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Thursday, January 19, 2006

WaPo You've Outdone Yourself

UPDATE: The Washington Post has now turned off the comments on Deborah Howell's blog. The Maryland Moment blog is still functional however, so I recommend leaving comments here.

Lil' Debbie is now a a blogger:
I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties.
And a better way to have said this would've been "I fucked up, what I said was an outright fabrication based on the fact that I was writing about something I did not understand. I accepted too quickly what the Heritage Foundation told me and I did not do my job as a journalist to check the facts."
Lobbyists, seeking influence in Congress, often advise clients on campaign contributions.
Debbie here assumes everyone is as slow on the uptake as she is and needs a nice, patronizing lecture about this amazing discovery she seems to have just now made. You guys at the WaPo did a great job hiring an obudsman. Really top-drawer.
While Abramoff, a Republican, gave personal contributions only to Republicans, he directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.
I don't expect Lil' Debbie to understand this so she can just stop reading now and go back to speed dialing the Hudson Institute for her next column, but those with some interest in spin, publicity and the generation of public image probably don't need to be told that all this dancing around about "Democrats took contributions from Abramoff clients too" is an intentional attempt to mislead the public into making a conclusion that is patently false. The implication is that the Indian Tribes are as dirty as Abramoff, something the Post has so far failed to do. They go straight to the White House for their take on any story which they then dutifully transcribe, and have neglected in any meaningful way to go to the Indian tribes themselves and ask for their version of events.

Somebody much more intelligent than Lil' Debbie obviously held her hand and put up some charts for her showing Democrats took money from the Indian tribes, listing Patrick Kennedy as one of the largest recipients. As they well know from their own reporting, Kennedy had a relationship with the tribes that predated the appearance of Abramoff. Do they have any evidence to support that Abramoff's "lists" were not somehow taking into account donations that the tribes themselves insisted on covering? Have they interviewed anyone at the tribes to see what their involvement was, were they the ones that demanded that Kennedy be included? We'll never know, at least not from the Post, because it clearly does not serve their purposes to ask these questions.

Somebody from the WaPo: please, please go check out Wampum. They are so far ahead of you on this one you should have the good sense to be embarrassed.

The propaganda assistance rendered to the White House and the GOP by such obfuscation is immeasurable. By pointing to carefully chosen "facts" which may be technically true (people like Kennedy did take money from the Indian tribes) without placing it in the proper context has lead to polling results that must have Ken Mehlman doing the lambada. According to the latest Diageo/Hotline Poll, a plurality of voters now do not associate Abramoff with any political party (PDF). That is just a remarkable achievement, considering everyone involved in this little wool-pulling scam -- with the exception of Lil' Debbie, of course, whom we assume is just too stupid -- knows that Abramoff was nothing but a bag man for the GOP.

If they care so much about the "facts," why don't they hit the "fact" that so far there has been no proof that any of the contributions made by the Indian tribes to Democrats were in any way illegal, or that their overall contributions to Democrats plummeted once Abramoff appeared on the scene? I guess those "facts" don't conform to the dog-whistle journalism they are clearly engaging in.

Congratulations, WaPo. You have done your job well, Bush will no doubt have a biscuit for you. And congratulations on the selection of Howell -- much like Scott McClellan, her own stupidity will now be the focus of anything she involves herself in and take the spotlight off of any larger issues she might be tasked to investigate.

Update: In the comments, David Latchaw reminds us of this Abramoff email from a Steno Sue article, no less:
"I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out."
Clearly the Indian tribes themselves had some history in directing their own money toward politicians. The notion that they were just a bunch of slack-jawed dupes being wholly "directed" by Abramoff is both demeaning and misleading.

(graphic by alysheba)