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The pitfalls of leaks

One more meta-point on the leaked e-mails. There is a general presumption in journalism that secret information is of more value than public documents. You also see this in the attention paid to gaffes that are, say, caught on a live mic, whereas the speech that follows the utterance will go unremarked.

There's something to this. When people are trying to hide things, exposing those secrets might yield valuable information. And there's the sense that if the information wasn't valuable, people wouldn't be hiding it.

But because exposing private or hidden information is an uncertain process, you often get partial results. So on a liberal-leaning list serv, Weigel blew off steam about some conservative politicians and media figures he didn't like. But no one was taping his conversations with Phil Klein (no relation), his friend who works at the conservative American Spectator. Klein, however, lifts the veil:

I could just as easily report on private conversations in which [Weigel] revealed a fondness for Ronald Reagan, a willingness to vote for Bobby Jindal as president, and agreed that Van Jones should have been fired for his 9/11 trutherism. Plus, it should be noted that in the past, he's even contributed to the American Spectator.

It should also be noted that he went on Keith Olbermann's show and shot down a story about Sarah Palin committing perjury that had been lighting up the liberal blogs, and defended Cato's Michael Cannon against a "dishonest and unfair hit" by the Center for American Progress ... [Weigel] knows his subject matter well, reads constantly, goes to lots of conservative events, maintains friendships with conservatives, and talks to a lot of conservatives for his articles and quotes them accurately.

Getting a couple of e-mails cherrypicked from missives sent on one e-mail list serve is, at best, a snippet of one type of conversation Weigel has. A different type of reconnaissance would've made it look like he's a conservative extremist who admires Ronald Reagan and voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 primaries. A more accurate and full portrait can be found in Liz Mair's assessment: Weigel is an idiosyncratic libertarian who likes some politicians and media figures, and not others. And those likes and dislikes do not fall neatly across partisan lines.

The broader point here is that "leaked" information is not necessarily good information: It can be out of context, incomplete, twisted by an agenda or just plain wrong. Journalists like it because getting something secret is a story that no one can deny is yours and yours alone, but judging a politician by his record and policy papers and journalists by their work often makes a lot more sense.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 25, 2010; 5:20 PM ET
 
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Comments

It's hard to escape the feeling, however, that one only hears these calls to look beyond a few inflammatory emails and view the whole person when that person is a personal friend of the writer. A non-journalist would be less likely to be given the same benefit of the doubt in similar circumstances.

Posted by: tomtildrum | June 25, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Why do you think that Nixon employed "plumbers"?

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse


there is always a judas.
remember
that the enemy never sleeps.

as long as one is in the fray,
sleep with the third eye open,
do not remove one piece of armor.
trust few people,
claim the high ground,
with courage and honesty,
and hold it.

Posted by: jkaren | June 25, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"The broader point here is that "leaked" information is not necessarily good information: It can be out of context, incomplete, twisted by an agenda or just plain wrong. Journalists like it because getting something secret is a story that no one can deny is yours and yours alone, but judging a politician by his record and policy papers and journalists by their work often makes a lot more sense."

Absolutely true, and if a few more journalists get burned the way Weigel did maybe it will make them be more concerned about the serious consequences of their use of "leaked information" and unnamed sources.

Posted by: gramps2 | June 25, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

While I completely agree with your assessment, I can't help but compare journalists' reaction to this, to the "ClimateGate" fiasco...

That situation was even worse. These were emails in a listserv (send to a growing list of many people) while that was communication between 2 parties that was hacked into.

No one in the media was criticizing the crime that was committed. Instead, they were hyperventilating over the usage of the word "trick", which if any had taken a math course beyond freshman college level, would have known was a term in very common usage in the sciences (and especially math).

Unfortunately, (and you are normally the exception to the rule) journalists at a large consider the appropriateness of "news" only when it affects their kind.

Posted by: varunreg | June 25, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like some right-wing headhjunters discredited or at least got fired the one guy who could say nioce things about a conservative pol, or debunk liberal myths, abd be believed by the Left. Now he's gone, and there's no one to pklay that role. Seems pretty short-sighted and spiteful to me.

Plua, lots of his observations about the racism, sexism, destructiveness, idiocy etc of the Right was, you know, True.

Reality has a liberal bias.

Posted by: Mimikatz | June 25, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Tha Liz Mair and Phil Klein pieces each contain a very helpful portrait of Weigel's own personal philosophy, from the perspective of right wing writers who know the man, but the partisan trolls here will simply ignore the facts contained therein, in the unlikely event that they even bother to look.

This is the David Frum episode revisited, only more so. No heretical comments, even those expressed privately, may be tolerated. Thought itself, and the formation of independently reasoned opinion, remain strictly prohibited.

Epistemic closure marches on. Watch out, Liz and Phil!

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

but the partisan trolls here will simply ignore the facts contained therein, in the unlikely event that they even bother to look.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 6:19 PM |

Dave Weigel doesn't put up with some of the nonsense that passes for conservatism, including birtherism and mindless adoration of Sarah Palin. That was unacceptable to trolls (like JakeD2).

Posted by: bearclaw1 | June 25, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I second varunreg.

I like reading your blog, Ezra, and I liked reading Weigel's, and the people who did this were probably people I wouldn't like very much personally or politically, but I can't help but think that this is just desserts after "climategate".

