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Tilting at Windmills

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October 12, 2009

WH PUSHES BACK AGAINST ANONYMOUS HARWOOD PARAPHRASE.... Following up on an item from this morning, the White House is pushing back against an anonymous paraphrase reported on MSNBC over the weekend.

To briefly recap, John Harwood said the Obama White House considers at least criticism from liberals as "part of the Internet left fringe." Harwood added that "one advisor" told him "those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult." We don't know who said this, why, and what his/her connection is to the administration, if any, but the insulting remark is generating a fair amount of controversy.

This morning, White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told Greg Sargent, on the record:

"That sentiment does not reflect White House thinking at all, we've held easily a dozen calls with the progressive online community because we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth."

Greg added:

[P]araphrased second-hand claims from a single anonymous adviser don't really seem like grounds for sweeping conclusions about the White House's alleged disdain for the online community.... [I]t seems clear by White House actions -- the hiring of Internet outreach staff, the frequent blogger conference calls, the elevation of Huffington Post at press conferences -- that the White House sees the blogosphere as playing a valuable role of sorts.

It's exactly why I'm not more worked up about this. The quote, as characterized by Harwood, was ridiculous. But note, if the White House didn't give a damn about online progressives, Dan Pfeiffer wouldn't be going on the record to distance the White House from the quote at all. If the White House simply expected bloggers to "take off the pajamas," there'd be no need for pushback, since the president's team would simply ignore the complaints.

I just haven't seen the evidence that the White House considers the netroots and progressive activists in general as some kind of annoying sideshow to be ignored. On the contrary, I've seen the opposite. It's why my outrage about a blind paraphrase of an anonymous "advisor" of unknown significance is tempered.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Of course, the response of (much of) the netroots to the idea that they might be "some kind of annoying sideshow" is to...behave like some kind of annoying sideshow.

I'm sorry, but I just can't keep my outrage ratcheted up to 11 all the time, and I have no patience for people who do.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on October 12, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

But note, if the White House didn't give a damn about online progressives, Dan Pfeiffer wouldn't be going on the record to distance the White House from the quote at all.

The kid in me wants to agree with you, but the cynic in me says the White House merely wants to maintain the appearance of caring what the progressive left thinks, and that's why Dan Pfeiffer is paying lip service to this slip of the truth. They know who butters their biscuits.

Posted by: doubtful on October 12, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I'm fairly sure there's a certain amount of disdain amongst elected Dems, just speaking generally, regarding lefty blogs & the like. Unlike the righty blogs, which have always served to further the Republican "message," there's a tremendous amount of (fully warranted!) criticism from the lefties to the elected Dems.

But fortunately, our country is based upon a tradition of being critical of those in power. It's how we came to be a country in the first place, isn't it?

(I could easily concoct a series of righty-blog posts supporting the good King George III against those unwashed rabble-rousers who wish to upset the status quo. Just sayin.)

Posted by: zhak on October 12, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Cue a barrage of posts saying that the without-exception-blog-despising White House is now just trying to placate us with this sneaky statement. Who the fuck has the energy for this? I've already given it several minutes of my life I can't get back.

Posted by: shortstop on October 12, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

First, it's how much power the netroots have.
and then second, it's how much power the netroots generates; and then, thirdly, it is how much power is contained in the netroots...

after that, it is a matter of the white house trying to keep everybody on message. (cf, chris hayes at the nation on "Tuesdays with Rahm" -- aka the veal pen).

and besides -- whether it was just ceasing the opportunity for the prick on cable news -- harwood or wev -- the principle slur was at gay activists in the streets of washington...

not only does the white house hafta palimpsest harwood's ass on netroots, they need ot apologize to the activists in the hrc event.

Posted by: neill on October 12, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

(a little freud, perhaps, in me seizing the ceasing, up there...)

Posted by: neill on October 12, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm fairly sure there's a certain amount of disdain amongst elected Dems, just speaking generally, regarding lefty blogs & the like."

I'm sure there's plenty of disdain amongst elected officials (Dem or Rep) towards voters in general.

The whole didn't seem legitimate to me. Has anyone watched Hardball lately? Apparently, we're back to a full hour of "How come whites don't like this guy?" Ready the "advisor's" statement again. It just doesn't sound authentic, even paraphrased, coming from an adminstration that has used the internet and blogs much to its success. It sounds like a hatchet job. It sounds like the sort of thing contrived to create a story that can be flogged for the week. Typical cable news material.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah... It's the REPORTER who is lying here... I'm sure.

