There may be no better example of the absurdity of the "liberal media" myth than the widespread notion that the Washington Post's opinion pages -- and Fred Hiatt, the man who runs them -- lean to the left.
There may be no better example of the absurdity of the "liberal media" myth than the widespread notion that the Washington Post's opinion pages -- and Fred Hiatt, the man who runs them -- lean to the left.
The Daily Beast and Forbes magazine have both named Hiatt one of America's five most influential liberal journalists -- though the Daily Beast acknowledged that many liberals would question that assessment given Hiatt's "near-neocon" views on foreign policy, while asserting "there is no doubt at all that he is a traditional liberal in all matters domestic."
The assertion that a neocon -- near or otherwise -- is the nation's fifth most influential liberal is self-evidently absurd. But that bizarre assessment isn't limited to Tunku Varadarajan, the Scaife-funded Hoover Institution fellow who compiled both lists. NewsBusters' Warner Todd Huston has called Hiatt a "socialist" -- a kinder assessment than that of his colleague, Matthew Sheffield, who thinks the Post's editorial page is merely "liberal." Fellow NewsBuster Noel Sheppard expresses surprise when the Post publishes an op-ed that is "counter to leftwing economic dogma." Tim Russert described the Post in 2006 as "hardly an organ for Republican views."
Even the Post's own media critic, Howard Kurtz, says that the paper's editorial page is "left-leaning" and that "liberals are pretty well represented on the Post op-ed page" by, among others, Richard Cohen. For his part, Hiatt has insisted that the Post has "a pretty good balance on the oped page."
So, the idea that the Post's opinion operation is liberal is pretty well-entrenched, if not unanimously held. But is it true?
Let's start with the Iraq war -- that's kind of a big thing, being a war and all. A few years ago, I took a look at the reaction in the Post's opinion pages to Colin Powell's deeply flawed presentation to the United Nations:
Powell's U.N. address occurred on February 5, 2003. A look at the editorials and columns that appeared in the next day's edition of The Washington Post makes clear how quickly the media ran to Powell's side.
The Post itself led things off with an editorial headlined -- what else? -- "Irrefutable" that declared, "AFTER SECRETARY OF STATE Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. ... Mr. Powell's evidence ... was overwhelming."
The Post's columnists took it from there. Four Washington Post columnists wrote on February 6 about Powell's presentation the day before. All four were positively glowing.
Not only did all four buy what Powell was selling, they did so without an examination of the goods. The salesman's smile, his voice -- and his impeccable credentials as an "old trooper" -- were enough.
Worse, three of the four directly attacked anyone who would dare disagree with Powell. You'd have to be a "fool" or a "Frenchman" to disagree with Powell's assertions, according to [Richard] Cohen. [George] Will added that such foolishness would require the closed mind of a conspiracy theorist. [Jim] Hoagland concluded that skeptics were guilty of "enduring bad faith" and seemed to speak for the entire punditocracy when he observed that to remain skeptical of the Bush administration's case required the belief "that Colin Powell lied." And that, of course, was unthinkable.
Yes, that's the same Richard Cohen who Howard Kurtz claims represents the liberal point of view in the Post's opinion pages. But we'll come back to Cohen and the Post's columnists later.
That unanimous praise for Powell's presentation -- and sneering contempt for anyone who would dare question the great man -- set the tone for years of Washington Post cheerleading for the Iraq war, the enthusiasm of which was matched only by its lack of fidelity to the truth.
A 2004 Post editorial actually defended Dick Cheney's statements linking Iraq and September 11. In 2007, an editorial conflated -- as the Bush administration had done -- the Sunni insurgent group "Al Qaeda in Iraq" with the Osama bin Laden-led group behind the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, Post editorials lavished praise on war supporters and attacked critics of the war, with a disingenuousness typically associated with a political campaign rather than a newspaper editorial board. John McCain was a staunch supporter of the war, so he was praised for his prewar "foresight" in an editorial that conveniently overlooked his repeated assertions that U.S. troops would be greeted as "liberators." On the other hand, Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were critical of the war during the Democratic presidential primary campaign -- so the Post blasted them for a "troubling" "refusal ... to acknowledge the indisputable military progress of the past year." In fact, the candidates had acknowledged such progress, but that didn't stand in the way of the Post's dishonest demagoguery.
The Post editorial board's rabid, Rovian willingness to do whatever it took to support the war effort and discredit its critics was most vividly illustrated by its attacks on Joe Wilson, and its defense of the Bush administration's attacks on him.
