Well Is It Or Isn’t It?
I think it's time to pull Lil' Debbie off covering the local DC pie eating contests to which she has been relegated after doing such a bang-up job covering the Jack Abramoff/Steno Sue dust up (wherein we learned that "giving money to Democrats" means…well…uh…just about anything the Kewl Kidz might want it to, actually). But now we have a burning question that only she can field for us. According to Greg Sargent:
The question has arisen because Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr. was asked by Editor and Publisher whether the Post would begin describing the conflict as a "civil war." Other news orgs, including the New York Times today, have announced they will. But Downie told Editor and Publisher the following:
"We just describe what goes on everyday. We don't have a policy about it. We are not making judgments one way or another. The language in the stories is very precise when dealing with it. At various times people say it is 'close to a civil war,' but we don't have a policy about it."
But as noted below, that response doesn't answer the central question of whether Post reporters and editors can describe the conflict in the paper that way if they wish to — that is, if they think it's important to do so in order to communicate the reality of what's happening in Iraq with their readers. Post reporter Dana Priest has already described the conflict that way — on Hardball, not in the pages of the Post, and other Post reporters have reached similar conclusions without saying so outright.
The minute I saw that Greg had emailed post spokesman Eric Grant (whose clarification consisted of "the quote stands on its own), I knew what the problem was, you see. The only person capable of grabbing a shovel at the Post and getting to the bottom of this linguistic merd pile is our own Lil' Debbie. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out yesterday, the Beltway Bores anxious to defend Jane Harmon are basically consumed with a 24/7 fixation to write themselves a pass for their previous lives as warmongers, so it's no surprise that the Post would not want to acknowledge exactly what the wisdom of Don Graham and his own personal Charlie McCarthy, Fred Hiatt, hath wrought.
Graham's role in shaping the paper's pro-war ediorial stance has largely been overlooked. But rather than put Hiatt's tit in the well-deseved wringer once again, let's take a look at the political leanings of the man he largely speaks for:
[O]ne of Don Graham’s first and most important acts as publisher was to remove the longtime editorial page editor, Philip Geyelin, who was a solid liberal, and replace him with Meg Greenfield, a maverick with strong neoconservative leanings. Many observers say the pages have been drifting right ever since. In October 2001, the former Post editorial writer and syndicated columnist Colman McCarthy published a scathing article in The Progressive entitled “Why the Washington Post Op-Ed Page is So Dull.” McCarthy monitored the Post op-ed page daily for three months, and concluded that “it is a sheet of numbing sameness: centrist or rightwing viewpoints, listless writing, and pro-establishment megaphonics.” Friends say that Graham has grown increasingly conservative in recent years, and that the op-ed page — which features Robert Novak, Charles Krauthammer, and George Will as regular columnists — is not inconsistent with his own views. What is clear is that it’s a page in which conservative voices are very strong and liberal voices are very weak.
Asked for his opinion of the Progressive piece, Hiatt replies mildly, “I don’t remember the piece well enough to give you a general response.” But he does take the opportunity to announce the latest addition to the Post’s editorial board — the gifted (and conservative) writer Anne Applebaum, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Spectator, and The Daily Telegraph, and who will join the paper in October. Hiatt does have his fans, though. “I think Fred Hiatt will be one of the best appointments of Don Graham’s tenure,” says Jaffe of The Washingtonian.
Since this poserior-covering starts on high, we obviously need someone with the fierce independence of a Deborah Howell to give us the straight poop.
It's what we look to her for, after all.