Dan Froomkin Should Be Ashamed
Posted on 01.01.09 by Danny Glover @ 2:14 pm

Liberal journalism professor Jay Rosen was puzzled when Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wondered aloud whether he and other journalists should be skeptical of Barack Obama. Conservative blogger Jon Henke was downright flabbergasted:

I’m not sure I understand why this is even a question. Indeed, it would seem to me that it would be grounds for immediate dismissal.

“Immediate dismissal” is an overreach, but Jon is right to call Froomkin out for his bizarre musings about how to cover Obama. No journalist should ever wonder whether skepticism of politicians is warranted; it always is.

The problem these days is that few mainstream journalists are the least bit skeptical of Obama. And the fact that the Post columnist tasked with covering the Obama administration is even thinking of giving Obama a pass, if only for an extension of the honeymoon that began with his candidacy, doesn’t bode well for future coverage of “The One.”

Froomkin’s subtle confession of favoritism toward Obama is all the more disappointing when you put it in the context of what Froomkin said three years ago when his column faced fierce internal and external criticism. Then-Post ombudsman Deborah Howell called Froomkin’s work “highly opinionated and liberal.”

Froomkin changed the name of the column from “White House Briefing” to “White House Watch” in the aftermath, but he defended his work by portraying himself not as a liberal Bush-hater but as a watchdog of whomever is in the White House. “[M]y job is to watch the White House like a hawk,” he told Rosen in a PressThink interview.

Froomkin added further insight into how he sees his job in an entry on the Post’s blog (via BuzzMachine):

There is undeniably a certain irreverence to the column. But I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable. And he should be able to easily withstand that scrutiny. I was prepared to take the same approach with John Kerry, had he become president.

This column’s advocacy is in defense of the public’s right to know what its leader is doing and why. To that end, it calls attention to times when reasonable, important questions are ducked; when disingenuous talking points are substituted for honest explanations; and when the president won’t confront his critics — or their criticisms — head on.

The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so — not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do.

Those words don’t square with the internal conflict Froomkin recently admitted:

So what do we do with President Obama? Do we treat him with the same skepticism with which we learned to approach Bush? If not, how do we hold him accountable?

Though his liberalism prompted Froomkin to overstep the bounds of good watchdogging at times, he was right about his job during the Bush administration; he needs to remember his role once someone who shares his liberal worldview is in the White House.

He said he was ready to be a Kerry watchdog, and in light of his recent public waffling about how to cover Obama, Froomkin had better be even more aggressive now or his journalistic reputation will be shot.


Filed under: Media and News & Politics
Comments:

47 Comments »

  1. Actually I think there is something inherently amusing about journalists ensuring anyone else’s professional integrity.

    But if he’d like to have a go at it, we’re all waiting. And watching.

    Comment by jvon — January 1, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

  2. [...] DANNY GLOVER: “Dan Froomkin Should Be Ashamed.” [...]

    Pingback by Instapundit » Blog Archive » DANNY GLOVER: “Dan Froomkin Should Be Ashamed.”… — January 1, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

  3. The idea that you would cover a reasonable man like Obama the same way you’d cover a monster like Bush is crazy. Virtually every word from Bush’s mouth is a provable lie.

    I will cover Obama truthfully, but I will not try to find things wrong, will not go on fishing expeditions, and will take him at his word until evidence appears that shows otherwise. I think we owe the first black President more than the usual politics of destruction.

    Journalism is about improving society and getting out the truth that big business doesn’t want you to read.

    Comment by Joe Ink — January 1, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  4. Joe Ink,

    Define “reasonable.” Define “monster.” Define “provable lie. Define “truthfully.” Define “take him at his word…” Define “owe.” Define “usual politics of destruction.” Define “improving society.” Define “getting the truth out. “Define “doesn’t want you to read.”

    Define all of the above. Otherwise, your comments are worse than wrong: they’re irrelevant.

