Saturday, September 15, 2007

Political Bits

"The mind thinks, not with data, but with ideas whose creation and elaboration cannot be reduced to a set of predictable values."

Theodore Roszak

White House Press Corpse?

Jay Rosen of Press Think having fired off his annoyances about the coverage of the Bush visit to Anbar and the rest of the world hears back from someone inside the WH Briefing room who wishes to remain anonymous.

Person who wrote to me is for real. Has one of the seats. Does not want to be named. I don't generally run things like that. But this is straight from the briefing room to correct PressThink on a few items. So I found a way.

I’m writing in response to your post about the president’s trip to Iraq, and some additional thoughts that you shared about covering this White House. After reading your column, I sent a somewhat heated email to a friend who’s a press critic — and a long-time reader of your columns on HuffPost and Press Think — and he suggested I reach out to you directly.


First, I have to tell you that your suggestion that the White House press corps - or its “pool” representatives - not cover the president when he goes into a war zone struck me as curious.


Well, there are two phrases that I’d like to pass along to your readers. They mean more or less the same thing. “Body watch” means covering an event that will produce zero news on its own because you need to make sure the president doesn’t collapse. The other is SSRO — “suddenly shots rang out” — which is basically equivalent, just a bit more dramatic.

I think melodramatic would be right.

They continue in that vein... What is overlooked from both professional journalists is that the WH Press Corp and the institutional machinery made a lot of money for the media during the Clintonian years. Clinton had a scandal, charges, photo op, or defense going anew every week for almost 8 years. The Nightly Leno?Letterman/Stewart combo got laughs with easy tawdry jokes. The WH Press Corp and the broadcast media were well fed They wealthy and several news journalists got promoted during those years. Any reporter that failed to toe the Clinton-Line was not-so-carefully removed from the list of invitees. Being on the out means no stories, no questions asked or answered, no promotions and no more paycheck. Like well fed dogs, the WH Press Corp grew fat and lazy on the constant diet of high calorie campaign-style propaganda. This came in very handy when the Clinton Presidency was threatened. Suddenly, the Press realized that the train might stop. By ignoring, spinning, slanting and defending the Clintons they could milk it for a few more years. They did and they did. They lost their hunger, their fangs and their claws. Like cut-cats they could only sit and stare.

Now Rosen finds it boring that so many resources are wasted on the Bush WH travels. They could simply see him off and then have the local reporter or stringer at the destination pick-up and watch for the bullets to fly or body to fall... Bush is boring. He keeps his promises. He loves his wife. He keeps normal hours. He does his job and goes home. Therefore, the Press could do the same. That is at-odds with the post-Watergate, every moment a leak, a cover-up, a scandal brewing, a Pulitzer, a book, a movie deal, mentality... Now they have to settle down and do a regular work week and grub for promotions and pay raises just like regular folks. Its been a long seven years.

Would the Press pump it up for another Clinton WH-? 1992-2016 would make a long and satisfying career as a journo. A book or movie would surely be possible from all those scandals. A satisfying pension would be assured. And it would all arrive spoon fed, pre-chewed and ready for typing, or re-write as they used to call it. No thinking, no analysis, no digging for facts or even fact checking, just re-type what the WH Press Secretary presents and head off for few drinks. "Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you try" says the old song.

The Washington Way
Washington hates revolution and fears revolutionaries more than it hates "leaders". They prefer "evolution". Never Say "No". Never say "yes". Never block anything. Slow progress at all times. (aka "Slow Rolling") Don't rock the boat, don't upset anyone. Never challenge a decision until the decision maker has retired. Check all the facts. Get all the answers. Look at it from all angles. Consider all the options and consequences (especially whose ox might get gored). Then pass it along to the next level for a repeat of the cycle and updating of the information. It's called "I 'm having a career". Never get fired. Slowly get promoted. Get nice health and pension. The rest of the world calls it "Retired In Place (R.I.P.)" Would the WH Press Corp be immune to seeking evolution over revolution for themselves?

I find it easier to see them as humans seeking a life and trying for a career than as noble enlightened beings who take small wages to be disrespected by those they cover as they pursue truth, only truth.

NYTimes Discovers Ad Marketing Strategy At Long Last.

The WSJ today asks

Tailgunner Joan Flies Standby
Yesterday we wondered if the New York Times had made an illegal campaign contribution to the political action committee. The Times, you'll recall, published a full-page ad Monday in which it attacked Gen. David Petraeus in McCarthyite terms. The New York Post reported that the Times had given a $102,000 discount from its usual $167,000 rate--which, if true, would be an illegal in-kind contribution under campaign finance laws.

The Times offers this explanation in a news story today:

Catherine J. Mathis, a spokeswoman for The New York Times Company, said the advertising department does not base its rates on political content. She also said the department does not disclose the rates it charges for individual advertisements. But she did say that "similar types of ads are priced in the same way." She said the department charges advocacy groups $64,575 for full-page, black-and-white advertisements that run on a "standby" basis, meaning an advertiser can request a specific day and placement but is not guaranteed them.

