Karma

Dana Milbank described for the Washington Post, the way the White House deals with the Press. The foundation of the article: the testimony of Cathie Martin in the “perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.”

It’s simple: coddle those who report the news as you want them to report it, exclude those who are actually critical.

Besides that: Tim Russert is, in the words of AMERICAblog “a push-over” and always release bad news Friday night: people don’t pay attention to it on Saturday morning.

Although some might criticize the White House about using Tim Russert for instance and releasing bad news on Friday… I cannot possibly do so myself. It’s smart politics. If I were an advisor to the President, I would advise to release bad news on Friday evening as well and I would also advise the VP to appear on shows that actually make him look good, or at least not bad.

You can read empywheel’s live report of Martin’s testimony here, and here and here.

Also be sure to read this article at FireDogLake (by Christin herself) : it’s a rough trial, so it seems.

And, lastly, the New York Times: Martin directly contradicts Libby on when he first learned about Valerie Plame Wilson.

Yep Karma definitely is a b—-

UPDATE
Joe adds in the comment section of this post:
This is going to put some pressure on Russert. As someone who was in the media and worked for some excellent editors (the ones I reported to at the Monitor plus the ones at the Knight Ridder and Copley Newspapers I worked with) management does NOT like to hear that news sources want to talk to X reporter (no matter how big they are) because they help them get their message across and are easy ones to be interviewed by. Now, it’s clear from this week and this report, if Cheney has to do one TV interview show who is he going to pick? Tim Russert or CNN’s Wolf Blitzer? It’s a “given� that if it was radio he’d rather talk with Sean Hannity (although having the person who is interviewing you on the floor bowing down to you can be a bit awkward) than Ed Schultz. As you say, Michael, it IS good politics. The other end of this, though, is that Russert is going to HAVE to get tougher on Cheney and other administration officials now. It isn’t a matter of politics; it’s a matter of his personal reputation and his own journalistic standards (which are high despite his critics comments on the right and left when they don’t like an interview he did). Russert is no pushover. He was a top staffer for the late Senator Moynihan.
This memo will also make the media a LOT more skeptical of Friday news releases. Many assumed all of this that’s in this memo; now it’s out in the open. And the media will most assuredly adjust its behavior accordingly. No one likes to KNOW they have been “taken,� even if for a long time they suspected they were being taken.

I agree completely with what Joe wrote: although it is smart politics, it is dumb reporting. If politicians have favorite reporters (who they use like this), there is something wrong with the way those reporters cover the news / politics in general. I’d almost say that politicians have to fear journalists.

Author: michaelvdg

15 Comments

  1. This is going to put some pressure on Russert. As someone who was in the media and worked for some excellent editors (the ones I reported to at the Monitor plus the ones at the Knight Ridder and Copley Newspapers I worked with) management does NOT like to hear that news sources want to talk to X reporter (no matter how big they are) because they help them get their message across and are easy ones to be interviewed by. Now, it’s clear from this week and this report, if Cheney has to do one TV interview show who is he going to pick? Tim Russert or CNN’s Wolf Blitzer? It’s a “given” that if it was radio he’d rather talk with Sean Hannity (although having the person who is interviewing you on the floor bowing down to you can be a bit awkward) than Ed Schultz. As you say, Michael, it IS good politics. The other end of this, though, is that Russert is going to HAVE to get tougher on Cheney and other administration officials now. It isn’t a matter of politics; it’s a matter of his personal reputation and his own journalistic standards (which are high despite his critics comments on the right and left when they don’t like an interview he did). Russert is no pushover. He was a top staffer for the late Senator Moynihan.
    This memo will also make the media a LOT more skeptical of Friday news releases. Many assumed all of this that’s in this memo; now it’s out in the open. And the media will most assuredly adjust its behavior accordingly. No one likes to KNOW they have been “taken,” even if for a long time they suspected they were being taken.

  2. There is a difference between smart politics and smart leadership. If the VP is going on MTP to avoid accountability then that is a pretty wimpy thing for a leader to be doing.

  3. Michael,
    What you ignore is W’s false promise to bring back honesty and integrity after the Clinton years. Both Clinton and Bush lies hurt the country and their parties. Before the acronym BDS there was ABC, Anthing But Clinton. Bush lies and spin are worse than Clinton ‘is’ line, he promised the US people more and didn’t deliver. If he can lie about this…..

  4. If Dick Cheney wants to silence his critics and show that he can answer the tough questions, he needs to go on Chris Matthews’ Hardball. (not that I’m expecting that to happen in this lifetime) Tim Russert is a good journalist but is he an investigative journalist in the realm of Woodward and Bernstein who broke the Watergate story in WAPO? I fear that the industry is lacking this type of reporting today- at least in the political arena. I agree with Joe and Michael, that too often journalists either fawn all over the VP, or back off of the hard questions.