An April 9, 2006, Post editorial titled "A Good Leak," for example, bashed Wilson and defended President Bush's reported authorization of Scooter Libby to disclose selected classified portions of a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction program. In its zeal to defend the leak, the Post went so far as to claim there was nothing "particularly unusual" about the leak -- a claim not even Libby was willing to make. As Media Matters detailed at the time, the editorial "echoed numerous falsehoods also promoted by conservative media figures and Republican activists" and "seemingly ignored its own paper's past reporting on the CIA leak scandal, which has thoroughly debunked the false claims made by conservative and Republican figures and echoed in the April 9 Post editorial." Later that year, a Post editorial falsely asserted that the notion of a coordinated White House effort to discredit Wilson had been disproved -- a claim immediately echoed by several Fox News anchors and commentators.
The Post's stable of opinion columnists also defended Libby and attacked special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outting of Joe Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Merely banging the drums for war -- and smearing those who got in the way -- isn't enough at "near-neocon" Fred Hiatt's Washington Post, which has resolutely opposed efforts to bring those responsible for Bush administration torture policies to account, even as it professes its opposition to those policies.
But The Daily Beast's assessment of Hiatt acknowledged he is a "near-neocon" on foreign policy. Perhaps we should move on to domestic matters, and see weather the claim that "there is no doubt at all that he is a traditional liberal in all matters domestic" holds water.
First, a reminder of the Post editorial board's treatment of the two most immediate past presidents: When the Post did get around to editorializing against the Bush administration's "lawlessness" -- their word, not mine -- they still couldn't bring themselves to call for a special counsel to investigate the wrongdoing. Those with long memories may remember that the Post called for such an investigation of President Clinton's real estate history -- even as it acknowledged there was "no credible charge" the Clintons had done anything wrong. That's your "liberal" Washington Post: demanding investigations of a Democratic president despite a lack of credible charges, then refusing to call for such an investigation of a "lawless" Republican president. (It should be noted that Fred Hiatt joined the editorial board in 1996 and took over as editor in 2000, so he is not responsible for the absurd call for a Whitewater special counsel.)
And that pretty much sums up the relative interest in Bush and Clinton scandals among the Post editorial board, which obsessed over the Whitewater non-scandal, then ignored the paper's own reporting in order to defend the Bush administration's controversial purging of U.S. Attorneys. The paper demanded investigations when it didn't see any "credible charge" of wrongdoing by the Clintons, and refused to do so when it thought the Bush administration was breaking the law left and right.
That isn't the only example of the Post blatantly holding Democrats and Republicans to different standards. Despite having called for Teresa Heinz Kerry to release her taxes when John Kerry was running for president, the Post's editorial board suddenly lost interest in the tax records of wealthy spouses when John McCain ran for president. And in April 2008, Media Matters found that the Post had published 20 times as many editorials and opinion pieces that mentioned Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright as mentioned John McCain and John Hagee.
OK, how about issues? Social Security is kind of a big one, no? Surely an editorial page run by someone who is "a traditional liberal in all matters domestic" must be strongly against dismantling Social Security with a privatization scheme, right? But what do we have here? It's a column on Dick Armey's FreedomWorks web site, written in 2004 by conservative icon Jack Kemp, and it is headlined "On Social Security: The Washington Post Gets It." Interesting:
[O]n August 14th, 2004, the Post editorialized that, "Mr. Bush's sympathizers are right that Social Security privatization could reduce long-term deficits, and right that the nation should not be deterred by the transition costs." The Post also discarded the class-warfare mantra that has consumed Democratic candidates and party loyalists for so long by reasoning that: "Privatization could also stimulate economic growth, boosting tax revenues and so strengthening the nation's fiscal prospects via a second route." They continued, "Private accounts would boost national savings" thus "savings would become more plentiful," which, in turn, would "stimulate extra corporate investment and growth."
The Washington Post editorial writers realize that Social Security, as it currently stands, is the "risky scheme."
Well, that doesn't sound like the work of a "traditional liberal in all matters domestic," does it? But there's more: When Republicans decided that "personal accounts" polled better than "private accounts," the Post editorial page shifted its terminology. And a 2006 Post editorial peddled the disingenuous spin that Bush's Social Security scheme wasn't actually privatization and blasted Democrats for "cynicism" in opposing it. Much more has been written about the Post's hostility to Social Security -- but it's all pretty much what you'd expect once you know that the Post's editorial board relied on analysis of privatization that was conducted by an investment firm that would benefit from it.
