Monday, June 29, 2009

Milbank is Back from Oblivion

So it turns out that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank did indeed criticize the GW Bush White House for making use of fake reporter James Guckert during news conferences. I relied on a recent Media Matters account, and as Milbank himself points out, Media Matters also has a transcript that proves him right. Here's a bit:
OLBERMANN: But let me ask you, finally, is it fair to contextualize this in light of the well-publicized administration payments to Armstrong Williams and two other columnists to support their policies? Is this a mutation of that? Or is it just lousy judgment? In other words, was he a plant? Or was he just an ineligible presence?

MILBANK: Well, I think he is probably somewhere in between. You saw from the clips you played there of Scott McClellan turning to him as a life line. I call him a foil. You turn to this guy when you want to get the heat of off of you from another subject.
There is probably no evidence that White House Spokesman McClellan planned in advance to call on Guckert, as the Obama Administration had done with the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney, but it wouldn't surprise me. As much as this pains me, good on Milbank for criticizing the Guckert situation.

I'm still unhappy with his characterization of liberal critics -- who "often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions" -- but that's because Milbank makes it sound like an unfounded accusation. It's also not very becoming of him to play veteran reporters-versus-dirty bloggers. And his super-superficial commentary on the national security speeches of Obama and Dick Cheney still makes me freaking wince.

But Milbank is clearly off the list of People Who Are Teh Ur-Platonic Form of Douchebag Individuals. At least for the present. Later in the WaPo chat linked above, Milbank has a more substantive criticism of the Obama White House arranging to call on Huffington Post reporter Pitney.
As I wrote in the Rough Sketch blog a couple of hours after the presser, I thought it was a fine question. Once again, that's not the point. The point is I don't think it's a good idea for the White House to be colluding in secret with the media, even if the result isn't bad. Even Jeff Gannon, for that matter, didn't do any great harm to civilization with the questions he asked -- but it still wasn't a good idea for the White House to allow it.
That's certainly a better point than he made before, but now I'm left thinking that Milbank failed to mention the substance of Pitney's question because avoiding an important point is just the way he writes.

Update: Fairness compels me to say that Eric Boehlert's original Media Matters bit was douche-y.

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