Tag Archives: Michael Triplett

Open The Closet And Walk To The Outside

Marc Ambinder:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ambinder was apparently pushed to run the story two days early after Mike Rogers, whose track record on outing conservative politicians is very good, reported on Blogactive that Ambinder was preparing a story that would confirm that Mehlman was gay and the story was slated for Friday or early next week.

Within an hour of Rogers going public with his scoop that Mehlman was about to come out as gay, Ambinder posted his story.

It’s a rumor that has circulated around Washington, D.C., for years.  Mehlman–who was recently in the news for buying a condo in New York City’s very-gay Chelsea neighborhood–has previously denied he’s gay but now he tells Ambinder that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently” and “anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.”

[…]

In 2006, Mehlman’s sexual orientation led to an uncomfortable moment for CNN after they edited a transcript and a video that featured Bill Maher outing Mehlman on Larry King Live. That story was later told in the documentary Outrage, which featured Rogers and his work to “out” closeted  gay conservatives who work against the LGBT community.

Ambinder seems like a natural to break the Mehlman story.  In 2006, he wrote about the challenges that Mark Foley scandal created for gay Republicans, including the lavender mafia that surrounded Foley and reached into the Republican establishment. A well-connected openly gay reporter, Ambinder would have the connections inside the web of gay Republicans to convince Mehlman to give him an exclusive.

According to the story, Mehlman and Ambinder have been talking for a number of years about Mehlman coming out and his views on gay issues.

Honestly, I thought the guy came out years ago. Remember when Bill Maher talked about the rumors surrounding him on Larry King’s show — back in 2006? I guess you were the last to know, Ken.

He’s doing this now, it seems, because he wants to drum up publicity for the cause of gay marriage and figures that “Republican whom everyone thought was gay actually is gay” headlines will do the trick. Could be, although Ambinder’s careful to remind readers of the sort of social con initiatives that the GOP pushed during Mehlman’s RNC tenure. That won’t endear him to gay activists, and his newly public identity won’t endear him to social cons. Maybe he should have just worked for gay marriage like Ted Olson and kept his orientation private?

Joe My God:

Andy Towle is reporting that Mehlman has already agreed to chair a “major anti-Prop 8 fundraiser” for Americans For Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies’ outfit. Gee thanks, shitbag. That’s like offering to help rebuild a house when YOU were the fucker that helped BURN IT DOWN.

Towleroad:

Just got off the phone with Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, regarding former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and reports that he is about to come out of the closet.

Griffin tells me that Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer’s home.

A large number of other Republicans are co-hosts of the fundraiser including Mary Cheney, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt. Dick Gephardt is also among the hosts.

Said Griffin to Towleroad:

“Mehlman has committeed his own resources and been an integral part of the team at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Our goal is to get as many people who aren’t on the side of gay marriage on our side, and once they are here, to welcome them.”

Said AFER board member Dustin Lance Black:

“Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states.”

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Good for Ken. I know a lot of people will want to criticize him for heading up the GOP as a closeted gay man. He says he only recently came to terms with being gay. I suspect he always knew he was gay, but recently came to terms with accepting it, and embracing it. And good for him. He’s now doing the right thing, helping support marriage equality. I’m not going to fault him for that. Coming out is a horrendously difficult and complicated thing. It’s not rational.

Now, does that mean I oppose efforts to out people who are hurting our community? Absolutely not. I was there with the rest of them calling Mehlamn out for being a closeted gay man running a homophobic political party. Our long-time readers will remember Mehlman Mondays on AMERICAblog. I long talked about Mehlman being the only closet-heterosexual I’d ever heard of – a man not willing to admit he’s straight.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace him now. And not just for strategic reasons. Mehlman, from what Ambinder says, is doing the right thing. He’s now using his position in the GOP to help our community on our number one issue: marriage. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Now, let me say, the GOP was happily anti-gay under Mehlman, so I don’t buy his story that he helped temper their nastiness. They were still homophobic bigots, regardless of what Mehlman did or didn’t do, and he chose to remain as their head. For that, he gets no thanks. But is he making up for it today? You betcha. It’s a start, and a damn good one.