    Comment by MarkJ — January 1, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

  5. I can’t decide whether Joe Ink’s comment is sincere or a parody, and when you can no longer tell the difference, that’s never a good sign.

    Comment by jaed — January 1, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

  6. This, Joe Ink, is the standard that every journalist should apply: “I will cover Obama truthfully, but I will not try to find things wrong, will not go on fishing expeditions, and will take him at his word until evidence appears that shows otherwise.” It’s a good description of the trust-but-verify skepticism that produces sound journalism.

    But the fact that you would apply that approach only to the “first black President” and that you consider Bush a “monster” totally undermines any credibility you might have. It would do the same for any journalist who thinks that way.

    Comment by Danny Glover — January 1, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

  7. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to accidentally stumble on Froomkin in the WaPo on any given day knows the man is an obsessed sicko and a lost cause and the less said about him the better.

    Comment by Dan — January 1, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

  8. Froomkin in a Townhouse email member - the email group that liberal bloggers, activists, union thugs and journalists use to coordinate their message.

    Comment by Tripp — January 1, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

  9. #

    The idea that you would cover a reasonable man like Obama the same way you’d cover a monster like Bush is crazy. Virtually every word from Bush’s mouth is a provable lie.

    I will cover Obama truthfully, but I will not try to find things wrong, will not go on fishing expeditions, and will take him at his word until evidence appears that shows otherwise. I think we owe the first black President more than the usual politics of destruction.

    Journalism is about improving society and getting out the truth that big business doesn’t want you to read.

    Comment by Joe Ink — January 1, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

    If you’re really a journalist, which I doubt, this is absolutely the most stupid thing I have ever seen on the internet.

    Journalism isn’t about “about improving the society.” It is about telling the truth. I learned that from the most radical, left-wing professor I had in college. The truth will out.

    Good God, I am appalled.

    Comment by Ag80 — January 2, 2009 @ 12:35 am

  10. Journalism is about improving society and getting out the truth that big business doesn’t want you to read.

    No. It is about reporting news, regardless of who wants it reported.

    The information, by itself, is the improvement that journalism offers, because it is better to know the facts than not know.

    Any attempt to ‘improve society’ outside of that is editorializing- an important function of the press, but not the function of journalism. Any attempt to make the news fit a narrative is malpractice, and any ‘journalist’ incapable of setting aside their belief that a sitting president is a monster should recuse themselves, or otherwise seek honest work, because they are not fit for a job requiring any objectivity.

    Comment by Dave Eaton — January 2, 2009 @ 1:30 am

  11. the journalist’s job is NOT to improve society. It is to report events as dispassionately and transparently as possible, ad smetimes to interpret, but in a way which guards against ones inclination to be biased because one “wants to improve society” (according of course to one’s biases about what improvement is needed).

    Journalism as a calling and a profession is deeply compromised by a refusal to abide by these principles. If this is what journalism is now, then we need another proffession called something else, to fulfil the vital role I have just described. Maybe we should call it “reporting.”

    Comment by yehudit — January 2, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  12. Joe Ink sort of already made my point, whether or not he was being sarcastic…

    But the real problem here is when I hear people say that reporters need to approach the Obama administration with the same skepticism as they used with Bush. I mean, what “skepticism” was used with Bush… the “monster”? The media has been hammering a single position for years… maybe not 8 years, but certainly 5 or 6.

    So, the real question is do they know how to be skeptical? Do they understand critical thinking? There is no evidence to say that most do. That’s the real reason Froomkin is “wrestling” with how to cover Obama… he does not understand this probably, but he is having trouble because he realizes he has to start thinking. He never had to do this with Bush – whatever Bush said, take the opposite position. Very easy. The fact that Froomkin is even “wrestling” with how to do his job is actually a good sign. Most reporters are just going to keep doing what they have been doing; only now supporting the president, instead of tearing him down. Kudos to Froomkin for (at least subconsciously) realizing that he is in the tank.

