SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: Low-IQ work of the insider press!


Interlude—Show us the wine list:
How sharp—how “smart”—is the mainstream press corps?

Consider a current example.

In a recent on-line report, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple described a set of charges by major journalists against the Obama White House.

Most dramatically, USA Today’s Susan Page “called the current White House...‘more dangerous’ to the press than any other in history,” according to Wemple’s report. The statement was made at a recent seminar conducted by the White House Correspondents Association.

At one time, Page was president of the WHCA; in our view, she has never seemed to be crazy or stupid. According to Wemple, she was making “a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible ‘co-conspirator’ in a violation of the Espionage Act.”

Let’s assume that Susan Page was discussing a genuine point of concern. Here’s the problem:

When Wemple listed other complaints made at the WHCA seminar, the analysts started to cry. We’ll confess we have no earthly idea why the example described below constitutes a problem at all, let alone an example of “White House-administered madness:”
WEMPLE (10/27/14): The WHCA convened the event both to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not. Peter Baker, the veteran Washington reporter from the New York Times, provided perhaps the best instance of White House-administered madness. In covering a breaking story recently, Baker received a note from a White House handler indicating that President Obama had been briefed on the matter in question.

That information came to Baker “on background.” The gist: Not from me—a meeting has occurred.
Given the way our journalism works, we don’t understand why that incident, as described, is worth discussing at all. According to Wemple, it represents “the best instance of White House-administered madness.”

Already, we were puzzled. But after describing another underwhelming complaint from the press, Wemple hit the jackpot with this:
WEMPLE: Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev noted how the White House stopped giving details on the fine wines served at state dinners, an opaque measure that she exposed in this story. In pursuing the piece, said Talev, she got the runaround from White House press officials, making her “so mad at them.” Over the course of a few weeks, she had to become, in essence, a wine correspondent.
By now, the analysts were weeping inconsolably. Some of them tore at their hair.

Talev really did write a Bloomberg report concerning the lack of information about fine wine at the White House. To peruse the piffle which tortures the minds of these frequently puzzling life forms, you can just click here.

In her report, Talev went into stunning, numbing detail about this new terrible problem. She speculated about the reasons for the shift concerning the naming of wines.

For ourselves, we don’t know why the White House no longer provides the names of the wines it serves. But we can offer a bit of history from Campaign 2000.

During that deeply consequential campaign, Candidate Gore was letting reporters attend his many fund-raisers. Candidate Bush, who was raising much more money than Gore, was keeping his fund-raisers closed.

As you may have heard, the New York Times’ Katharine “Kit” Seelye, was at war with Candidate Gore at this time. For that reason, she filed one report after another detailing the fancy menus at Gore’s fund-raising dinners, even citing “the Miros and Chagalls” she was able to spot at one of the fancy-pants venues.

Times readers were buried under irrelevant detail about Gore’s fancy-pants dinners. By way of contrast, it was virtually impossible to learn in the Times that Bush’s events were closed.

Readers kept hearing about the “sesame-seared salmon and pistachio mousse” served at Gore’s heinous events. They rarely heard about Bush’s events at all, and were told just once, in passing, that his events were closed.

Anyone with an ounce of sense would have seen the political strategy in this pseudo-reporting. For a fuller account of this gruesome conduct, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/15/06, with a link to this earlier post from 2002.

For a real-time report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/29/00. Did you know we’ve been there from the start?

Is the White House withholding its wines to avoid this type of misconduct? We don’t have the slightest idea. But that absurd report by Talev starts to answer the basic question found at the start of this post.

How sharp—how “smart”—is the insider press corps? Again and again, they seem so preternaturally unimpressive that their conduct challenges basic notions about human capability dating to Aristotle.

This Sunday, the Outlook section of the Washington Post printed extensive excerpts from a lecture given by Ben Bradlee in January 1997. To review that lecture, click here.

As far as we know, Bradlee was every bit as fine a person as his friends and his colleagues all say. But how sharp was Bradlee’s lecture that night?

Tomorrow, we’ll finish our answer to that question. This will lead us to the important topic we couldn’t quite get to this week:

It will lead us to decades of silly, destructive tales about our White House campaigns. Those silly tales have already changed the history of our nation and world. Our press corps will peddle such silly tales until they’re forced to stop.