As for the Democratic party, I hope someone at the DNC is starting to sweat. We now have the former head of the Republican party who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage. There’s a virtual groundswell of senior Republicans coming out for marriage equality. It can’t be going unnoticed in the gay community. And while it doesn’t mean 70% of the gay vote will now go Republican instead of Democrat, it does mean that growing numbers of gays and lesbians will starting thinking of the GOP as a legitimate alternative to the Democratic party.

And finally, how about that religious right? The Republicans lied to them about Mehlman for years. And Mehlam himself admits that he used his position as RNC chair to help stop the GOP gay-baiting. The religious right was totally pwned.

Ann Althouse:

Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He’s calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friendssupportive… he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don’t hate me because I’m/I’ve been a Republican. Love me, because I’m gay, and oh! how I’ve anguished in the company of Republicans.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Gabriel Arana at Tapped

Maria Bustillos at The Awl

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Filed under LGBT, Political Figures

Quitting Is All The Rage These Days

Anahad O’Connor at NYT:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the conservative talk radio commentator under fire for repeatedly using a racial epithet, announced on Tuesday that she was ending her long-running radio show.

Dr. Schlessinger made the announcement on Tuesday night on “Larry King Live,” saying she made a decision not to renew her contract when it expires at the end of the year and suggesting that she did not want her opinions and language, however provocative, to be muzzled.

“I want to regain my First Amendment rights,” she said. “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.”

But she stressed that she was not retiring, only ending her show, and would continue to write books and appear at speaking engagements.

“I’m not quitting,” she told Larry King. “I feel energized actually — stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.”

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

King challenged Schlessinger on her contention that her First Amendment rights were really threatened just because people complained, but she fired back that there used to be a time where people who disagreed with you would argue the point, but now they plan boycotts and threaten advertisers and sponsors.

In the interview, Schlessinger singled out Media Matters and its work to get sponsors to drop the show. The progressive watchdog group succeeded in encouraging Motel 6 to quit advertising on the radio show and also lined up Advance Auto Parts, Netflix, and OnStar to distance themselves from Schlessinger’s remarks.

KING: Who is the special interest group?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, like “Media Matters” and some of the other groups that have lined up to decide that I should be silenced because they disagree with my points of view. I never called anybody a bad word. I was trying to bring — and obviously, it has become a national discussion now — I was trying to make a philosophical point and I made it wrong.

Media Matters:

Today, Media Matters for America President Eric Burns issued the following statement in response to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s announcement that she would be ending her radio show when her contract expires in January due to the controversy surrounding her racially charged rant:

“Dr. Laura’s radio career ended in disgrace tonight because of the bigoted, ugly and hateful remarks made on her show. Americans have had enough.  Listeners are now holding hosts, affiliates, and sponsors accountable for the offensive and inexcusable content on the airwaves.”

Michelle Malkin:

She’s a broadcast and publishing legend. She’s battled political correctness for years. Tonight, the incomparable Dr. Laura announced that she’s ending her daily radio talk show — in order to allow her to speak her mind more freely.

More power to her.

Sheryl Huggins Salomon at The Root:

Uh, last time we checked, people are not violating your First Amendment rights simply by being angry at you or offended by what you say, and expressing that they are offended. They are not even violating your rights when they decide to boycott your advertisers. They are simply exercising their own right to free speech and to choose what they listen to.

(As a side note, did anyone watching Larry King’s show tonight notice how he coined the phrase “non-n person” to describe someone who shouldn’t be saying the n-word because he or she is not … uh … an n-person?)

Steve Benen:

Postscript: Funniest line I’ve seen so far: “Dr. Laura announces retirement to spend more time with the N-Word.”

James Joyner:

Quitting a talk show so you can say what’s on your mind is akin to resigning a governorship to have more impact on public policy.  But, hey, it’s all the rage these days.

Even back in the days when I was listening to conservative talk radio for hours on end, I was never a Schlessinger fan.  She always struck me as bitter, mean, callous, and particularly out of touch with the human condition.   She routinely dispensed advice that was plainly idiotic and hurtful.

It didn’t help that she billed herself as “Dr. Laura” for a show built around personal counseling, even though her doctorate is in physiology instead of psychology, psychiatry, or something else that gave her the slightest bit of expertise in the field.   Then again, real counseling experts don’t offer diagnoses based on three-minute telephone conversations.

