Journolist, day 7: Setting up the post-debate spin
posted at 8:48 am on July 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
On the seventh day of Journolist, Daily Caller gave to me — the party line on post-debate sensibility. The latest from Jonathan Strong looks at the access by political operatives of Journolist and their sometimes-naked attempts to push the members into political advocacy. The strongest evidence comes from a posting by Jeff Hauser, who advocated to Journolist members to skew their opinions on an upcoming debate between Barack Obama and John McCain:
The single biggest thing journolist can do is to lay the analytical framework within the media elite necessary for an actual Obama debate win to be viewed as such by a sufficient proportion of media elites that voters know it was a win.
Of course, this only works if Obama does as we expect (and McCain is a terrible debater, btw).
But even Gore’s uneven Debate 1 performance in 2000 was deemed a win initially by a viewership that was demographically to the right of the electorate (lower minority viewership in 2000 of debates, more male, more GOP, etc…)… but Bush was winning on several media narratives and thus got the benefit from the intense 72 hours of post-debate coverage.
Journolist’s greatest challenge is to make sure an actual win by Obama translates into winning the battle for political impact.
Did other members believe that the mission of Journolist was to make Obama win the “battle for political impact”? If not, they were very, very quiet about any objections:
In the conversation that followed Hauser’s post, not one Journolister expressed surprise or disapproval. No one rebuked Hauser for telling journalists how to carry water for a politician. Despite the group’s supposedly “very strict” ban on political operatives and explicit partisan coordination, Hauser remained a member of Journolist for almost two more years.
Nor is that the only example in today’s entry in the Journolist series — nor the only political operative attempting to rally Journolist to support Obama through their work. Obama staffer Jared Bernstein asked Ezra Klein to relay a message to the listserv that scolded members for not being sufficiently loyal and asked them to start doing better:
“Calling all Journos,” Bernstein wrote in a message relayed by Klein. “I thought we got too little love from progressive types re our tax changes targeted at businesses with overseas operations. We’re maybe going for another bite at the apple this Monday,” he wrote. Bernstein invited members of the list to join him on a conference call on the issue a few days later.
That was enough to convince two opinion journalists in the group:
Dean Baker, at the time a blogger at the American Prospect, agreed the policy was dishonest, but defended it anyway. “Sure, some of the things they are saying are not true (the jobs story first and foremost),” he wrote, “but the industry groups have this town blanketed with lobbyists and own a large portion of Congress outright. … There has to be some counterforce to the industry groups and that is the populist rabble. It might not be pretty, but that’s Washington.” …
“I’ve heard that there’s some disappointment in the administration that they haven’t gotten the level of progressive love they feel they deserve for their ambitious proposals to curb abusive corporate tax loopholes,” wrote influential liberal blogger Matt Yglesias the next day. Yglesias went on to attack opponents of the plan, noting “how absurd some of the abuses the administration is trying to curb are.”
At least Yglesias didn’t pass along those thoughts as his own, like Joe Klein did at Time Magazine from the Journolist postings of others. He may well have legitimately agreed with Bernstein’s assessment (knowing his politics, I’d guess that he did), and he sourced his information properly. Baker, however, admits that he thinks the policy and the administration’s policy were dishonest, but advocated the regurgitation of them anyway in order to shape the news to help Obama and his administration.
The American Prospect will never be confused with an objective news source; it makes no pretense of objectivity in its support for a radically progressive agenda. It does, however, make a pretense at honesty and integrity. If Baker thinks that supporting the Obama administration is a higher purpose than truth, even as he sees it, then that goes directly to the integrity of what the Prospect publishes.