Have fun being loyal Bushies err, Obamatons.

Posted by: soullite on October 12, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

If the White House feels that way, they should get Harwood to disclose the source. (Does the name Rahm ring a bell?)

Posted by: candideinnc on October 12, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Dan Pfeiffer: "we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth."

Sounds like Pfeiffer's saying the conventional media are falling down on a key part of their job, and the blogs - the more policy-oriented ones, anyway - are picking up the slack.

That's hardly a "let's make the blogs feel like we care about them, even though we don't" sort of statement.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 12, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

To be honest, the quoted remark doesn't strike me as all that controversial. Are you wearing pajamas, Steve Bennen? Do you realize what time it is? Do you agree that it would probably be time to take the pajamas off and get dressed if you were? Do you or do you not need to realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult? If you feel that this is something that you do not need to realize, why not? Who else is wearing pajamas? Hilzoy? Digby? Yglesias? Erikson? What about Pajamas Media, are they still in their pajamas?

Posted by: sleepy_commentator on October 12, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds like double dealing to me. Perhaps an effort to divide the Administration from its supporters? I believe the WH knows that without the support of the progressive left wing bloggers they would be in difficulties. Perhaps the "advisor" has his own agenda. Don't let hurt feelings cloud your reason people.

Posted by: csull on October 12, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

So maybe it's not leftist bloggers the WH has a problem with, but just us queers who dare to march and demand the change we were promised in Bam's campaign. Gee, that makes me feel better.

Posted by: Nonblogger on October 12, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

replying to candideinnc:

That is exactly right-- the White House should waive the rights of anonymity of the person who made the pajamas comment and then I'll be happy. I think it was Rahm, by the way.

Posted by: ga73 on October 12, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Just how often are the things politicians say to our faces more truthful than the things they say to the rest of the power elite behind our backs?

Ignoring official statements and listening purely to leaks was a wise choice back when Bush was in power, and it's a wise choice now. Only an idiot actually thinks politicians tell the truth.

Posted by: soullite on October 12, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

It is not too much of an overstatement to say that the "lefty blogs" provide the best existing balance to talk radio and damn near all of cable news (except for Madow, Olberman and Schultz). Without the "lefty blogs" the right would have no real vocal opposition. The MSM would only have to listen to one side.

Of course, the problem for Democrats is that, unlike dittohead radio and cable news, "lefty" blogging invites the inmates to talk back to the powerful.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 12, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

they should get Harwood to disclose the source

It was the Czar in charge of False Birth Certificates and Death Panels.

Posted by: apm on October 12, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Well, that guy can kiss my a$$, but first I've got to take off my pajamas...

Posted by: Glen on October 12, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

No reason to get too freaked out over the Harwood 'paraphrasing'. The job of the DFH bloggersphere is to push the administration, and it's a quite natural reaction for those being pushed not to love the pushy people very much. Given the fact that there are some seriously centrist people in the administration, what's the probability that one of them really said something like this? If the substance of the report is genuine, the bloggersphere should take it as a sign that it is being heard and having an effect in the WH.

As to the speculation that the source for Harwood was Rahm Emanuel, I'd consider that conceivable. But only if Harwood subjected what he was told to some serious cleaning up effort. The original would then have had to be something like "those [f**king] bloggers need to [f**king] take off the [f**king] pajamas, get [f**king] dressed and [f**king] realize that governing a [f**ked-up] country is not a [f**king] party."

Posted by: SRW1 on October 12, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

"take off the pajamas"

That was a favorite catch phrase from Palin, I don't think democratic advisers are running around quoting her.

Posted by: ScottW on October 12, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Alas, this is not the only case of anonymous WH sources defaming progressive bloggers. There have been several.

However, reporters aren't ever going to reveal the names of anyone to whom they've granted anonymity. Even if the President were to waive it (which he won't, and which would be silly to try anyway).

But the President could explicitly condemn such anonymous falsehoods - directly - and pointedly say that any such anonymous remarks are not merely false but by definition of their anonymity void of believable authority. And that any reporter relying upon such anonymity in future reporting has an obligation to also report the President's declaration that such anonymous comments are bald faced lies. And furthermore, should a reporter choose to believe the anonymous source, then the reporter has an obligation to verify the remarks with additional - and more credible - sourcing.

The President could also find out who the anonymous sources are and identify them, if he really wanted (for example, by simply bribing reporters with the currency they always sell out for: access).