    Comment by Rick — January 2, 2009 @ 8:27 am

  13. Joe Ink: You write that “Journalism is about improving society and getting out the truth that big business doesn’t want you to read.”

    How about getting out the truth that big academia doesn’t want you to read (such as the truth that there is no global warming)? How about getting out the truth that leftist journalists don’t want you to read?

    Yes, it’s true that the little guy needs help against big business, but the little guy also needs help against big academia, big journalism, big government, in fact, against anything that’s big. Why help him deal with just one of these big entities?

    Comment by JFP — January 2, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  14. Even more aggressive now? Is that why they were all so highly critical of Obama for taking a 13 day golf vacation just before accepting the presidency in the worst time of crisis of our lives?

    Comment by roger rainey — January 2, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  15. Dear Mr. Froomkin (and Joe Ink)

    As a journalist, your *job* is to be skeptical, to fact-check everything you get, to go looking for things that are wrong even where you do not see any, to “trust, but verify” as an old man I highly respect once said. Journalism is not about improving society, if you want to do that, become a cop, or a fireman, or a community organizer. Journalism is about getting out the truth, period! Not just truths that X does not want you to hear, but all truths. If you want a job where your responsibility is to make somebody look good, go into advertising where you belong.

    Comment by Georg Felis — January 2, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  16. The media coverage of President Obama will track it’s coverage of John Edwards. They’ll believe/support EVERYTHING Obama says and does until some one uncovers a major flaw and reports it. Then and only then, they’ll all jump on the bandwagon. Sooner rather than later, they’ll be blaming one another for NOT examining the issue BEFORE the election like they should have.

    Comment by MartyA — January 2, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

  17. You got a couple of things wrong, Danny. But thanks for writing about this.

    First, I wasn’t puzzled by Froomkin’s question. Not sure where you got that. I felt certain it would not compute for some, but I understood what he was asking.

    Second, Froomkin wasn’t asking, “should I be skeptical of Obama, or give him a pass?” That reading is just wrong. I was certain some people, especially political opponents of Obama and believers in the liberal bias religion, would employ that reading for a “can you believe this?’ reaction, but it is not what he was asking

    He was asking whether habits of extreme suspicion built up in reaction to Bush and his extreme opacity, mendacity and truthlessness should be applied to Obama on day one.

    Of course if you don’t believe there was anything extreme or even unusual about Bush’s opacity, mendacity, secrecy, and general truthlessness, then Dan’s question would make no sense, and that’s how it becomes, “Gee, should I be skeptical of Obama?” That is not at all what he was asking.

    As I put it on Twitter: “If you start skeptical–listen and verify!-and you listen but cannot verify, you may switch to ‘mistrust and document’ the outlier.” Then, when there’s a new president, do you start from: “mistrust and document the outlier”? or go back to “listen and verify.”

    Again, those who think Bush was a normal president in his public communications and intellectual honesty (but got hurt by a biased media) won’t even see that there is a question. Those–from any political position on the spectrum–who see Bush as an outlier on these matters will see it.

    So when you write, “No journalist should ever wonder whether skepticism of politicians is warranted.” He wasn’t wondering that.

    But the misreading makes for great culture war! Cheers.

    Comment by Jay Rosen — January 2, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  18. “If you’re really a journalist, which I doubt, this is absolutely the most stupid thing I have ever seen on the internet.”

    He’s likely to be your typical journalist. We had a college teacher ask a student why he wanted to be a reporter when he graduated: “To change the world!” he proclaimed, with a little gleam of righteousness in his eyes.

    Comment by Fen — January 2, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  19. So when you write, “No journalist should ever wonder whether skepticism of THEIR politicians is warranted.”

    /fixed

    Maybe he just likes being fed by a shovel. He obvioulsy swallowed all the lies and about Bush, and is willing swallow all the distortions of who/what Obama really is.