Tomorrow: Lies and the iconic journalists who accuse lying liars of telling them


  1. "Our press corps will peddle such silly tales until they’re forced to stop."

    How do we get the press corps to do anything?

    1. Easy. You can write about how the gruesome press corps, represented by Kit Seelye, wrote about Al Gore serving "sesame-seared salmon and pistachio mousse" at wealthy people's home for a handlful of fundraising solicitors.

      If you write about it on:

      March 29, 2000

      March 20, 2002

      August 15, 2006

      And of course today, October 30, 2014.

      Expose it four times and it will stop.

      Oops, actually four times is not enough. You must write about it also on January 5, 2007, and that time mention horrid Rich Oppel listing the "crabmeat parfait, quail stuffed with squash, and pecan pie" served at another Gore fundraising event.

      If you write about it five times it will stop.


      After having his lecture at UC Riverside in 1997 mentioned five times in the Daily Howler, the ghost of Ben Bradlee appeared today in the newsroom of the Washinton Post and apologized profanely to members of the guild for inadvertently leaving them out of his list of lying liars.

      As his whispy spirit dematerialized, Bradlee passed the desk of columnist Jonathan Capehart and said in no uncertain terms "Don't tell anybody ever again I had f*^%ing lunch with you, you piece of s#@t f*^%$t.
      I never knew you."

    3. On balance, don't you agree that it would be better if the profession of journalism were a tad more self-critical?

    4. I'd settle for them being reporters instead of cheerleaders when covering those in actual power such as POTUS Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, VP Biden, Susan Rice, JFK (Kerry), Valerie Jarrett, etc.

    5. cicero - You have somehow inadvertently left off all of the other people in power who have benefited from cheerleading from the press. Like Reagan, Bush, McCain, etc. Your idea of who benefits appears colored by your political leanings. In fact, the press sucks up to whomever is in power, which is why the press clearly deserves the criticism it gets from Bob, even when shrill and slightly off target.

    6. Now if you would link to examples of the lame stream media cheerleading Bush 43 and Reagan in or out of office.

      Who benefits is colored by the media's political leanings, not mine. POTUS Obama is utterly incapable of dealing with criticism because the lame stream media has dotted over him since he was a candidate. Obama has surrounded himself with lackeys who tell him only what he wants to hear.

      Not until 2014, has the lame stream media begun to push back at the bilge being spouted at The White House press briefings.

    7. lame stream? It would probably be better if you used your own words to discuss your own thoughts instead of using these short-hand substitutes for thinking that people pick up on partisan websites.

    8. Why do you object to using the pithy persiflage lame stream media?

      Do you admonish those dailyhowler posters who are compelled to use the inane term "Faux News" ? What's good for the goose....

  2. Today journalists are denied the wine list.
    Nobody complains, pleasing the analysts.
    Tomorrow journalists' heads are sawed off.
    Nobody complains; the analysts are appalled.
    Slippery slap, Slippery slope.

    Thomas Jefferson tolerated the horrible journalism of his day because he had lived in a world without press freedom.

    1. While I agree with much that you say, I don't think Somerby is condoning the Obama administration for withholding the wine list. He seems to be scolding the journalists for focusing on the trivial instead of pursuing more consequential issues. That is urging journalists to use their freedom more wisely, not suggesting that their freedom be restricted.

    2. I disagree. I don't think the analysts would be appalled. They have seen just about everything, including the ruination of the world by Carol Costello.
      Beheadings, literal or figurative, are nothing they can't handle. They survived the Rachel witch hunts, after all.

    3. [QUOTE]
      With the aid of his clandestine patron Thomas Jefferson, Scottish "scandalmonger" James Callender launched a print campaign against President John Adams that would make the election of 1800 one of the nastiest in history.

      Jefferson first read Callender's work in Europe; he admired and enjoyed a scurrilous attack on the British constitution that Callender had written while still in his native Scotland. In 1793, wanted on charges of sedition, Callender and his poison pen took flight to Philadelphia and its unapologetically partisan press.

      ...In 1799, bankrolled by Jefferson and acting as the editor of the Republican Richmond Examiner, Callender began work on The Prospects Before Us. Dredging up the pro-monarchy charges that always dogged Adams, Callender accused the president of being "mentally deranged," planning to crown himself king, and grooming John Quincy as his heir to the throne. Adams was a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." Adams, alleged Callender, had brought about The Quasi-War crisis with France through his own "steadfast antipathy" toward the former ally. In other words, Adams' reelection would result in war; Jefferson's election would ensure peace.