Posted by: bz on October 12, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you're entirely too rational. This is the time to go Full Metal Aravosis!1!~!1

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 12, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I just haven't seen the evidence that the White House considers the netroots and progressive activists in general as some kind of annoying sideshow to be ignored.

If that's true, the White House is made of sterner stuff than I am. Because there sure are a lot of annoying sideshows worth ignoring online.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 12, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Some of these bloggers just seem incredibly self-important. The WH doesn't kiss your butt enough, so it's time to take your football and go home? Well, have fun putting your weight behind for T-Paw in 2012, then. They're beginning to sound as bad as the tea-baggers.

Posted by: Indy_Linda on October 12, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think that anyone who's upset about this is the exact type of person Harwood was talking about. He clearly wasn't attacking all liberals or all liberal bloggers, as he singled out the small minority who don't like Obama. And these people had already decided that Obama had betrayed us before he even won the nomination. And no matter what the situation, they will insist that Obama isn't doing the right thing because he's not slamming Republicans with everything he's got at all times. And if you disagree with them (as I often do) you're an Obamabot who lacks any credibility and aren't worthy to debate.

Frankly, I find all this quite obvious and have been talking about these people for awhile. These people simply hate Obama and will attack him for anything he does (eg, win the Nobel Peace Prize). And if Obama does something moderate, it's proof that he's not at all liberal, and if he does something liberal, it wasn't liberal enough. And they will assure you that whatever healthcare bill we get won't be nearly good enough, and they've been telling us that since before Obama took office. These people will never support Obama.

And that's fine. If that's what they want, good for them. But I fail to see how it's any indictment of Obama that he can't get all Dems to support him, or that we acknowledge that these people exist. They sure as hell want us to know they're out there, so I fail to see why we can't acknowledge their blanket disapproval of Obama.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on October 12, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"part of the Internet left fringe" is the remark that was made. He does not say the Left in general or Blogs in general. He is speaking of the fringe. I don't know whom that is (Buzzflash, Bartcop or the like) I imagine. But, the claim is poorly sourced and obviously intended to have an effect...not communicate anything important..

Posted by: Richard on October 12, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is we'll never really know, but it's clear that Obama Administration in general makes an attempt to listen to everyone.

Now, how much credence he gives one over another is something we really don't know.. and may not know for a long long time.

More importantly is to keep plugging along and don't stop...even if a post or two or three get through, it's all worth it.

Posted by: It remains better than it was, but really we don't know on October 12, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

I just haven't seen the evidence that the White House considers the netroots and progressive activists in general as some kind of annoying sideshow to be ignored. On the contrary, I've seen the opposite. It's why my outrage about a blind paraphrase of an anonymous "advisor" of unknown significance is tempered.

Yeah, or maybe it's because you are not actually a progressive activist.

Posted by: Disputo on October 12, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

The WH press conferences should have an accumulative scoreboard with a tally of lies per network (or whatever). The most honest would be selected for questions.

Posted by: Kevin on October 12, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Someone probably did say it. So what. It's fundamentally accurate. The amount of whining from the left and left leaning blogosphere because paradise hasn't arrived after eight months is pitiful. This is a president with his plate full of big problems left to him by the previous twit and he basically deserves an A for what he's achieved so far and yet all we hear from these drama queens is...sob sob... my little sectional interest hasn't been satisfied so I'm taking my ball home....so there. Grow up for godsake, the right are crazy but at least they are staunch in their craziness.

Posted by: John on October 12, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

On the day the day the WH cuts out fox news there is an authorized leak on the Chris M
Matthews show about irrelevant left loggers in their pajamas.

What a coincidence.

The incompetence of some in washington is that they think they control power when they control instruments of state power. And of course the millions who blog can't understand.

In fact power comes from the people. Those who set the terms of the civic debate have the power. The terms of the debate are being set by the out of contact with reality right. And rather than ever take this on the WH leaves this work to the "left" and then mocks them. I am sure rahm can tell you why this makes him a genius while fascist talking points have become part of accepted civics under his watch. A lot of people worked hard with no real assistance from national democrats like ram to come up with an alternative to bush politics. Ram wasn't elected but he and/or those like him are deliberately and consistently undermining the "left.". When the very identification of such a left is every bit as real as al quaeda partnering with hussein. Just another lie that benefits those with power.

So why not start dealing with reality rather than cater to these type of people?