    Comment by Fen — January 2, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  20. Jay,

    When you tweeted that Dan Froomkin “has a puzzle which almost no one will see as a puzzle,” I read that to mean you were one of those who didn’t see the puzzle — and didn’t understand why Froomkin would see it as a puzzle. I used the word “puzzled” in that context. If I misread your Tweet, blame it on the 140-character limit of Twitter. :)))

    But I stand by my reading of Dan’s musings based on what he said two years ago when the blog brouhaha over his column arose. That he would now wonder how he and other journalists should cover Obama when he insisted that he would have treated a John Kerry White House the same as he was treating the George Bush White House then suggests that he wants to apply a different standard to Obama but isn’t sure whether that would be the right thing to do.

    I’ll say to you and to him, as a fellow journalist, it’s the wrong thing to do. Dan had it right three years ago. His job is to watch the White House like a hawk, regardless of who occupies it. I don’t say that because I’m a “believer in the liberal bias religion”; I say that because it’s what I was taught, and embraced, in journalism school at West Virginia University and American University.

    Dan was clearly wondering whether he should be immediately skeptical of Obama or wait until Obama proves himself to be just another politician. I personally think Obama already has proved that time and time again, as do a lot of folks on the left who see him abandoning stances he held during the campaign, but that’s not the point.

    Journalists should be skeptical of politicians based merely on the fact that they are politicians. Their political nature — including what you saw as the “extreme opacity, mendacity and truthlessness” of Bush — inevitably will manifest itself at some level. And Dan and everyone else in the White House press corps won’t see it if they’re getting all philosophical about how to cover the president rather than covering him as they already know they should.

    Comment by Danny Glover — January 2, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  21. As usual, subtlety of thought (indeed, thought itself) goes right over the head of Right-wing hacks. Or could it be the feigned outrage of a know-nothing pundit leadership that must at all costs keep its ground soldiers agitated? Hmmm?

    Comment by Will McJunkin — January 2, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

  22. The question posed by Froomkin is essentially a Time’s Arrow / Time’s Cycle question.

    A Time’s Arrow response would recognize the continuity of government and politics. The issues, policy decisions, processes and their implementation (a trend) would imply a continuity in coverage. The Obama administration inherits the Bush administration’s legacies.

    A Time’s Cycle response would recognize the “reset” involved with covering an incoming administration and take a more traditional “First Impressions, After the Honeymoon, and Perceived Legacy” approach.

    Depending on the perceived urgency of the issue, one might argue for the Time’s Arrow approach in order to immediately reverse a (downward/destructive) trend (linear causation).

    A Time’s Cycle approach would take a “wait-and-see”/”trust-but-verify” approach to observe if the trend reverses.

    They are not mutually exclusive, nor does using one or the other imply a political motive (bias).

    Comment by Tim — January 2, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  23. Jay Rosen’s reading is correct. Froomkin didn’t say ’skepticism’, he said ’same skepticism.’ The point he was making was that by now (”learned”), we have come to treat everything Bush says as a lie until proven otherwise. That level of skepticism was required by the continuing mendacity of the administration.

    Is that same level of extreme skepticism required of the Obama administration, that everything Obama says should be treated as a lie until independently verified?

    Comment by Total — January 2, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  24. Again, those who think Bush was a normal president in his public communications and intellectual honesty (but got hurt by a biased media) won’t even see that there is a question. Those–from any political position on the spectrum–who see Bush as an outlier on these matters will see it.

    How easy it must be to ‘reason’ that since Bush = liar, then he must also be an outlier, and from that faux-statistical conclusion decide that (since we all know Senator Obama is perfectly reasonable and honest, trustworthy, reverent, photogenic and On Their Side) all journalists must treat the Obama with less skepticism and more support than they have given President Bush.

