Monday, December 10, 2007

Bush aide: reporters aren't leftist ideologues! McIlheran:Yes they are!

In a wide-ranging -- and widely blogged -- interview, former George W. Bush adviser Dan Bartlett weighed in on the question of whether the Washington press corps was ideologically motivated.

Bartlett says:

Look, 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? And unfortunately, that requires them to not do in-depth studies about President Bush’s health care plan or No Child Left Behind. It’s who’s up, who’s down: Cheney hates Condi, Condi hates Cheney.

Bartlett's observation seems more or less accurate.

That's why the Brawler's been amused by a recent series of posts and comments by Patrick McIlheran in which he tries to explain the workings of the press. Only rather than offering a nuanced look at reporters and how they work, he resorts to vulgar Brent Bozellism and says their leftist tendencies warp their view of the world.

For instance, Paddy, grumpy that the BBC referred to a racist Russian politician who idolizes Stalin and Hitler as right-wing, says:

I'll tell you why: It's the same reason the New York Times regularly referred, post-Soviet Union, to the guys seeking a capitalist economy in Russia as "liberals" and the ones seeking a Marxist restoration as "conservatives." It's because too many people in my profession, being left-of-center themselves, reflexively feel the left-right polarity is not about whether you prefer an unrestrained state or limited government but is really defined by whether you're nice or brutal.

I dunno, Paddy, I thought it was because the ones seeking a return to the old USSR model were trying to conserve (the root of "conservative," I believe) the old ways while the "guys" seeking a capitalist economy were trying to liberalize the economy in the original meaning of the word. The use of liberals in that context also fits with the typical understanding of the term liberal, that is, "favorable to progress or reform."

But why worry about words and their nettlesome definitions when it's so much more satisfying to claim reflexive leftist bias? (And FWIW a 1969 news story about Yevgeny Yetuvshenko, a Russian poet who was kicked off of a literary magazine in the USSR, was referred to as a "liberal." So I guess it's 38 years of reflexive leftism.)

In a comment string on another post, Paddy, defending links to the intellectually dishonest Weekly Standard writes (Brawler bold):

Moreover, you'll note that my posts routinely link to newspapers whose news reporting, in my view, has a disagreeable political agenda: New York
Times, Washington Post, so forth.
These, like the Weekly Standard, etc., adhere to the same journalistic basic, that one doesn't lie (unless we're talking Jayson Blair or Walter Duranty or any of the Times' multitude of sins large and small).

The difference, however, is that the Weekly Standard admits to its perspective. It openly says that it's offering news and commentary from a conservative perspective. The Times and Post never concede that they're offering news and commentary from a left-of-center perspective.

A few things. It's absurd to call the hawkish editorial page of the Washington Post "left of center." The Brawler also wishes Paddy would explicate at length about what constitutes the disagreeable agenda of the NYT, WaPo and this "so forth" and explain how they advance their ends. In particular, the Brawler would like to see Paddy break down the disagreeable political agenda of the NYT and WaPo in the runup to the Iraq war. The Brawler seems to recall a distinct lack of skepticism in the coverage and nothing that could be construed as a "left of center perspective."

And, please, rather than regurgitating right-wing rhetoric, Paddy, explain why the Times' and Post's coverage of the actual war has been dictated by a "left of center" perspective. Not enough stories about schools being painted?

And the Brawler is also confused as to why Paddy didn't mention Judith Miller -- whose reporting, abetted by the Administration, made the case for why Iraq had WMDs.

And, to make things really interesting, please call out reporters by their name. Maybe do the same for the reflexive lefties at the Journal Sentinel!

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