Posted by: razor on October 12, 2009 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not at all worked up about this statement from the White House because it's is quite true.

http://www.newstatesman.com/north-america/2009/10/mehdi-hasan-bush-administration-oba

I also believe that Obama richly deserved the Nobel Prize, the announcement of which many liberals couldn't wait to pile on with Beck & Company. When I think of how lucky we are to have Obama, I think of "first in war, first in peace, first in the heart of his countrymen."

Of course, I guess I'm a bit of Fanboy.

For any liberal, blogger or not, to throw rocks at Obama is tantamount to throwing rocks at one's own foot. And as for taking offense at the modifier "Internet" before "left fringe," I think some people didn't get the memo. Print, TV, or Internet, we are all bloggers now:

Posted by: Steve High on October 12, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

"This is a president with his plate full of big problems left to him by the previous twit"

Funny how the "previous twit" continued to do as he pleased and get everything he wanted with an approval rating in the mid-30s but without nominal control of either House or Senate.

Posted by: Forrest on October 12, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK
Yeah, or maybe it's because you are not actually a progressive activist.
Right--because the most constructive thing we can do right now is start writing people out of the Movement. It worked so well in the '60s, after all. Posted by: Tom Hilton on October 12, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

I was very disappointed that it was John Harwood who succumbed to the "anonymous source" for his "quote". I'd always thought of Harwood as a consummate journalist, but after this, it's apparent he's decided to throw in his lot with the other tabloid reporters!

His serious journalism days are over and that's too bad because I'm going to miss him.

Posted by: mrspeel on October 12, 2009 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

"They sure as hell want us to know they're out there, so I fail to see why we can't acknowledge their blanket disapproval of Obama."

---

Exactly. And what John wrote, too.

Some people on the hard left apparently have the idea that Obama "owed" it to them to enact a completely progressive agenda immediately, and seeing as he hasn't, then he must be just the same as Bush was, etc. Future things that Obama will do with which they do approve will be met with eye rolls and the explanation that it's "too little, too late," or some such.

They are the same sorts of people who branded folks like me as "Republicans" or "blue dogs" because I argued that any workable health care reform that passed Congress and got signed into law and would improve coverage for millions of Americans was a good thing, even if the public option was not included. I'm FOR health care reform, and yet I'm a "Republican." Fascinating.

I'm amazed and saddened that they don't have the brains nor the political savvy to understand that 70 million Americans voted for Obama, and not all of them want the same exact things as they do. That's democracy, and if you give it time, it tends to work well.

Posted by: castanea on October 12, 2009 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

NO, Steve, just the "activist gay" netroots, or the "activist civil libertarian" netroots, is annoying to Obama.

Enabler netroots, like yourself, no such worries.

It's called coffee. Smell it?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on October 12, 2009 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

I've been trying to deal with the hysterical wing of the left for decades, but they're really impervious to reason.

During the Sixties at Yale, I was working to try to end the Viet Nam war through the political process and these people were making public statements about how espousing Maoism was the cure for Amerika. That sure helped the cause.

Many of the netroots (not all, of course) need to realize how many of their fellow citizens consider their utopian views to be distopian, and ask themselves why that might be. Giving some honest thought to that question might have some therapeutic value. People shouldn't have to live their lives consumed by hatred of people who differ with their ideology, however well meant that ideology may be. Heartfelt belief is no substitute for rational analysis.

If only we could pair off one left looney with one right looney -- eventually millions and millions of them -- and have them go off in some parallel universe leaving public discourse to adults!

Posted by: montypythoncleese on October 12, 2009 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Right, because ending Don't Ask Don't Tell is a position only favored by the "hysterical left"... which apparently includes about two thirds of the American people according to the latest polling on the issue.

Posted by: Ranjit on October 12, 2009 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

I like it, Steve High: "For any liberal, blogger or not, to throw rocks at Obama is tantamount to throwing rocks at one's own foot." Maybe like throwing rocks at one's own head--and those of neighbors, family, and friends.

(Such a misleading paraphrase anyway. Left fringe bloggers almost always write in the nude, wearing socks, no pajamas at all.)

Posted by: Giselle on October 12, 2009 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Excuse me. You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. Help me! I can not find sites on the: Brochure print sizes. I found only this - short run brochure printing. Bibles, common prayers, etc, brochure printing. they were connected to expensive brochures where aircraft was though sent in a strong print, distributing directly potential scratch and classicism homes, brochure printing. Brochure printing, yarmouth, to the black star line inc. these brochures began worldwide understand johnson many font, but they looked with his leafleting of modern design and small war. :mad: Thanks in advance. Webster from Lithuania.

Posted by: Webster on February 12, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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