I just can't bring myself to feel sympathetic.

Posted by: zosima | June 25, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

bearclaw1:

I didn't force Weigel to write those things on Journolist, nor did I fire him from WaPo.

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

"I didn't force Weigel to write those things on Journolist, nor did I fire him from WaPo."

We know. But would you have us believe that if you were the editor at WaPo you would not have eagerly accepted Weigel's offer of resignation?

...I thought not.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Btw, what was Weigel doing on that center/left list anyway, as a libertarian? And since he possibly was the most right wing member, and is good friends with right wing bloggers, shouldn't you at least think of the possibility that it was he himself who let rightwing lurkers in? I mean, who else would have allowed effing Tucker Carlson read the archives?

Posted by: Gray62 | June 25, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Patrick_M:

You assume too much. I would not have accepted Weigel's letter of resignation -- I would have certainly reassigned him though -- his "beat" was to cover the Right. That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be on the Right yourself, but it is exceedingly difficult to stay objective or cultivate sources when it becomes public that you keep calling them "ratf*ckers". BTW: Mr. Weigel is the one who cannot accept other views, calling those who disagree with him retards, "ratf*ckers" and wishing they would self-immolate, etc.

So, since you asked the question: if I was the editor of the WaPo, I would have used this as a teaching moment for ALL of my journalists to dig deep, keep an open mind and ESPECIALLY don't insult people just to be part of the "in" crowd. I would also have reminded them all that OBAMA is supposedly President, not anyone from the Right, so they should really be looking at that (and finding out whether the Right will take over Congress or not) and things the actual people in power are doing. You know, like Woodward and Bernstein used to do?

Sorry if you think that to be so unreasonable.

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Gray62:

My best guess would be that one of the more left-leaning members could not tolerate Mr. Weigel even providing a half-hearted defense of anything on the Right and therefore "leaked" the more damaging excerpts to Betsy and Tucker (and others?).

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Part of Ezra's point is that smart people can have complicated and nuanced views and analyses. These are complicated times, so black-and-white analyses will always be wrong.

Cherry picking one line of comments from an analyst without also pointing out mitigating comments from the same analyst is dishonest and misleading to people who want to understand complex problems.

People who purposefully do this are part of the problem.

Posted by: jerry20 | June 25, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Not that Joe Klein is trustworthy in any way, of course. And what does Politico Ben Smith write there: "I'm on Journolist, Klein's off-record listserv"
Uh, Ben Smith??? Ezra, where exactly IS the center, iyho?

Posted by: Gray62 | June 25, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

"Btw, what was Weigel doing on that center/left list anyway, as a libertarian?"


Libertarians (real ones anyway) fit nowhere along the right-left spectrum of the typical platform politics of the two parties. Young liberals are often attracted to half of what libertarians believe (personal civil liberties, no foreign military adventure, etc.) and conservatives are fond of the other half (slash taxes and the scope of government, don't regulate business, etc.).

I can see a real Libertarian feeling equally comfortable (and equally uncomfortable) with the center-left and with the center right.

As a liberal, I have much easier time conversing with someone who thinks like Ron Paul, than I do speaking with someone who thinks like Orrin Hatch or Newt Gingrich. Although I could never buy in to the full bag of libertarian beliefs, I can respect it as a coherent philosophy far more than I do "movement conservatism."

So it doesn''t surprise me that a libertarian was allowed to take part in the center-left dialog.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

While it's most certainly true that individual statements or opinions don't necessarily represent the totality of someone's ideological perspective, I think it's safe to say that calling the group you purport to be a a member of a bunch of bigotted ratfarkers is a subtle indicator that, journalistically, you're deliberately sailing under false colors.

Posted by: OttoDog | June 25, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

"That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be on the Right yourself, but it is exceedingly difficult to stay objective or cultivate sources when it becomes public that you keep..."

Some sources would have dried up, but I suspect even more new ones may have opened up. In any event, Weigel is a good reporter and a good writer, and it was enough of "a teaching moment" for the entire community of bloggers and reporters to see private comments to colleagues being exposed.

Political reporters write things that offend the subjects of their reporting all the time. That does not stop good reporters from being effective, or cause all of their sources to disappear.

Weigel will continue to report effectively about the conservative movement, just not at the WaPo, which will probably replace Weigel's objective blogging with some partisan hack (who will never be quoted speaking ill of great men like Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh).

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

"Weigel will continue to report effectively about the conservative movement, just not at the WaPo, which will probably replace Weigel's objective blogging with some partisan hack (who will never be quoted speaking ill of great men like Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh)."- Posted by: Patrick_M
=============================
Wake me up when E.J. Dionne (or Ezra, for that matter) have any praise for the Right and genuine disdain with Obama.

Posted by: OttoDog | June 25, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

"Wake me up when E.J. Dionne (or Ezra, for that matter) have any praise for the Right and genuine disdain with Obama."

I am quite certain that Ezra and EJ Dionne have met some liberal politicians and media figures whom they find to be insufferable phonies and blowhards. And I I am quite certain that they have discussed those opinions privately, at times with a colorful vocabulary.

The difference is that nobody on the left has stolen and published any private emails that show Ezra or EJ blowing off steam.

The right loves to purge and march in lockstep, the left has a constantly lively internal debate (just ask Blanche Lincoln and Jane Hamsher how they feel about one another's politics).