    Comment by Insufficiently Sensitive — January 2, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  25. This is actually a rather straightforward case of intellectual reflection and reason at work. One re-examines the standpoint from which certain assumptions about an object or field of objects are made and considers the extent to which those assumptions have been necessitated by special characteristics of that object, as opposed to other possible ones (in this case, presidential administrations). In this particular case, our object is Bush, which is the same thing as saying, what happens when you take away a whole structure of obfuscation and hostility to who you are (journalists being the declared enemy - this is no mystery or fabrication) and replace it with something quite different but something which will no doubt still be advancing its own agenda and will nonetheless consider you as one among many parties in a more or less hostile environment. Even if the new occupant of said position drops its open hostility to what you represent, that in itself brings its own dangers with it, esp when your raison d’etre consists of holding a certain skepticism towards all occupants of positions of power. This practise is necessary and guards against a mechanical routinization of thought. In other words one might say it’s an essential part of the ethical role of journalism (or if one wants to be more cynical one could say it’s what one must appear to at least try to do in order to keep up appearances and justify one’s values — I’m not that cynical).

    To ideologues of the Right such reflection is intolerable, because for these people all reality must be colonized in order to advance their politicization of that very reality (or, more to the point, to counter what they perceive as having already been its politicization by their enemies). It’s the very essence of what Nietzsche called nihilism (and which the right used to bemoan as the apocalypse all that’s good and true. Now it just yawns and sends its ideological toadies to battle with instructions to distort and scramble the opponent’s message.)

    So, let’s not be distracted by this pseudo-objection. Let’s expose it for the sham that it is and state once more — altogether now — there is no such thing as a ‘liberal bias’ in the media. There is no such thing as a liberal bias in the media …

    Comment by Will McJunkin — January 2, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  26. Tim @22 and Total @23 both seem to get the question here. Froomkin has noted that Bush is, indeed, an outlier — not, IS @24, because he’s mendacious (we expect that of all politicians) but because he took reality manipulation to previously unseen extremes.

    FWIW I expect most of the Washington media elite to return to the Clinton mode: Instant and total skepticism of anything the president said. They had put that aside when Bush took office; now they want someone to tear apart.

    Comment by Editer — January 2, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  27. [...] to cover liberals and vice versa. Reporters then would have the kind of skepticism they need to do their jobs, and employers and readers could more fairly judge who’s fair and who’s not. I [...]

    Pingback by The Enlightened Redneck » Another Media Barrier Is Broken — January 2, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  28. Here’s another thought/suggestion for Froomkin: What Would Izzy Do (WWID)?

    Froomkin has celebrated and recommended I.F. Stone (see here and here) in the past.

    Perhaps a re-read of Stone’s Weekly during the first year of JFK’s administration (1961). Two I would recommend:
    As If the Prophet Jeremiah Were Caught Cheering (pdf)
    When the Government Lies, Must The Press Fib?

    Comment by Tim — January 2, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  29. Froomkin has noted that Bush is, indeed, an outlier — not, IS @24, because he’s mendacious (we expect that of all politicians) but because he took reality manipulation to previously unseen extremes.

    “Reality manipulation to previously unseen extremes”??? Nice unsupported assertion, guys, but I can and did say it in two words: out-lied the competition. Wordsmiths will appreciate the cute double meaning, too, without having to go to all the bother of studying enough statistics to understand what ‘outlier’ means in rigorous terms.

    But compared to Lyndon Johnson, or the pages of advocacy journalism? Remember that ‘reality manipulation’ includes the selective omissions (part of the abuse of journalistic power) which ‘prove’ the assertions that Bush lied, or was otherwise responsible for all misfortunes of the last eight years.

    Comment by Insufficiently Sensitive — January 2, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  30. Dan Froomkin asks an excellent question. If I may paraphrase: How does he best transition from the hyperskepticism required of the Bush era to the natural professional stance likely required for the coming administration?

    Danny Glover responds, it seems to me, in abysmal bad faith. In doing so, he reminded me of nothing so much as the vexatious little Danish boy, Kay, in Hans Christian Andersen’s arresting fable, The Snow Queen. (The Wiki has a wonderful summary.)

