Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Talking Points Didn't Get the Memo

Over at Talking Points Memo today, Greg Sargent did his best to try to manufacture a minor controversy about a column I recently wrote for The Politico about the Edwards blogger scandal. Usually I would not respond to this kind of trivial stuff, but because TPM is one of the most widely-read and respected liberal blogs on the block, I want to take a moment to clear up any confusion Sargent's post caused.

To boil this down as quickly as possible, Sargent's big gripe is with how The Politico identified me in the tagline at the bottom of my column (yes, some people do obsess over this stuff). He insinuates that the editors breached journalistic ethics and duped their readers by failing to note that I am currently a paid advisor to Lieberman.

Now I am all for full disclosure. In fact, the reason Sargent knows I am a paid advisor is because I asked to be identified that way in a Lieberman profile The Politico posted today that quoted me -- and that prompted Sargent's conspiratorial post. But the idea that readers of my column were somehow deceived by not knowing that is just ridiculous.

First off, The Politico left little doubt that I am a Lieberman partisan -- the tagline at the bottom noted that I "served as communications director for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's successful general election campaign." (Let's not dwell on the irony of bloggers who have villified me for the past several months as a "Lieberman hack" or "Lieberman thug" suddenly claiming ignorance of my ties to said Senator.)

Second, and more important, whether I am a paid, unpaid, or former advisor to Lieberman was not relevant to my column. I was not writing in any Lieberman capacity or on his behalf -- I was expressing my own opinions. And the content of the column was not about Lieberman -- it barely mentioned him -- but about the blindness and irresponsibility of many liberal bloggers. (I will leave it to readers to decide whether Sargent's process point undercut my arguments or unwittingly reinforced them.)

The question that I keep coming back too is what would have been gained by highlighting my current status as a paid advisor in this particular context. The reason for disclosing that kind of information is to avoid hiding conflicts of interest or presenting interested opinions as independent ones. As I noted above, that was not at issue here -- both the column itself and the tagline at the bottom made clear my Lieberman affiliation. So what would have been the point? I would suggest you ask Greg Sargent.

"because TPM is one of the most widely-read and respected liberal blogs on the block"

Maybe because it's run by someone who is widely respected?

Your piece doesn't have to be "about Lieberman" to be frothing at the mouth with Lieberman-esque obfuscations and mistruths.

I'll grant you one (and only one) extremely minor point: it's odd to make a big deal out of it now, when the conflict of interest was obvious when your piece appeared (as I said in comments at the time).

That said, there was a conflict of interest. I don't see the problem as one of labeling so much as that they let you write about the subject at all.
I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:


If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.

Fair enough. It seemed like a pretty petty point to me too. I do wish, though, that you would address some of the more substantive criticisms that have been made of you, and of Senator Lieberman, rather than taking refuge (as it seems to me that you are) in rebutting minor points.

If you're really trying, as you claim, to convince Democrats of the rightness, and righteousness, of the bi-partisan, civil path, then you'd talk down to us less and take our concerns more seriously.

Not all of us are motivated purely by resentment. There are serious differences of principle at stake.
It's odd to hear Gerstein talk about respect, because no honest or moral person should accord him any respect.

The second-best result of Lieberman losing to Lamont would have been the blow to Gerstein. He's among the slimiest and most disgusting of political operatives. The man he works for claims to devoutly adhere to his religious beliefs, yet Gerstein and Lieberman put out clearly false flyers claiming that Lamont was a racist. If that's not bearing false witness, I don't know what is.

There are few things that are sleazier than falsely claiming that another person is racist. Gerstein's sophistry is a joke, and he's a vile human being.
a comment on TPM:

"Gerstein? Isn't he the gay Lieberman aide who advises him to stay far right on social issues?"

Really? I hope you're not gay--I'd want you thrown out of the gay community. If you are gay, I hope you find it very difficult to find partners.
In what universe does Greg Sargent have any credibility when it comes to Lieberman? Wasn't he the guy who started the "Joe Lieberman has all but decided to switch to the Republican party" mantra that so many of his fellow lefties have adopted?
Second, and more important, whether I am a paid, unpaid, or former advisor to Lieberman was not relevant to my column.

And there was no need to hide it. Why respond with an attack, when a simple "Sorry, it won't happen again." is so much more appropriate?
Let me respond to some of the points that have been made here.

First, to Tom Hilton, I appreciate your willingness to at least concede one minor point, and taking the time comment here.

