David Ignatius breaks major guild rule!


Rebel pundit names the names of three colleagues: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius just keeps breaking the rules.

Last year, he published the text of the “talking points” Susan Rice was given concerning Benghazi. In doing so, he established a key premise: Rice had simply presented the CIA’s best understanding, at that time, of what had occurred.

Yesterday, Ignatius did it again. He wrote a column which suggested that Obama shouldn’t be getting hammered so hard about recent events in Syria.

At the start of his piece, he outlined his case—and he shattered a rule:
IGNATIUS (9/19/13): How did it happen that, less than a year after Barack Obama convincingly won reelection, his every move as president now draws hoots and catcalls from nearly every point on the political spectrum?

Perhaps his Syria policy really is a story of “epic incompetence,” as Charles Krauthammer opined last week. Maybe he has an “unbelievably small” presidency, as Marc Thiessen commented, or that no one is afraid of him, as Ruth Marcus argued. And that’s just a sampling of opinion from my colleagues at The Post.

What’s puzzling about this latest bout of Obama-phobia is that recent developments in Syria have generally been positive from the standpoint of U.S. interests.

Obama has accomplished goals that most Americans endorse, given the unpalatable menu of choices. Polls suggest that the public overwhelmingly backs the course Obama has chosen...
With respect to Syria, Obama “has accomplished goals that most Americans endorse, given the unpalatable menu of choices.” And yet he’s getting widely hammered in the press, Ignatius says.

And not only that. Ignatius names three names!

Unheard of! It seems to be one of the rules of the guild. You don’t name the names of your high-ranking colleagues unless you’re lavishing praise on such people for their astonishing brilliance. In this piece, Ignatius helps show how absurd that convention is.

Ignatius names three colleagues—Krauthammer, Thiessen and Marcus. On-line, he even links to their columns!

It’s clear that he disagrees with the judgments these colleagues have reached. But what’s the big whoop about that?

Ignatius is perfectly courteous and collegial as he names the names of these colleagues. He simply does his readers a favor. He removes the mystery concerning who he’s talking about.

Down through the years, we have suggested that Paul Krugman might-maybe should do this more often. We thought of those many helpful suggestions as we read his new column:
KRUGMAN (9/20/13): [A]t the moment, it seems highly likely that the Republican Party will refuse to fund the government, forcing a shutdown at the beginning of next month, unless President Obama dismantles the health reform that is the signature achievement of his presidency. Republican leaders realize that this is a bad idea, but, until recently, their notion of preaching moderation was to urge party radicals not to hold America hostage over the federal budget so they could wait a few weeks and hold it hostage over the debt ceiling instead. Now they’ve given up even on that delaying tactic. The latest news is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, has abandoned his efforts to craft a face-saving climbdown on the budget, which means that we’re all set for shutdown, possibly followed by debt crisis.

How did we get here?

Some pundits insist, even now, that this is somehow Mr. Obama’s fault. Why can’t he sit down with Mr. Boehner the way Ronald Reagan used to sit down with Tip O’Neill? But O’Neill didn’t lead a party whose base demanded that he shut down the government unless Reagan revoked his tax cuts, and O’Neill didn’t face a caucus prepared to depose him as speaker at the first hint of compromise.
Krugman only gets 800 words. He certainly doesn’t necessarily have to name names every single time out.

But who is Krugman thinking of here? Who is insisting, even now, that the possible government shutdown “is somehow Obama’s fault?”

Inquiring minds are eager to know. In his latest act of rebellion, Ignatius showed it’s possible to drop the occasional name.


  1. Trend or outlier?

    We report: you decide.

  2. Bob Somerby:

    Perhaps Ignatius felt comfortable violating the "name names" taboo because he did so simultaneously with an affirmation that, for the political-media class, "nearly every point on the political spectrum" means precisely from Charles Krauthammer to Ruth Marcus.

    So, on the one hand, Ignatius breaks with professional conduct codes, but on the other, he reveals naked centrist media bias.

    I (and many other movement liberals) would argue that the latter is worse for the American public's understanding of their world than Krugman's lack of specific accusations.