    In the story, Kay has an untoward encounter with shards from a shattered troll’s mirror:

    An evil “troll” (”actually the devil himself”), makes a magic mirror that has the power to distort the appearance of things reflected in it. It fails to reflect all the good and beautiful aspects of people and things while it magnifies all the bad and ugly aspects so that they look even worse than they really are. The devil teaches a “devil school,” and the devil and his pupils delight in taking the mirror throughout the world to distort everyone and everything. They enjoy how the mirror makes the loveliest landscapes look like “boiled spinach.” They then want to carry the mirror into heaven with the idea of making fools of the angels and God, but the higher they lift it, the more the mirror grins and shakes with delight. It shakes so much that it slips from their grasp and falls back to earth where it shatters into billions of pieces — some no larger than a grain of sand. These splinters are blown around and get into people’s hearts and eyes, making their hearts frozen like blocks of ice and their eyes like the troll-mirror itself, only seeing the bad and ugly in people and things.

    This is a metaphor, of course. The Obama administration will be run not by Andersen’s angels but by mere men and women. I mean only to suggest that Danny and his ilk, enlightened rednecks and otherwise, are happy students in a school of trolls that delights in bad faith analysis and blog posts.

    The splinter in his eye allows him, poor thing, to see only “boiled spinach.” Meanwhile, the Froomkins of the world see only a new administration with new and different challenges for White House Watchers, those of us who listen and verify.

    Comment by paxr55 — January 2, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

  31. You’re too clever by half, paxr55. On what grounds do you accuse me of “abysmal bad faith”? That I disagree with you?

    You have implied, whether intentionally or not, that Dan Froomkin adopted an unnatural, unprofessional stance of “hypercriticism” in his coverage of Bush and should revert to the norm with Obama. I said Dan took the correct professional stance with Bush and should continue it with Obama.

    My post is designed to keep Dan from practicing bad journalism by answering the question he posed. He shouldn’t have asked the question if he didn’t want honest feedback from a journalistic colleague. There is no bad faith on my part.

    Comment by Danny Glover — January 2, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  32. Thanks, Danny, for giving me the opportunity to elaborate.

    I saw good faith in Froomkin’s original question. I saw bad faith, and the usual overacting, in the not-very-thoughtful right-wing blog reaction that Dan seems to elicit as if by magic.

    As for the term hyperskepticism, you’ll recall that I paired it with “required.” That is, we were required by Bush’s malfeasance and opacity to be hyperskeptical. White House Watch led the way. Only journalism in hyperdrive would do for so hypernotorious an administration. As Froomkin would say, this reaction is not liberal. It’s not conservative. It’s required by the time and place.

    Specifically, since you ask, I saw the bad faith that you deny in the way you chose to frame Froomkin’s perfectly reasonable question: “. . . Jon is right to call Froomkin out for his bizarre musings about how to cover Obama. No journalist should ever wonder whether skepticism of politicians is warranted; it always is.”

    You answered a question not asked, troubleshot a problem not posed.

    So, yes, we disagree: There was nothing at all bizarre about Froomkin’s musings (if that’s what they were) about his imminent dilemma. He faces an intellectually demanding (and historically strange) task that never, not once, threatened to unmoor him from his professional ethics.

    Comment by paxr55 — January 2, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

  33. The media gave Bush a mostly free ride until 2006.

    After 911, and through to 2003, it was practically ILLEGAL to say anything derogatory about Bush or even ask questions. Unless, the WH had approved of the questions beforehand.

    How quickly people forget.

    The lengths at which the media have cheerleaded Obama so far is another post, but the idea that Bush has overall gotten rough treatment from the media is a flat out lie.

    Comment by Fact — January 2, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  34. Danny: Twitter has vast limitations, so I may have been slightly unclear. I thought I said that Dan Froomkin has presented us with a puzzle. That does not mean, “I am puzzled by his question.” I am quite clear on what his question is.