      In publishing The Prospects Before Us, Callender flagrantly violated The Sedition Act. He was jailed in Richmond for nine months, but he didn't mind, bent as he was on reward and martyrdom. Jefferson had been impressed by the smear campaign and wrote, "Such papers cannot fail to produce the best effects."

      ...In 1800 Adams lost his bid for reelection. Once President Jefferson was in office, he pardoned Callender and others who served time as a result of the Sedition Act, which expired on the last full day of Adams' term in 1801.

      ...Callender, however, desired not just a pardon, but an appointment as postmaster of Richmond. Jefferson now had little use for Callender and denied his request.

      ...The scorned Callender went to work for Richmond's Federalist paper, the Recorder, where he revealed that Jefferson had subsidized his campaign against Adams. He quoted Jefferson's letters as proof. Jefferson said only that his "charity" had been misconstrued. The increasingly enraged Callender next committed to print what had long been the subject of gossip...
      [END QUOTE]

      Fawn Brodie before her Richard Nixon, the Shaping of His Character, deoxyribonucleic acid, you all know the rest of that story.

  3. If it were not for the pusuit of piffle, how could a crack press analyst like Bob Somerby gain insight into the screws loose in Rachel Maddow, the tomahawk tossing, black and white tv watching snob?

    Were it not for its focus on fancy pants trivia, how would we have known Meredith Vieira cries crocodile tears over mops in the fancy houses in which she hides before misleading the nation from per lofty perch as a game show hostess.

    Silly notions like Daddy issues covered by columnists actually lead us to real insights about the influence of the mid century east coast
    Irish Catholic cabal.

    But I digress. I want to imagine what the world would be like if we hadn't lost the chance for Ed Muskie to live up to his full leadership potential. Damn that Broder.

    1. At last, a well thought out defense of the media's desire to report on the wine list at the White House. Bravo! I can't wait until this silly election is over so that they can publish some recipes.

    2. Liberal values generally include a concern for fairness. Was it fair that Muskie's political aspiration was torpedoed by something that was reported but that didn't even happen?

      There are values inherent in every comment -- what someone chooses to support or mock. I suppose it doesn't matter whether trolls here are coming from the left or the right -- I just want you to know that you are revealing a lot about yourself in your choice of what to ridicule.

    3. Me too. Say, can you believe Bob interrupted coverage of the Ben Bradlee death watch to actually mention a Senate race? Of course when he did he
      was taking the stupid lazy lying press corps's portrayal as accurate.

    4. Anonymous @ 1:20, it is fair to note that Ed Muskie's favorite home cooked recipe was Maine baked stuffed lobster. At least according to Jane
      Muskie, who, it was reported, drank and swore, either like a sailor or Ben Bradlee.

    5. "Liberal values generally include a concern for fairness."

      More condescension by liberals toward rural, gun-owning, fact-fearing voters that will insure Joni Ernst's election victory and thus harm progressive interests.

    6. @1:20 He should have hopped on a plane and attended that rally, and all the other ones going on simultaneously across the nation, before daring to write anything about the campaign and how it is being covered.

    7. That is silly 2:14. Readers like you and me don't contribute enough for Bob to cover rallies. It is better for him to simply write "Sheryl Gay Stolberg is a very bad person" when she writes something in the New York Times he doesn't like, then attack the people she covers when he agrees with her. Don't you think?

  4. I and the rest of the public pay for the wines drunk by Obama. So, I think it's fair for the media that serves the public to find out how much of our money is being spent on fine wines.

    1. Do you seriously think that Obama should serve cheap wines to visiting dignitaries from other nations? They already feel sorry for our President because he lives in such a modest house.

    2. Good luck ever getting to the bottom of this -gate. There won't be any leaks coming from the help, the White House has seen to that.

    3. 6:52, some people think the President runs the country. If he's the boss of the country, he can do whatever he wants and choose what information he likes to divulge or to keep secret.

      I hold the old-fashioned view that the President is a public servant. He works for you and me. As the President's bosses, we should know what he's doing. We should be telling the President what to do.

      I'm not saying the President should serve cheaper wine. I'm saying that the public has the right and the responsibility to know if he happens to be serving ultra-expensive wines.