisan political credentials are well-established -- he served as a speechwriter for former Bush administration Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and for Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and is a co-founder of the partisan weblog RedState.com -- his journalism credentials are much more thin, seemingly limited to writing for conservative publications such as Human Events Online, National Review Online, The Washington Times, and The American Conservative during his teen years.

The Post's hiring of Domenech appears to be "a sop to the right," as journalist Greg Sargent wrote on The American Prospect's weblog, TAPPED:

Lots and lots of loyal Post readers appear to be very puzzled and upset about this. And they're right to be. There's plenty of evidence that this was indeed about throwing a sop to the right. After all, Deborah Howell recently wrote that the column by Froomkin, who's attracted the ire of the right, is "highly opinionated and liberal." She even added that Web executive editor Jim Brady was considering "supplementing it with a conservative blogger."

There are, however, no progressive bloggers -- and no one left of center with the credentials of a political operative -- on washingtonpost.com to provide balance to Domenech. The Post's other bloggers are journalists, such as former washingtonpost.com editor Dan Froomkin and Post political writer Chris Cillizza. The launch of Red America comes in the wake of criticism aimed at Froomkin. Post ombudsman Deborah Howell criticized Froomkin's "White House Briefing" column as "highly opinionated and liberal" in her December 11, 2005, column and advocated that its name be changed to prevent readers from thinking Froomkin was a Post White House reporter. Froomkin responded, writing: "I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable." But even if one were to accept the idea that Froomkin is a "liberal," the fact remains that Froomkin is a journalist and has been for 18 years, with the Winston-Salem Journal, the Miami Herald and the Orange County Register in addition to nearly a decade with the Post. He is the deputy editor of NiemanWatchdog.org, a website of Harvard University's Neiman Foundation for Journalism.

Domenech, on the other hand, while he does claim previous employment as a "political journalist," is first and foremost a partisan activist -- a Republican operative who has worked for the Bush administration and Cornyn, is currently an editor at a conservative publishing house, and who describes himself as "the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush." The Post itself says that Domenech "abandoned journalism" after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A May 7, 2000, Washington Post profile of Domenech noted that he was 18 years old and had been freelancing since he was 15 years old -- meaning that he is around 24 years old today. If, as the Post noted, Domenech "abandoned journalism" after the 9-11 attacks, that means he spent just four or five years as a teenage journalist before quitting the business at 19 or 20. He is also a co-founder of RedState.org, which describes itself in nakedly partisan terms -- "a Republican community weblog. RedState is focused on politics, and is dedicated to the construction of a Republican majority in the United States."

Moreover, the Post already hosts the blog Think Tank Town by Ron Nessen, a one-time White House press secretary to President Gerald Ford, who attacked the Center for American Progress in a March 10 entry.

In his introductory Red America post, Domenech criticized the Post's editors and the "mainstream media" in general for, among other things, "treat[ing] red state Americans as pachyderms in the mist," being "slow to recognize the growth in conservative America," and failing to recognize "the greatest pro-gun movie ever," the 1984 Patrick Swayze/Charlie Sheen vehicle "Red Dawn."

According to the National Journal's blog, The Hotline, Domenech posts entries on RedState.com under the pseudonym "Augustine." As recently as March 2, "Augustine" trashed Froomkin on RedState.com, writing that his "status as leader of the hack is without compare." "Augustine" also attacked Democrats as "The Party of Death" in a January 24 entry on abortion.

As the Post's bio of Domenech indicates, he is now an editor at Regnery, and "has edited multiple bestsellers and books by Michelle Malkin, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Hugh Hewitt." Regnery, of course, gained notoriety for publishing the thoroughly discredited attack book, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, authored by Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth founders John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi.

Domenech, who asserted that "unhinged elements" of the Democratic base "have dragged down the Democratic Party for too long," edited Malkin's most recent effort, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild (Regnery, 2005). In her book, Malkin argued -- implausibly -- that the "Left" has been taken over by "unhinged liberals," but "conservatives zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists and conspiracy theories."

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