John Avalon at Daily Beast:

Sarah Palin’s post-VP nominee career has so far benefitted from bomb-throwing. The process follows a tight script—a crude, semi-calculated comment is shot into the middle of a political debate via Facebook or Twitter. It gains national attention. Liberals are outraged. Conservatives rush to her defense. Sarah Palin dominates a news cycle and becomes more beloved by her base.

But by unnecessarily rushing to the defense of Dr. Laura Schlessinger—after she dropped the N-bomb 11 times and told the caller “don’t marry outside of your race”—Sarah Palin might finally have gone too far and picked a fight she cannot win.

This is the sound of Sarah Palin jumping the shark in two tweets:

• Dr.Laura:don’t retreat … reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”)
• Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

The few black conservative candidates, columnists, and media figures—who represent the GOP’s only hope for reclaiming the legacy of Lincoln and, with it, long-term demographic relevance—are not amused. They’re now saying what many in the GOP increasingly believe: Sarah Palin is not fit to be a serious leader of the Republican Party.

I spoke to Michel Faulkner, the former NFL player and Harlem preacher challenging Charlie Rangel for a House seat, and he was unsparing in his criticism: “Why Sarah Palin feels she needs to join in to Dr. Laura’s personal meltdown is beyond me. She’s sounding like she just likes to hear her own voice—and the voice that she has is no longer credible. It says that a leading voice among conservatives has joined the ranks of the entertainers—trying to shock us each day with more and more outlandish commentary. And at that moment that person is no longer fit to lead.”

“The constitutional stuff she’s saying doesn’t even make any sense,” Faulkner said. “She doesn’t know what real shackles are… But ‘don’t retreat, reload?’ Lady, are you kidding me? That is scary language in anyone’s terminology. Sarah Palin scares me.”

Nationally syndicated conservative columnist Deroy Murdock took an even stronger line. “Sarah Palin’s tweets resemble something scribbled by a ninth-grade cheerleader. Is it asking too much for a reputed American political leader to communicate in complete sentences? Palin’s gravitas gap is growing into the Gravitas Canyon,” said the media fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. “Even worse, she deploys her vacuity to defend an acerbic talk-show host who just detonated herself by tossing around the word ‘nigger’ on the air 11 times, as if it were a volleyball. The American right can do better than this. And it must.”

David Weigel:

On Facebook, Palin rolls her eyes. Let’s ignore the throat-clearing about shackles and reloading and battlefields and focus on this:Dr. Laura did not call anyone or any group of people the n-word. Curiously, the same criers over this issue didn’t utter a word when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (sic) called a group protesting the Obama Administration’s actions, “f***ing retards.” When this presidential spokesman uttered this term I commented that the President would be better off not including Emmanuel in his circle of advisers, and my opinion was based not just on the crude and disrespectful term Emmanuel (sic) used to label people, but because he too often gives the President very poor advice. I was called intolerant and narrow-minded by many on the Left for commenting on that issue. Many of these same Leftists are now spinning the Dr. Laura issue into something it is not. As usual, their hypocrisy and double standard applications are glaring.

Straw man? Check. No one called Palin “intolerant and narrow-minded” for being offending by Emanuel, because that’s stupid and makes no sense. Opportunity to learn the right lesson? Check, although Palin misses it. She wants to be able to cry havoc and demand apologies or resignations when someone uses a word she doesn’t like. She doesn’t want other people to be able to do the same when a public figure uses a word they don’t like. Whether someone uses the word against someone is immaterial, especially in this case, because Schlessinger’s harangue included her complaining that black groups (specifically the NAACP) go after white people unfairly, and ended with her telling her (black) caller that if she was easily offended she shouldn’t marry a white man. That’s actually more personal than Emanuel’s insult. But let’s forget all that. The one thing we know about these media freak-outs is that context doesn’t matter. The word matters. That’s all it takes to start a controversy.

So another way to react to a story like this — a backlash against your defense of the use of a racial slur —  is to realize that, hey, perhaps these gotcha, apologize-now controversies over stupid words people use are not very constructive. Maybe it would be worth gritting your teeth when someone uses a word that offends you if the upshot is that you and your friends don’t have to apologize for using words that offend other people. Maybe that’s the lesson here. Or, you know, maybe it’s that the left has problems with hypocrisy and double standards.