Speaking of dubiously sourced Post editorials, here's a fun one: The Post praised No Child Left Behind, citing a study that specifically warned that "it is difficult to say whether or how much the No Child Left Behind law is driving the achievement gains."
Then there's the paper's editorials praising John McCain for an immigration stance he had already backed away from and campaign finance promises he had already hedged on and saluting him for being a "champion" of reform just a few weeks after acknowledging that his decision to "deriv[e] some benefit from the matching funds system and then abandon it when that was to his advantage" was "not Mr. McCain's proudest moment as a reformer."
And who could forget the Post's startlingly naive editorial endorsements of John Roberts and Samuel Alito?
At this point, you might want to get up, stretch your legs, walk around the block -- so far, we've just taken a quick look at the Post's editorials; the paper's columnists are up next.
Let's start with David Broder -- he is, after all, the much-lauded "dean" of the Washington press corps, and frequently described as a liberal. In the context of the Post's roster of opinion writers, he may be one. But from his 1969 complaint that nasty anti-war activists were out to "break" an unfairly maligned president Nixon to his 2006 description of anti-war activists as "elitists" and his Cheney-esque 2007 slur that Democrats have little "sympathy for" the military, David Broder has made clear that he is no liberal.
I've previously laid out at some length the case against David Broder's sterling reputation. This is a man who thought that President Clinton should have resigned because he "may have" lied about an affair, but who didn't think President Bush should have done so after he lied his way into a war. Not even when he declared Bush "lawless and reckless" did he think resignation was in order. And, having piously insisted that he and his beltway buddies don't like being lied to when Bill Clinton wasn't telling the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Broder lavishes praise upon Sarah Palin, a politician who only lies when she speaks. And when she writes.
In his 2006 column declaring Bush "lawless and reckless," Broder seemed more upset with the "vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left" and gratuitously slammed Al Gore and John Kerry for a "know-it-all arrogance rankled Midwesterners such as myself" (no surprise, really: During the 2000 campaign, Broder bashed Gore for the sin of offering too many details about "what he wants to do as president.")
In 2005, Broder blamed congressional Democrats -- who were in the minority -- for a failure to conduct oversight hearings; in 2007, when Democrats were in charge, he bashed them for doing so. He's against investigating torture, and he was against investigating the outing of a CIA agent. But he's in favor of investigating the Clintons' marriage (not the marriages of Republicans, though!).
Anyway: there's much more here, including the fact that David Broder praised President Bush's response to Katrina. What more do you need to know?
At least Broder seems to recognize that torture is bad, even if he doesn't want to do anything about it. The same cannot be said for Post columnist Richard Cohen, the so-called liberal who sneeringly dismissed Iraq war skeptics as fools and Frenchmen and who wrote that opponents of the war did not "feel compelled to prove a case or stick to the facts." The easily-scared Cohen just loves torture. No, no, "loves" isn't strong enough. He lurves torture. And he defends a rapist (only he calls the rape a "seduction"). And defends Monica Goodling. And downplays the "crappy little crime" of outing a CIA agent (a defense that involved spreading falsehoods about the victims).
Cohen has accused "leftists" of thinking "America is usually at fault in war" -- the kind of sentiment that makes one want to check to see if Karl Rove's lips move when Cohen speaks. And the torture-loving, rapist-defending Cohen even bashed Barack Obama for a lack of "moral clarity" because -- get this -- Obama bowed towards the Japanese emperor. He sided with President Bush during the controversy over the deal to allow a company owned by the government of Dubai to take control of six U.S. ports, inaccurately blasting critics of the deal as bigots.
He defends financial company executives and the business media, and attacks comedians who suggest the media should have done a better of covering the financial crisis. That wasn't his only attack on a comedian: He also blasted Stephen Colbert's "rude" skit at a White House Correspondents Association dinner, but didn't expressed any concern over a skit two years earlier in which George Bush made light of the lack of WMD in Iraq.
Cohen opposes affirmative action with the well-off white man's certainty that "everyone knows" race "has become supremely irrelevant." He peddles the bogus right-wing myth that "being pro-choice is a litmus test for all Democrats" (accusing in the process Democrats, but not Republicans, of "counter[ing] reasonable questions and qualms with slogans").