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

"the left has a constantly lively internal debate (just ask Blanche Lincoln"
Blanche Lincoln isn't "the left". She's not even the center. During Reagan's era she would have been a moderate republican. However, that party has moved to the right, so she runs as a DINO.

Posted by: Gray62 | June 25, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

"Blanche Lincoln isn't "the left". She's not even the center. During Reagan's era she would have been a moderate republican. However, that party has moved to the right, so she runs as a DINO."

She runs as a Democrat, and someone significantly further to the right runs against her as a Republican.

As you well know, ConservaDems are commonly now commonly described as "centrists." Since 1980, it is not only the Democratic Party, but also the Republican party that has moved to the right. The entire political establishment is further to the right.

As frustrating as ConservaDems are to more liberal Democrats, it remains true that all of those ConservaDems have a more liberal voting record than even the most moderate Republicans like Snowe and Collins.

My point remains that there is greater diversity of opinion tolerated on every subject within the "center-left" (and in the Democratic Party) than in the modern conservative movement. The tent on the right is getting very small, and it remains much bigger (and more user-friendly) on the other side of the aisle.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

"I think it's safe to say that calling the group you purport to be a a member of a bunch of bigotted ratfarkers is a subtle indicator that, journalistically, you're deliberately sailing under false colors."

No, he does not call an entire group of which he purports to be a member by that name. And to understand the reference, you need to go back and read "All The President's Men." It was a Republican slang term during that era, first used in the book by a Justice Department official, as the word that describes a practitioner of the sort of political sabotage and dirty tricks that Donald Segretti specialized in.

Although it certainly appears profane, the word has a very specific meaning in old-school Republican political jargon.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I said I wouldn't have fired Weigel. What more do you want?!

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

At least you know who Woodward and Bernstein are. What I wouldn't give for a few of them looking into Obama and the Dems today.

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

"I said I wouldn't have fired Weigel. What more do you want?!"

I admire your restraint. However you also said you would end the "RightNow" blog and put him on a different "beat." Since he is a Libertarian blogge (not a "beat reporter"), who has spent years blogging about the Right, I am having some difficulty understanding what you would have him do at the Post, pour coffee for Krauthammer and Thiessen?

"At least you know who Woodward and Bernstein are. What I wouldn't give for a few of them looking into Obama and the Dems today."

I guess you didn't read (as one example among many) the Rolling Stone piece about the oil leak response. It appeared in the issue just before the one with the McChrystal article that tears apart the Obama Afghanistan strategy and execution.

There has been plenty of reporting that has been tough on Obama policies and personnel in the dreaded "liberal" media in the past year. But conservatives are too busy filling their heads with Beck and Limbaugh and Caribou Barbie to know that.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Tucker Carlson asked who David Weigel is? journalist, opinion writer? I ask the same about Carlson. Or better yet Glen Beck or Hannity. What are they representing and reporting? Conservative media confuses people.

Posted by: cole5433 | June 25, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Patrick_M:

I didn't say I would have stopped "Right Now" (I wouldn't have allowed all of the comments to be deleted either ; )

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 25, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

"I didn't say I would have stopped "Right Now" (I wouldn't have allowed all of the comments to be deleted either ; )"

This is like pulling teeth, JakeD2. You keep talking about what you wouldn't do, and you won't specify what you would do.

His "assignment" was his blog, Right Now, and that blog is what Dave Weigel does. You said you would give him another assignment. That would (by definition) mean the end of Right Now.

Since Wiegel has (for years) been a blogger about the Right, what would you have had him do instead for the Post? Straighten George Will's bow tie every few minutes?

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 25, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

And do you know who else had a secret, insidious, sinister email list? That's right -- HITLER! Check out Glenn Beck's latest episode for the Truth about the Nazi dictator's evil email cabal....

Posted by: Hatt-Swank | June 25, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti said Weigel had called and offered to resign Thursday evening and he accepted on Friday.

"Dave did excellent work for us," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said. But, he said, "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work. . . . There's abundant room on our Web site for a wide range of viewpoints, and we should be transparent about everybody's viewpoint."

Weigel declined to comment except to say that none of the e-mails was sent after he joined The Post. Earlier, he told the Caller: "I've always been of the belief that you could have opinions and could report anyway. . . . People aren't usually asked to stand or fall on everything they've said in private."

Tucker Carlson, the conservative pundit who edits the Caller, said: "I've always liked Dave Weigel and I think he's talented," but that the messages "struck me as the kind of thing you might like to know if you're reading his stories."

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 26, 2010 4:10 AM | Report abuse

Despite your bad rep, you sound somewhat reasonable in this thread, JakeD (for a right winger, I mean). So, what do you think of Carlson? Ain't it the height of hypocrisy to firstly demand access to a private email list, and then to publish cherrypicked content from it?

Posted by: Gray62 | June 26, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, Ezra, I can only hope that you not only carefully review the list of participants in the reincarnation of Journolist, but also take more care to implement security measures, and tools to create alerts if there's a breach of privacy (for instance if the same login is used by IPs that are geographically apart). And then, it may be a good idea to create legally binding terms of use, with contractual fines for a leaking to the public. Simply relying on people's honesty and awareness about privacy rights ain't not good enough nowadays.

