Thursday, May 29, 2008

More on Kornblut

Returning to a previous subject, this exchange between a Wash Post reporter and the public deserves further attention:


Potomac, MD: McClellan needs to get over himself. The nerve of blaming the media for their failures in the run-up to the War. Elisabeth Bumiller so eloquently explained how things work the night before the Iraq War started, 4,000 dead American soldiers ago: "it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.".

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a good point. (I'm a huge Bumiller fan). To that I would add that most reporters, or at least this reporter, looked continuously for cracks in the facade internally, and the assistance of an aide such as McClellan in helping us understand the flaws is essential. I would urge all future White House aides to remember that sometimes the press can be a friend when things inside start going wrong.


Re. Potomac, MD: Wait a minute, Bumiller was advocating stenography. Methinks if her relative (or yours) was about to head over to Iraq, she might have done more than wait for "cracks in the facade". That's just whistling by the graveyard. Obviously, none of YOUR children, nephews or nieces will ever enlist in our Armed Forces, but you might want to develop some empathy for the countless people in flyover country who actually lose loved ones when we go to war. Not because you're a journalist, but because you're a, you know, human being.

Anne E. Kornblut: As one with a parent and two grandparents buried at Arlington Cemetery, I can tell you that this has nothing to do with taking war lightly. If anything, I think we all felt a great sense of deference toward the presidency, as an institution, and wanted to be respectful on the eve of war, trusting that any president would only take such an important step in good faith. That isn't to say we shouldn't have been more skeptical and pressed harder in print -- and I have no doubt we all will next time, if there is a next time -- but it wasn't out of cluelessness that we did not do more.

Vienna, Va.: I don't understand this comment: "The assistance of an aide such as McClellan in helping us understand the flaws is essential." Did you expect him to publicly say "I don't agree with this but here's our rationale for the invasion?" Do you even expect him to say that off-the-record? Why would he openly share disapproval or disagreement with policy decisions with you?

Anne E. Kornblut: Some of the greatest scandals of all time (Watergate?) have been exposed by administration insiders who felt a patriotic duty to get the real story out. We as reporters use them all the time to help get to the bottom of things. Almost always in private. And in my experience (in my smaller incidents than Watergate) aides do so because they want the public to know what is going on, and they can be an essential part of making that happen. As reporters, we can only deal in information that we are given -- and we can't actually force a White House to give us information if it doesn't want to.

You must be kidding!: Just a comment: You think it's the job of people employed by the White House to be straightforward? Uh, no--it's the job of the media to hold the government responsible. If the people in the White House were straightforward, Americans would not need the media to intercede as our surrogates in ensuring that truth is separated from B.S.

Anne E. Kornblut: I know, I know, a dream land -- but I do actually know some rare public officials who are straightforward, and I would happily pursue another line of work if everyone else followed their examples. But I'm not really worried about unemployment (not for that reason, anyway).


There you have it. Unless the administration spills the beans on itself, unless every public issue has its own private Deep Throat, unless it reveals the "cracks" in its "facade", to properly "respectful" stenographers, the public are destined to be flim-flammed because our "liberal" media will be without any means at all to seek out and assess what the hell is really going on.

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