Dan Riehl:

I see a lot of mixed and even negative reaction on the Right to Sarah Palin’s statement regarding Dr. Laura. I’ve never been much of a fan of the latter, but never listened to her show, much, if at all, either.

Does anyone seriously believe that Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a racist? Anyone, I mean, who isn’t already accusing all conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party Americans, etc., etc., etc. of being racists?

Hot Air sees it as a matter of people and politics – no surprise there. They even quote some blacks on the Right, I assume to bolster their response‘s street cred. However, if you strip away the personalities and the politics, what you are left with is principle.

… her point is that Schlessinger’s being attacked even though she didn’t use the N-bomb with any intent to demean — but her decision to get involved at all. Particularly considering that Dr. Laura was notably critical of Palin when McCain tapped her for VP.

Gosh, we can’t have people on the Right boldly speaking up purely on principle, now can we? The media might think it impolite, or, you know, just crazy, or dumb. But they mostly want to marginalize, or tame the Right, anyway. It reminds me of yesterday when Sharron Angle came out strongly as an unapologetic conservative. What’s genuinely fascinating, and perhaps also disappointing, to me in all this, is how many more women we have on the Right today who have a set of ballz, as compared to many of the men. I don’t know, maybe it’s a beta thang. Heh!

UPDATE: Laura Kipnis at Slate

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Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures

Are You Compromised Over Hot Dogs?

Digby:

A lazy neighborhood bar-b-que in the village:

Many people think there’s nothing wrong with this. Everybody’s human, it’s fun for the kids. But do you think this sort of thing makes it easier or more difficult for journalists to maintain their independence?

Mike Brownfield at Heritage:

What does Vice President Joe Biden do on a hot summer day in Washington, DC, while a major environmental disaster has left the Gulf of Mexico in ruin?

Host a beach party for journalists at his house, of course! And go ahead and get the Democratic National Committee to pay for it, too. With squirt guns, watermelon, and the Vice President himself, sliding down a waterslide, how could he go wrong? (Nevermind the oil spill! Let’s get some sun!)

The party held last Friday underscores a troubling trend in the Obama administration – an insensitivity to the world around them and a lack of seriousness devoted to the task at hand.

[…]

Despite the coterie of reporters in attendance (CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Ed Henry, The New York Times’ David Sanger, NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie, and The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder), news from the “on-the-record” event was relatively limited. What coverage came out of the party? Video of Vice President Biden sliding feet first down a waterslide, video of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel – a former member of the Israel Defense Force – wielding a Super Soaker at reporter Ambinder, and photos of the gala, all posted on Twitter.

Marc Ambinder:

Does an afternoon of leisure with senior administration officials violate journalistic ethics? To many, the self-evident answer is: “Absolutely.” I have a different view, although perhaps it’s a way to rationalize my own decision to attend the Bidens’ first beach party for journalists. Later today, I’ll lay out some thoughts about the ethics of all of this, but to whet appetites, here’s a bit of video I recorded. The players include the president’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, David Sanger of the New York Times, and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Note the teasing banter between Emanuel and Sanger. (Note, too, that shortly after I shot this video, Emanuel sprayed me in the shirt with his Super Soaker. I have a picture of that, too.)

Glenn Greenwald:

I have no doubt that Ambinder — who promised that “later today, I’ll lay out some thoughts about the ethics of all of this” — is shortly going to explain to us how getting squirted in the face by Rahm (aside from being fun and deeply pleasurable for him) assists his intrepid journalistic endeavors by building relationships and cementing access (he also reported:  “Note, too, that shortly after I shot this video, Emanuel sprayed me in the shirt with his Super Soaker. I have a picture of that, too”).  All anyone has to do is to look at the relationship between the Washington press corps and the Washington political power structure (the former is an integral part of the latter) to know what an absurd and false rationalization that is (over the weekend, Ed Henry bravely took time out from his socializing with the Bidens to vehemently condemn the powerless Helen Thomas with language he would never, ever use for powerful political officials).  The face of the Washington press corps and the role it plays is perfectly embodied by David Gregory’s dancing to Karl Rove’s tune (both literally and in every other way), and it only gets worse by the day

Ambinder:

Accepting a few hours worth of hospitality from the Bidens may be just that — a chance for families to get together and enjoy each other’s company. The main attraction, aside from the Vice President and his family, were the rides for kids, the face painting, and the moon bounce. The adults chit-chatted on the upper part of the lawn while the kids — journalists’ kids, Biden’s family, the children of White House officials — chased each other around with water guns. It was a nice way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon.