Posted by: Gray62 | June 26, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

JakeD2, thanks for bringing in that extra bit of information. I think the WaPo should not have accepted his resignation, especially if the emails were sent before he was a Post employee.

I'm pretty damn angry about this right now, but for the sake of brevity I'll just say that Patrick_M's comments here are spot on. This whole "controversy" is ridiculous.

Posted by: MosBen | June 26, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

When the Washington Post kills a blog, the posts remain for posterity, but the comments are apparently tossed in the memory hole. All the Weigel comments are gone, including 447 comments attached to Weigel's post dealing with the emails that helped him get fired.

Posted by: kryon77 | June 26, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

jerry20,

The East Anglia e-mail leak was a massive, covering all or almost all of email correspondence among a group of scientists for a period of years. The leak was in the public interest, because not only were these scientists taking government money, but their findings were to be the ground for comprehensive economic regulations governing many nations.

Some media may have fixated on "trick" taken out of context. But in full context, the emails were disturbing, for they revealed a corruption of the scientific process, including rigging peer review procedures to exclude critics, thwarting legal discovery requests, and the confession reasonable and evidence-based doubts in private, which these scientists did not reveal in public.

The Weigel leak is many orders of magnitude less important than the East Anglia leaks, but it isn't insignificant. Here I make 2 points:

1) Those on the political Left WANT this to be about Weigel's fixation on the term "ratf**kers," so as to minimize the affair.

2) The disturbing thing about the leaks - and JournoList generally - is the coordination of both opinion and "objective" journalists to support liberal policy objectives, at the sacrifice of honest, factual reporting.

E.g...

a) Weigel gets mad at the Washington Examiner for noting that he cannot dance, and proposes a link boycott. I know you guy don't like that paper, but what if an article there gets something important right?

b) Weigel strategizes about depriving Palin's "death panel" remark of oxygen, so as to better the chance that ObamaCare becomes law. But "death panel" is a incendiary way of referring to health care rationing, which health policy experts on all sides agree is implicated in ObamaCare. And her remark itself made a political impact, thus warranting coverage.

So the leaked Weigel remarks (along with prior JournoList leaks by Kaus and Greenwald) tend to confirm that JournoList was not the innocuous Mensa meeting of your imagination, but was at least in part an effort by liberal journalists to coordinate coverage in the pursuit of liberal policy objectives. And that makes these liberals' reporting fundamentally dishonest.

The blogger Karl says the same thing better than me:

patterico.com/2010/06/25/the-overlooked-story-from-the-weigel-kerfuffle/

Posted by: kryon77 | June 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Weigel gets 1000 words and Froomkin didn't even get one?

Posted by: pj_camp | June 26, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

kryon77,

East Anglia scientists are irrelevant to the Wiegel matter.

-----------------------

"But "death panel" is a incendiary way of referring to health care rationing, which health policy experts on all sides agree is implicated in ObamaCare."

-------------------------

Yes, the quote is incendiary, all right. Furthermore, the quote was pure fear-mongering propaganda. It is utter fiction to say that "experts on all sides agree [rationing] is implicated in ObamaCare." Implicated?

The actual context of the Palin "death panel" quote:

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

If you care about reporting the facts of the bill's provisons, you won't want to see the reporting dragged off into the land of such propagandistic fantasy as little Trig's worthiness of health care being decided based upon his level of productivity in society by subjective evil bureaucrats. A responsible journalist, conservative or liberal, would want the reporting to reflect the actual content of the bill, not what demagogues on either side are making up out of whole cloth.

And really...the business about a links boycott due to an allegation he can't dance...can't you folks recognize levity? I guess not...label it "Can't Dancegate."

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 26, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Conservative Ross Douthat:

"Set aside the fact that Weigel — who’s actually a left-tilting libertarian rather than a liberal partisan — really is a good reporter, good enough and fair enough to have a number of conservative bloggers rallying to his defense, or at least speaking well of his reporting. The more important point is that no journalistic standard was violated by firing off intemperate e-mails to what’s supposed to be a private e-mail list."

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/rossdouthat/index.html

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 26, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Meanwhile... there are rumors that some Journolist message threads written in the period before the Citizens United decision might represent an actionable electioneering conspiracy. It is darkly ironic that the pro-Freedom-of-Speech Citizens United decision might be the very decision that winds up protecting the progressive liberals that detest it so much.

The Journolist participants are all free to express their opinions! The whole incident demonstrates a concerted effort to control and to bias numerous media outlets, which should remind everyone to carefully consider the source of each news report he reads: despite public persona, the reporter delivering such news might be a part of a secret society which deliberately uses biased language to tilt stories -- and even conspires to conceal or to minimize stores -- in an effort to further particular social, political, and financial aims.

To reiterate, the members of such a secret society -- be it the KKK or Journolist -- are absolutely free to hold and share their opinions and to pursue their particular aims. They can attempt to characterize their group-think opinions as news... unless and until an educated public questions and rejects it.

Posted by: rmgregory | June 26, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

i always thought it was a bad joke to have this guy covering conservatives for a supposedly neutral major newspaper...it would be like giving rush limbaugh or glenn beck a column in the Post to cover liberals...or like letting ezra klein cover health care.

these people all have a political ax to grind...on both the right and the left. is it so hard to find a fair and neutral reporter?!?!

Posted by: publius27 | June 26, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Wottajoke. Weigel, like Klein, is a ratplooking, leftist propagandist working to shape the narrative to suit the collectivist fantasy.

The guy voted for Obama. He supported the disaster of health care "reform". He was a member of Klein's circle jerk club that excluded conservatives.

If one wanted to be charitable, one could say that Weigel is just deeply confused, even about what he himself is, but there's no upside to that.

Better leave it that he was plant and got found out. The alternative really is worse.

Now, if only the Washington Post would recognize that Klein himself is not an asset that a reputable newspaper would count itself as holding...


Posted by: msoja | June 26, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Patrick_M,

You're right - "can't dancegate" should not have been included as one of my examples. Though I do think that those who cannot dance should not try it in public; that's my policy.

Though I disagree (because the statutory language of the law does set up commissions who will ration care), I think you make a fair argument against making too much of Palin's "death panel" remark. My point is that individual reporters should be arriving at these conclusions themselves, in consultation with their editors, and not in coordination with like-minded colleagues from other outfits, whose criteria of inclusion in the conversation is explicitly ideological.

Here's what Weigel said:

The Huffington Post ran “a picture of Sarah Palin, linking to a poll that suggests 45 percent of Americans believe her death panel lie. But as long as the top liberal-leaning news site talks about it every single hour of every day, I’m sure that number will go down.”
[I think Weigel meant "go up," else the comment makes no sense.]

“Let’s move the f*** on already."

Now, it's clear that Weigel agrees with you that Palin's "death panel" remark was nonsense. But can you deny that Weigel, who cheerleads for ObamaCare in other remarks, was not additionally, if not primarily, motivated by getting the outcome he wanted - passage of ObamaCare - and that's what drove his effort to coordinate coverage with like-minded colleagues?

“Let’s move the f*** on already," says Weigel, to fellow reporters who were offering in their articles and broadcasts factual arguments attempting to refute Palin's "death panel" accusation. Why the objection to reporting that - to Weigel's mind - is substantially correct? Because any mention of "death panels" will cause a benighted public to revolt, thus endangering the passage of ObamaCare.

Anyway, I know I'm an ideological stranger to this blog, so thanks for responding to me reasonably.

Posted by: kryon77 | June 26, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"But can you deny that Weigel, who cheerleads for ObamaCare in other remarks, was not additionally, if not primarily, motivated by getting the outcome he wanted - passage of ObamaCare - and that's what drove his effort to coordinate coverage with like-minded colleagues?"

Yes, I can and do deny that. I think that people on the pro and con sides of the bill, based upon its actual substantive content, would prefer to get past a obsessive reporting of remarks that are not tethered in reality and focus instead on what the bill does and does not actually say.

If I accept your contention that the language in the bill "the statutory language of the law does set up commissions who will ration care" then I would prefer reporting that explored the actual content of that language, rather than the image of little Trig Palin awaiting word about whether or not he is sufficiently productive to see a doctor.

Certainly fact-based investigative coverage of an issue is what responsible journalists would want, and what most news consumers constantly gripe is often lacking in the modern media.

"Because any mention of "death panels" will cause a benighted public to revolt, thus endangering the passage of ObamaCare."

No, "any mention" had already occurred (ad naseum), and in fact the media had become fixated on the remarks. The "move on" remark is what one says after there has already been more than enough attention than a thing merits, and when the more substantive issues are being driven down below manipulative political messages designed to enrage the under-informed.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 26, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Gray62:

No (who is to say whether Tucker published everything he was given or not?). I have to assume that the leaker KNEW Tucker had just been denied access. Think "Deep Throat" providing just the right reporters at WaPo the right info, or even Daniel Eislberg (sp?) giving the NYT the "Pentagon Papers". Or, is a leak only good when YOUR side benefits?

MosBen:

You're welcome. I saw that early this morning in a WaPo article.

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 26, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/25/AR2010062504413.html

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 26, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Weigel vote for Jindel? Don't make me laugh. I can't tell you how many of my liberal friends claimed they would vote for McCain for President until he actually ran. Then they hated him like I predicted they would if he got on the ticket.

Posted by: jcam1 | June 26, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"But, he said, "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work."

---

I totally agree. Anyone on your staff who belongs to the JournoList is conflicted and biased, and needs to be fired yesterday. We will make this little self-selected cabal of arse-licking stenographers a badge of shame, mark my words.

Posted by: JohnSkookum | June 26, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Buried in today's WaPo omsbudsman’s piece, is this nugget.

"He [Raju Narisetti, the managing editor who oversees The Post’s Web site] said that when Weigel was hired, he was vetted in the same way that other prospective Post journalists are screened. He interviewed with a variety of top editors, his writings were reviewed and his references were checked, Narisetti said."

Unwittingly, Narisetti damned the entire process by which the Washington Post is operated. Weigel’s hiring wasn’t an anomoly: it was the norm.

Ombudsman Andrew Alexander closed his piece with the following.

"Alas, it took only one listserv participant to bundle up Weigel’s archived comments and start leaking them outside the group. The result is that Weigel lost his job. But the bigger loss is The Post’s standing among conservatives."

LOL!!! What "standing"?!

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 26, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

The leaked e-mail is a far smaller problem than the conceit that Weigel somehow deserves to be fired for anything he said on the list.

Posted by: tyromania | June 26, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I said that Weigel should have been "reassigned".

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 26, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"I said that Weigel should have been "reassigned."

JakeD2,

1). Don't assume that tyromania is responding to you.

2). Yes, you said you reassign Dave Wiegel, but to what position?

You have been asked numerous time what his new assignment at the JakeD2-operated Post should have been.

Since you won't answer the question, we'll henceforth assume you would have made Dave Wiegel Editor-In-Chief.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 26, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, ratf@&?kers makes perfect sense in context, just like spiked acid-tipped dicks.

Posted by: Jenga918 | June 26, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

This isn't the end of it either, since Journolist has now been compromised look for steady leaks going forward. I hope the people that were on it are renting and didn't buy. No wonder they are pissed about the unemployment insurance issue.

Posted by: Jenga918 | June 26, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Stay classy, trolls.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 26, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

"...since Journolist has now been compromised look for steady leaks going forward..."

Here is the kind of excitement you can look forward to, courtesy of member Matt Yglesias:

"...I’ve been looking back a bit at what’s archived in my inbox and what you see lately is an effort to organize a happy hour in Dave Weigel honor, many threads about World Cup matches, Wimbledon matches, NBA Finals games, etc., and mostly a lot of what amounts to self-promotion. People sending out links to articles they’ve published or talks they’ve given, sometimes followed by a reply or two. We had a thread in which people speculated as to where Peter Orszag will end up when he leaves the White House.

This is the sort of thing that journalists like to talk about, but don’t like to write about in public, because it’s unprofessional to publish baseless speculation. Absent email lists those of us living in “the village” can talk about this kind of thing at the bar (or the mythical cocktail party), but the email list is a useful way for writers living in New York or the West Coast or at home with their kids to also listen in and chit chat.

Another common genre of posts was failed efforts to get an interesting discussion going. Someone recently wrote “I find that my own attitudes have hardened a bit regarding intergenerational equity and Medicare cost control issues after watching so many implacable seniors opposing HCR. Others feel the same?” That’s an interesting subject, in my opinion, but only one person replied.

More rarely, debate would really take off. As I alluded to here some of us had a long debate about whether middle class New Yorkers who own extremely expensive pieces of real estate really count as “rich.” Topics that traditionally divide liberals—trade, issues related to merit pay and charter schools, Israel—would often generate long threads.

Last but by no means least, you had requests for help. “Anyone have an email for Vanity fair columnist James Wolcott?” That was a quick one. A discussion got going recently about whether it made sense for writers to branch out into podcasts or video and what advice folks might have about that. Someone asked “there was one episode earlier this year when the D’s threatened that they were gonna roll out the cots and really make the R’s filibuster, and the R’s caved immediately. What was that about?” There was a question about whether anyone has any contacts at CSPAN."

Yeah, explosive material that will really blow the lid off everything. Yawn.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 26, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

"Weigel blew off steam about some conservative politicians and media figures he didn't like"

If by "blew off steam" you mean "acted like a petulant, spoiled 6 year old" then, yes. ;)

"'leaked' information is not necessarily good information: It can be out of context"

By definition, leaked information is out of context.

"but judging a politician by his record and policy papers and journalists by their work often makes a lot more sense."

That would require a general, across-ideological-lines consensus that just isn't going to happen. So, it's a nice thought, but, no.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 26, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

@Jenga: "Yeah, ratf@&?kers makes perfect sense in context"

You've never said a profane word against anybody in conversation with a friend?

But, yeah, in this case "out of context" is probably not the best way to characterize it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 26, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

@MimiKatz: "or debunk liberal myths, abd be believed by the Left."

Yeah, that doesn't happen. What happened to Weigel was wrong, but not because he was ever going to convince the left of anything positive about the right.

@Patrick_M: "No heretical comments, even those expressed privately, may be tolerated."

Depends on who you're talking to. If you're talking to the editors of the WaPo, or Tucker Carlson, then apparently not. I think what Weigel said in a quasi-public forum makes him a jackass (sort of like the fat guy at the office who gets drunk and hits on the hot and married secretary at the Christmas party), but he certainly has the right to express the fact he's got emotional problems. To anybody he wants to.

And, um, he didn't do it in his column, or in a public speech, so . . . he should have just gotten a reproachful look and a frown, and a reminder not to drink so much at the next party. The overreaction from multiple quarters (and not just the right) does, indeed, appear to be political correctness run amok.

Some might say: "Well, it's good to see the pigeons coming home to roost." I'm not so sure.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 26, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

@Kevin "You've never said a profane word against anybody in conversation with a friend?"
With a friend in conversation, maybe. With 400 friends online with 400 hard drives, not a chance. Broadcast on twitter like Klein did, nope can't recall that.
@ Patrick, like Yglesias would list anything remotely controversial after this. Time will tell if anything else comes out

Posted by: Jenga918 | June 27, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

"@Kevin "You've never said a profane word against anybody in conversation with a friend?"
With a friend in conversation, maybe. With 400 friends online with 400 hard drives, not a chance. Broadcast on twitter like Klein did, nope can't recall that.
@ Patrick, like Yglesias would list anything remotely controversial after this. Time will tell if anything else comes out"


The rat term is certainly profane on its face, but in case neither of you are old enough to understand its history, it goes way back in the parlance of the Republican Party to the Nixon era, at which time it was the name for a Republican operative who specializes in the dark arts of political sabotage, ala Watergate figure Donald Segretti. Read "All The Presidents Men," where Woodward and Bernstein first hear the term from a Justice Department official.

