Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 14, 2009

FACTS MATTER, EVEN IN OP-EDS.... It's been fascinating to watch right-wing apoplexy about "czars" work its way into the Republican mainstream. What was once a fringe argument, detached from history and political norms, is now a major topic of conversation among GOP policymakers and their allies.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), for example, is running for governor in Texas, and needs to impress an extremely conservative GOP base in order to win her primary race. So, she wrote an op-ed yesterday for the Washington Post characterizing White House "czars" as an outrageous and unconstitutional abuse.

"A few of them," Hutchison argued, "have formal titles, but most are simply known as 'czars.' They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy."

Amanda Terkel noted how very wrong this is.

In fact, ALL of these officials have formal titles. For example, Hutchison cites Van Jones, the "green jobs czar." But Jones had the title of Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the Council on Environmental Quality. The only person Obama has referred to as a czar is "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske, whose official title is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Additionally, "drug czar" was a term that existed long before the Obama administration.) [...]

Hutchison does not list the 32 individuals whom she considers to be "czars." But if she's relying on the same list as Cantor -- who also cited 32 people -- then several of them are far from unaccountable; they've actually already been confirmed by the Senate.

The Hutchison op-ed also refers to the White House's "czars" as "unprecedented," a claim we also know to be wrong.

Atrios, among others, notes today the problem here is not just with Hutchison's bogus arguments, but also with the Washington Post's willingness to publish an op-ed that misleads readers. That's absolutely true -- Hutchison's piece includes easy-to-check objective claims that don't stand up to scrutiny. It was published anyway.

I'd just add, though, that the same newspaper ran an op-ed from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) just six weeks ago on the exact same topic. It, too, included a series of demonstrably false claims about the administration's "czars," and it, too, was published anyway.

In other words, the Post made a mistake running Hutchison's deliberately misleading op-ed, but it's a mistake the paper has made more than once recently.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Comments

The Post doesn't care if it is op-ed writers or their own columnists who make things up. Strangely, the make-things-up problem seems to be overwhelmingly limited to the reactionaries, racists and associated lunatics. If they ended George Will's error-plagued column, they would cut the number of false statements by a notable amount.

Posted by: freelunch on September 14, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

What does the ombudsman say about this? Do they have an editorial policy that covers this? You would think so.

Posted by: Amy on September 14, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

In today's hurley burley competition for 'readership', facts don't matter. Whoever 'posts' first, wins.

Follow-ups, from fact checking bloggers to the Truthometer's 'pants on fire'responses, are too late to the party; the damage has already been done.

Notice that 'corrections' to front page articles appear on page A37. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 14, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

How can progressives combat these continuing mistruths (okay, lies) that are routinely published by established media? It's so obvious that not only are they lies but that they are also coordinated. Every Republican that desires a seat or a governorship must make these kinds of noises to appease the rabid base that is their only constituent. We can't force people to read blogs or to be conscientious consumers of information, a fact that Republicans count on to ensure message control.

This is nothing new, of course, but it's just so frustrating to continually see this day in and day out, coupled with equally obvious squashing of truth and context, which quite often mirror progressive viewpoints. Our populace lives in two worlds - one that represents truth and reality, and another that represents newspeak and obfuscation. At least for me, this frustration will continue as long the MSM chooses to exist in the latter.

Posted by: terraformer on September 14, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I don't read The Post, or any other print newspaper, so I don't know who is responsible for editorial/fact checking. Is anyone here writing letters of complaint and getting any responses? I am completely blown away by the level of false statements that go unchallenged, directly. It is all well and good to point them out on a blog, but what about going directly to the source?

Posted by: st john on September 14, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know what their editorial policy says, but their behavior shows us that they don't really care if the writer lards the column with falsehoods. They will not pull the column merely because it is wrong.

Katherine Weymouth has betrayed the work her grandparents, particular her grandmother, also named Katherine, did in creating a strong, independent news source. Her uncle, Donald Graham as chairman of the board has been complicit in this betrayal of journalism. Watergate now mocks the Post and reminds everyone of how far they have fallen.

Posted by: freelunch on September 14, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

The left wing needs to come up with its own set of ridiculous attacks to counter the right wing. I suggest that they start an effort to impeach one of the Supreme Court Justices. Find something on Scalia that makes him attackable, and go for it. Put the conservatives on the defensive.

Posted by: candideinnc on September 14, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Scalia is an activist judge who has no respect for precedent. He's more like the justices that conservatives claim to hate than the vast majority of judges who have been attacked by the Right.