But these aren’t ordinary afternoons, and the very idea that a journalist would accept a slice of watermelon from the Vice President strikes many a critical activist as criminally insane — an example of the cozy relationships that exist between journalists and their sources, an example of how the oppositional role of the press has been compromised by people in power.
Well, yes. The relationships can be cordial, occasionally cozy, and they can simultaneously be professional and skeptical. Indeed, has there ever been a time when journalists and the political establishment have been MORE skeptical about each other?
I take this argument to heart: journalists worthy of the name ought to be on duty 24 hours a day, and in an ideal world, any opportunity to interact with administration officials should be an opportunity to grill those officials on any range of subjects.
Journalists, if they’re good for anything, should use whatever access they have to consistently and relentless pressure powerful interests. We’re at war; the government is detaining people indefinitely; there’s a huge oil spill in the gulf; there are better things to do.
But a bunch of really good, hardened, news-breaking, interest-accountable holding reporters are in fact able to share more comfortable moments with people they cover. For the record, the event was paid for by the Democratic National Committee, not by taxpayers.  There was no additional Secret Service presence needed, so I don’t think the afternoon produced any hidden costs to the government.
Am I fatally compromised?

Greenwald updates his original post:

Ambinder has posted his explanation/justification here, and, as it speaks (loudly and clearly) for itself, I’m content to let everyone read it and decide for themselves what they think.  To be clear:  the issue isn’t Ambinder, who does some good reporting and deserves credit for candidly writing about these events even knowing he’ll be criticized (that’s better than concealing them).  The issue is the relationship between the press corps and political power which these events reveal (here’s an example of the type of event the Bush White House would hold and the controversy created).

Clive Crook:

Greenwald has a point. Ed Henry’s schoolgirl tweets as Rahm Emanuel chased him round the garden made me wince. Dignity of the profession aside, though, the rules of engagement Greenwald seems to advocate would make a lot of good journalism impossible.

The problem is where to draw the line. With an Internet connection, much useful reporting and commentary can be done from your desk, using public material: no commingling required. But to uncover private information, you need sources. Socializing at events like Biden’s is an opportunity to develop some.

When somebody gives you private information, there is always a danger you will be misled (because your source has an agenda). Or you might be compromised by a sense of obligation or a desire to keep the channel open so you can go back for more. Socializing with sources, off-the-record interviews, on-the-record interviews, privileged access to press briefings all create this tension to some degree. To meet Greenwald’s standard of rigor, you would never put yourself in this position.

Getting too friendly with government officials is a particular danger — as any good journalist is aware. But the issue also comes up with non-government sources. They too have agendas. The same risks of obligation, dependence, and distorted judgment arise. The difference between a good journalist and a bad one is not whether you expose yourself to that danger but whether you are aware of it and check yourself for bias. Journalists should be skeptics. So should readers. They must decide for themselves whether a writer is thinking independently, ventilating prejudices, or channeling somebody else’s talking-points. I get a better sense of that from reading the copy than from knowing whether the writer attended a party.

Greenwald demands skepticism toward those in power — which any good journalist must have — but then confuses this with implacable hostility. They are not the same. The job of a reporter is to question, understand, and inform. You need a vigorous skepticism to do this. But unreasoning hostility is as inimical to understanding as blind deference.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Marc, like most of his colleagues, argues that he has not lost a whit of skepticism toward the White House. But the better question is whether White House media has lost (or ever even had) any skepticism toward itself. Marc goes on to note several stories he’s working that the administration doesn’t like. But likely the peril is much smaller and less knowable. Likely it originates in the kind of twisted loyalties that sprout up when your sources become your friends.
Consumers of news should ask themselves a very simple question when they see these sorts of events: What is the White House’s agenda? What is their interest in inviting a gaggle of journalists and their families over for a party? What are they trying to achieve?
By the logic of the  press corps, these White House social events have no real effect on the news narrative. I find that interesting. There are some very smart people in the the White House. It would seem that by now they would know their soirée press strategy has been a miserable failure. And yet they press on. I wonder why?

