Beltway Journamalism and the Public

I don't know why, but when Jonathan Weisman's reporting at the Washington Post is bad, it's really irritating.  I think it's because he more than most 'straight' journalists is obvious about what he wants to say and fishing for quotes and sources to help him say it.  Here, for instance, is a typically article titled Democrats To Widen Conflict With Bush.

Despite the threats, Democratic lawmakers expect to open new fronts against the president when they return from their spring recess, including politically risky efforts to quickly close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; reinstate legal rights for terrorism suspects; and rein in what Democrats see as unwarranted encroachments on privacy and civil liberties allowed by the USA Patriot Act.

Note that Weisman supplies no evidence that any of these are politically risky, or that it's solely Democrats that see these laws as violating civil rights and privacy.  A few Google searches leads me to evidence to the contrary.  There's this ABC News poll on Guantanamo Bay (which is confirmed here).

A new ABC News poll finds that more than 70 percent of Americans oppose imprisoning suspects there indefinitely without charges. Many of the Guantanamo prisoners are suspected terrorists who have not been formally charged with crimes.

Most of the article is consumed with Weisman quoting insiders discussing how terrorism is scary and how Democrats need to be wary of appearing to knuckle under to terrorists.  There is no evidence that the public shares these apprehensions, or that the public has any role in the political process.  And there's no recognition that Republicans threw a bunch of aggressive ads against Democrats on wiretapping and terrorism in the closing days of the 2006 elections, and that they didn't work. The most feted was Nancy Johnson's wiretapping ad against Chris Murphy in Connecticut.  Lauded at the time by Republicans as possibly the most effective attack ad (copied by Republicans around the country, in fact), the ad was anything but.  Murphy crushed Johnson in the most lopsided outcome among Connecticut's Congressional contests, 56-44 percent.

Despite the fact that the public rejected the premise that standing up for civil rights coddles terrorists in the last election, and is doing so in polling data as well, Weisman is writing evidence-free conventional wisdom that suggests precisely the opposite.  I don't know why, but my sense is that he just thinks what he thinks, and he's going to find sources to justify his opinions.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent has more. Also, let me give a special shout-out to the wankerific Leon Panetta, who seems to have become the latest go-to Fox News Democrat.

Leon E. Panetta, who was a top White House aide when President Bill Clinton pulled himself off the mat through repeated confrontations with Congress, sees the same risk. He urged Democrats to stick to their turf on such issues as immigration, health care and popular social programs, and to prove they can govern.

"That's where their strength is," Panetta said. "If they go into total confrontation mode on these other things, where they just pass bills and the president vetoes them, that's a recipe for losing seats in the next election."

UPDATE AGAIN: Wow it turns out that Panetta was on the Iraq Study Group and is a big player in government propaganda producer and PR giant Fleishman-Hillard.

UPDATE, YET AGAIN: Weisman's article is even worse that I thought. Here's a video clip of Secretary of Defense Gates discussing the closure of Guantanamo. The discussion is how, not if.

Tags: Democrats, Jonathan Weisman, Leon Panetta (all tags)

Comments

18 Comments

Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

One has to really think that this is a four year course in Journamalism School. "Pulling It Out Of Your Ass 101, 201, 301, and 401 accompanied by the electives "Magic Ponies Basic" and "Magic Ponies Advanced".

by Stoic 2007-04-02 07:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

That's hilarious.

by Matt Stoller 2007-04-02 07:37AM | 0 recs
No! No! No!

"Magic Ponies Advanced" has been replaced by "Magic Zebras, Quaggas and Unicorns."

Where have you been?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-04-02 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Three paragraphs in, it became obvious he is a concern troll.  I just stopped reading.  Everyone at the Times and the Post seems to be a concern troll.

by Alan S 2007-04-02 07:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

That's exactly it.  I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right.

by Matt Stoller 2007-04-02 07:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Matt, what you have to realize is that different actors in the propaganda landscape occupy different spaces.  Fox and the WSJ rally the right wing base. The Times and the Post, on the other hand, demoralize, confuse, and fragment the liberal opposition.

by Alan S 2007-04-02 07:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

It's a testament to how effective and influential the Conservative Movement propaganda machine has become. Issues that clearly fly in the face of our constitution are being debated as if the basic principles codified by the founders of this country were somehow malleable or quaint, or not conservative enough. Truth is it is politically risky to challenge Executive branch policies which are clearly in violation of the constitution, and that is a disgusting travesty.

by Frederic Feit 2007-04-02 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

I had exactly the same reaction when I read this article last night.  I know there is a "beltway mentality," but are these "journalists" even American citizens?  Do the principles on which this country is founded mean nothing to them?  If protecting the constitution is indeed "politically risky," isn't that a story in and of itself?

by rlsumi 2007-04-02 07:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Constitution? They ain't got no Constitution. They don't need no Constitution. They don't have to show you any stinkin' Constitution.

They just want to keep their place on the kool kidz inside the beltway cocktail weenie circuit...

by Michael Bersin 2007-04-02 08:14AM | 0 recs
In A Word, "NO"

I know there is a "beltway mentality," but are these "journalists" even American citizens?
We are America. They are Versailles.

Next question?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-04-02 11:11AM | 0 recs
Leon Panetta

Given his resume, Leon Panetta will be a likely top candidate for several positions in a Democratic administration. Let's remember these comments to remind us of what kind of Democrat he has become (self-defeating, self-hating, timid to the point of uselessness) and advocate to keep him out of any future administration.

by johnalive 2007-04-02 08:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Christ is Panetta useless here.  

