Beltway Journamalism and the Public
by Matt Stoller, Mon Apr 02, 2007 at 07:15:31 AM EDT
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.