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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fire in the Cat House

Holy shit some people just don't know when to shut up. I mentioned yesterday that the Washington press corps has no idea of the smoldering public rage that threatens to engulf them, but I had no idea that it was about ready to immolate WaPo's National politics editor John Harris so quickly.

After his haughty laird-of-the-manor remarks about Dan Froomkin and what an embarrassment his column entitled "White House Briefing" was to the real reporters who cover the White House, readers struck back with some 675 comments supporting Froomkin.

Then Harris told Froomkin supporters to pipe down and dismantled their piffling complaints with his masterful strokes of lairdly logic, if he did say so himself. And then OH MY GOD IT GOT UGLY. My favorite:
Don't be so hard on poor Mr. John Harris. The only thing in his post that I take issue with, is that he forgot to start with: "Hey Rubes !" After that, his whole post makes more sense.
Now Jay Rosen interviews him. Does he care anything about the thousand plus readers who have written in almost unanimous support of Froomkin, whose column the paper acknowledges to be consistently amongst its most popular?

Not a damn. Says Harris:
Without agreeing with the views of this conservative blogger who took on Froomkin, I would say his argument does not seem far-fetched to me.
If you follow the link, you will find it leads to Patrick Ruffini, webmaster for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign, who calls Froomkin a "second-rate hack," a "trite Democratic partisan" and accuses him of writing "fluff."


But here's the money quote. Rosen asks if White House officials are the ones complaining about Froomkin's column:
John Harris: They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.
This flap is brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party, who will not stand to see itself criticized by a major media outlet without seeking to take down the one who is doing so. And John Harris bends over and spreads 'em. Of course, considering Harris's past as one of the people who hijacked the nation and started speaking in tongues over rumors of penis-shaped ornaments on the Clinton Christmas tree, this is hardly surprising.

I normally wouldn't suggest this. But any uppity peon who wants to speak back to Massa Harris can do so here.

Says Digby:
Fine. Fuck it. Change the name if it bothers the "real" white house reporters so much. Call it The Whorehouse Report. It amounts to the same thing.
And Brad DeLong:
I look at what Dan Froomkin has done today and I find John Harris's complaints incomprehensible. Liberal bias? There is a bias, but it is toward the snarky, not the liberal. The quality of the work? As a doorman directing customers to good daily news taxis, Dan Froomkin is superb: is extremely lucky to have him. Confusion with the print Washington Post's news operation? John Harris should be so lucky.
I'm there.

Update: Over at E&P, Len Downie removes any doubt about which master the WaPo serves in this matter: "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion," Downie told E&P. "And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."