Any Democrat who buys into the idea that Democrats should cave on national security issues is a Democrat who doesn't care whether the party is in the minority or not.  

by RickD 2007-04-02 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

I read recently that many White House officials, most notably Rove, are using RNC email to avoid being recorded.  Is this being investigated?  

by kallen808 2007-04-02 11:37AM | 0 recs
Leon Paneta As George Costanza--The Opposite

One of the most memorable Seinfeld episodes was "The Opposite," in which George Costanza decides to do the opposite of whatever he would normally do, given that his instincts so consistently lead to regret.  The idea is introduced thus:

George : Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but ... I was perceptive. I always know when someone's uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I've ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat ... It's all been wrong.

( A waitress comes up to G )

Waitress : Tuna on toast, coleslaw, cup of coffee.

George : Yeah. No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing's ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted ... and a cup of tea.

Elaine : Well, there's no telling what can happen from this.

Jerry : You know chicken salad is not the opposite of tuna, salmon is the opposite of tuna, 'cos salmon swim against the current, and the tuna swim with it.

George : Good for the tuna.

( A blonde looks at George )

Elaine : Ah, George, you know, that woman just looked at you.

George : So what? What am I supposed to do?

Elaine : Go talk to her.

George : Elaine, bald men, with no jobs, and no money, who live with their parents, don't approach strange women.

Jerry : Well here's your chance to try the opposite. Instead of tuna salad and being intimidated by women, chicken salad and going right up to them.

George : Yeah, I should do the opposite, I should.

Jerry : If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George : Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!

( He goes over to the woman )

George : Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice that you were looking in my direction.

Victoria : Oh, yes I was, you just ordered the same exact lunch as me.

( G takes a deep breath )

George : My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents.

Victoria : I'm Victoria. Hi.

And, a description of how the episode unfolds begins thus:
George comes to the realization that he should try to do the opposite of everything, so he does, his luck changes and everything begins to go his way including getting a girlfriend, a job with the Yankees and moving out of his parents' house.
And so it is with Leon Panetta, as well, along with the entire crew of Fox News (and Fox News Wannabe) Democracts.

Thus:

Leon E. Panetta, who was a top White House aide when President Bill Clinton pulled himself off the mat through repeated confrontations with Congress, sees the same risk. He urged Democrats to stick to their turf on such issues as immigration, health care and popular social programs, and to prove they can govern.

"That's where their strength is," Panetta said. "If they go into total confrontation mode on these other things, where they just pass bills and the president vetoes them, that's a recipe for losing seats in the next election."

And, "The Opposite":
Leon E. Panetta, a top White House aide to Bill Clinton, is about to urge Democrats to stick to their turf on such issues as immigration, health care and popular social programs, and to prove they can govern.

Then Elaine tells him the Statue of Liberty has just looked at him.  He is about to scramble under his desk, when Elaine says, "Go talk to her."

Panetta says, "Yeah, I should do the opposite, I should."

Five minutes later, Panetta returns, with his glasses askew, lipstick on his collar, and his tie undone.

"With a few possible exceptions, which Bush is likely to veto, Democrats can get nothing but half-measures that do more for Republicans than for them or their constituents on issues like immigration, health care and social programs," Panetta says.

"By going into total confrontation mode, and passing all sorts of things that Bush vetoes, they will build the case for replacing a do-nothing Repbulican President with a Democrat they can work with to restore Constitutional government, and other fun stuff.  Bush can move back into his parent's basement," Panetta concludes.

Elaine's phone rings.  She answers.  "It's for you," she says to Panetta.  "George Steinbrenner was just watching, and he wants to offer you a job before the Democrats start listening to you."

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-04-02 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

The idea that Democrats should stick to "their issues" and on everything else, watch the polls and try to run out in front of the parade is the essence of DLC "centrism." Vietnam may have provided the seed for the Right to paint the Democrats as "weak," but trying to follow public opinion instead of leading it is what cemented the idea.

These people won the presidency with a brilliant candidate, and lost nearly everything else, but the still believe theirs is the way to win.

by Redshift 2007-04-02 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Panetta is just echoing 2002 (goes back to the 90's as well) beltway dem rhetoric that the Dems should ignore national security, Bush, etc etc etc in favor of issues we can "win" on, like prescription drugs.  

It's kind of like beating a dead horse at this point, but the Beltway dem consultant types don't seem to realize yet that this its 2007, not 1992 or 1996 etc.  

by palm58 2007-04-02 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Rove helped Repubs win by attacking the Dems' strengths. It works and Dems should hit the Repubs with everything they got on the war, national security, etc.

by Intercaust 2007-04-02 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Beltway Journamalism and the Public

Well Panetta pretty much lost me when in California he called for a Louisiana style open primary system, so we can get better candidates.  In Louisiana all the republicans, and all the democrats are put on the same ballot and everyone regardless of party affiliation can vote for them.  The same folks literally pick the democrat and the republican.  That is why Louisiana has produced the distinctly weak, John Breaux, Mary Landrieu and Kathleen Blanco.  Nobody deserves a strong Democrat more than the people of Nola and they are stuck with complete jelly fish candidates.   I would bet you less than twenty percent of Louisianans even bother voting, and who could blame them?   The Louisiana open killed the democratic party there. It is literally a one party state like Mexico used to be under the pri.

by Dameocrat 2007-04-02 05:28PM | 0 recs

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