James Joyner:

Recall that the journalists of the 1930s and 1940s conspired to hide from the American public the fact that Franklin Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair.  And their 1960s successors didn’t think John Kennedy’s extra-marital affairs counted among all the news that was fit to print.

Do modern day journalists and politicians have a symbiotic relationship?   Of course.  Do reporters love to rub elbows with the Washington glitterati?  You betcha.  But it was always thus.

It’s hard to see how it could be otherwise.  Effective political reporters require constant access to policymakers.   They will naturally develop warm personal relationships with some of their sources and hold others in some contempt, with shades of gray in between.  That’s just the nature of human interaction.

Further, as Ambinder notes, reporters — himself included — are probably more cynical than at any point in history.  So, too, is the American public.

That’s not surprising.   The combination of 24/7 coverage and competition from a vast variety of outlets makes keeping a lid on sordid details next to impossible.   Every lie and indiscretion committed by a politician of any significant visibility will inevitably be made public.

Come to think of it, the same is true of slipshod reporting.  With an army of bloggers out here dissecting every bit of news coverage, mistakes, sloppiness, deception, and whatnot that would previously have gone unnoticed — or, worse, garnering prestigious prizes — now get exposed almost immediately.

So, no, we don’t need more crabby reporters with chips on their shoulder or a moratorium on water gun fights with Rahm Emanuel.

Matthew Yglesias:

At any rate, journalistic ethics is just the standards of conduct that journalists do in practice hold themselves to and it’s clear that attending parties hosted by the powerful officials they’re nominally covering is more-or-less par for the course.

The only non-obvious thing I would add to this is that not only do reporters get captured by their sources, but important officials come to be unduly concerned about the press coverage they get. It’s in the two-way nature of the dysfunctional dynamic that the tempests in teapots that plague the Beltway are born. Reporters spend too much time writing up gossipy items, and public officials spend too much time reading them and courting the press. Everyone would be better off trying to think harder about what’s really important and/or socializing with their actual friends.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Maybe Yglesias’ bosses at Obama’s favorite think tank and farm team for the administration–the Center for American Progress–can mention that next time they are invited to a State Dinner.

It is a perennial question that arises every year during press dinner season–capped by the White House Correspondents Dinner–where people wonder whether reporters should be yukking it up with the president and members of Congress in the evening after being adversaries during the day. The New York Times–whose staff was at the Biden beach party–does not participate in nerd prom.

(Full disclosure.  During the Bush administration, I attended four “nerd proms” and took mid-level members of the administration at least twice.  I met Justice Antonin Scalia once and learned that my guest had a weakness for the Food Network. Alas, I’ve never been to the White House or the Vice President’s House, except on a tour.)

So who wins between Ambinder and Greenwald?  Arguably, it’s a draw.

Greenwald is rightly concerned that these kinds of cozy events look bad for people who think journalists shouldn’t be so friendly with the people they cover.  It does give the appearance of bias and impropriety and appearances are as big a worry as actual bias and impropriety.  In addition, Greenwald is right to be concerned that journalists can become so enamored by the attention from D.C.’s ruling class that they may fail to ask the tough questions for fear of not getting an invite to the next hoedown.

On the other hand, the idea that Ambinder or any reporter is suddenly going to say nice things about Emanuel and Biden just because they noshed hot dogs together on a hot, June Saturday doesn’t really understand how journalism or Washington works. Just as attorneys can be civil with opposing counsel, journalists can be civil with the people they cover without it meaning they won’t ask hard questions the next day.

Of course, relationships can become too close and journalists can be too friendly with the people they cover.  But a single beach party with the kids or an evening in tuxedos and evening dresses with administration officials isn’t likely going to compromise the adversarial relationship between journalists and the people they cover.