    1. "[F]rom Charles Krauthammer to Ruth Marcus" represents "'nearly every point on the political spectrum'"?

      Wow! Personally, I think that is a pretty narrow spectrum.

    2. Presentation of an artificially narrow ideological spectrum or policy palette is one of the more obvious manifestations of centrist media bias.

    3. Presentation of an artificially narrow ideological spectrum or policy palette is one of the more obvious manifestations of centrist media bias.

  3. I have a lot of respect for Ignatius. However, he gives himself and Mr. Obama a break by addressing specifically recent developments:

    "What’s puzzling about this latest bout of Obama-phobia is that recent developments in Syria have generally been positive from the standpoint of U.S. interests."

    If you look at all the developments in Syria during Mr. Obama's Presidency, they're net negative from the standpoint of US interests.

  4. I wonder how much control the editor of the NYT op-ed has in the bias against naming names. Do they have rules against it?

    1. It is my understanding that the NY Times has a policy against its columnists criticizing other colunmists by name in columns. Krugman has criticized David Brooks and Robert Samuelson by name on his blog on occasion.

    2. Somerby is aware that NYT policy forbids op-ed columnists criticizing each other by name. To me it seems Somerby is being dishonest with his readers on that score.

  5. "every point on the political spectrum" (as Ignatius et al see that spectrum) thought the fix was in that Obama was going to bomb Syria all on his own say-so as he bombed Libya. What stopped him? I guess the vote in the British Parliament must have been a big shock and the polls must have been very bad.

  6. Do "some pundits insist, even now, that this is somehow Mr. Obama’s fault." We wouldn’t necessarily say so. As is so often the case at such moments, Krugman gave no examples.

    In our view, Krugman’s account is hard to defend. We’d also say this:

    Such statements tend to make blue voters feel good. They also tend to make red voters stop listening.

    Who needs millionaire professsors. Darlings.


  7. The pundits are the usual suspects, of course.

    Now, the official script is that Obama blundered his way through the Syria situation, but lucked out.

    Now, if we consider "lucking out" to mean he is only being attacked by the usual suspects, not the majority of Americans, and the vicious attacks on him are tapering off and considered to reside primarily within the realm of the right-wing Obama haters,
    it is safe to say Barack Obama has been remarkably lucky of late.

    He lucked out with the Somali Pirates
    And Osama bin Laden
    And Operation Fast and Furious
    And Benghazi
    And NSA
    And IRS
    And AP
    And James Rosen
    And Sequestration
    And Egypt
    And Syria
    And Iran

    Now, some pundits will call this pure dumb luck, but historians might consider so many favorable outcomes arising from so many decisions made on very limited information to be the result of "wisdom."

    1. Greg Norman once holed a long putt. A reporter commented how lucky he was. "Yeah, funny thing," he replied. "The more I practice, the luckier I get."

      Heaven forbid that a journalist should conclude that consistently getting the right results might be down to skill. This is what happens when someone plans six steps in advance, and keeps their eye on the target, rather than looking only one step in advance, and even then looking to see what will garner the most favourable headlines and political boost rather than what will get you towards your goal.

    2. If that's Obama's "got lucky" list I'd hate to ever see the day he doesn't get lucky! Except for bin Laden your list is nothing but corruption, incompetence, and failure. What's your standard of "success" here?

    3. Anon 11:57

      You obviously didn't read what I wrote.

      Obama has been accused of having a direct hand in many government failures.

      The right wing and many MSM outlets have pimped these stories, but the majority of American have come to realize they are only smoke, and no fire.

      Now, If Obama did NOT have a hand in these event, then it is proper that they accusations fade away, and they are.

      The people that hate Obama can't convince most of us that he is a conniving monster, no matter how often and how hard they try.

      I only claimed Obama dodged a lot of bullets.

      So you see, despite herculean effort by the right wing, Obama keeps lucking out.

      Compare that to Jimmy Carter and "Operation Eagle Claw" (hostage rescue).

      And Bill Clinton, "womanizer".

      And Richard Nixon, Watergate.

      These are Albatrosses they will wear long after they are dead and buried.

  8. No comment.

    1. You did realize that the clip wasn't actually Obama, right?