That said, I can't for the life of me figure out your point about the conflict of interest. By your logic, I should be forbidden from discussing the topic of bloggers at all -- or defend myself against ignorant, sometimes near-libelous attacks that bloggers make against me -- just because I worked for and continue to consult for Joe Lieberman. That is beyond tortured, and a standard that most major liberal bloggers could never live up.

Think about it. Name a blogger who helped promote and raise money for Howard Dean. Does that mean he has no right to criticize Dean's enemies on the right? Is it presumed every time he opens his mouth he is speaking for Dean?

To David Stefanini, thanks for the compliment. I will check out your blog soon.

To Daniel, I appreciate your comments, and I apologize if you believe I am talking down to you or making overly broad conclusions about the blogosphere. I am on record here and several other places saying I am a fan of blogging, and I try to be careful in not treating the liberal blogworld as a monolith. But I acknowledge in hindsight that there have been times when I could have been more discriminating in my criticisms. So point taken.

As for answering to my critics, I am more than happy to respond to substantive questions -- that's just what I did with this post. If you have something specific, please let me know. But most of what is said about me on the blogs is totally detached from reality -- or more often, petty personal insults like I found littered in the comments on Greg Sargent's post today -- and not deserving of a response. Just look at what your friend Matt said above.

To Badger, your point about Greg Sargent's bias is right on the money. By the ridiculous standards he wants to apply to me, he should identify himself as a Lieberman-hater every time he posts.

To Mike, I hear what you are saying, but no one hid anything. I certainly haven't -- I am quite open in telling people that I remain a paid consultant to Lieberman. So there is nothing to apologize for. And with all due respect, I did not respond with an attack -- I simply explained why I thought Sargent's criticism was off base and unfair. I consciously chose not to question his motives, which is the game most bloggers play.

To Matt, please keep posting here and proving the underlying point of my Politico column.

You've yet to provide a substantive response to why it was ethically proper to willfully label another human being as racist when he clearly was not. This is because there is no defense--libeling someone as racist is immoral in the same black and white way that kicking an infant is immoral.

In 'real life,' when I encounter someone making false and disgusting charges about another person, I counter it in the strongest terms possible, and I do it publicly.

This is called 'being a decent human being.' If I'm proving a point about the 'blogosphere' it's that it contains people who won't stand for disgusting behavior. My posting here proves that outside the beltway, there are people who are willing to dispense with vapid pleasantries when they encounter someone like you who is clearly in the wrong. We have a serious difference of opinion: I think it's wrong to call someone a racist when he's not, and you think it's okay to falsely call someone a racist. I'm treating that difference of opinion seriously by taking a strong, concrete, doctrinaire moral stand about it, rather than being flimsy about it. The point I'm proving about the blogosphere is something that inside-the-beltway people like you don't understand: there are people like me with strong moral convictions, and we are willing to stand up for them.

When I engage someone who is behaving unethically, it's not to provide them with an avenue for giving sophistry-filled justifications of their actions. My point is to clearly expose their behavior for all who can see it, and argue that unless the person who is in the wrong apologizes, he's not to be trusted. (I'm sure you can understand my need for clear moral behavior and distinction between those who are moral and those who are not--it is the ground on which you and Lieberman attempt to construct defenses of your position on the Iraq war.)

In this matter of falsely calling Ned Lamont a racist, I see no point in allowing you any grey area which you can use to cloud the debate. You are in the wrong, and you deserved to be exposed as someone who is in the wrong. Your effort to mark me as another loud blogger is weak. The facts are out there, and any ethical, thinking person can see that you did something rather vile. At this point, you can either apologize for it (unlikely) or attempt to cloud the debate by making attacks.

I believe my conclusions are right -- and I'm sure many others agree.

I'm not typically this inflexible, Gerstein. I have reasoned, amicable, healthy disagreements on a daily basis with people--and I concede where I am wrong. In this, however, I'm certain I am right: it is wrong to falsely call someone a racist, and that's what you and Lieberman did to Ned Lamont.
Matt, I appreciate your passion and your more temperate post. I would appreciate it more, however, if it were not based on a fallacy. Check the record, and you will see I never called Ned Lamont a racist, nor would I -- I don't believe Ned is any way racist. I made the case he was behaving hypocritically by claiming to be a progressive on civil rights issues while belonging to an all-white country club. That's a big difference, and if you can't recognize that, then there's not much for us to talk about.

Now, if you want to get worked up about unfair accusations and slurs, I would be happy to show you how I have been repeatedly referred to as a racist by your friends in the blogosphere, without any substantiantion. I can also show you how Howie Klein baselessly attacked Joe Lieberman as a racist, despite his widely-known record as an active participant in the civil rights movement.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?