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Morning Coffee Videocast: Economic Journalism and Journalistic Economics

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Fred Barnes Edition)

Jonathan Chait reads the Weekly Standard so that the rest of us don't have to, and concludes that Fred Barnes has the morals of a Maoist apparatchik:


For those connoisseurs of Fred Barnes's brand of sycophancy journalism, today's offering is a special treat. Barnes begins his piece, of course, by insisting that the administration's move to strip Karl Rove of his title as deputy chief of staff is not a demotion at all. "The mainstream media may have trouble resisting the temptation to declare that Karl Rove has been demoted, but the truth is quite the contrary," writes Barnes, "By giving up his role as deputy White House chief of staff, Rove has been freed to do what he does best: shape big issues and develop strategies to win elections." Indeed, it's actually a promotion: "In the mini-shuffle announced yesterday, Rove was a winner. No longer will he have to honcho a tedious policy process at the White House, which he's been doing in President Bush's second term. He now will resume the freewheeling role and significant, but limited, responsibilities he held during the first term."

I'd expect no less than this sort of spin from Barnes, whose dispatches, shall we say, tend to closely track Rove's view of the world. What gives today's piece its special status, perhaps marking it as the best Barnes piece ever, is the twist at the end. Barnes congratulates Bush for ignoring the advice that he, Fred Barnes, had given him. A few weeks ago, Barnes urged in print that Bush carry out a dramatic staff shakeup. Today Barnes acknowledges that Bush has not done so and, in the style of a Maoist self-criticism session, praises him for doing it:

The changes are not likely to constitute a facelift that gives the Bush administration an entirely new look. Such a makeover would risk making the president appear desperate. A far-reaching transformation had been proposed--by me, anyway--as a way to rejuvenate the Bush presidency, shock the media and the political community, and dominate the news for weeks. Instead, Bolten is taking a more prudent, gradual and, in the cases of Rove and McClellan, sensible approach.

Got that? If he followed Barnes's advice, Bush would look "desperate." So instead he's taking a more "prudent" and "sensible" course than the one urged by Barnes himself. All hail the maximum leader!

--Jonathan Chait

I'll stop calling this crew "Orwellian" when they stop using 1984 as an operations manual.