Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 2, 2009

THE DREADED SECRET STRATEGY SESSIONS.... The Politico reported about a week ago that James Carville, Rahm Emanuel, George Stephanopoulos, and Paul Begala talk regularly on the phone. The piece described this as "a street-corner bull session between four old friends who suddenly find themselves standing once more at the busiest intersection of politics and media in Washington."

This was hardly shocking. Indeed, it was barely news. But the story apparently caused a stir in some conservative circles -- the right complained that CNN should fire Carville and Begala, ABC should fire Stephanopoulos, and the White House should stop trying "co-opt" the media. These chats among long-time friends, some conservatives said, are evidence of "secret planning sessions" between the president's chief of staff and major media figures.

It's bizarre, but thanks to right-wing blogs and talk-radio, this has actually started to gain traction as a "controversy," and networks have received more than a few angry calls from the public.

Greg Sargent took a closer look at the calls causing a fuss among far-right activists.

These secret strategy sessions don't appear to exist.... "They're not conference calls," Carville said, denying that any planning or scheming of any kind goes on. He said the conversations were casual banter among friends, and that they weren't organized: "Since 1992, the four of us have all kind of talked to each other at some point on an almost daily basis." He dismissed the conservatives' argument as "absurd" and "humorous."

"I've spoken to George this morning. Later today Rahm will probably call me. I should be fired because I talk to people who have been my friends for 16 years?" Carville continued, adding that all he can do is "laugh at" the criticism.

As a rule, it's pretty easy to "laugh at" tirades from the far-right, but keep in mind, for some conservatives, this isn't funny. In one especially hysterical rant, a Red State blogger demanded that Carville, Begala, and Stephanopoulos be "fired," and short of that, the networks "should tell their employees to cease and desist with these secret planning sessions with the White House and issue apologies to the viewers for not informing them of this secret pipeline to power."

Right-wing bloggers sure are odd.

Steve Benen 12:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

Shocking! After all, right-wing politicians and media figures never get together for cocktail parties.

Posted by: Gregory on February 2, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Karl Rove having editorials published in various places doesn't count though.

Posted by: dk on February 2, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, those Pentagon general's who were throwing about all the propaganda were just fine with the Redstaters. Bush 41 calling Rush on his B-day (with Jr. 43 along side of him) and asking about "our man Ailes" was okie dokie with the Redstaters.

Fuck each of them.

Posted by: MsJoanne on February 2, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

The same George Stephanopoulos who tried to undermine Barney Frank on Sunday? The same James Carville who is married to Republican strategist Mary Matalin?

Rahm needs to keep better company. He should start having phone calls with Maddow, Krugman, and Greenwald.

Posted by: doubtful on February 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

In a sane world media outlets would pay its "journalists" extra for having daily calls to someone standing next to the President. I bet Karl Rove had similar relationships with any number of talking heads and radio types.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 2, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Uh.

I'm sorry, but didn't Cheney and others in the Bush WH routinely talk with RushBo and others in the VRWC? Where were the calls for these guys to resign or be fired?

Oh, how I wish the opposition party in this country gave a damn about things that are worth a damn, instead of consisting of a bunch of screeching monkeys flinging feces . . . .

Posted by: David Bailey on February 2, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

How dare members of the media cultivate sources at the White House! If this keeps up, the American public might become informed on their government's activities.

Posted by: Robert Earle on February 2, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Right-wing bloggers are two year olds.

Posted by: minnesotan on February 2, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

i second doubtful.

if i thought there was a chance in hell of those three monkeys being replaced by people of intelligence and insight, i wouldn't care why they were fired.

Posted by: karen marie on February 2, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't take much to set off the "Total Outrage" button on these androids, does it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon on February 2, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I agree Snuffaluffagus should be fired from ABC, but not for the reasons right-wingers state. He's one of their best friends, for pete's sake! Don't they remember him spending precious Dem debate time asking Obama about flag pins?!?

Posted by: rob! on February 2, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and what about the pipeline to power RedState provides when it allows Congressmen to directly write blogposts urging RedStaters to stand up to liberals on specific battles; sometimes even allowing them to issue "red alerts" complete with a real-looking red siren that draws even more attention? Why, I betcha a whole ten people are influenced by this particular pipeline of power; perhaps even more.

And then, of course, there's the Pentagon's retired general program, the Whitehouse paying conservative hacks to write pro-Bush propaganda, the DoD paying foreign journalists to write pro-America propaganda, and the overall talking points that the RNC issues to conservative media hacks on a daily basis. But nothing competes with media access to power than the RedState red alerts issued by politicians.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 2, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but didn't Cheney and others in the Bush WH routinely talk with RushBo and others in the VRWC? Where were the calls for these guys to resign or be fired?

LOL. That was different. They were just discussing the ins and outs of the republican permanent majority. Only now they talk about "the liberal war on wealth and prosperity" and various and sundry sorts of mindless musings. Times change, idiots don't.