During the 2000 campaign, he caricatured Gore as dishonest even after acknowledging that portrayal was baseless -- then, years later, criticized his colleagues for doing the same thing. During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Cohen trashed Hillary Clinton for "incessant exaggerations," "cheap shots," and "flights into hallucinatory history" -- then, a few months later, denounced the "calumny, a libel and a ferocious mugging" Clinton was forced to endure, as though he had played no role in it. He joined David Broder in declaring McCain principled and credible while ignoring voluminous examples to the contrary. And Cohen touted McCain's "visceral hostility" towards lobbyists, ignoring the fact that McCain was busily surrounding himself with them.
And when liberals criticize him, Cohen whines that they "would have been great communists" if they had been born earlier -- which, I suppose, means Cohen would have made a great McCarthy had he been born earlier.
Ruth Marcus has called the Obama administration's criticism of Fox News "Nixonian," which might be a reasonable point if the Obama folks were bugging Fox's phones and auditing their taxes, or if they were plotting to kill Chris Wallace. But as it is: Not so much. She ignored key evidence against former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in a column defending him from allegations that he may have perjured himself. She has argued against investigating Bush administration torture and domestic spying -- bizarrely suggesting that doing so is inconsistent with "ensuring that these mistakes are not repeated" -- and insisted that Berkeley must not fire John Yoo in wake of the release of memos Yoo wrote justifying torture. And Marcus frequently (and sometimes misleadingly) bangs the Social-Security-is-in-crisis drum -- which seems to be something of a requirement for Post columnists -- and has written approvingly of a "reform" plan that includes privatization.
Dana Milbank shifts seamlessly between calling the secretary of state a "bitch" and lecturing others on civility, calls the AFL-CIO and NAACP the "far left," draws inane equivalences between Democrats and Republicans, mocked Democrats' concern over the Downing Street Memo indications that Bush had lied about Iraq, adopted the spurious portrayal of Sonia Sotomayor as possessing an unimpressive intellect and being "abrasive" (perhaps we should be impressed he avoided the word "bitch") and mocked Barack Obama as "presumptuous" -- misrepresenting quotes in the process. He lazily adopted John McCain's budget demagoguery and the Heritage Foundation's attack on global warming science. Little surprise, then, that Milbank has a preference for Republican presidential candidates.
Now: Broder, Cohen, Marcus and Milbank are among the more liberal of the Post's columnists. The conservatives -- a virtual alumni association for former Republican presidential administration staff -- are even worse.
Bill Kristol, for example. A former aide to Dan Quayle and editor of The Weekly Standard, Kristol played a key role in killing health care reform in the early 1990s, so you can thank him, in part, for your skyrocketing health care costs. In 2002, he testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that American forces "will be greeted as liberators" by the Iraqis, so you can thank him for the Iraq war. He has argued that the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh will and should set the GOP's course, so you can thank him for an increasingly insane and irresponsible public discourse. He has dismissed concern about global warming as "hysteria," so you can thank him for the destruction of the planet. Even worse: He reportedly "discovered" Sarah Palin and played a key role in her selection as John McCain's running mate, so you can thank him for the fact that you know who Sarah Palin is.
Kristol has echoed Sarah Palin's "death panel" nonsense that was the "lie of the year" in 2009. He doesn't like unions or women but does like torture (and dismissed Abu Ghraib as a "small prisoner abuse scandal") and favors military attacks against just about everyone. He has argued that The New York Times should be prosecuted for exposing a secret Bush administration program and accused Democrats of disliking Joe Lieberman because the Connecticut senator is "pro-American." He has falsely denied the existence of evidence that Bush misled the U.S. into Iraq and defended Scooter Libby and attacked Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the outing of Valerie Plame. And he has hackishly attacked Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria while ignoring the fact that Republican members of congress were doing the same thing.
But most of all, Kristol has been wrong -- wrong about nearly everything, nearly all the time, as Salon's Joan Walsh noted when The New York Times hired him in 2007:
I'll leave it to Crooks and Liars to document Kristol's sad history of being wrong on everything (about the likelihood Sunni and Shi'a in Iraq could all get along, on the urgency of a strike against Iran's probably non-existent nuclear program, about the Times itself deserving prosecution for its" totally gratuitous revealing of an ongoing secret classified program that is part of the war on terror.") Hey, we're all wrong sometimes. But Kristol has been consistently, spectacularly wrong for a living. He bears a special responsibility for selling the Iraq war using any means necessary, and for savaging war opponents to this day as traitors who don't care about national security. And I can't help but think in the long run that he hurts the paper. The main thing the Times has, as a brand -- and believe me, it's a lot -- is its association with and dedication to the truth. Kristol is anti-truth.