In other words, the Times prices ads similarly to the way airlines price seats: Not everyone pays full fare, and you can get a deep discount if you are flexible. That allows the paper to sell space that might otherwise go unsold. Assuming that this is all on the up-and-up, there's no legal problem, any more than there is if a campaign pays less than full fare for a plane ticket.

But wait. This was a very time-sensitive ad. For it to have the desired effect (or, as actually happened, to backfire spectacularly), it pretty much had to run Monday. Under such circumstances, why would MoveOn buy an ad without guaranteed placement? That would be like flying standby to your own wedding

They ask many intelligent questions about pricing, space availability on a date propitious to the ad, etc. But acknowledge that the NYTimes has the right to sell their ad space for whatever rate they choose.

It is the view of this column that the Times should be able to sell ads to whomever it wishes under whatever terms it wishes. But we live in an era of heavy regulation of campaign speech, thanks in part to the persuasive efforts of the New York Times. It does not seem too much to ask that the New York Times Co. adhere, with transparency and integrity, to the high standards its editorialists seek to impose by law on everyone else.

Rudy Guilani quickly took advantage of the special rate and placed an ad challenging Hillary for not rebuking for the ad. "If you can't stand up to your own party, how can you stand up to foreign terrorists?" or words to that effect. At least her husband had the cojones to have his "Sister Souljah" moment. Hillary still hides behind the "Swiftboat defense"... Of course, she promised that she would not be "Swiftboated" by the opposition. It probably never seemed likely that she would be among the first voices in defending the right of a PAC to say anything no matter how outrageous, vile, or truthful. I wonder how she will respond to revelations next year?

In all things Presidential; Character Matters. Hillary has shown none.

Presidential Character

Captain Ed over at Captains Quarters has a report and some comments on Hillary's campaign hiring Sandy Berger

You can tell a man who boozes,
by the company he chooses ...
and the pig got up and slowly walked away.

The poem by Clarke Van Ness warns people that they will be judged by the actions of those with whom they choose to associate -- and even a pig has enough sense to walk away from disaster. Hillary Clinton has a big problem with her associates, and it's self-inflicted. Lost in the Norman Hsu shuffle, the news that Hillary has asked former Clinton national-security adviser Sandy Berger to join her campaign should cause even more questions about her judgment and her ethics:

The more experienced Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has relied largely on her husband and a triumvirate of senior officials from his presidency—former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke and former national-security adviser Sandy Berger (who tries to keep a low profile after pleading guilty in 2005 to misdemeanor charges of taking classified material without authorization).

Berger didn't just commit some technical violation, either. He went to the National Archives on behalf of Bill Clinton as part of the investigation of the 9/11 attacks. While there, he deliberately hid highly classified material in his socks to avoid detection and dropped them under a trailer on a break. Later, he retrieved the material and took it home, and wound up destroying the evidence while his nation tried to find as much material on Clinton-era counterterrorism efforts in order to better protect ourselves in the future.

We now have two examples of Hillary Clinton associating herself with people of low character and criminal behavior. Unlike the pig in the song, Hillary not only has not removed herself from the gutter, she seems to be encouraging the ethically challenged to join her there.

Richard Miniter has more personal recollections of Berger's efforts to keep the Clinton errors quiet. He also ends with a very pertinent question:

My informed sources suggest that what Berger destroyed were copies of the Millennium After-Action Review, a binder-sized report prepared by Richard Clarke in 2000—a year and half before the 9-11 attacks. The review made a series of recommendations for a tougher stance against bin Laden and terrorism. There are 13 or more copies of this report. But only one contains hand-written notes by President Bill Clinton. Apparently, in the margin beside the recommendations, Bill Clinton wrote NO, NO, NO next to many of the tougher policy proposals. ...

Did she bring him aboard to reward him for his criminal destruction of classified material? Or did she sign him up because of his stellar record in fighting bin Laden in the late 1990s?

Captain Ed also has lots of coverage on Norman Hsu. Scroll down his link for details

Hillary's Presidency is not assured. It certainly looks that way from time to time. She has all the money in the world. She has all the Media and Media Stars supporting her. She would be guaranteed an Emmy, an Oscar, a Tony or even an MTV award if she was only a candidate.

There is still time for her to screw things up. Her inner shrew is barely below the surface. Her brittle, controlling, demanding persona is evident. Her choices in the people who surround her leaves much to be disrespect. She does not come across as a trustworthy person.

I believe that ultimately the American people want someone they can trust to do the right thing when nobody is looking. They do not want a President whose character came directly from the screenplay of "24".

I also do not dismiss her husband's ability to screw it up for her. He shows up at her speeches and sucks the attention away from her. Who remembers her when he is on stage. When they are together, she is the "Little Woman" and he is "The Lovable Rascal". I am not convinced that he would allow her to succeed where he failed. Altho his fingerprints would never appear on anything.


Brenden Miniter has some thoughts on why Hillary may have problems with women voters over her abortion positions (video link)... There will be more spculation and reading of tea leaves regarding Hillary's appeal to women voters to come in weeks and months ahead. It's still 14 months until the election.

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