Posted by: Stuck on February 2, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Humorous as the right is, shouldn't they just be ignored now?

Posted by: Bob M on February 2, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Quick, lets supoena Roger Ailes phone logs for the past eight years and see who in the WH he talked to on a regular basis and demand he be fired.

We know that Novak talked with high ranking officials of the Bush administration pretty regularly, so he should be fired too. Who else? Bill Kristol? (too late, the NYT already let him go). Maybe David Brooks? So, who has Charles Krauthammer been talking to the last eight years. I'm willing to throw Stephanopoulos, Carville, and Begala under the bus if almost the entire right wing of the Commentariate goes with them, based on their inappropriate contacts with Bush officials.

Posted by: majun on February 2, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

90% of Talk Radio is conservative. The networks routinely put on twice as many Republicans as Dems. The Media sucked up to Bush for years and played stenographer for him while he spied on them. Bush often hired "journalists" to spew his propaganda, paying them with tax dollars. As others have mentioned, he got retired generals to pose on the networks as "experts" while they pushed his agenda.

Right wingers don't have a problem with government controlled media. They just object if they're not the people controlling it.

Thing is, they do. They still do. And they don't seem to realize it, steeped as they are in their own victimology.

Posted by: Cuchulain on February 2, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Doubtful - I for one totally respect Carville's political acumen and don't think he's a bad one to talk to at all, no matter who he's married to. He needs to stay the hell away from policy decisions, but his skills as an attack dog are quite good. I wouldn't want him running my campaign, but he'd be good to have as a point-man.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 2, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

More proof that DC is just like high school. Cut the cord guys.

Posted by: joejoejoe on February 2, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I third doubtful.

Anyone married to Mary Matilin should not be allowed in public.

Stephanopoulos and Begala are leftover corporate asshats from the Clinton corporate administration.

Q: Who was the last democrat who was president prior to Obama?

A: Jimmy Carter

Q: Who was the best republican president since Carter?

A: Clinton - but only because the other corporate republicans were even worse.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on February 2, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Definitely disagree with Biobrain. Anyone married to Mary Matilin is tainted beyond redemption.

She is not a 'republican strategist' - she is a rethugnican tool. She was a member of the Iraq Study Group in Bush's white house that was put together to 'market' war on Iraq like they were selling toothpaste. As such, she is undoubtably guilty of 'crimes against humanity'.

Anyone (Carville) with vested interests in protecting war criminals should be have access to anyone within the White House.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on February 2, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

The problem as I see it is that the right thrives on this kind of aggrieved outrage and the media thrives on controversy. As a result there is a kind of force multiplier effect between the two camps no matter the objective value of the concerns in vein of "Some say these calls between erstwhile political allies are inappropriate...", etc.

Insofar as this particular grievance pulls the media into the mess, there may be less traction for it on that side; though the dailies love to smack the TV machine. Imagine if Rahm spoke daily to his buddies at the UAW and MoveOn.org.

In any case, my experience suggests this kind of sand in the gears can be effective for the right.

Posted by: hoi polloi on February 2, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

They may not get fired, but I can guarantee you Stephanopoulos will be compensating by attacking Dems with a vengeance and without integrity.

Posted by: CDW on February 2, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Well I'm shocked and I'm no conservative. I don't want failed dinos like Carville and Steph influencing the Obama administration. I supported Obam in the primaries in good part to rid the Democratic paerty of the influence of fake Dems like them.

Posted by: wonkie on February 2, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Definitely disagree with Biobrain. Anyone married to Mary Matilin is tainted beyond redemption.

But OldVet, maybe Carville's in love. Love does make us do some stupid things. Of course, the idea of those two being in love does sort of make me nauseous, and not in the good way. But still, I don't see why it should necessarily be held against him. After all, I'm married to someone who doesn't even care about politics, which might be the worse sin of all.

Beyond that, I don't see how Carville is even close to being in a position of deciding anyone's fate as a war criminal, and don't see why it was even mentioned. And no offense, but I'd pick Carville to work for my political team over anyone around here. That guy is a fricking shark. It's just too bad that he bought into all that DLC BS, or he'd really be a good one.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 2, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody remember back in 1980 when George Will helped prep Reagan for his debate with Carter, using material stolen from the Carter campaign? After the debate, he went on ABC and pronounced how Reagan had easily won the debate. He got fired for that, didn't he?

Posted by: Leszek Pawlowicz on February 2, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with the faux outrage coming from conservatives because it's baldly hypocritical, but I also hate, hate, hate, the insular circle-jerk of The Village. Just because these 4 are on the right side (more or less), it doesn't follow that this kind of asskissy, behind-the-scenes communication is a good thing for our Republic.

It's NO DIFFERENT than the moronic policy Russert engaged in -- where all conversations with intimates were considered off-the-record, unless otherwise asked. It's anti-journalism.

