As I said on the washingtonpost.com online chat this morning, prior to the fall of 2005 nobody would have suggested that Jack Abramoff was anything other than a self described "right-wing ideologue" and a GOP operative, a man who once famously said "it is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently."
Suddenly the GOP and the president himself began calling Abramoff an "equal money dispenser" and there is every appearance that management of the Washington Post have gone along with a decision to deceive the public by painting the scandals currently threatening the Republican party as "bipartisan."
Witness Chris Cillizza’s washingtonpost.com blog, where he recently mentioned that despite his decision to only deal with scandals plaguing current governors and members of Congress, an editor stepped in and added to his list Rep. Frank Ballance, a Democrat who had resigned in June, 2004. Even Cillizza himself said that "Ballance was unnecessarily included for, frankly, balance."
While I’m perfectly willing to believe Deborah Howell is too much of a dingaling to do anything other than mindlessly repeat what she has heard from others, it is impossible to divorce her repetition of an Abramoff GOP talking point from this context. Both Jim Brady’s and the Washington Post’s decision to characterize the response of their online readers as a problem of "uncivility" is an attempt to slap a cheap coat of whitewash over an insidious, festering problem that continues to plague their management and the reporters who continue to suck it up to earn front-page status for their articles.
Since Jim Brady keeps dismissing this criticism anytime somebody puts a microphone near him (you can witness the latest on The News Hour, but it’s really no different than Air America or Hugh Hewitt or whenever he opens his mouth) and keeps referring to some "hate speech" that had to be removed from the blog, I’ll ask one more time — please define "hate speech."
Here are three comments that appeared on the post.blog before the comments were taken down. They were three of ten that were never restored. I am obviously lacking in some sort of acumen, so if anybody could tell me how they qualify as "hate speech" I’d be really grateful:
Willis wrote: "But contrary to what some commenters have said here, Abramoff did direct donations to Democratic candidates and committees. Our reporters have documents showing this to be the case, and I have asked that we post at least some of them so that readers can see for themselves."
That was two hours ago. Now, it takes me about ten minutes to scan a document, and upload it to my own website, and post a URL — and that’s because I’m not very good at all this "internets" stuff.
Willis claims that there are documents in which Jack Abramoff directs his clients to give to Democrats. One assumes that these include signed letters or memos from Abramoff to his clients, or emails directly from Abramoff to his clients — and one assumes that if such documents actually existed, the Post would have written about them as part of what Deborah Howell described as Susan Schmidt’s "explosive" investigative work on the Abramoff scandal…..
But to date, all the Post (and Willis) have ever come up with are these facts
1. Native Americans tribes give money to both parties
2. Some Native American tribes were represented by a firm that Abramoff worked for
3. Some of these tribes gave money to some Democrats — but since Abramoff has been around, they aren’t giving Democrats as much
So, Willis, where are your "documents"? Its been two hours plus — ten times as long as it would take for you to scan and post the "Abramoff memo" you need to show us that you aren’t lying through your teeth….
Posted by: paul lukasiak | Jan 17, 2006 10:31:19 AM | Permalink
well, its now three hours and counting since Willis claimed that "Abramoff did direct donations to Democratic candidates and committees. Our reporters have documents showing this to be the case" and also claimed that he was going to get those documents posted…
but instead of posting these "explosive" documents, the Post deletes Willis’s claim….
Posted by: paul lukasiak | Jan 17, 2006 11:29:24 AM | Permalink
Howard Kurtz has a hilarious water carrying defense of Schmidt and Howell, with the pertinent excerpt posted after at Romenesko:
Fort Washington, Md.: Reporter Sue Schmidt and ombudsman Deborah Howell have both asserted repeatedly that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. The FEC shows no record of any Democrat getting any money from Abramoff, period. Some Indian tribes who were among Abramoff’s victims contributed funds to some Democrats, but suggesting that that somehow is a donation from Abramoff defies logic. How does the Post justify passing on what appears to be nothing but GOP spin as fact?
Howard Kurtz: Howell’s column Sunday said that a number of Democrats "have gotten Abramoff campaign money." That was inartfully worded. I believe what she was trying to say, and I have not discussed this with her, is that some Democrats have received campaign cash from Abramoff clients, and that this may have been orchestrated by the convicted lobbyist. That’s why you have a number of Democrats (as well as many Republicans, now including Denny Hastert) giving back the tainted dough or donating it to charity. Even National Review Editor Rich Lowry says this is basically a Republican scandal — we are talking about a Bush fundraiser and Tom DeLay pal — but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too.
Posted at 12:50:56 PM
So, the bullsh-t continues. Here’s Kurtz saying, Democrats received money from tribes through Abramoff, which "may have been orchestrated by the convicted lobbyist." Note, Kurtz completely glosses over the inconvenient fact that these same tribes were among Abramoff’s victims. After all, it is critical, as Howard was advised in the White House talking points e-mail not to "get off message". By the end of the remark, he concludes, "but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too."
So, in the absence of any proof that Abramoff was channeling tribal funds to Democrats, "the tangled web has been extended to Democrats"???
Good work, Howard. Have your received Karl’s appreciative e-mail yet?
As for Howell, reliable sources in the newsroom state that she will be reporting that WMDs have, in fact, been discovered in Iraq, and that Iran successfully conducted a nuclear weapons test over the Christmas holiday.
Posted by: Richard Estes | Jan 17, 2006 1:43:58 PM | Permalink
When Brady spoke with Jay Rosen, he said:
If you want to take issue with articles in The Post or on washingtonpost.com, go right ahead. If you want to complain that you think we’re biased to the left or right — and, believe me, we get it from both sides — have at it. But if you want to viciously attack and insult Post or Post.com staffers or other blog commenters, then go somewhere else to do it. That’’s the deal we’’ve had with a large majority of our loyal readers for years, and we’ve decided that’’s going to be our policy going forward.
I just don’t understand how the removal of these three comments jibes with the policy Brady outlined, or how they qualify as "hate speech" in any way.
And the larger problem remains. There is a serious institutional bias toward the right that the Post is apparently pursuing at its own peril. According to the Washingtonian:
"The Web site simply has to come through, ours and that of other newspapers, for us to be successful, [Washington Post chairman Don] Graham told investment analysts Wednesday in New York.
Would anyone like to explain how the recent actions of Howell, Brady, John Harris, Sue Schmidt, Richard Morin and the Washington Post management don’t serve to completely defeat this objective?
Their stock is in freefall. Their credibility is in shreds. They have spared no effort to make enemies of the "fever swamp," better known as their online readership.
Hugging the GOP is sucking the life out of them like corporate cancer. No wonder they’re cranky.
Update: The estimable Lambert also weighs in.