Posted by: freelunch on September 14, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Not only do the czars have no formal titles, but they are paid off the books in cash. Some are not even legal residents of the US. Obama hired them from a day-labor office in DC’s Little Odessa neighborhood.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on September 14, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

There's the obvious, sinister corporate angle that the WaPo just wants to attack the Dem Administration and Obama at every turn. But there's something else. All major newspapers seem to view their OpEd pages as an "anything goes" venue simply because it is "opinion". They treat OpEds as totally hands-off, for some type of twisted unbiased balance. Someone should let them know the old saying "You're entitled to your opinion but not your own 'facts'".

Posted by: ckelly on September 14, 2009 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Someone is surprised to discover that Fred Hiatt got where he is by following Ol' Massa's commands? Stop looking at the editorial staff on this stuff - if they weren't doing exactly what their corporate management wanted them to do, they wouldn't be there.

Posted by: TCinLA on September 14, 2009 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

the problem here is not just with Hutchison's bogus arguments, but also with the Washington Post's willingness to publish an op-ed that misleads readers

Goddamnit, Steve, they're not trying to mislead readers — they're fucking LYING.

Say so.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on September 14, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

All major newspapers seem to view their OpEd pages as an "anything goes" venue simply because it is "opinion". They treat OpEds as totally hands-off, for some type of twisted unbiased balance. Someone should let them know the old saying "You're entitled to your opinion but not your own 'facts'".

Um, isn't this free speech?

I don't know a single newspaper that doesn't allow a person to express his opinions -- even if they're lies -- as long as the language isn't obscene.

We just need to get our own op/ed writers who will refute the "facts" that Cantor, Hutchison and others spew.

Posted by: pol on September 14, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

The sadness I feel right now is unfortunate because it could be avoided if the media carried out is societal role more vigilantly.

From the Post onward, the media is morphing right before our eyes from an institution that once spoke truth to power, into a conduit for those out of power speaking lies to the rest of us!

To the Editors everywhere: Help dispell the extremism, the craziness, and the lies! Quit encouraging the sophists among us! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 14, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Not quite right, Steve:

The tradition of the WaPo -- the nation's humiliatingly disgraceful major newspaper in the capital -- is to print whatever untruths are required to prop up corporatist power.

Fred Hiatt's WaPo is a convenient acid test as to the dysfunction of these united snakes.

Posted by: neill on September 14, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't know a single newspaper that doesn't allow a person to express his opinions -- even if they're lies -- as long as the language isn't obscene."

What makes you think a newspaper is an open forum? Aside from small-town papers that print every letter to the editor, ALL papers select what gets to run on their opinion pages from the vast field of available opinions and columns.

Trust me, there are more than five HUNDRED people that would like to express their opinions each day in the Post, not just the four or five that actually see print.

Posted by: Dirty Davey on September 14, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still waiting for the Post to offer Sarah Palin a regular op-ed column.

Posted by: Vicente Fox on September 14, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

"They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy."

If that were true--and I know it's not--but if it were true, and taken to its logical extreme, then you'd have the Doctrine of the Unitary Executive.

In other words, if the situation were much worse than Hutchison says she believes it is, we'd have arrived at the starting point for the George W. Bush philosophy of the presidency.

Which would be quite hypocritical, except of course that Hutchison believes no such thing.

Posted by: Matt on September 14, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Post has no credibility left. Zero. None. The paper of Woodward and Bernstein is by its own admission, no matter how they have tried to backpedal, an institution that sells "access" to lobbyists. They should be taken about as seriously as the free advertising circulars that kids keep dumping on your driveway.

Posted by: T-Rex on September 14, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds to me like Kay Bailey Hutchison might have some valuable evidence about the rumor swirling around the internet that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990? If she has no information, why won't she admit it? And if she has information, why won't she give it up? What reason would she have to lie about Glenn Beck raping and murdering a young girl in 1990? (if, you know, it turns out that he had)

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 14, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

For the politically naive Dems among us, slappy magoo shows how it's done- Lee Atwater style!

Posted by: DAY on September 14, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm waitng for the WaPo to publish Rep. Joe Wilson's Op-Ed on how Obama really is a liar and how heckling the President before a joint session of congress is a long standing tradition that theliberal media has ignored until now.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on September 14, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget Michael Steele's health care piece on the Op-Ed page a few weeks back - that one had to set a modern day record for most lies per Washington Post op-ed - that's really saying something!

Posted by: MikeinDC on September 14, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

What does the ombudsman say about this?
===============

At a guess...

A mistake they just keep on making, no matter how many times they hear it's not so, isn't a mistake. But that's the Post for you.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on September 14, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK
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