James Oliphant’s piece in National Journal on progressive bloggers carrying water for the White House has sparked a lot of buzz today.
As Oliphant noted, after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was grilled by ABC News’ Jon Karl about Benghazi, “He had plenty of backup.”
He had The New Republic‘s Brian Beutler dismissing Benghazi as “nonsense.” He had Slate‘s David Weigel, along with The Washington Post’s Plum Line blog, debunking any claim that the new email was a “smoking gun.” Media Matters for America labeled Benghazi a “hoax.” Salon wrote that the GOP had a “demented Benghazi disease.” Daily Kos featured the headline: “Here’s Why the GOP Is Fired Up About Benghazi—and Here’s Why They’re Wrong.” The Huffington Post offered “Three Reasons Why Reviving Benghazi Is Stupid—for the GOP.”
In terms of its effectiveness at shutting down criticism, mockery is probably an underrated tool — and nobody does it better than the aforementioned writers and outlets.
Even assuming this is an organic case of liberal worldview bias, it’s certainly helpful for an administration hoping to knock down criticism to have surrogates do the attacking. But this piece also raises a larger question about coordination. Just as the attack on our consulate was, in fact, pre-planned, what are the odds the attacks on White House’s critics pointing this out were spontaneous?:
Consider: A search of White House records shows Ezra Klein, then with The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, visiting more than 25 times since 2009; last week, a Post story detailed the travails of Lesley Clark, a White House reporter for McClatchy who has been to the Oval Office three times in the last three years, and has asked one question directly to Obama in all that time.
Some are now suggesting this is simply how the game is played — that conservative bloggers would do the same thing if a Republican were in office. But center-right journalists, I hope, learned their lesson about this during the Bush era, as too many sat on their hands while big government and big spending policies were passed.
If you ever wonder why I criticize Republicans so often in this space, it’s at least partially attributable to the fact that I saw the pernicious fruits of this phenomenon, and have made an intentional effort to avoid this mistake by holding conservatives and Republicans accountable.
This is a proper role of center-right journalism.