Reporter Online Chats: "By And Large," Bush Doesn't Commit Genocide?

January 8th, 2006 7:30 AM

In the Newsweek Live Chat this week, reporter Richard Wolffe faces the usual Daily Kosmonauts and MoveOn hard cases, but his attempts to land in the sensible center were at times just a little too weak:

Hartford, CT: If Bush is allowed to get away with these illegal spying tactics, plus the Patriot Act infringements on our Privacy and Civil Rights, what is left of Liberty for all? How is America any different than Iraq was under Saddam Hussein?

Richard Wolffe: Well by and large the administration doesn't commit genocide on its own people or torture them. It doesn't fill mass graves or keep rape rooms. So there are quite a few ways in which America is different from Saddam's Iraq.

"By and large," Wolffie?! Can't you edit these things after you look at that answer?

The Washington Post hosted a chat with liberal journalism professor Jay Rosen (one of my favorite liberals to read, actually, at PressThink) to assess the year in journalism on Friday. I did find something he said was just wrong. Another anti-Bush weenie equating Democracy with Democratic rule spurred the argument:  

As long as The Post reporters in these LOL chats, the new Ombudsman and the Editorial Writers maintain their defensive refusal to admit that they are thoroughly intimidated by this administration,which holds the threat over their heads of calling them "Liberals", the longer The Post will disgrace itself as it fails to do its part in the fight save our Democracy.

Jay Rosen: Actually, one of the places I fault John and Deborah Howell is neither seemed sufficiently aware that calling out "liberal bias" to explain why an online journalist like ["White House Briefing" blogger Daniel] Froomkin is giving Bush a hard time might not be a wise thing to do, especially because it is the very thing the White House might do to discredit you at a later date! How can you be a White House reporter today and not recognize that discrediting you is part of the way the Bush coalition does business in the political theatre of our time?

As a reporter in the Bush White House in 2001-2002, and now as a media analyst, I think this is a pretty odd argument to make -- at least in terms of the administration's public arguments. Ari Fleischer deferred on any question of media bias in his briefings, always saying it's not his role to judge (even if he would fuss at media bosses on the phone in private.) Other than President Bush being photographed with Bernard Goldberg's book "Bias" in his possession, when has he gone on a jag against what Bill Clinton called the "knee-jerk liberal media"?

It is true that Scott McClellan has gotten sharper from the podium about suggesting reporters have an agenda, but how much of that is aired out on TV?

It's also odd for Jay to suggest that as a political strategy, the Post should never acknowledge that anyone on its website has a liberal opinion. That's not very open or honest: don't self-evaluate. Your enemies will only use it against you! Put your fingers in your ears and sing "I'm objective, la-la-la!" (Do notice what Jay says very early in the chat the things that Stephen Spruiell highlighted.)

One last chat note: political reporter/columnist Dana Milbank admitted that he encouraged Robin Givhan to whack at Jack Abramoff’s odd fashion choices. Then he claims he felt sorry for the guy. Earth to Dana: nobody's buying the online crocodile tears.

Perhaps Abramoff can star in a TLC makeover show before trial?