Would journalists be better off if they never had friendly interactions with the people they cover? If Ambinder runs into Emanuel at Ben’s Chili Bowl, is he supposed to turn on his heels lest it be viewed as too friendly an interaction? Where exactly is the line?

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Rick Warren And Uganda

Lisa Miller at Newsweek:

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, drew fire last year when he was invited to give the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration. His support for Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman only, and his anti-gay-marriage views concerned many in Obama’s base.

Now Warren’s on the defensive again, this time for his affiliation with Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has endorsed proposed legislation in Uganda that makes certain homosexual acts punishable by life in prison or even, in some cases, death. Ssempa has made appearances at Saddleback and has been embraced warmly by Warren and his wife, Kay.

In October, Warren distanced himself from Ssempa and the Ugandan legislation, saying, “Martin Ssempa does not represent me; my wife, Kay; Saddleback Church; nor the Global PEACE Plan strategy,” a reference to Warren’s work in the developing world and Africa in particular. “In 2007 we completely severed contact with Mr. Ssempa when we learned that his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own.

“Our role, and the role of the PEACE Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral and never political. We vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.”

But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan antihomosexual laws generated this response: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.” On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: “As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides.” Warren did say he believed that abortion was “a holocaust.” He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ah, to be Rev. Rick Warren on a “very special” Thanksgiving Meet the Press.  Despite being connected to a Ugandan minister who supports the death penalty for gays, you don’t get asked about it — not even in a follow-up to the interview that occurred weeks earlier — and you aren’t pressed to explain your “I’m not a politician” position while calling abortion a “holocaust” and discussing your public position in opposing same-sex marriage in California.

Andrew Sullivan:

One of Rick Warren’s (and president George W. Bush’s) longtime allies in Uganda, Martin Ssempe, is the author of a classic piece of minority-baiting legislation. Its details belong in the history of genocidal hatred:

The Ugandan penal code already criminalizes sexual relations “against the order of nature,” a characterization that is frequently used to prosecute gays. Under the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, homosexual relations are specifically targeted. Anyone in a position of authority who is aware of a gay or lesbian individual has 24 hours to inform police or face jail time. Individuals found to engage in efforts to sexually stimulate another for the purpose of homosexual relations, or found touching another for that purpose, will face life in prison. Those who engage in “aggravated homosexuality” — defined as repeated homosexual relations or sexual contact with others who are HIV/AIDS infected — will face the death penalty.

This is an act of terror and murder against an already beleaguered minority, and Warren is an accessory to it. As a powerful figure in distributing AIDS funding in Uganda, he cannot bring himself to oppose a law that would condemn someone in a gay relationship to death, and imprison him or her for touching another human being, and inciting a wave of informing on family members and friends and acquaintances in order to terrify a sexual minority. This alleged man of God cannot speak out on this – except to protect his own p.r. His schtick of actually being the nice evangelical – a schtick that got him to Obama’s inauguration – is a lie. If he cannot condemn this fascist act of violence against a tiny minority of vulnerable human beings, then his position in this struggle is clear enough.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Andrew highlights the vicious homophobia of Pastor Rick Warren’s main ally in Uganda, a minister named Thomas Ssempa who burns condoms and seems ready to burn gays as well. I know Rick Warren fairly well, and though we disagree on some issues, he’s a good man who does good deeds across the planet, and it seems that he should be teaching Ssempa the error of his ways. I’ve e-mailed Rick to see what he has to say about Ssempa’s homophobia.

Allison Kilkenny:

He is taking sides. He believes abortion is a holocaust and it’s sometimes acceptable for homosexuality to be punished with the death penalty. That’s “taking sides” if ever I saw it.

As historian Howard Zinn says, you can’t be neutral on a moving train. We’re all resisters or collaborators by nature, even if we fold our hands and claim to be doing nothing because “doing nothing” allows those who are doing something (like actively promoting the killing of homosexuals) to operate unimpeded. So the train is moving in Uganda toward death sentences for gay people, and if pastor Ssempa is the train conductor, Rick Warren is at least a porter.

UPDATE: Rachel Maddow:

UPDATE #2:

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #3: Isaac Chotiner at TNR

Ross Douthat on Chotiner

UPDATE #4: Michael Gerson at Townhall

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones

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