You could spend an entire day reading variations on the "Bill Kristol is always wrong" theme, most of which will include his claim that "There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all." Wrong. (For a less consequential example of Kristol's uncanny knack for being wrong, check out his hilarious series of predictions of a Bush political rebound in 2005.)
Charles Krauthammer says environmentalism is "the new socialism," compares Barack Obama's 2008 campaign to China's Cultural Revolution, accuses Obama of thinking of himself "in messianic terms" and of using "Orwellian language that you expect" from Hugo Chavez and calls Chavez Obama's "new pal" and invokes the Nazis in writing about Obama's stem cell policies. He referred to Khamenei as Iran's "Supreme Leader," attacked Barack Obama for doing the same thing a few days later, then just a few days after that, again referred to Khamenei as the "Supreme Leader." Principled!
Krauthammer has called possible torture investigations "banana republic politics" and made false claims to support his case against investigations. That's unsurprising, given that Krauthammer goes back and forth on whether waterboarding is torture -- but is unwavering in his support for it. And like any good Washington Post columnist, he didn't like the Plame investigation, or feel bound by the facts when discussing it -- and even wrote that Bush should pre-emptively pardon Libby. And Krauthammer has falsely defended the Bush administration's use of Iraq intelligence. He even praised Dick Cheney for doing the "manly thing" in withholding information about his shooting of a hunting companion.
Finally, while Krauthammer was never actually employed by a Republican politician -- unlike several of his colleagues -- he did apparently run afoul of Washington Post conflict of interest rules by offering advice to Bush administration strategists and speechwriter Michael Gerson, who would later join Krauthammer at the paper. Hiatt stood by his columnist, denying that Krauthammer had advised the administration, even though the Post's own news division had broken the story.
Gerson was a Bush administration speechwriter until 2006, when he joined the Washington Post as a columnist. At the time, Hiatt said of Gerson: "I expect he will be an independent voice." He didn't say who he expected Gerson -- described by the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru as "Bush's soul" -- to be independent from. According to Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Gerson's work for Bush included helping prepare Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations, inserting yellowcake references into Bush speeches including the 2003 State of the Union, and conceiving the warning of a nuclear Iraq: "The first sign of a smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud." As Media Matters detailed upon Gerson's hiring by the Post, many of the Iraq falsehoods he helped craft for the Bush administration were adopted by his future Post colleagues -- and never corrected.
As media critic Jeff Cohen explained in 2006, the Post enthusiastically supported Gerson's pro-war efforts for Bush:
As Gerson's "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" soundbite took flight, Al Gore made an Iraq speech questioning "preemptive war." On the Post's op-ed page, Gore's speech was "dishonest, cheap, low" and "wretched ... vile ... contemptible." And that was all in one column. Another called it "a series of cheap shots."
By contrast, the error-filled Colin Powell speech at the U.N. (that Gerson worked on) was hailed at the Post with almost Pravda-like unanimity. An editorial -- headlined "Irrefutable" -- declared: "It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." And the Post's op-ed page from right to "left" embraced Powell's speech.
Gerson and his new colleagues at the Post worked together to help bring us one of the worst foreign policy debacles in our nation's history. Newspapers are supposed to hold discredited public officials to account. The Post is hiring him.
As a Post columnist, Gerson has continued to advance his pet cause (that would be war, of course). In an April 2008 column, he argued for three simultaneous wars -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Gerson pays lip service to opposing what he tactfully calls "harsh interrogations," but when you get past the throat-clearing, Gerson argues that firm opposition to such tactics simply "is not an option for those in government." And he has bitterly denounced efforts to investigate Bush administration interrogation methods, using rhetoric Nathan Jessep would appreciate:
And now Obama has described the post-Sept. 11 period as "a dark and painful chapter in our history." In fact, whatever your view of waterboarding, the response of intelligence professionals following Sept. 11 was impressive. ... Now the president and his party have done much to tarnish those accomplishments. So much for the thanks of a grateful nation.
Given the magnitude of Gerson's culpability in crafting a bogus case for war, it seems small change to point out that this "independent voice" shares with his colleagues the habit of attacking liberals for things conservatives do, too. Or that he has been accused of plagiarism by another former Bush speechwriter, David Frum -- an allegation that the Post kindly omitted from an article that mentioned other Frum criticisms of Gerson. Probably just another example of that famed "church-state" separation between the Post's news and opinion operations.
