Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Whoosh!...or is it "Dangit!"?

Well, the leak sprung yesterday turned it to a full-out flood today. Reports from the USA Today reveal that the Kerry Campaign was given special dispensation. A heads up, a helping hand. Honestly, this even mildly shocks me. Not that it happened per say, but that they admitted it. Key Kerry men were advised by the producer of the story to give the provider of the forgeries a call. Some have suggested that both campaigns were contacted to get a reaction. The only problem is that the Wall Street Journal reports that the White House requested the documents the night before CBS was set to interview Bush's communications director, Dan Bartlett, on their revealing content...and they were told, "no." They did not get copies until the next morning, but aides only had three hours to review the documents once they did get them. Not exactly equal time. So to this humble observer you have what appears to be some level of cooperation between a major news outlet and the Kerry Campaign. One that one seem to be pretty standard and accepted, at least the LA Times thinks so. Hugh Hewitt posits on if this is the same reaction we should expect if the Letters were "R"'s instead of "D"'s this way:
"Put it another way: Would it be a big deal if FoxNews Carl Cameron had called Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign manager Ken Mehlman to urge Mehlman give Swift Boats Vet leader John O'Neill a call so that O'Neill would provide some after-action reports on a Kerry mission that, once provided, turned out to be forgeries?...Remember the outrage that Ben Ginsburg had lawyered for the Swifties --a perfectly acceptable practice under the law?"
I think we all know the answer.

Once again, I think the big story here is that news agencies and political campaigns have no problem with such coziness. In Sneakers, a movie that came out when I was in high school, there is a line that has always stuck with me. The quote is basically,"[I] learned that everything in this world--including money--operates not on reality . . .(b)ut the perception of reality." Banks, stock markets, governments, politics, media; they are allowed to function with some level of authority because the public agrees to the fact that they're doing their best for the right reasons. Yes, it's a little naive to operate that way--relying more on hope than reality--but, I believe there's truth in that quote.

In this case, we know that reporters have biases, but hope they're bound by the obvious ethics of their profession. Sure, sometimes they might have to blur the line to get all the facts, but we "trust" that their motives are somewhat pure, and therefore in the end we able to get news that we can trust. But with today's development, I believe that has all been turned on its ear. The players have shown not only by their words, but by the level of comfortableness they relate that, "Of course, they called me, and I called a known partisan hack that helped forge documents. But what's so odd about that? It's just a phone call?" From the same Society of Professional Journalists
Code of Ethics linked yesterday, we find this:
"Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists should:

-- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
-- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
-- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news. "

I guess CBS says, "Oh well, we'll get'um next time." Well, next time, shame on me.

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