Kicking Ass and Taking Names: Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald Call Bullshit on the White House StenographersBarack Obama, David Addington, Dick Cheney, Douglas Feith, Glenn Greenwald, Illegal Wiretapping, Jane Hamsher, John Ashcroft, John Hannah, John Yoo, Justice Department, Rendition, State Secrets, The Atlantic, Torture, White House Stenographers
The Grand Dame of Blogs, Jane Hamsher and the Tough, Smart Glenn Greenwald Are Getting it Done
Access Journalism — Business As Usual?
By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday February 11
Glenn Greenwald has been rightfully indignant about the Obama DoJ’s use of Bush’s “state secrets” argument to cover up charges of rendition and torture. The NY Times this morning says “It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred…..Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court.”
But Bush’s “state secrets” claims aren’t the only White House holdovers. Glenn also singles out Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic today for being a DC stenographer whose idea of “reporting” is calling up administration sources, granting them anonymity without cause, and then writing it up mindlessly without critique or context:
What possible justification is there for granting administration officials anonymity to explain why they are embracing a Bush-era weapon that they have long criticized? And why does an administration swearing great levels of transparency and accountability — and vowing to use secrecy only when absolutely necessary — need to hide behind a wall of anonymity in order to explain why they did what they did here? Why can’t they attach their names to this explanation, so that they can be questioned about it and held accountable?
Why would he do that? Well, possibly because that’s the only way they’ll talk to him — or anyone else. New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston has also written about this “business as usual” quality of White House press relations:
My questions to LaBolt and Singh prompted a return phone call the next day from Nick Shapiro, who spelled his name, but had to be prodded several times to give his job title: assistant press secretary.
During our brief conversation, Shapiro, like LaBolt (whose name Shapiro did not recognize), started one sentence with “off the record.” Told that the journalist grants the privilege, and that none would be granted here, Shapiro expressed surprise. His surprise was double-barreled, at both the idea that the reporter issues any privilege and that any reporter would decline to talk “off the record.”
The reportorial practice of letting government officials speak without taking responsibility for their words has been an issue with the public and is being questioned now by some journalists, as shown by this article from Slate’s Jack Shafer.
Questions about whether Shapiro knows the difference between off-the-record, background, deep background, and on-the-record did not get asked, because Shapiro made it clear he had no interest in answering anything about how the Obama press secretary’s office is operating and what its tone will be. He said questions should be submitted in writing by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I sent Shapiro an e-mail outlining the contours of what would be covered in an interview, but have not received a response as of this writing, the following day.
Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter whose book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense [and Stick You with the Bill] is indispensible for anyone wanting to understand how the taxation and legislative system has been gamed to favor the rich. He’s a superb journalist and sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s still employed at the Times. (note: Johnston has left the NYT.) An administration interested in transparency should be ecstatic about working with him.
But what is going on right now in the world of DC journalism finds its most naked expression in Ambinder’s piece, though I’ve seen other glaring examples of late — journalists are scrambling for who gets “access” to the White House. So there’s no end to the bullshit they’ll write to ingratiate themselves to potential sources, or the inconvenient facts they’ll edit out in order to be the new Bob Woodward. (Though Ambinder does deserve some praise on this front — he wrote what everyone else knows but isn’t saying about White House plans: “encouragement of moderate Democrats,” “entitlement reform” and “standing up to Speaker Pelosi.”)
You can see it in the horror with which the traditional media is responding to Sam Stein getting called on at the President’s press conference — there are rules, there is a pecking order, and This Is Not How It’s Done. While it’s great Sam got recognized — he’s a really good journalist and he asked a critical question — it’s not much more than “window dressing” if the day-to-day interaction with the press stays the same as it did during the Bush years. And with Rahm managing the relations between the White House and the media these days, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.
