December 29, 2007
"Most of them are not ideologically driven; they just want to get on the front page."
Huckenfreude is one case. "Like the social conservatives who deserve a seat on the bus but shouldn’t be allowed to drive it, the yahoos who think the press is a tool of the Democratic party are needed but should not be heeded by conservatives in power."
If you’ve been paying attention you know that Mike Huckabee’s rise is bringing out the contempt for social conservatives and evangelicals among the conservative elite and its ecosphere, as Mark Ambinder calls it. John Cole (“Enjoy your new GOP, folks…”) and Andrew Sullivan (“This is their party. And they asked for every last bit of it…”) pounced on the squirming shown as Huckabee climbed in the polls during December. Arianna has written about the reaping and sowing. Steve Benen and Kevin Drum too.
Watching this pattern, The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat defined Huckenfreude as “pleasure derived from the outrage of prominent conservative pundits over the rising poll numbers of Mike Huckabee.” (And “Huckenfreude” is fun to say.) Some particularly good examples of that outrage are Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal and Rich Lowry in the National Review. But also see James Joyner.
“For the purpose of bringing down the Bush administration.”
I would like to report on a different—and perhaps subtler—instance of this same contempt by conservative elites for yahoos in their own coalition. My case involves not the views of Republican candidates but attitudes toward the press.
Some of the attitudes I have in mind were well expressed by John Hinderaker of the conservative blog Powerline in December of 2005. I think it is accurate to call this a political passion among a portion of the Republican coalition: the new media right, or that part of the base that has its own microphone. The context was this article in the Washington Post featuring military blogger Bill Roggio that badly mangled some key facts about him. Good, solid flashpoint material…
The Post’s reporters are part of a lavishly funded and monolithic media effort to misreport the Iraq war for the purpose of bringing down the Bush administration. Notwithstanding their near monopoly, the liberal media’s reporting is so patently biased and inaccurate that the mere presence of a reporter on the scene who is not part of their guild, and does not share their commitment to the well-being of the Democratic Party, sends them into a panic. Pathetic.
The virtues of direct speech: The press is monolithic, liberal, dedicated to bringing down Bush, and committed to the well-being of the Democratic Party. Hinderaker in 2006: “The liberal media are determined to drag the carcass of the Democratic Party across the finish line, come Hell or high water.”
“How do you deal with them when they’re all liberal?”
Compare that attitude, versions of which are a commonplace for the online right and talk radio worlds, to the observations of Dan Bartlett, formerly one of Bush’s closest aides, in a recent interview with Texas Monthly upon his return to Austin and private life:
I get asked the question all the time: How do you deal with them when they’re all liberal? I’ve found that most of them are not ideologically driven. Do I think that a lot of them don’t agree with the president? No doubt about it. But impact, above all else, is what matters. All they’re worried about is, can I have the front-page byline? Can I lead the evening newscast?
News is traveling from the Bush team to the base. “Most of them are not ideologically driven; they just want to get on the front page.” Bartlett wouldn’t even throw a conceptual bone in talk radio or TownHall’s direction, where the notion that reporters are both liberal and ideologically driven is part of the political religion of your new GOP: a common grievance, which, when joined with other grievances similarly shaped, forms a flexible politics of resentment that candidates can tap.
Bartlett’s broad portfolio included White House communications and press policy; he was speaking from experience when he told the base that its common sense was cracked because it didn’t account for the motivations of reporters. And that’s not all he said that was a bit contemptuous. Texas Monthly asked Bartlett whether he would respond first to Dan Balz, the top political reporter for the Washington Post, or Chris Cillizza, political blogger for the Post. Bartlett said he would favor Balz because he is on more platforms, and thus more influential. And then…
Bartlett: The question might not be as much Chris versus Dan as maybe, “Is it Dan Balz or one of the guys at Power Line?”
Yeah, or what if Hugh Hewitt called?
Bartlett: That’s when you start going, “Hmm …” Because they do reach people who are influential.
Well, they reach the president’s base.
Bartlett: That’s what I mean by influential. I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.
“They regurgitate exactly!” No filter. No back talk. We like that. We cultivate that. But when it comes to Hugh Hewitt’s and Powerline’s core beliefs about the “elite” media and the way it operates, all the “wing of the Democratic Party” talk, Bartlett acknowledges the popularity of it, but says: no, that’s not how it works.
Then he more or less affirms a view journalists have of themselves! In culture war terms, this is like joining the other side. Leonard Downie, editor of the Washington Post, put it this way, “The most common bias I find in our profession is the love of a good story.” That’s what Bartlett says he found. Reporters want something with a certain “pop” that will land them on the front page or the top of the newscast. And that’s their bias.
“I’m not sure I’ve talked about the liberal media.”
Karl Rove did the same thing when asked about the cultural right’s operational view of the press. He refused, then endorsed the profession’s view of itself. In 2005 Rove gave a lecture at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. It was named for Richard Harwood, former editor and ombudsman at the Washington Post. The theme was the executive and the press corps. The Post’s Dana Milbank was there.
“I’m not sure I’ve talked about the liberal media,” Rove said when a student inquired — a decision he said he made “consciously.” The press is generally liberal, he argued, but “I think it’s less liberal than it is oppositional.”
The argument — similar to the one that former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer made in his recent book — is nuanced, nonpartisan and, to the ears of many journalists, right on target. “Reporters now see their role less as discovering facts and fair-mindedly reporting the truth and more as being put on the earth to afflict the comfortable, to be a constant thorn of those in power, whether they are Republican or Democrat,” Rove said.
“Less liberal than it is oppositional [to] those in power, whether they are Republican or Democrat.” No one is more of a warrior than Rove. Attacking those who lean liberal, that’s his political bread and butter. And yet here he is breaking with the base when it would have cost him nothing to support its common sense of the matter, just as it would have been easy and unremarkable for Bartlett to agree: “Sadly, an ideologically-driven press has been against us. They’ve always resented president Bush because he doesn’t treat them with the proper deference… ” Piece of cake!
Like Bartlett, but more so, Rove takes the view Washington journalists have of themselves: tough (“oppositional”) on everyone, Republican or Democrat. He even used the pro newsroom’s own cliches: “afflict the comfortable.” Appreciating the nod to ancient wisdom, Dana Milbank replied in kind: Karl, your view is nuanced, nonpartisan and, to the ears of many journalists, right on target.
“We’re going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop.”
What’s going on here? (You tell me; that’s what comment threads are for.)
One answer would be, for conservatives who have actually been in power, the liberal media thesis is a bit like the theory of intelligent design is for Rich Lowry and Peggy Noonan: an intellectual embarrassment. It’s important to have those who passionately believe it as part of your coalition. They can do some serious damage to the opposition, so you want them “on” their game and active. But you can’t operate with their press think. Like the social conservatives who deserve a seat on the bus but shouldn’t be allowed to drive it, the yahoos who think the press is a tool of the Democratic party are needed but should not be heeded by conservatives in power.
Another answer is that Bartlett and Rove think like the Washington Post’s Leonard Downie because they have become (Washington) insiders themselves. And look, Newsweek just hired Rove as a columnist, so the cycle is complete.
I lean toward a slightly more complicated explanation. It starts with the words of David Addington, describing the expansion of executive power led by Vice President Cheney: “We’re going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop.” The important thing about the press was to keep it from becoming that larger force. But it’s not hard, Rove and Bartlett were saying.
Having a pipeline directly to your supporters in new media is vital. They carry the message down the line. And when they pound on the liberal media for bias, it’s great for our side, because it does put the press on its heels and raise the cost for challenging our public story. Meanwhile, we’re going about the infinitely more important business of giving the president the powers he needs. Opposing that would be hard; the press would have to connect a lot of dots, keep at it for years, and risk charges of being one-sided and unfair if the coverage continued.
Reporters need to feel “oppositional” to both parties, a thorn in the side of office holders everywhere, but they also love a juicy story their rivals don’t have, and they have a weakness for the inside-dopester, savvy style. By learning these simple things about them we can keep them from trying to stop us on the much larger plane of action where the White House has to be seriously engaged: the information battlefield in the global war on terror.
Posted by Jay Rosen at December 29, 2007 1:01 AM
You've written many times about the administration's efforts toward marginalizing the press, and the contempt in which Bush especially and the administration in general appear to hold the press. Rove's comments in particular, and Bartlett's to an only slightly lesser degree, pretty well reflect that contempt more than any dissing of the "liberal press" bloodhounds on the right.
Consider the portrait Rove and Bartlett jointly paint: reporters are narcicisstic obstructionists whose interests lie only in self-aggrandizement ("can I have the front-page byline?") and the satisfaction that comes from being primarily a nuisance ("to be a constant thorn of those in power") rather than a reporter ("discovering facts and fair-mindedly reporting the truth"). And then consider that Milbank, at least, seems to find some redeeming value in that portrait.
(Although the grammar in that 'thorn' quote suggests, no doubt inadvertently, that reporters are thorns wielded by those in power rather than ones stuck in the powerful's paw, which as it happens is all too often closer to the truth.)
You and I have discussed the lack of institutional memory on the part of the press—that inability or unwillingness to "connect a lot of dots, keep at it for years". This administration's penchant for generating dots, piling scandal upon disaster upon scandal, has ameliorated the failure of the press to recognize the pattern because the landscape is now all dots, all the time, and readers, the public, have made Bush the most enduringly unpopular president in history as a result.
But Rove and Bartlett and others involved in handling the press can't ultimately be unhappy about their results: the fact that no important newspaper has called for the impeachment of Bush or Cheney speaks ever so loudly to the unwillingness of reporters, and certainly editors, to synthesize a pattern from hundreds of similar stories about hundreds of similar excesses or incompetencies.
A case in point is Robert Wexler's stunningly successful and all but invisible effort to gain support for impeachment hearings aimed at Cheney. Neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post would publish an op-ed from Wexler and fellow representatives Luis Gutierrez and Tammy Baldwin laying out the case for impeachment. (It was finally published by the Philadelphia Enquirer, nearly two weeks after the three members of Congress wrote it). And neither paper has done a story about the effort, which has attracted some 250,000 signatures in support; the only paper that has written a story on the drive is Wexler's home district Miami Herald (appropriately, part of the McClatchy chain, which still favors skeptical, analytical reporting).
Rove and Bartlett have to love that.
I don't see contempt in Bartlett's comments about right-wing blogs or talk radio; he's simply describing the ideal reporter/analyst, a la Judith Miller and Michael Gordon at the Times, or Joe Klein at Time magazine: someone with whom you have a relationship and who trusts you enough to repeat uncritically what you tell them. And who gets the front page anyway.
He's one of what is known as a Walmart Republican, tough on high-profile social issues and in favor of government programs. Social conservatives in favor of receiving government largesse.
For most conservatives, social conservatism is part of the package, but not the biggest, and Huckabee has dropped the biggest.
Washington insiders have to butter each others' bread, so they can't very well say what they think in some cases.
Roggio has no proof for the MSM's motivation. He does have, however, on-the-ground experience about the MSM's consistent misreporting. He wonders, as do many, what the motivation for misreporting is. Occam's razor points at a desire to bring down the Bush administration. TO put it another way, if they wanted to bring down the Bush administration, what would they do differently?
Neo-neocon thinks it's because the MSM sees themselves as Woodsteins and everybody above the rank of assistant dogcatcher as Nixon.
One poster spoke of doing some adjunct work at a J-school. He asked the Kids what their goal was. To a person, the answer was, "to make a difference". Which means, if the facts don't exactly fit the needed narrative, you fudge. That hasn't happened hardly at all.
"oppositional" is all very well, but the degree is in question. Even-up?
What you don't understand is that, from the outside, one journo's crime taints you all. You don't get to pretend Dan Rather never happened and so nobody is allowed to view the rest of you with distrust.
Jason, our sometime military commentator, is not going to be on any social-network-reporting Rolodex any time soon. Because he knows stuff the journos would rather not get into the story. Ditto anybody else who actually knows things that might screw the narrative.
The horse is long, long out of the barn. Incestuous chin-pulling isn't going to make the public any more likely to trust you.
You have to start doing real journalism again.
Ooops. I mean you have to start doing real journalism.
Maybe you could start with a copy of Until Proven Innocent.
Call it "Rosenfreude," but Rosen has once again penned a lenghty essay full of anecdotal quotations from articulate people while simultaneously wishing away a mountain of hard, quant evidence.
See also Lichther, Lichther and Rothman' The Media Elite (1986) and Kuyper's 2002 study, Press Bias and Politics, in which the author finds that pro journos tend to operate within a comparatively narrow ideological bandwidth.
This Wiki site isn't a bad overview (although they get certain things wrong, such as the "misperceptions" of the Iraq war on the part of Fox News viewers that are actually true, but our inane media class is too inbred to realize that.
The bottom line, though, is that every single large-scale survey of the personal politics of national media figures confirms the overwhelming bias towards liberal points of view.
The only thing left to argue is their ability to keep their own views from affecting the news coverage. But don't ask Rosen, or most other journalists to see it clearly. It's like a fish trying to write about water."
The thing is, Jay, for every Karl Rove quote you come up with, I've got one from people like Pauline Kael. So let's don't bother with trading trees, and look at the forest as a whole.
In the aggregate, the national media is overwhelmingly liberal.
You can argue that it doesn't affect their coverage. But nobody who lives and works outside of that inbred, shared media culture can perceive that bias.
Duh. That's why it's bias.
I can definitely see how from the point of view of the endless expansion of executive power Democrats and the press would both be seen as obstructionist and narcissistic, and therefore look like "wings" of the same beast.
If you were to ask one of the GOP base -- especially the vocal ones, the Power Line bloggers for instance -- if they thought the press is allied to the Democratic party because both oppose the expansion of executive power, they would say you had gone mad. What I say is, it's rank presentism. You ought to remember that between 1992 and 2000, when the President was a Democrat, the press focused on Congress' exercises of power, not on the President's. Both the GOP base's belief in the press' "liberal bias", and the press' actual "oppositional bias", were firmly established long before January 2001; Bush's actions can't possibly have caused either one.
So now I'll unpack the other idea in the comment that confused you, namely that what you call the "cult of savviness" is the guiding principle of the Democratic party. If I may paraphrase you, the core belief of that cult, to which much of the press subscribes, is that the crux of politics is mastery and ruthless use of technique, preferably by trained experts; that the correct way to interpret any policy proposal is to consider its effect on public opinion at the next election, which only a trained expert can do; and that learning what the trained experts are thinking gives one the key to all current events, which makes access to them imperative. Now this faith in trained experts is not confined to journalism. For much of the 20th century it was an unquestioned assumption among the educated classes of the Western world; within the academy it remains the dominant view. The base of the Democratic party, as everyone knows, the vocal, the opinion-formers, the activists, are drawn from the academy and the professions that look to it; from, that is, devotees of expertise and idolaters of savviness. Journalists come from the same class, swim in the same pond; naturally, they hold the same faith.
How, I hear you ask, does this fit with the idea that the press and the Democrats now exist to oppose and obstruct? It fits because a critical mass of American voters have lost faith in trained experts, and in the class that venerates them, making it impossible for that class to govern as it once did. Like other classes in the process of losing power, this one uses the power it still has to block the path of its successors. And, again like other such classes, this one interprets its successors' actions by the same cynical strategy of power seeking that has come to guide its own. Hence, for instance, a professor of journalism can suppose that a President who openly holds the press in contempt, and acts on that contempt, does so because he wishes to become a dictator ...
And when people are referring to Karl Rove's most famous line, they are not really referring to Karl Rove ?
I don't know that he has a 'most famous line.'
And when people are referring to Jason Van Steenwyk's most famous line, they are not really referring to Jason ?
Same there. If I have a most famous line, I have no idea what it is, nor do I know how it's used.
And when people are referring to Steve Lovelady's most famous line, they are not really referring to Steve ?
I don't know that you have a 'most famous line,' either, though "tell it to the limbless" comes to mind, to me personally. But your most famous line in the blogosphere probably had something to do with your rabid hyena attack on Mark Yost...what was the term you used? Ah. "Lying sack of shit," which was picked up by Buzzmachine, whose proprietor, Jeff Jarvis, you called "an intellectually dishonest schmuck."
So when someone quotes you on that, that doesn't tell you much about Jarvis or Yost. So of course, if they mention it, they're referring to you, because those quotes tell the reader more about you than the object of your vitriol.
In Pauline Kael's case, though, her quote tells us nothing about her own character. But it does tell us a lot about the people she knew, in the New York-based high-gloss media circles, the lunches at Michael's etc.
And so when a conservative brings up Kael, it's not Kael he's evoking.
It's everybody she knew.
Steve's most famous line is (by far), “The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail."
Krugman doesn't feel imperiled from critics, Michael. He knows his position is secure. Nor did he say that the rest of the media is intimidated by Fox News, the Washington Times or the New York Post. (The rest of the press cheerfully condescends to or dismisses them.) He was referring to the "hassle cost" and the "think twice" factor when the salivating morons who make up the lynch mob on the Right decide to storm you for saying something unflattering but true about one their heroes or causes. That's the intimidating part, he says.
I don't really buy his complaint myself--the press is strong enough to withstand such storms--but that's what he was arguing.
I also don't buy that Democrats (and journalists) feel they have a natural right to govern because they have the knowledge and you don't. Hey, who wrote that caustic book on the folly of the best and brightest screwing things up in Vietnam? Why, it was liberal journalist David Halberstam of the liberal New York Times. How odd, huh?
I think you are missing a factor that could account for the defections we are seeing from base-speak on the Republican side. That factor is the bizarre anti-empiricist "streak" within the Republican coalition. Prior to Bush the best symbol for it was supply side economics, and the fairy-tale that cutting taxes raises revenue. By actually putting into practice policies that replace observables from the world with wishes from the Republican heart, your modern GOP took a disastrous step away from the sort of sober, everyday empiricism that is needed to get any policy bearings at all.
Still, this radical step--dissolving the hardness of reality and replacing it with Republican desire, which is just about the most un-conservative thing you can do in politics--appeared to be confined to a few critical areas likes taxes until Bush the younger took over, a radical whom the real conservatives were unwilling to oppose. With him the anti-empirical streak took control of the government and a massive war was started with the wishers in charge.
National security conservatives, to their shame, did nothing about the threat. Now they're picking up the pieces. Smart, educated people in the military (to their shame) went along, as well, even though--empiricists to the core--they had real reservations. It took them a long time to realize that Cheney and Bush could and would wreck everything they had done to re-build the military after Vietnam.
Only now are the regrets starting to surface. For years it was all jokes and jeers about the "reality-based community." Now we are starting to see the first signs that this is actually a fault line within the GOP itself. There are people in the Republican coalition who don't want to leave the reality-based life, but there are powerful forces saying they must to remain loyal and win elections (and, not incidentally, keep the big accounting for 2001-2007 at bay). It's still a big joke to the bloggers but to people like Frum, for whom intellectual respectability matters, that is no joke.
You seem to think, Michael, that the natural alternative to trust in the decisions of Ivy-educated experts is trust in ordinary Americans and their decisions or the invisible hand of the market, which makes better decisions than Robert Reich or Ira Magaziner could. But there's a darker possibility: faith-based reasoning, the politics of denial, the retreat from empiricism and culture war against "hard" observables become hallmarks of the modern GOP. Post-Bush, that's where the party is right now. And it's too frightened by the prospect of its own crack-up to allow the tension to be discussed and settled during the 08 campaign.
That's the subtext of developments like this. Rudy is saying to the party: folks, we can still win with the politicized denial of checkable fact, and I am going to pick up where Bush left off.
I think that's what straining the coalition, and the ability to shout "bias" at anything in the news media you don't like is definitely a part of it. That's how the base indulges itself, lets itself go, gives itself a break from the strain of reconciling political imperatives with actual events.
One of the strongest critiques that (genuine) conservatives made about the post-60s Democrats was that the politics of victimhood had infantalized the party and led it to ignore all the proud Americans who refused to think like victims. That was an excellent point.
Well, today, right wing media theory is the crossing point where victimology became a Republican disease, with exactly the same crippling and infantalizing effects, the same self-righteous grandstanding. Big bad media is to blame, not wish-based war mongering. Climbing down from that is going to be difficult and ugly.
JJW: Without disagreeing about the quality of the planning, in what way was the planning poor? It would be easy for me to say that it is obvious that the media has a liberal bias and there are multiple sources saying that (there are, including journalists), but I find that inadequate.
Was the Phase IV planning poor at the strategic (multinational/interagency), operational (CENTCOM/CFLCC) and/or tactical level? Does that hierarchy still make sense in hindsight given Iraq?
Was it poor because the planning process developed post-Vietnam (from Active Defense thru Airland Battle to Joint, Interagency and Coalition) no longer works? Does it work for some operations (Afghanistan?) but not for others (Iraq?)?
Ike Wilson argues that the current hierarchical, phased planning process needs to be overhauled for 21st Century warfare. Do you agree?
Do we need a new Goldwater-Nichols Act for Interagency training, doctrine and operations? Should we establish a "National Security Service Corps" to avoid future poorly planned/executed Phase IVs?
Andrew Tyndall: "Do not those in uniform also have a duty to communicate their opinions openly when called upon to testify before Congress? Surely their Constitutional duties include an obligation to be frank to their Congressional overseers no less than to be obedient to their Commander in Chief?"
For clarification, Shinseki was called upon to testify on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2004 and the Future Years Defense Program. If you read his prepared statement, he never mentions Iraq. His response was to a question unrelated to the Authorization Request or FYDP.
I think all military have an obligation to be "frank" with Congress as well as the President. They don't always have an obligation to be frank publicly. They also have to answer with an understanding of their role (CSA Shinseki vs. CJCS Myers and the Combatant Commander Franks).
I have no problem with Shinseki answering the question, but I do think he had other options without violating any obligation.
All of them very important. And all of them clearly beyond the ability of the usual fatually-challenged crew here.
Case in point: Trotting out the career of General Shinseki...the SAINTED General Shinseki of the Crusader and the Chinese black-berets, his career tragically cut short at the rank of Chief of Staff of the Army - a lowly four star General, and at the very budding end of his term, no less!!! Such injustice!
Every time someone tries to bring that up, they pretty much establish their cluelessness and their ability to "fix the facts" around their narrative.
They also demonstrate that they're listening to a media feedback loop rather than examining the actual facts and timeline, which reveals pretty clearly that Shinseki had been informed that he would NOT be the first CoS in decades to serve more than one tour in that billet, months prior to giving his "several hundred thousand" testimony to Congress.
Wow. How in the world did the Administration magically know he was going to do that? And pluk..How did you magically manage to reverse the order of cause and effect and get time to run backwards?
Then again, you yourself have had your nose rubbed in this particular lie before, on this very blog.
And yet you continue to cling to the lie that Shinseki's career was harmed when he made that testimony to congress.
Well, sorry. You don't get to sing the praises of critical thinking, due process (I don't think this means what you think it means, in this context anyway) taking reality into account, and changing what you think when different facts present themselves.
You've demonstrated yourself to be among those who can't or won't do it.
When I mentioned COL Benson's reference to CENTCOM not taking a direct role in the planning, I'm referring to something he wrote or said in one of the articles Tim linked to. I don't recall which one, and the pdf will eat my computer if I look for it now. But what Benson said was that the Ph IV planning didn't take place at CENTCOM but at CFLCC, and he said it should have taken place at CENTCOM.
I respect his opinion, naturally, but I'm not sure I agree. CENTCOM's authority spans nearly the entire continent and into Africa, and encompasses a couple of dozen countries. The Iraq-specific stuff quite rightly belongs to the commanding general in Iraq, rather than CENTCOM. CENTCOM's role is to support it, and coordinate with FORSCOM to support it, and ensure the CFLCC or JCTF-7 Commander gets the resources he needs to accomplish his mission.
Here's a vignette, from my own personal observation and experience (Ah, there's that damn empiricism, raising it's ugly head, eh, Jay!):
In mid-May of 2003, I had just rolled in to Al Asad Air Base, out in the middle of the Al Anbar Province. Baghdad airport fell just a couple of weeks or a month prior. The Iraqi Army had just been routed, but there was not yet a significant and organized insurgent presence like we saw arise in 2004-2005. Mostly, the situation was chaotic, and nobody really knew how would be received in the towns out there. At the time, my unit, the 1-124th Infantry, was focused on the area around Haditha. I was the acting S-4, and as such was responsible for coordinating logistics and organizing convoys back and forth between Haditha and Al Asad (about a 1-hour to 90-minute convoy with the trucks I had available).
My job took me to the support squadron headquarters for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment on a near daily basis. And while I was there I encountered a civil affairs officer. He was out there to ensure that rebuilding operations were going ok, and to provide local commanders with advice on Ph. IV operations from a Civil Affairs perspective. Consider it to have been a civilizing influence on the bruising combat arms types that us infantry and cavalry officers are, by nature.
I recall our conversation very well, because I was a financial/economics journalist in civilian life at the time (when I wasn't mobilized), and we spoke at length about the severe inflationary pressures the local economy would face once the United States started throwing money around in earnest. We talked about what constituencies would be hurt by hyperinflation, and he told me he was aware of that issue, and one of the things he was doing was collecting information on what prevailing wages were for different occupations prior to the war, so that we could calibrate our payments to interpreters, contractors, etc. accordingly, while keeping economic dislocations to a minimum.
Bear in mind, this was in the very early stages of the transition from mass maneuver war to an occupation/maintenance/rebuilding mode, and this guy was already there.
Now, you can believe that he was there because someone, somewhere:
1.) Anticipated the need for a civil affairs team in and around Khan al Baghdadi and Hadithah and the surrounding environs
2.) Cut the guy's mobilization orders
3.) Bumped needed supplies or fighters to put this guy and his civil affairs team on a flight manifest at some point
4.) Flew the guy to Iraq
5.) Allocated him and his team a desperately needed four Humvees in an environment where transportation was scarce.
6.) Cut him the orders to report to the 3rd ACR in the backwater Al Anbar province
7.) Put them in a convoy manifest
8.) Included a paragraph in the OPORD to give this guy and his team a task and purpose in the Execution Paragraph.
I'm pretty sure, based on my own understanding of how that stuff works, that that's how it went down. That's how I got there. And that's how every other swinging richard got out there, as well.
Then there's the alternative hypothesis, proposed by JJ from ME and Jay Rosen, and others who have no idea how the MDMP works, that he sort of formed out of the ether like magic.
Wow. So in addition to the 95 Senators who voted that the Kyoto treaty was a dog with fleas, you're also pointing to two links that also say the Kyoto treaty would have been a dumb idea. One of them is headlined "Ex-Clinton officials admit Kyoto was flawed."
(Still trying to figure out how Bush managed to "abandon" a protocol he never supported in the first place).
So if 95 of 100 senators voted against it, and even the Clintonistas are saying it's a dog with fleas, then your criticizing Bush over his refusal to implement a treat that HE COULD NEVER GET THROUGH THE SENATE TO BEGIN WITH is just asinine.
Why would ANY president want to waste political capital on a treaty that nobody...NOBODY in the country supported?
Why would he want to put American industry at such a disadvantage to China? That's just stupid. All 95 senators...even stupid ones like Kerry...could figure that out.
I guess everyone in the country has figured that out except...except... except you, JJ!!!
No, Kyoto itself isn't germaine to a discussion of media bias (so why did you bring it up?) But your faulty factual grasp of the information sure is.
I wouldn't have to pound on facts so hard if your thought processes were disciplined enough to be grounded in them, and in a culture of verification. Isn't that one of the prime directives of professional journalistic ethics? To ground ones reporting in a culture of verification? That's what my copy of The Elements of Journalism says.
But you can't be bothered. You're too caught up in the feedback loop.
This blog has unfortunately become a case study in what happens when a culture of assertion trumps a culture of verification. That's what happens when someone like Rosen adopts a paragraph-to-fact ratio of five-to-one, and no one else notices.
That's not building an argument. That's creating a Frankenstein.
Dude... who in the world are you arguing with?
You tell me. In this argument, I'm taking the side of the reality based community, which exists in both parties--but as Jay argues, not in certain parts of the Republican party. And someone like David Frum is obviously worried about this.
As for arguing by authority, as I told you before. I'm not stupid enough to believe that you're going to actually read or take seriously any scientific studies I link to, even if I describe them in detail. Because consistently, you haven't shown that you couldn't care less about that sort of thing.
David Frum wrote that this sort of thing is about a basic respect for expertise:
Liberals have used their influence in the courts and government bureaucracies to win political victories they never could have won at the ballot box. Conservatives have reacted by turning to populism -- to a defence of the commonsense wisdom of ordinary voters against the pretensions of know-it-alls.
Conservatives have drawn strength from populism. But you can overdo any good thing --and I am beginning to think that on this one, we've zoomed the car into the red zone.
The currently front-running candidate in Iowa, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, has built his campaign on a plan to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.
Economists and tax experts virtually unanimously agree that the plan is beyond unworkable -- that it is downright absurd. (It does not help that it was originally drafted by the Church of Scientology.)
The idea was taken up by the radio talk-show host NeilBoortz ("the mouth of the South"), who published a book called The Fair Tax in 2006. Governor Huckabee read the book--and was sold on the spot.
Now you might expect a presidential candidate to do a little more thinking about his top domestic policy proposal than reading one pop best-seller. But you'd be wrong!
Just a little lower down in the polls is a libertarian candidate named Ron Paul. Paul is best known for his vehemently isolationist foreign policy views. But his core supporters also thrill to his self-taught monetary views, which amount to a rejection of everything taught by modern economists from Alfred Marshall to Milton Friedman.
Huckabee and Paul have not the faintest idea of what they are talking about.
The problem is not that their answers are wrong -- that can happen to anyone. The problem is that they don't understand the questions, and are too lazy or too arrogant to learn. But say that aloud and their partisans will shout back: Elitism!
...[It] has to be admitted: Many of us on the conservative side have fed this monster. (Rightly) aghast at the abuse of expertise by liberal judges, liberal bureaucrats and liberal academics, we have sometimes over-reacted by denying the importance of expertise altogether.
Now I can't tell you each and every detail about proxy samples, climate modeling systems, ice core samples, or procedures for temperature gathering. But I can tell you that the science that went into building the computer I'm typing on, or the antibiotics I took to make my ear infection go away, is pretty good. So the institutions that produced those sciences and technologies are pretty good too, and those are basically the same institutions that are producing climate change science.
But if you lack a basic respect for expertise and that expertise's ability to discern reality, then you'll be immune from anything they say.
None of this matters. (And Jason: all you know is culture war; I have never seen you engage in a discussion, period. You like to laugh at people and--in your mind--"demolish" them. If you can't demolish, you have nothing to say, so you pretend to demolish. You're not a warrior, but a troll enjoying what you call "target practice." You just love culture war and aggression for its own sake and the funny reactions you get. You remind me of the jocks I knew in high school laughing at struggling kids in gym class. It is a deeply ugly performance.) None of this matters because the proof, such as it is, is not in any of these links.
About Shinseki what matters is whether within the military people interpreted those events as a warning not to speak up. If they did we will hear about it and continue to hear about it as the record of those years is written.
With global warming, what matters is whether Republican candidates begin speaking and running against the politics of "dispute the data, treat it as a phony problem." There are already big cracks in the coalition as more and more corporate leaders get concerned about the warming trend and absorb the data. It's the tension between them and the "denial works" crowd within the Republican coalition that will settle the matter, not the sound and fury of the culture war.
On the anti-empirical wing of of the GOP--about a third of the base, I say--what matters is whether others in the party take on those attitudes, or continue to co-habitate with them. I agree with JJ that figures like Frum are important to watch. They provide some clues to the coming crack-up.
And as I said above... Over the next few years the people in the service academies and war colleges will be asking themselves agonizing questions about how they could have allowed Bush and company to bring this debacle on the military, and they will confront one another over the duty to speak out [or] there will be no painful introspection along those lines--it will not be needed--because, after examining the history, smart and responsible people in the military will be comfortable with the planning record, confident that they prepared well for what met them in Iraq, and satisfied that they did all they could to warn the nation, its leadership and each other of potential problems.
Everyone who went to work for Bush or went along with Bush is going to be doing the work of regret and re-appraisal as the full scale of his delusion, destruction and corruption of government continues to come out. The chances of the military escaping that ordeal seem to me quite slim.
My guess would be that it's already happening.
JJ: I said, if the IPCC's science is right, catastrophe is unavoidable. You -- and, I see, Dr. Rosen -- reply that the IPCC's science is certainly right, and it is proof of irrationality to deny it. I would be happy, at some other time, to argue the scientific question, but that's not what I was arguing. I took up Bjorn Lomborg's position: "Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered to stop global warming will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, are often based on emotional rather than strictly scientific assumptions, and may very well have little impact on the world's temperature for hundreds of years. Rather than starting with the most radical procedures, Lomborg argues that we should first focus our resources on more immediate concerns, such as fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and assuring and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply-which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost and save millions of lives within our lifetime."
But I can tell you that the science that went into building the computer I'm typing on, or the antibiotics I took to make my ear infection go away, is pretty good. So the institutions that produced those sciences and technologies are pretty good too, and those are basically the same institutions that are producing climate change science.
No, those aren't basically the same institutions. Meteorology, as a scientific field, isn't even close to electrodynamics or microbiology, and the institutions devoted to them don't interact. The most that can be said is that they look similar from the outside; that they hold conferences and publish papers in journals, for instance. And unfortunately these outward resemblances are no proof that one institution can claim the authority that another has.
It is not rational respect for expertise to say that, because A is a scientist and says X, and X is right, therefore when B is a scientist and says Y, Y must be right -- especially not when A and B are in different fields, trained in different methods of reasoning, and examining different sets of facts.
"Here's a weird idea, given the current CW: What if the most (and best?) post-combat planning since the Marshall Plan (two years after major combat ended in Europe) occurred in planning for Iraq ... and it was still woefully inadequate or in significant ways wrong?
Tim -- I am not convinced that this notion is either weird or against the conventional wisdom. Many propagandists arguing against using the US military to achieve regime change in Iraq cited precisely this worry...not that the US military would be inadequate to accomplish its mission but that the mission itself might turn out to be fatally flawed.
Thus the simplest, least radical, most conservative argument against going to war was that war should be avoided if at all possible and initiated only as a "last resort." In fact it was an argument George Bush, the Commander in Chief, made repeatedly and publicly until he disregarded it.
This contradiction belongs to a litany of mismatches between words and actions, stated principles and implemented policies -- advocating a "humble foreign policy," declaring "mission accomplished," praising a "heckuva job," pledging an end to "tyranny," "we do not torture"-- that adds fuel to the conclusion made by PressThink and elsewhere that this administration has abandoned empiricism.
I call it the tactic of Governing by Talking Points, under which saying something often enough can seem, by an act of will, to make it so. For me, it is its use of language -- not its policy on global warming or its openness to intelligent design or its overvaluation of the zygote or its supply side fiscal dogma -- that most tellingly sets the Bush Administration on the wrong side of empiricism.
This Humpty Dumpty style of governing -- “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less…the question is: ‘Which is the master?’” -- is very difficult for journalists to cover. Much of the time, news consists of reporting on our rulers' words rather than their actions, and that function depends on the assumption that there is a referential relationship one to the other.
The Bush Administration has taken the exquisite Jesuitical parsing of meaning perfected by its predecessor and liberated that pinched Clintonian use of words to a new post-modernist level, where signifiers can exist autonomously, deracinated from the signified.
Brent Cunningham in the Columbia Journalism Review has proposed that an appropriate innovation in response would be to establish Rhetoric as its own journalistic beat -- reporting on how words are used in the public sphere to create meaning. It is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately Cunningham’s vision is confined to such literal devices as framing and vocabulary choices, not to the unhinged excesses of full-blown post-modernism.
Well, you could say it was "unprovoked" if Saddam Hussein had never had his anti-aircraft batteries lock on or fire on a US Aircraft enforcing a no-fly zone.
Unfortunately for your position, Andrew, that happened. Not once. Not a dozen times. But hundreds of times.
You could also say it was "unprovoked" if Saddam was living up to his agreements under the UN Security Council resolutions and, more especially, the cease fire agreement of 1991.
Unfortunately, not even the UN Security Council agrees with you. After all, the UNSC didn't warn Saddam of "serious consequences" for steroid use.
And Bill Clinton didn't mount Operation Desert Fox, an extensive campaign of air strikes against Iraq, because he didn't like the cut of Saddam's mustache. (If you'll recall, that wasn't even the first time Clinton attacked Iraq).
Further, as the 9/11 council found, there were indeed "all kinds of ties, all kinds of connections" between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda.
No, this notion that Saddam had not provoked the U.S. is simply false. A trope. Liberals throw it around as if it's generally accepted, but it is not. It does not withstand a sober analysis of the facts.
P.S., Since when are sociopaths "innocent" by virtue of being sociopaths? That's ridiculous. Is there nothing a liberal can't find a way excuse?
Ted Bundy. Innocent. Because he had no conscience. Good luck selling that.
van Steenwyk --
Following your advice, I reread Bill Clinton’s speech justifying his airborne attacks on Iraq in the midst of the drive to impeach him in 1998 -- its operational name may be Desert Fox but the colloquial reference is Wag The Dog.
I must say I am mystified. In what way does Clinton’s argument demonstrate that President Bush was acting in “the last resort” when he decided to launch a ground invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime?
1.Clinton launched a series of air strikes -- not an invasion.
2.He insisted that economic sanctions be maintained -- not that they were ineffectual.
3.His goal in attacking by air was to pressure Saddam to readmit United Nations weapons inspectors -- not to treat their findings with disdain.
4.He returned to the Security Council to receive a unanimous vote to deploy his air power -- not relying on ambiguous previous motions in the face of a certain veto for new authorization.
5.His strategy for regime change was political -- not military.
On regime change, this is what Clinton said: “Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort. We will strengthen our engagement with the full range of Iraqi opposition forces and work with them effectively and prudently.”
I do not know how much clearer this can be: the “historical record of decision,” in your words, shows that the agreed appropriate response to Saddam’s provocations should be containment, sanctions and internal political mobilization -- not invasion and occupation. Yet you imply that George Bush’s invasion is a continuation of his father’s and his predecessor’s policy of non-invasion. Please elucidate.
By the way, thanks for the correction on tires and eggplants. I stand corrected by you for the second time today. Thus the post-modernist restores “innocence” to language by liberating the signifier from its signified in the way that a psychotic (not a sociopath) is "innocent," having no notion of guilt.
On point 1:
Correct. Clinton launched pointless airstrikes.
2: 1998 != 2003. Five years had passed. The sanctions were falling apart. The Oil for Food program was hopelessly corrupt. (Thanks, UN!!!) In fact, it was so corrupt that the head of the program, Benon Sevan, was sacked by the Secretary General for his egregious role in the bribery scandal. The UN granted him diplomatic immunity. But an investigation and report led by former Fed chief Paul Volker recommended the immunity be lifted so the son-of-a-bitch could be criminally prosecuted. So the head of the Oil for Food program fled to avoid going to jail.
The sanctions were leaking like sieves, its administrators hopelessly corrupt, and what sanctions there were in place harmed no one except the Iraqi people. In fact, the UN itself estimated that the sanctions, such as they were, led to the deaths of 5000 Iraqi children per month.
What's more, the libtards didn't even want to enforce sanctions!
While at Saddam Hussein Airport in May of 2003, I personally saw heavy equipment - entire elevator assemblies, still wrapped in plastic, awaiting installation, for example, with French shipping labels still on them. (Wow. I'm relying on personal experience. There's that empiricism again, Jay!)
Last time I checked, you couldn't eat an elevator. So much for "oil for food," eh?
Then there's this.
Yeah. Sanctions were corrupt and stupid and counterproductive for each of the last five years we tried them. Maybe the empirical thing to do would be to try them again.
3. Absurd. You think Iraq was actually complying with the inspectors? What could they have reported on to even have findings? Further, you're speculating on motives again. More ? + ? = ! thinking.
4. There was nothing whatsoever ambiguous about the terms of the cease fire. We had all the authority necessary to enforce those terms. And we did. The next entity to violate the terms of a cease fire with the United States take note.
5. Well, obviously the political strategy didn't work, did it? All it got was our people in Iraq killed as Saddam's mukhabarat smoked them out, tortured and killed them.
If you think that was ever going to change absent a military intervention, you're in fantasyland. Empirically, the brutal suppression of the 1991 rebellion should have confirmed that.
Then again, empiricism doesn't count for much among the dreamy left these days. The left can't retreat from empiricism, because they never embraced it in the first place!
My reference to speculating on motives was specifically meant to refer to point 3, where you wrote, somewhat astonishingly, that Bush's motivation was to treat the inspector's findings he didn't even have yet with disdain.
As for the rest, yes, Bush's policy was a continuation of Clinton's, in that it was the official policy of the Clinton administration to pursue regime change in Iraq.
Apparently, though, another aspect of Clinton Iraq policy was a touching dedication to failure. Hence, the Clinton administration embraced a course of action that empiricism would suggest would never succeed at accomplishing US objectives.
When, in the course of U.S. history, have sanctions ever been effective at doing anything other than harming the common people? Certainly sanctions have been ineffective at accomplishing US policy objectives. C.f., for example, Cuba and North Korea, in addition to Iraq.
The Bush Administration, having adopted an empirical decision making process, took notice that sanctions were ineffective in Iraq and ineffective everywhere else they've been tried, and discounted the policy of trying to continue them without military intervention.
The Clinton Administration, having treated the mountain of empirical evidence that establishes the pointlessness of sanctions with disdain, argued that "well, the last fifty times we've tried sanctions, they've failed. Maybe this time will be different."
The Clinton Administration's failure contributed to the mountain of empirical evidence.
Even Clinton tacitly recognized that sanctions were ineffective, simply by virtue of bombing Iraq. More than once. If sanctions were worth a damn, Clinton wouldn't have had to bomb them.
Bush simply decided to carry the Clinton policy of bombing Iraq beyond Clintonian pointlessness.
"I'm not going to fire a million dollar missile at a ten dollar tent and hit a camel in the butt. It's going to be decisive."
Thank God for that.
Who said Bush could not be stopped? I don't believe that.
A major agony within the Republican coalition, and a source of lifelong regrets for some, will be why more establishment and "movement" Republicans didn't try to stop him, as they eventually did with Richard Nixon. Bush is a brand destroyer, and when that becomes clear the custodians of the brand will wonder what they were doing while he was allowed to wreck it.
It was done strictly by empirical methods.
No, it was done by strictly political methods-- a calculation based on how much angering your friends and supporter costs you, coupled with whether you have the votes on the Hill. Bush still believes Miers is qualified; the base didn't enlighten him about a thing. I am surprised you don't get that because if you don't get that you don't get anything about Bush.
Yes, he made a prudential decision that it wasn't worth fighting for and he would probably lose. That's very different from realizing that simply on paper she could not be a Justice. Her sole qualification was his endorsement; what he said publicly about her was meaningless gibberish written by aides and read out by Bush. He didn't disavow it. That would be like disavowing the confetti that flew before the votes were counted.
On immigration he simply didn't have the votes. That level of reality he is capable of recognizing. But this is only because others have a part in the process that Bush and company cannot override, ignore or read out of the Constitution. The Senate has to confirm appointments, the Congress has to pass immigration reform. Were it not so, Miers would be on the court today.
I agree with Andrew that Bush doesn't knowingly lie, or not very often. He simply accepts that there is no necessary connection between his words and their conventional referents, no binding agent between his statements about the world and conditions in the world. And he intuited that publicly to behave as if you felt no such connection, not to cover it up and show a bad conscience about it, but to openly parade your liberation within language, would cause a cultural reaction that would unleash a lot of political energy, which he could ride to success.
What a gamble!
The preeminent media outlets will pass on, unedited, anything a Democratic politician or activist chooses to utter.
Right, and even some things they didn't utter, like Al Gore invented the Internet. Sorry, Michael, that statement is mindless right-wing cant. What's it doing in your comment?
But back to the question of language...
If I read Jay Rosen right, Bush's attitude toward his speeches was that they weren't intended to communicate reality and policy, but in important respects they consisted of things he could get away with saying.
An important contribution to these speeches were the bureaucratic fights that dictated their contents. Bush gave the bureaucracy a game look and said, "I have no problem whatsoever saying something completely and utterly glib. So deliver what I want to my desk, and then I'll mark you down as a true believer and I'll remember you." [I'm sure of the first part, but is the second part right?] So at that point the race is on between movement conservatives and "the reality based community."
After all, as John Bolton says in this interview on the Daily Show, this is what movement conservatives were elected to do. The alphabet soup of largely-New-Deal-created bureaucracies was not elected. They were. And they were trying to change reality, not letting it hold them back.
And the way to change it, was to game the system:
“They were just relentless,” Mr. Wilkerson says of the vice president’s staff. “You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique — ruthless relentlessness.” According to Mr. Wilkerson, Mr. Cheney’s office continued the night before and the morning of the speech to insist that Mr. Powell tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
It was a game. If the intelligence community tells you that the Niger story is bunk, say you'll take it out of the speech, but then at the last minute, slip in the part about the British intelligence community saying it. Because technically it's true. You've satisfied the minimum requirements. And you've slipped it in at the 11th hour, before the bureaucracy can object.*
* There's trouble though, when the bureaucracy actually gets to speak on its own. Then the movement conservatives don't have a chance to work things over. Eventually, though, when you've got the "unitary executive" you want, then the whole executive will be movement conservative, and then you won't have to worry about this sort of thing.
Oh, I read them. You linked to a book reviewer at the Times, not an expert on anything except the book in front of her. Oh, and you linked to the Daily Show.
So I read them and discounted them as something that's not coming from anyone who's serious about a disciplined approach to analysis.
The link to Kakutani is especially damning, in that it represents the Cult of Savviness gone malignant. You can't link to point out a fact. Only an assertion by another journalist. Except you don't even link to that. You link to what a book reviewer says about what a journalist reports that other people believe.
To further underline the crappy thinking going on here, the author of the book Kakutani reviews, argues that nine intelligence officials believe X.
Now, I don't know how many intelligence officials there are total. But I command a military intelligence company right now and I can tell you that there are rather more than 18 "officials" in it - including a number of credentialed CI specialists.
I can extrapolate that to establish that the fact that nine intelligence officials believe anything is dispositive of nothing, except to establish the stupidity of anyone relying on that logic to demonstrate a point.
It is precisely what I mean by ? + ? = ! thinking. The left side of the equation, in this case, is represented by the questionable assertion that the administration actually had the memo forged (A bipartisan commission basically found that nearly everything Wilson claimed was a lie).
It is therefore absurd to attempt to base any claim upon the assertion. But the reasoning error is compounded by the appeal to authority stating that nine intelligence officials (unnamed, natch, as far as I can tell from Kakutani's review) believed the conspiracy.
Well, you can probably find nine intelligence officials who believe almost anything. But without a clearheaded examination of the evidence underlying that belief - and placing these nine outliers in the context of the hundreds and thousands of intelligence officials that DON'T agree with them, well, that's just another questionable, dubious, or false argument.
Nevertheless, on the left it is to somehow acceptable to combine False Statement A and Questionable Statement B to form a firm conclusion about what that means.
And yet you fall for it again and again. You are a sucker for a culture of assertion, rather than verification. Combine that with membership in the high-gloss media feedback loop and the result isn't pretty.
Here's the thing: Argument with capable, educated and reasoned individuals builds up antibodies, over time.
It's easy to spot people who have inhabited the media feedback loop too long: They lack antibodies. As a result, you wind up relying on tropes that are frequently demonstrably false upon examination - after more than six years into the war. Really, nobody called you on the notion that Bill Clinton went and got an additional authorization for Desert Fox before now?
You need to get out more.
What a long and winding road it has been but by some miracle you have guided us back to the true theme of this thread! Congratulations.
You argue that the good professor’s analysis “doesn't put the adversarial bias of the press into question. Guided by this analysis, the press would seek to become a more effective opponent -- but not, save by accident, a more effective discoverer of truth. ‘Making a difference’ would still be the press' conception of its role.”
Contrast that with the title of the thread from former Bush aide Dan Bartlett: “Most of them are not ideologically driven; they just want to get on the front page.”
So what is it? Journalists as…
…discoverers of truth?
…makers of difference?
…hoggers of the front page?
I argue none of the above.
At root, the job of journalism is to find those elements that are newsworthy in a set of circumstances or a given controversy. The technique to do this may involve adopting an oppositional attitude…it certainly involves separating what is true from what is misleading…it may or may not result in changing those circumstances…if it happens to be interesting enough it may end up on the front page or in the lead of the nightly newscast…
However, journalism is not the same as political partisanship or objective research or social activism or public relations. It has its own prism of inquiry, its own ideology, if you will. What is newsworthy about the things that are happening? What has a compelling narrative? What is controversial? What is innovative? What are the elements that dramatize or personalize or epitomize dry abstractions?
This does not imply that journalists are not interested in discovering the truth of things. However truth is a necessary but insufficient quality. Something that is true also has to be newsworthy. Similarly, being an adversary, in some circumstances, is a valuable technique for teasing out what is newsworthy in a certain policy or controversy. But that is all that is -- a journalistic technique -- not the role itself.
So Bartlett’s insight is correct in as far as it characterizes the ideal end result of the journalist’s mission -- to unearth a headline story. It is incorrect in as far as it insinuates a motive of vain self-aggrandizement. That motive may be accurate, goodness knows, in the case of some of the White House correspondents Bartlett may have had to deal with. But it is a slur when applied to the activity of journalism in general.