    Here it is again so you guys can declare it impenetrable again, deal?

    QuestionShould the savage skepticism made necessary the by extreme events that went on during the Bush years be the starting point for coverage of Obama, or should the default setting revert to normal levels of skepticism? Listen, question and verify (that’s normal levels) vs. mistrust and document the deception (savage levels: they have to be earned.)

    I don’t think it’s an easy question to answer, once posed, but I am quite clear on why it’s a good one to ask. I’m not puzzled why Froomkin would ask it.

    Others claim they cannot make head nor tail of it, so they revert to something they can understand: “Froomkin is asking if he should be skeptical toward Obama. Can you believe that sh*t?”

    Perhaps–it’s my speculation–what they really mean is: nothing unusual or or extreme went on with Bush, public communications, and transparency. (Meaning our ability to see in and at least tell what the people in power are doing.)

    Nothing happened with collapsed oversight. Nothing happened with the hyper-politicizing of more and more functions in government. Nothing special happened with secrecy, with opacity, with rollback of the press. Not allowing people who weren’t supporters in the same room with Bush when he spoke: that never happpened. Nothing special happened between the president and other lost interlocutors. No special pressure was put on science, on the intelligence community under Bush. The facts weren’t being fixed around the policy any more than any other Administration. The talk around torture never became Orwellian. Cheney didn’t have more power under less surveillance than any Vice President in history. And on and on… None of it ever happened.

    But instead of arguing that case… it’s more good clean blogging fun to go, “Froomkin you naked whore for the Democrats, how can this even be a question? Are you really that far gone…”

    As I said: speculation.

    Comment by Jay Rosen — January 2, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

  35. paxr55: “Hyperskepticism” was no more required for Bush than it will be for Obama. Standard journalistic skepticism is sufficient for all political times and places.

    The unreasonable hyperskepticism is what got Dan into hot water in the blogosphere, and with some of his own (presumably liberal) colleagues, in the first place.

    Dan posed a problem that does not exist and tied himself into an unnecessary intellectually demanding knot by at times going too far in his watchdog role over Bush.

    Comment by Danny Glover — January 2, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  36. Jay: Because of your worldview, one shared by Dan, you saw “extreme events” under Bush that, for the most part, were not all that historically extreme. His actions were no more or less political and deserving of “savage skepticism” than Bill Clinton’s were or Barack Obama’s will be.

    Either the listen-question-and-verify standard was sufficient for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama (and potentially John Kerry, according to Dan), or the mistrust-and-document-the-deception standard should have been, and should be, applied to all.

    Dan said he would have treated John Kerry the same as he had been treating Bush. That he is now wondering whether his standard, however he defined it then, may need to be revised means either that he thinks Kerry was as extreme as he perceived Bush to be or that Obama deserves to be treated differently because he is, well, Barack Obama.

    The bottom line is that journalism ethics are not situation ethics. They can’t change from one administration to the next if journalists hope to maintain credibility as watchdogs.

    Dan asked a question. I’ve given my answer, albeit indirectly. Others have given different, more I-know-where-you’re-coming-from answers. Maybe it was just a rhetorical question to begin with, but we’ll see in time how he answers it based on his coverage of Obama.

    I will trust him to act as all of us know he should — and I’m certain that plenty of folks, in old and new media, will verify whether he does his watchdog job effectively. He certainly has invited a more skeptical eye on his own work going forward.

    Comment by Danny Glover — January 2, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

  37. “His actions were no more or less political and deserving of ’savage skepticism’ than Bill Clinton’s were or Barack Obama’s will be.”

    That’s the heart of it. As I tried to suggest above.

    The idea that nothing unusual happened that would justify extremes of suspicion is to me a strange and dark one. But this conflict is irresolvabe.