Posted by: Jay B. on February 2, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Let me guess, Dick Cheney's secret oil cabal meetings were fine though? It's amazing how much smoke they can blow once they are out of power.

Posted by: Joe D on February 2, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

The "meme" in Redstate circles is that Obama's presidency is illegitimate, that all WH communications must be made available on a day-by-day basis in order to ensure that treason is not committed -- and for that reason, I guess these conversations are considered sedition, at least.

They're all insane.

Posted by: SteinL on February 2, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

"I third doubtful.

Anyone married to Mary Matilin should not be allowed in public." Angryvet

Doubtful, Angry, grow up. I don't like Matilin's politics one bit. Perhaps I'm wrong but I'd guess there are more dimensions to her life (and Carville's) than politics. If the two find marital bliss together that's fine by me.

More on point, neither Carville or Begala are supposed to be unbiased. They're hired to bring a certain point of view to the show. To criticize them for talking to others of a Democratic persuasion, is just plain silly. Stephanopoulos is a little more problematic because of his role is supposed to be more down the middle. It's just difficult to cover your friends honestly, human nature being what it is.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 2, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

OMG. This, after how many years of listening to the talking heads read their talking points from a script? Each night you could tune in and wait hear the newest spin, they spoke as though they shared one brain.

Posted by: beans on February 2, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

These chats among long-time friends, some conservatives said, are evidence of "secret planning sessions" between the president's chief of staff and major media figures.

Well, DUH!
How else did you expect us to get The Fairness Doctrine restored? Do I have to connect the dots for you guys on EVERYTHING?


The hilarious part is some guy is going to read this and see that I'm PROBABLY kidding and then assume that I'm joking about it as a red herring and it IS part of the liberal master plan.

But now that I've written the reverse-psychology angle, he'll wonder whether it's a double fake to get the GOP focused on a decoy issue.

I'm getting a slicker and umbrella. GOP brains exploding are gonna be messier than a Gallgher show.


Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 2, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

This was hardly shocking.
Not to conservatives. There seems to be a definite difference in the ability of conservatives and liberals to recognize propaganda. Conservatives easily recognize right or left bias, and are fairly open about identifying themselves as, for ex., conservative talk radio hosts. Liberals, on the other hand, recognize that Fox is biased, but are totally unable to recognize that most mainstream media "reporters" are biased to the left and slant news. I have argued enough with liberals to recognize that they are quite sincere in this belief.

Posted by: Luther on February 2, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

I have argued enough with liberals to recognize that they are quite sincere in this belief. -Luther

It's because those pesky little things called 'facts' support their assertions, but really, why would you let those keep you from making comments which remove all doubt.

Posted by: doubtful on February 2, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

There seems to be a definite difference in the ability of conservatives and liberals to recognize propaganda.

You said a mouthful there, pal. Oh, wait:

Liberals, on the other hand, recognize that Fox is biased

You don't say...

but are totally unable to recognize that most mainstream media "reporters" are biased to the left and slant news. I have argued enough with liberals to recognize that they are quite sincere in this belief.

I'm shocked, shocked! that you haven't mustered a convincing argument for the existence of liberal media bias.

Jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on February 2, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Proving once again that far right wingers do not believe in compromise of any kind. They are out for a dictatorship that forces their way on the rest of the country. Their own behavior is anti-American and anti-Democratic beside being fascist and insulting. They are cultivated by Rush and others and are so far outside the American process that there is no longer any discussion with them. Closed minded bigots with big mouths.

Posted by: bjobotts on February 2, 2009 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

They are probably PO'd because they can't listen in on the phone as in the days of George.

Posted by: nonheroicvet on February 3, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

As always, any criticism from repugs is actually a confession of their own misdeeds.

For eight years, Fox Noise and all the repug bloggers and pundits took marching orders and talking points directly from the White House.

Whether they actually believe that any dem White House must of course do exactly the same or whether it's just another convenient brick to throw doesn't matter. It's still a confession.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on February 3, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

*************************************************
90% of Talk Radio is conservative. The networks routinely put on twice as many Republicans as Dems. The Media sucked up to Bush for years and played stenographer for him while he spied on them. Bush often hired "journalists" to spew his propaganda, paying them with tax dollars. As others have mentioned, he got retired generals to pose on the networks as "experts" while they pushed his agenda.

Right wingers don't have a problem with government controlled media. They just object if they're not the people controlling it.

Thing is, they do. They still do. And they don't seem to realize it, steeped as they are in their own victimology.

Posted by: Cuchulain on February 2, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

*************************************************

Think about this when you hear Hannities theme song "let freedom ring"... and everytime you hear his callers on the phone declaring Hannity a great American.

Remenber this is ABC network that gives us Walt Disney... don't for get if you wish upon a star you will get a good dose of Pinocchio and jimmy cricket...to save your sole.

Posted by: Megalomania on February 3, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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