Update: And the stenography continues: Ambinder calls back his “administration sources” so they can respond to Glenn but neither names him nor links to him. “They’re sensitive to the politics of the case, but they’re not motivated by what civil libertarians may write on their blogs.” The administration people don’t want you at the slumber party Glenn Greenwald, and they don’t give anonymous quotes to you, Glenn Greenwald, and they certainly aren’t going to RESPOND to you, Glenn Greenwald, well okay they DID and Ambinder just wrote PARAGRAPHS about it but they are going to just turn their backs and pretend you’re not there. Feh.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson Endorses Hillary Clinton; Calls Her "Battle Tested"Barack Obama, David Corn, Dick Cheney, Douglas Feith, Election 2008, Elliot Abrams, Hillary Clinton, Jane Hamsher, Joe Wilson, John McCain, Judge Thomas F. Hogan, Judith Millaer, Karl Rove, Marcy Wheeler, Matt Cooper, Patrick Fitzgerald, Richard Mellon Scaife, Robert Luskin, Robert Novak, Scooter Libby, The District, Tim Russert, Viveca Novak
Hillary Clinton fought the Republican attack machine, and emerged stronger
By Joseph C. Wilson IV
February 12, 2008
With the emergence of Sen. John McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the choice for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election now shifts to who is best positioned to beat him, in what promises to be a more hard-fought campaign – and perhaps a nastier one – than Democrats anticipated.
Sen. Barack Obama’s promise of transformation and an end of partisan politics has its seductive appeal. The Bush-Cheney era, after all, has been punctuated by smear campaigns, character assassinations and ideological fervor.
Nobody dislikes such poisonous partisanship, especially in foreign policy, more than I do. I am one of very few Foreign Service officers to have served as ambassador in the administrations of both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, yet I have spent the past four years fighting a concerted character assassination campaign orchestrated by the George W. Bush White House.
Sen. Hillary Clinton is one of the few who fully understood the stakes in that battle. Time and again, she reached out to my wife – outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson – and me to remind us that as painful as the attacks were, we simply could not allow ourselves to be driven from the public square by bullying. Mrs. Clinton knew from experience, having spent the better part of the past 20 years fighting the Republican attack machine. She is a fighter.
But will Mr. Obama fight? His brief time on the national scene gives little comfort. Consider a February 2006 exchange of letters with Mr. McCain on the subject of ethics reform. The wrathful Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being “disingenuous,” to which Mr. Obama meekly replied, “The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you.”
Mr. McCain was insultingly dismissive but successful in intimidating his inexperienced colleague. Thus, in his one known face-to-face encounter with Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama failed to stand his ground.
What gives us confidence that Mr. Obama will be stronger the next time he faces Mr. McCain, a seasoned political fighter with extensive national security credentials? Even more important, what special disadvantages does Mr. Obama carry into this contest on questions of national security?
How will Mr. Obama answer Mr. McCain about his careless remark about unilaterally bombing Pakistan – perhaps blowing up an already difficult relationship with a nuclear state threatened by Islamic extremists? How will Mr. Obama respond to charges made by the Kenyan government that his campaigning activities in Kenya in support of his distant cousin running for president there made him “a stooge” and constituted interference in the politics of an important and besieged ally in the war on terror?
How will he answer charges that his desire for unstructured personal summits without preconditions with a host of America’s adversaries, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kim Jong Il, would be little more than premature capitulation?
Contrary to the myth of the Obama campaign, 2008 is not the year for transcendental transformation. The task for the next administration will be to repair the damage done by eight years of radical rule. And the choice for Americans is clear: four more years of corrupt Republican rule, senseless wars, evisceration of the Constitution, emptying of the national treasury – or rebuilding our government and our national reputation, piece by piece.
In order to effect practical change against a determined adversary, we do not need a would-be philosopher-king but a seasoned gladiator who understands the fight Democrats will face in the fall campaign and in governing.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again … who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”
If he were around today, Roosevelt might be speaking of the woman in the arena. Hillary Clinton has been in that arena for a generation. She is one of the few to have defeated the attack machine that is today’s Republican Party and to have emerged stronger. She is deeply knowledgeable about governing; she made herself into a power in the Senate; she is respected by our military; and she never flinches. She has never been intimidated, not by any Republican – not even John McCain.
Barack Obama claims to represent the future, but it should be increasingly evident that he is not the man for this moment, especially with Mr. McCain’s arrival. We’ve seen a preview of that contest already. It was a TKO.
Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was in the Foreign Service for 23 years, and served in Iraq in the years leading up to the Persian Gulf war. He is the author of “The Politics of Truth.” His e-mail is email@example.com.
Copyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun