Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Rove/Plame News Cycle - "Democrats say..."

We are at risk already of descending into the phony balance phase of the Rove/Plame news cycle. The phony balance phase is the one in which even the most stark example of Bush Administration dishonesty or incompetence has to be introduced with the disclaimer "Democrats say..."

Consider the folllowing exchange from Tuesday's White House press briefing:

MR. MCCLELLAN: So I think you have to step back from any individual news story or individual reports. Let's let the investigation take place. I look forward to talking about some of these matters once the investigation is complete. I welcome the opportunity to talk about some of these questions, but I don't think it's appropriate to do so at this time.

Q Let's just -- just one final --

MR. McCLELLAN: And I think the American people can understand and appreciate that.

Q Well, we'll see. But I just have one final question on this. The question of whether a law has been broken, a crime committed, is a separate matter. You're not going to resolve that; that's for a grand jury to decide. But we know what the facts are. We know that Karl Rove spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife, referring to the fact that she worked at the Agency. You've heard Democrats who say that -- say today that alone was inappropriate conduct (emphases added). What was Karl Rove trying to accomplish by having the conversation he did? And does the President think that it was fair of him to do that? Was it fair game?
"You've heard Democrats who say...?" What on earth?

I have heard Republicans such as Scott McClellan, Ed Gillespie and President Bush himself say on the record that the Plame leak was, at best, "inappropriate." Bush is on the record vowing to fire anybody involved in leak. Is it not journalistically sound simply to say that? Is it not appropriate simply to call something what it is without pretending that objective truth (such as the inappropriateness of outing a covert CIA operative) is subject to interpretation?

What is inappropriate, journalistically dishonest and intellectually lazy is to resort to the cheap caveat of "Democrats say..." when the factual premise of your question is not in dispute. This is the sort of silliness that has allowed Bush enough wiggle-room to slither out of many a tight spot over the last four-and-a-half years. It could certainly happen again if the press refuse to hold him and his administration to account.


Anonymous said...

Great point!

They seem to be waking up a little bit but they have a long way to go.