There he goes again, the mouthpiece for Rove and Cheney, believing his "access" as a stenographer makes him a journalist. It doesn't. It makes him a stenographer.
Allen gussies up his source's bile with a few fig leaf sentences and a gesture from a Democratic rebuttal. But he also offers the entire Cheney statement – a classic Dolchstoss attack on the president as a traitor – in full.
I hope Allen gets his page-views. But shouldn't the Cheneys be paying him rather than Politico?
Note, too, the sequence of events as Allen describes them:
While I was writing the piece, a very well-known former Bush administration official e-mailed some caustic criticism of Obama’s decision to release the memos. I asked the former official to be quoted by name, but this person refused, e-mailing: “Please use only on background.”
So these quotes arrived in Allen’s email inbox with no agreement that the quotes were off the record. Thus, Allen was free to publish them and identity for his readers what Bush officials were saying about Obama. But — exact like Tim Russert — Allen apparently treats his conversations with Bush officials as “presumptively confidential,” i.e., like a good and loyal P.R. spokesman, he will only report what he learns if they give him permission to do so — even in the absence of an explicit off-the-record agreement.
Glenn then gets tough:
Allen’s excuse for anonymity was that readers could decide for themselves whether the anonymous Bush criticisms “sounded defensive or vindictive.” But he then confesses that he edited out “the most incendiary parts,” including “several ad hominems.” So, like a good servant-editor, he first helpfully sanitized the Bush official’s smears by making them appear more sober and substantive than they actually were — by removing all the parts that reflected vindictiveness towards Obama — and then justified the anonymity he granted by saying he wanted readers to see for themselves if the criticisms of Obama’s decision were grounded in vindictiveness. He evidently confessed all of that without realizing that his actions completely negate his claimed justification.
Sometimes ya have to read beyond a blog snippet. When people read our actual article, they’ll see that the headline and top two-thirds are an exclusive on David Axelrod’s behind-the-scenes description of the President’s decision-making process, followed by a shorter Bush view from a very high-level official whose opinion was available only on background — not ideal, but better than making readers wonder what the official Bush view is.
Anonymity is a problem in this case because it is allowing the Bush official to make unsubstantiated or opaque claims. Kori Schake, a former national security adviser on defense issues to President George W. Bush, went on the record against the memos. I'm sure others would have as well. I stand by my post. And Allen broke one of the most basic rules in fair journalism and should apologize, not dig in.
Under what reasoning does Politico's Mike Allen give the following piece of spin anonymity?:
A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos “unbelievable.”
“It's damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama's action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake."
“I don't believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”
Allen is allowing a member of the administration that broke the Geneva Conventions and commited war crimes to attack the current president and claim, without any substantiation, that the torture worked. He then allows that "top official" to proclaim things that are at the very least highly questionable. What journalistic standard is Allen following in allowing such a person to speak anonymously?
And how much lower can he sink in craving buzz and traffic?
Last week, in response to me, Douthat kicked off a conversation about reform conservatives’ foreign policy views. Ross, for his part, advocates for a “kind of unifying center for conservatives weary of current binaries (Tea Party versus RINOs in the domestic sphere, ‘isolationists’ versus ‘neocons’ in foreign policy), which would internalize lessons from the Bush and Obama eras (especially lessons about the limits of military interventions and nation-building efforts) without abandoning broad Pax Americana goals“:
I liked Ben Domenech’s way of framing this point, when he wrote [last week] in the Transom that the Republican Party “has always included realists and idealists, and there was in the past a degree of trust that elected leaders could sound more like idealists but govern more like realists.” It’s that trust that was forfeited by some of the Bush administration’s follies, and that needs to be recovered if the G.O.P. is to deserve anybody’s vote. But because it’s a trust, ultimately, in competence and caution, it’s a bit hard to say exactly what this kind of “new realism” or “realist internationalism” or “chastened idealism” (or whatever phrase you prefer) would look like case by case … beyond, I suppose, saying “let Robert Gates drink from the fountain of youth, and put him in charge of Republican foreign policy forever,” which is certainly an idea, but probably not a sufficient foundation for an actual agenda.
Justin Logan argues that a “big part of the problem here is the conservative donor class”:
To put it bluntly, the portion of the GOP donor class that cares about foreign policy is wedded to a militaristic foreign policy, particularly in but not limited to the Middle East. Tens of millions of dollars every year are pumped into an alphabet soup of magazines, think tanks, fellowships, lobby groups and other outfits in Washington to ensure that conservative foreign policy stays unreformed.
This blog has long been generally supportive of the attempt by a handful of sane and intelligent conservative thinkers to brainstorm some kind of future for the American right. And who wouldn’t be? If the alternative is the brain dead 1979 redux position of someone like Kimberley Strassel, you gotta love Ross Douthat. But it strikes me there are deep challenges for this fledgling group of now Tanenhaus-blessed scholars, and they may be hard to overcome.
The first is the lack of any clear unifying theme or rallying cry that can meld policy to politics. “Reform” seems too vague and goo-goo a theme to catch on. On the core axis of more or less government, the reformicons rightly answer smaller, better government – but the “better” part always ends up a little duller than “smaller”. A child tax credit may or may not be a decent idea – but it’s very hard to fit it into the broader tradition of less government dependency. Ditto attempts to alleviate student debt, or to encourage the hiring of the long-term unemployed, or the block granting of anti-poverty funds to the states. All of them are hard to do when you demonize government itself as regularly as the Republican rank and file.
Perhaps the best scenario for a raft of such small, but potent policy proposals would be a Republican version of the Clinton administration – which bored the pants off ideologues but still connected with the tangible needs and concerns of most people. Alas, it’s hard to imagine a Clintonism of the right without a Clinton. It was Bill’s astonishing charm, loquaciousness, relentlessness and seduction that made these tedious laundry lists so popular. I do not see any such charismatic figure with such a direct and personal grasp of so many policy issues on the right. Maybe he or she will show up as a charismatic and brilliant governor. Or maybe not. If Ted Cruz is the new archetype of a Republican, never.
Within British conservatism, there are, in contrast, two competing traditions – Whig and Tory – that mitigate this problem. The Whiggish faction had its high watermark under Thatcher, a conservative who embraced market liberalism as the best foil to socialism. But the Tory faction never disappeared completely. Its rallying cry – and historical legacy – is “One Nation” Toryism, rooted in Disraeli’s conservative embrace of the working classes, and abhorrence at the vast social and economic inequalities of his time. It has no problem at all with government and its benefits. This would be a natural and identifiable tradition to embrace in Britain for a set of reformers like the Levin brigade. In America? No Disraeli ever existed – and no Bismarck either. Eisenhower may be the best analogue. And re-introducing Eisenhower to the next generation is a pretty heavy lift. The trouble with American conservatism is that it is, in essence, so new, and so wedded to a particular era, that it doesn’t have the depth and reach of a European conservatism that can provide a leader like Angela Merkel.
And then the reformicons are operating at a disadvantage in a culturally polarized America. It would be great if this were not the case – but since a huge amount of both parties’ base mobilization requires intensifying the cultural conflict, and since the divide is rooted in real responses to changing mores, it will likely endure. And that kind of climate makes pragmatic conservatism again less likely to get a hearing.
GE provided crucial support for media startup Vox.com, an explanatory-journalism site launched by former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, with whom it already had a working relationship. While Mr. Klein was still at the Post, GE courted him and others for a news website and marketing campaign in development. When Mr. Klein left to join Vox, GE and its ad dollars followed. The GE site, launched after Mr. Klein left the Post, aggregated video clips and content featuring the blogger, along with Fox News’s Bret Baier, Politico’s Mike Allen and others, discussing and expounding on the news.
The advertiser had “absolutely zero influence” on Vox.com’s editorial content, said Jim Bankoff, chief executive of parent company Vox Media. But both GE and Vox have a similar audience in mind: young, relatively affluent and policy savvy. For GE, the purpose of the relationship was to get GE in the minds of policy makers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “We want to target the DC millennials,” said Linda Boff, who heads GE’s global brand marketing. The Vox sponsorship ended in August.
The merger of corporate interests and what’s left of journalism is only getting deeper. And the younger generation of liberal journalists is leading the way, and is shocked, shocked that anyone might question the appearance of blatant conflicts of interest. But a reader wants to make a distinction:
In your post “Ezra Sells Out“, you seem to be confusing Vox, which is Ezra Klein & Co’s media venture, with Vox Media, the overarching company that owns Vox.com along with a number of other media outlets like Polygon and Curbed.
The last few years have been fascinating to watch as new media stars have both benefited from and then fallen out with big media companies. Nate Silver is the obvious example. He went from being an independent blogger – heavily linked by the Dish among other new media sites – to becoming the true star of the NYT’s 2012 election coverage. Then he and the NYT could not figure out a mutually beneficial deal, and he quit to run a new 538-style site at ESPN.com. It won’t launch for a bit (maybe March, I hear). But ESPN, as they showed with Bill Simmons’s original blog and now Grantland, is one of the very few big media outlets to find a way to a win-win proposition with Internet stars.
Or think of Glenn Greenwald. First an immediate blogging sensation; then Salon, then the Guardian and now … working on his own news-and-opinion website, with a massive global brand, funded by the founder of eBay. The WSJ’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are also now exiting the WSJ’s employ to start their own site. The Dish’s story – until last year – was also a story of trying – and failing – to get a win-win arrangement with media companies interested in allying with us.
The truly frustrating thing about all this is that it was surely in everyone’s interests to stick together – legacy media with new media stars is a win-win proposition. And yet almost every time – the one exception I can think of may be Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Dealbook – the deals have unraveled. The egos of legacy media honchos and the energy of new media stars could not quite get along. Mutual resentment, the thorny question of compensation, and the power of personal brands all played a part.
For some, the entire model of individually branded content is a dismaying idea.
Thank you for continuing to cover the state of journalism today. I thoroughly enjoyed what you had to say about Time Inc’s remodeling – a development that I would not have known about were it not for the Dish – as well as your continued attention to the Mike Allen fiasco. It is disturbing that the media hasn’t covered the rise of revenue-based journalism more, and I’m glad that you keep drawing our attention to the issue.
To pile on, I just read the Playboy article by BuzzfeedBen about how social media – by which he really means Buzzfeed, with its tens of thousands of viral, share-worthy listicles – will “save journalism,” and I’m very much looking forward to your take on it. I say that not just because you’re mentioned briefly in that piece (as one of the pioneers of the political blogger revolution), but because he has some truly interesting defenses of Buzzfeed’s journalism/business model, including one section where he says that sponsored content is like the “beautiful, well-produced” advertizing one might see in Vogue and actually enhances the product rather than detracts from it. In another section, he seems to compare – bizarrely – the popularity of lists like “108 Reasons Corgis Really Are That Great” to the renewed interest in long-form journalism.
(Photo: California Academy of Sciences diver George Bell wears a Santa Claus suit as he dives in the Academy’s Philippine Coral Reef tank on December 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)