    Comment by Jay Rosen — January 2, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

  38. Danny,

    I disagree. Among the post-Cold War presidents (Bush I, Clinton and Bush II), this administration has earned a more skeptical press over time. Bush II is an outlier among this limited set. Assessments of these presidents will mature as more post-Cold War presidents are added to this set.

    If you include the Cold War presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan), then there are more comparisons/analogies available.

    If you include FDR and WWII, even more comparisons/analogies can be made. But these were also different times and all analogies have flaws.

    Each of these Presidents have experienced a cyclical press as I described above, and I would expect the same will be true for Obama.

    But then, Jay thinks I’m just out to normalize Bush.

    Comment by Tim — January 2, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

  39. [...] with perfect timing for the debate I’ve been having in the comment section of my post about Dan Froomkin of The Washington [...]

    Pingback by The Enlightened Redneck — January 2, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

  40. “The idea that nothing unusual happened that would justify extremes of suspicion is to me a strange and dark one.”

    I’d suggest the strangeness and darkness is chiefly a function of the orifice into which you and your colleagues in the liberal press have had your heads inextricably crammed.

    Comment by BC — January 3, 2009 @ 4:05 am

  41. [...] Dan Froomkin be ashamed?  Be sure to read Enlightened Redneck to decide.  Danny Glover’s doing a great job [...]

    Pingback by Hot Air » Blog Archive » Pardon our dust! — January 3, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  42. It’s time to stop the president bashing. I say give Obama the benefit of the doubt and also give him a zone of privacy and presumed good will in which to work. He is a unique president in American history. We all owe it to our country to do whatever we can to make him a two term success.

    Comment by Wintoon — January 3, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  43. Many of you are still missing the point.

    Skeptical reporting is not reporting facts and then expressing doubts that they are the facts.

    Skeptical reporting (aka honest reporting) is reporting the facts you find, after digging deep into the official statements, the public record, and the myriad other resources real reporters use, to ensure that what is reported is the truth.

    That there is so much emphasis in the comments about skepticism as an attitude, rather than skepticism as a behavior, shows me that most of you just don’t get it.

    Readers do not want your angle, be it sycophantic or hostile. They do not want to have to wonder whether you are trying hard to find the truth, or slavishly taking down talking points for re-publishing.

    They want the results of your fact-finding skills, to the best of your ability. Try that.

    Comment by sherlock — January 3, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  44. [...] Honestly, they just make it so easy sometimes. [...]

    Pingback by The Skepticrats » Turning skepticism on and off like a light . . . — January 3, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  45. If I understand Froomkin’s point (and Rosen’s followup) correctly, I think he (DF) raises a plausible question. Borrowing from the Consititutional rules, should the press go from a “suspect classification” standard used against the Bush White’s policies to a (lesser) “strict scrutiny” measure at the start of the Obama Administration?
    To argue that the same standard should be applied - not that no standard but the same - ignores the fact that the Bush White House as a result of 9/11 enacted ground-breaking and controversial policies that warranted that higher level of scepticism. These have been extraordinary times that required, it seems to me, a different type of press scrutiny. Was that scrutiny sometimes hostile and not just sceptical? Yes. Was some of that hostility ideologically-based and not substantively based? Yes. But to pose the argument that by normal historical standards the press should have played no different role than at other times ignores the reality of the abnormality of these past eight years.
    In any event, I’d settle for a “strict scrutiny” of Mr. Obama. Something that, in my view, was badly lacking during the campaign. Let’s face it: Who really is this guy?

    Comment by SteveMG — January 3, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  46. [...] you were reading this blog a couple of weeks ago, you may recall the debate that ensued over White House watchdog Dan Froomkin’s musings about how skeptically he and [...]

    Pingback by The Enlightened Redneck » The Deferential White House Press Corps — January 13, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  47. [...] the start of the year, I chastised Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin for what I perceived to be a double standard in how he [...]

    Pingback by The Enlightened Redneck » Post Pulls The Plug On Dan Froomkin — June 19, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

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