    Another problem is that compared to the ’70′s, we now have alternate universes in the world of journalism, allowing someone with a lot to hide (like Cheney) to pick and choose. Many times the real facts get spun so that they are no longer recognizable, and the public loses, by not knowing what to believe. Talk radio hosts have a solidly conservative audience who may not even care whether the host’s delivery is factual or not.

  5. Though you covered the friendly press, you had missed the use of friendly columnists to get out talking points. There are people like Novak, the pseudo-policy makers at the Kiddie Korner, Town Hall is yet another venue to get the talking points out. I am still amazed at people who claim to be journalists who really are no different than public affairs officers looking to spin the news. Yes, there are people on the left who do it; but the right works itself into a feeding frenzy looking to debunk stories not favoring their POV (and that is hypocrisy).

  6. E.S.:

    Though you covered the friendly press, you had missed the use of friendly columnists to get out talking points. There are people like Novak, the pseudo-policy makers at the Kiddie Korner, Town Hall is yet another venue to get the talking points out. I am still amazed at people who claim to be journalists who really are no different than public affairs officers looking to spin the news. Yes, there are people on the left who do it; but the right works itself into a feeding frenzy looking to debunk stories not favoring their POV (and that is hypocrisy).

    E.S. very good point. Me and Joe talked about this very subject in the past, a couple of times, and I always wonder / conclude “I don’t understand how those people can call themselves journalists, they’re not”. That’s truly how I see it.

    That being said, there is a difference between objective reporting and columnists. Columnists are ideologues and they should be ideologues. They should have a reputation of being either conservative, moderate or liberal… but part of their reputation should be that they are also more than willing to go after ‘their own side’.

  7. I think, as Michael said, it is good politics to use whatever means to get ones message out…but there are definitely limits to that. Not only ethical limits (as in, “is it right to spin”) but also pragmatic limits because when taken too far, these tactics actually hurt the politician using them. I see that in the Bush administration, particularly on Iraq: their PR has been terribly unsuccessful. Why? Because they overplayed their hand. They continually tried to only put out the message that they felt would rally the base, rather than speaking to those who opposed the policy or were lukewarm about it. It’s like preaching to the choir, over and over, and not trying to make any converts. Eventually the pews are empty.

  8. C.S.: I agree completely. With ‘playing the press’, so to speak, one always has to realize the danger of overplaying one’s hand.

    Same goes for rallying the base in general by the way. As I see it, rallying the base only works on the short term. In the long run it is counterproductive as we are witnessing today.

  9. Same goes for rallying the base in general by the way. As I see it, rallying the base only works on the short term. In the long run it is counterproductive as we are witnessing today.

    Yes, I was thinking about this too as I wrote that comment. This is why Rove’s strategy has to be repudiated (and if the GOP is to survive, they will do so.) You can win elections by playing to the base (for a while) but you can’t govern well that way.

  10. I agree, CS. Because the other 2/3′s of the country will eventually pick up on the fact that the message is skewed towards supporters, and revolt. They tried to control the message by picking friendly media sources, playing to the base, and attacking anyone who disagreed with their policies. Unless your base is over 50%, it doesn’t work. Actually, I’m amazed at the extent to which it has worked.

    I think it is much healthier if the media and the government agencies they cover are friendly adversaries. Their relationship is by definition adversarial not cooperative-no self-respecting journalist should be seen as in league with the WH. Judith Miller lost her reputation and her position at the NYT’s for getting too cozy with Cheney’s office. Her stories about WMD’s in Iraq spurred on a war that we might not have entered if we had a fair and balanced version of events.

  11. This is why Rove’s strategy has to be repudiated (and if the GOP is to survive, they will do so.) You can win elections by playing to the base (for a while) but you can’t govern well that way.

    And, yet again, we are in complete agreement.

    I will write a post on this tomorrow.

  12. “I would also advise the VP to appear on shows that actually make him look good, or at least not bad.”

    Would this be possible? Imho Cheney is utterly incapable of succeeding in this, even if he would try (what he doesn’t want to). The VP is a living example of anti-diplomacy. I guess he must have some positive sides, too, like every human (would someone pls step in and name one, I can’t find one), but a talent for playing nice isn’t part of his virtues.
    :D

  13. LOL Gray.. that’s actually why I added “or at least not bad” to the sentence. First I just wrote “would also advise the VP to appear on shows that actually make him look good.”

  14. Actually journalists that work for profit-making (or at least profit-seeking) probably face a substantial disincentive for being hostile to the President. Seems to me that if the White House makes a point of restricting access to a troublesome journalist, then it can severely hamper the journalist’s effectiveness. A journalist who *is* cozy will end up with their name on more scoops. So I’m not sure that this is necessarily true anymore …

    management does NOT like to hear that news sources want to talk to X reporter

    though it was at the time Joe was working as a reporter.

  15. Robert,

    They’ll have stories, not scoops, if they go along with whatever the White House wants. And they’ll look foolish when it turns out that what they printed wasn’t true, just a talking point the White House wanted out. Who will read/watch them then? Then revenues go down.

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