The leaked bits and pieces are a little less jolting once you know the context, which of course the Daily Caller and the DC Toilet-er-Fish, Bowl take great pains to avoid, substituting instead their own editorial spin.

Kevin, if you actually get the references, and the use of irony, Wiegel is not the drunk at the office party--far from it. But the Tucker Carlson hit job has obviously had its desired effect.

Honest people in the trade of political journalism are candid and even profane when discussing their objects of their reporting with one another. How shocking and lamentable (for the thought police).

Elements within the right wing took out a fair and interesting blogger who generally portrayed the Tea Party and modern conservatism in a thoughtful and generous light. Numerous right wing thinkers have defended Dave Wiegel's work, to their credit. This was a self-inflicted loss for the right.

And it was bad deal for anyone (like me) who likes to read well-reasoned thinking, (rather than sychophantic pablum), from both the right and the left.

Enough said, at least by me.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 27, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

All this nuance....

Paleeeeze!!!

Bottom line is Dave was not qualified for his job, and was exposed for what he is.
Dave was not just a reporter, but he was an actor...trying actively to shape public opinion to a predetermined end of his choosing all the while allowing the public to buy into the unbiased MSM meme.

Dave was a dirty bird and he is just the one that got caught.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | June 27, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

The Post owes its readers a full disclosure of everything on the Journolist. Who collaborated? How was the message structured and planned? Were other Post employees involved? What did they say or do and what wound up in the pages of the Post as a result? This is not a small story and it won't go away. Either the Post gets in front of it or its credibility is lost.

Posted by: jy151310 | June 27, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

"Kevin, if you actually get the references, and the use of irony, Wiegel is not the drunk at the office party--far from it. But the Tucker Carlson hit job has obviously had its desired effect."

Then he was a sober jackass. I get the references, and you can make any excuse for it you want, but it's still an excuse. I understand the "references" for wishing Matt Drudge would kill himself by setting himself on fire, but I still don't think much of it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 27, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Patrick_M:

It's not my hypothetical, but whichever position was available, his first assignment should have been finding out who leaked his email (if the only other job available were Editor-in-Chief, then I guess I would have had to accept Weigel's resignation ; )

jy151310:

I agree completely. So far, we know at least four WaPo employees who were members.

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 27, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"Bottom line is Dave was not qualified for his job, and was exposed for what he is. Dave was not just a reporter, but he was an actor."

Back in 1980, George Will was part of the team preparing candidate Ronald Reagan for his debate with Jimmy Carter, in part using materials he knew had been stolen from the Carter campaign. After the debate, he commented both in print and on broadcast outlets about the excellent job Reagan did. Of course, there was no mention of his own role in the Reagan campaign, nor any reporting by him on the theft, which would have been a pretty good scoop for his paper.

This is a great deal more of a role as an actor than anything Wiegel or anyone else on JL can be shown to have done.

Since Will was never even censured by the Post and has continued to be published by them from that day to this, I'd say they're in no position to hold Wiegel or anyone else to that standard. Neither is anyone who hasn't been on the record demanding Will's firing for the last 30 years.

Posted by: zimbar | June 27, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Given the magnanimity,warmth,and coddling that open racists (hi, JakeD[2]!) receive on Chris Cillizza's blog, I can only wonder what n-words would come to light if his private correspondences were shared. Contributors to comments have been banned for calling out racists but the racists themselves have never even gotten a warning.

And the teabaggers get the kid gloves treatment there, too, a legitimate political force that harkens back to white-only lunch counters and carries signs showing President Obama with a bone in his nose.

A sad demise for a once great paper.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | June 27, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

@zimbar: what's amazing about George Will is that anyone would read him at all. His writing is abomiable, lacking in coherence and structure, like a snarky sixth grader with a thesaurus. I guess he's what conservatives regard as an intellectual.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | June 27, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

The leaks revealed a juvenile and angry personality. That was the problem with them. The fact that information is gotten through the bad behavior of the informant does not mean the information itself is "bad" or should be dismissed, as Klein implies.

Posted by: truck1 | June 27, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

The JournoList is unethical and a violation of journalistic ethics. A large group of like-minded thinkers meeting at a bar and discussing issues is not a violation of journalistic ethics--the scale and immediacy of the project is what makes it unethical. Bloggers are free to do whatever they want, but anybody that gets paid to write for a major news publication and pretends do be a somewhat objective journalist should NOT belong to a group that will inevitably lead to groupthink.

I followed the 2008 Democratic primary very closely, in retrospect it was obvious that something was going on behind the scenes in order to help Obama...but I didn't know exactly what it was at the time. At the end of many a day I literally came away thinking I was crazy because of how I was analyzing news versus how the talking heads and pundits were analyzing news...after taking it all in, I would always come to the conclusion that I was right, and all the liberal pundits just must frequent the same bars in DC and NYC...and they must all have drinking problems ;)

The internet is a great tool, but journalists must not abuse the power of group collaboration that the internet allows. I honestly thought that the JournoList had been disbanded because when it first came to light it simply did not pass the "smell test". The fact that an individual lost their job because of this group was inevitable because of the unethical foundation of the group.