Speaking of Bush administration speechwriters, the Post just hired another one. Marc Thiessen became a Post columnist earlier this month. It probably won't surprise you to learn that Thiessen has made dubious claims in defense of waterboarding. He has equated waterboarding of detainees with training of U.S. military personnel, a comparison that even the Bush Justice Department disagreed with. (Naturally, he opposed the release of documents relating to the Bush administration's interrogation practices.) And Thiessen claimed in a Post guest op-ed last year that the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had prevented a terrorist attack on Los Angeles -- a claim that was undermined by the Bush administration's statements that the attack was thwarted more than a year before KSM was even captured. In another 2009 guest op-ed for the Post, Thiessen claimed there were no domestic terror attacks under Bush after 9-11 -- an example of damning-with-faint-praise if ever there was one. Oh, and it isn't true, as anyone who worked in Washington during the anthrax and sniper attacks of 2001 and 2002 surely knows.
Some editors would be upset that Thiessen used their opinion pages to peddle such transparent nonsense. Fred Hiatt hired him.
Former Reagan administration speechwriter Robert Kagan writes for the Post, too. A supporter of the Iraq war, Kagan used his perch at the Post to attack Al Gore for an "astonishing reversal" on Iraq, though Gore hadn't actually reversed himself. Then a few sentences later, Kagan complained: "At least in the short run, dishonesty pays. Dissembling pays." Showing a deep commitment to that principle, Kagan earlier this month described a proposed $14 billion increase in defense spending as a 10 percent cut.
And Kagan memorably lauded Sen. Joe Lieberman as "the last honest man," which pretty well speaks for itself.
Post editorial board member and columnist Charles Lane has argued for cutting -- yes, cutting -- the minimum wage. (The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour comes out to $15,080 for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.) And he wrote a dishonest screed defending Joe Lieberman by arguing that we should take him at his word rather than assessing his actions. No, really.
Post columnist George Will still finds time to deny the efficacy of the New Deal, but spends much of his time these days peddling falsehoods about global climate change -- falsehoods Hiatt and the Post refuse to correct. Will seems to share Lane's belief that the minimum wage is overly generous. And he shared his colleagues' dismay at poor Scooter Libby facing punishment for his crimes. Will also opposes prosecution of those responsible for Bush-era torture practices -- perhaps because he thinks "[t]here are intelligent men and women of good will who say that anything that inhibits the President's power to defend the country is not binding."
Finally, we come to Fred Hiatt, the so-called "traditional liberal in all matters domestic." He's the kind of "traditional liberal" who thinks health care reform is too expensive -- all while disregarding liberal reform proposals that would reduce the cost. The kind who distorted Barack Obama's comments while praising John McCain's strongly held "principles" on issues on which McCain had shifted and displayed inconsistency. The kind who allows Will to mislead readers about climate change, over and over again. And Hiatt, of course, opposed a special prosecutor examination of Bush terror practices. (Argue, if you like, that applying the rule of law to government officials is not a domestic matter -- but I don't buy it.)
A few of the guest op-eds published by Hiatt are worthy of mention. Last summer, the Post published an op-ed in which Martin Feldstein falsely claimed that Barack Obama supported "a British-style 'single payer' system in which the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are salaried." When the inaccuracy of Feldstein's claim was pointed out by, among others, Jon Chait and Paul Krugman, Hiatt refused to run a correction. Instead, he has rewarded Feldstein by publishing two more of his op-eds attacking "Obamacare," Feldstein's opposition to which may have something to do with his service on the board of directors of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
Hiatt published two op-eds by Sarah Palin last year, one of which repeated several already-debunked claims about climate change. The Post dragged its feet in running a response to Palin, doing so only after running a Palin letter to the editor.
Last October, Hiatt handed insurance company lobbyist Karen Ignagni op-ed space to tout a deeply-flawed "study" her organization commissioned -- a study the Post's news pages had already debunked. In August, Hiatt ran an op-ed defending the "death panels" lie. Last spring, Hiatt published an op-ed by Charles Murray, darling of the "white nationalist" VDARE crowd. And just this month, the Post actually commissioned a column baselessly asserting that liberals are more condescending than conservatives.
It seems the real reason The Washington Times has never been able to make any money may be that its hard-right editorial stance is redundant in a city that already has Fred Hiatt's Washington Post.
Jamison Foser is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Foser also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web, as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his columns by email.