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Sunday, January 15, 2006


Deborah Howell is an outrage. Or rather, her title of "ombudsman" is an outrage. If you just change it to "Official GOP Steward" I would have far less problems with her continued presence at the WaPo. But they probably have adequate reason to fear that people like John Harris would then start to bristle and covet it for themselves.

It is obvious that on a day-in, day-out basis Howell is being bombarded by representatives of GOP think tanks to complain about any deviation from the official GOP slant on any story, a job which she clearly relishes. She is most certainly happy to print obvious distortions on a daily basis, like this one in today's column about Jack Abramoff:
Schmidt quickly found that Abramoff was getting 10 to 20 times as much from Indian tribes as they had paid other lobbyists. And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties.
That is just an out-and-out, boldfaced lie. It's hard to tell whether Howell is a hack or just an idiot and I suspect a bit of both, and I'm not going to waste any more time beating that one into the ground. I've already been there, as has anyone else paying even the littlest bit of attention.

Then Howell goes on to indulge her favorite myth -- the smoke-and-mirrors "well both Democrats and Republicans are unhappy so we must be fair and balanced." I'm sure mother Dahmer was upset at the outcome of young Jeffrey's trial too, but that hardly adds up to "two equal stories."
Two persistent complaints have come the ombudsman's way on this story. One, from Democrats, is that The Post is trying to distance DeLay from Abramoff because a Dec. 29 story said the two were not personally close. DeLay had once called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends" and said on Fox News recently that they were friends.

Schmidt and Grimaldi said that their reporting showed that the two were politically, not personally, close. Whatever the degree of closeness, the strength of Schmidt's and Grimaldi's reporting has tied the two together inextricably.
Yes we're aware of it, Deborah, the complaint originated here. Shortly thereafter Atrios observed that the DeLay quote about being friendly with Abramoff came from Schmidt's own reporting 10 days earlier.

The abrupt, unexplained change in narrative by Schmidt came just in time to conveniently service Tom DeLay's attempts to regain his House leadership position. Atrios had a supremely valid point. Howell never addressed this question to Schmidt, allowing her to both dodge the thrust of the complaint and look like she was giving equal time to Democrats. Her attempt to portray this as "different reporters, different stories" is utterly disingenuous.

Then she goes on to service those right wing think tank folk with true mastery:
The second complaint is from Republicans, who say The Post purposely hasn't nailed any Democrats. Several stories, including one on June 3 by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, a Post business reporter, have mentioned that a number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), have gotten Abramoff campaign money.
It is a very serious question that needs to be asked of WaPo management: Is Howell's job to mindlessly repeat whatever the Heritage Foundation tells her, or is she just too brutally ignorant to look beyond it?

That she does not understand the thrust of this story -- that Abramoff was fundamental to the architecture of the GOP money machine -- is obvious. But beyond that, she can't even master the simplest detail -- that Abramoff's VICTIMS, the people he fleeced, the Indian tribes, are free to give money to whomever they feel will help them serve their interests. That is quite a different thing than contributions given by Abramoff himself; Abramoff is the one currently under indictment, not the Indian tribes. What part of this does Howell not understand?

American Indians are some of the most bitterly victimized people this nation has ever seen. And now Howell's attempt to paint Democrats into this picture depends on the completely condescending notion that they are nothing but Jack Abramoff's dupes who cannot be trusted to handle their own money, that every nickel they gave to politicians was done so because he either exploited their stupidity, their ignorance and their naivete for his own ends or because they were complicit in his crimes. As a person of American Indian ancestry, I cannot tell you how racist and demeaning I find Howell's assertions.

Deborah Howell needs to figure out that the Justice Department is prosecuting Jack Abramoff, not the Indian Tribes. If she has proof that any Democrat took money quid-pro-quo, or that the Indian tribes were themselves responsible for actions that in any way violated campaign finance laws, she needs to produce it. Now. The Democrats are the natural constituents of the Indian tribes in this country and their only provable crime so far is that they have not done more. It is quite obvious that they should be recipients of the contributions of Native American peoples as they attempt to have a voice in the system that has oppressed them for so long, and Deborah Howell's bitter, condescending racism is deplorable.

The folks over at Wampum have been doing an excellent job covering this aspect of the story and it has been largely ignored. The RNC, in their attempts to tie this to Democrats, have been actively promoting the story that Brad Carson of Oklahoma took $26,000 from Abramoff clients, the Cherokee tribes. People like Deborah Howell are swallowing this hook, line and sinker, never managing to look beyond what Ken Mehlman is telling them and doing even the most rudimentary job of reporting to explore the obvious -- Brad Carson is an enrolled member of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation. Did Jack Abramoff arrange that too?

Deborah Howell must offer a public apology to ALL the Indian tribes she has deliberately slung her mud on in her attempt to put a "fair and balanced" veneer on a blatant partisan hackery.

Anyone who would like to express their feelings to the WaPo on this matter directly can do so here, at the I know the topic is Maryland Moment but I'm told Jim Brady reads this very carefully, and it's better to post your comments publicly than subject them to Deborah Howell's "delete button." Perhaps it is time for the online edition -- -- to hire their own ombudsman, someone who is at least marginally literate. It is obvious that Howell is not up to the task of doing her job.

Update: Some pretty funny stuff happing at the Check it out.

Update: Ombudsman Howell certainly is making friends for the WaPo: Brad DeLong, Crooks & Liars, The Sideshow, Atrios, AmericaBlog, DailyKos and Media Matters all seem to be fans of her work.

(graphic via Wampum)