I really believe some of the journalism schools need to look into these types of things and come up with new ethical guidelines for this type of collaboration--as well as how paid bloggers fit into this equation.

Posted by: Susannah1 | June 28, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse

The JournoList is a cabal that plotted to get Obama nominated as the Democratic candidate by attempting to influence the superdelegates that delivered the nomination to Obama?

Please answer this Ezra--DID THE JOURNOLIST PLAY A PART IN THE NY TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD'S DECISION TO DELAY THE PUBLISHING OF THE EDITORIAL "PRIMARY REFORMS" UNTIL AFTER HILLARY QUIT THE RACE? The editorial would have clearly helped Hillary by undermining the Orwellian claim by Obama supporters that caucuses were a true reflection of the "will of the people".

Posted by: Susannah1 | June 28, 2010 2:28 AM | Report abuse

truck1:

"The leaks revealed a juvenile and angry personality."

You are confusing Weigel with other conservatives, the correct names are Dick Cheney and George W. Bush:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3699-2004Jun24.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8w7Yz1Htz4

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 28, 2010 4:37 AM | Report abuse

"The JournoList is a cabal that plotted to get Obama nominated...the Orwellian claim by Obama supporters that caucuses were a true reflection of the "will of the people...I really believe some of the journalism schools need to look into these types of things and come up with new ethical guidelines for this type of collaboration..."

As in "NEW GUIDELINE: No journalist may have an opinion of any sort nor may any such opinion on any topic ever be expressed in any private email message. OTHER NEW GUIDELINE: It is ethically wonderful for CONSERVATIVE media publicity seekers to invade the private communications of anyone and reprint heavily edited and cherry-picked excerpts. That is SO-O-O-O ethical."

"At the end of many a day I literally came away thinking I was crazy...."

Sometimes you need to trust your initial instincts, Susannah1.

The black man won the election because most Americans thought he would be a better President than John McCain, not because the Orwellian JournoList readers led by the evil young genius Ezra Klein all conspired to brainwash your gullible neighbors into voting for the Muslim Kenyan socialist terrorist.

Get a grip.


Posted by: Patrick_M | June 28, 2010 4:54 AM | Report abuse

So-called 'climategate' is an extreme example of the phony allure of purloined information.

Posted by: AlanDownunder | June 28, 2010 5:13 AM | Report abuse

AlanDownunder.

Indeed.

Sadly, the demogogues that lead the extreme American right have developed a highly profitable industry from inventing a fresh dark conspiracy on a weekly basis that will purportedly explain current events to the under-informed and easily confused.

It is now one of the few going concerns in the sinking modern American economy, but it is an uniquely lucrative venture for Palin. Beck, Limbaugh, Steele, Armey, and the rest of the tiny circle that milk the rubes.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 28, 2010 5:40 AM | Report abuse

"The JournoList is a cabal that plotted..."

Oh Susannah1, a mailing list is not a cabal. To learn about actual cabals involving the press, consider the case of George W. Bush and the manipuation of journalist Judith Miller by Cheney and Scooter Libby:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Miller_(journalist)

or consider the case of George W. Bush and the planted fake journalist/male prostitue Jeff Gannon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Gannon

or consider how the Bush administration paid columnists to spin the news:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_administration_payment_of_columnists


Dave Wiegel letting off steam to friends anything on a professional email list? Yawn...

Anything close to the level of press-politics ethical chicanery in the examples named above?

ROTFLOL....

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 28, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

The real troll on this site is Patrick M. Does this guy have a job? Name one person who posts more often.

Posted by: truck1 | June 28, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

"The real troll on this site is Patrick M. Does this guy have a job? Name one person who posts more often."

About to board a plane (on business) at Newark. I hereby nominate:

truck1,

wrongfuldeath,

rmrgregory,

and the always delighful msoja.

But (having a job) I must curtail the list there.

Posted by: Patrick_M | June 28, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

"The real troll on this site is Patrick M. Does this guy have a job? Name one person who posts more often."

While the ill-considered pabulum (in my amazingly humble opinion) on both sides of this argument (this is a blanket indictment of conservatives, this is a blanket indictment of the media, this was a secret cabal led by journolist) doesn't do much for me, I think the accusations of regular posters with honest opinions being "trolls" completely misunderstands the term.

Truck1 is not a troll. Patrick_M is not a troll. By any useful definition of the word that means anything specific. Unless you're redefining "troll" to mean "anybody who posts anything I disagree with".

Happy Monday, everybody!

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 28, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Tucker Carlson is a weasel. Even conservative journalists should be allowed to privately try out ideas and play the devil while they work their thoughts out. Bill Buckley said many an intemperate thing as he worked his way from good to better to best. Best was what got published -- good but intemperate was left in the file folder.

Besides, just about everyone would like to see Matt Drudge go up in a ball of flames. If liking Matt Drudge becomes a part of the Conservative's Board Exam they really are willing to have a mighty, mighty small movement.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | June 28, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I like Matt Drudge.

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 28, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I like Andrew Breitbart even more:

http://bigjournalism.com/abreitbart/2010/06/29/reward-100000-for-full-journolist-archive-source-fully-protected/

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 29, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

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