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Why I'm Not Going to Be Reading "The Politico" (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?/Special Preemption Edition)

UPDATE: Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post also disagrees with Politico honcho John Harris's characterization of Patrick Ruffini as just a grassroots "conservative weblogger." Cillizza's headline is "Giuliani Hires e-Campaign Expert" and calls Ruffini "one of the real 'gets' on the GOP side" in the new media world. Cillizza is right: Ruffini is an excellent and energetic political activist, advocate, and apparatchik. Not just a conservative weblogger:

Giuliani Hires E-Campaign Expert - The Fix: One of the real "gets" on the GOP side of that world is Patrick Ruffini, who served as the Web master of President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign and then served in a similar role at the Republican National Committee. Ruffini gained recognition in national Republican circles for his blog, which was one of the first serious attempts on the Republican side at building an online community. Ruffini has signed on with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign as an e-campaign adviser. The hiring is only the latest sign that Giuliani is serious about a run for national office in 2008...

Why I'm Not Going to Be Reading "The Politico" (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?/Special Preemption Edition)

Ah. By pure coincidence, the self-description of a Mr. Patrick Ruffini just crossed my desk. It reminded me why I won't be reading a publication, The Politico,, due to be launched on January 23.

Here's Patrick's self-description:

Patrick Ruffini is an online strategist dedicated to helping Republicans and conservatives achieve dominance in a networked era... as a campaign staffer, activist, and analyst.... Since 2005, Ruffini has served as eCampaign Director at the Republican National Committee, overseeing the Party’s online strategy for the 2006 election cycle.... Even during a difficult election cycle, the RNC’s relationship with the blogosphere grew closer and stronger than ever. Beyond these successes, the RNC’s eCampaign also serves as the Republican Party’s R&D arm for innovation on the Internet.... Ruffini has advised Republican candidates and organizations at all levels on best practices for winning online.

In the 2004 election cycle, Ruffini served as webmaster for Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign.... Towards the end of the campaign, Time magazine noted the campaign’s adept strategy of reaching beyond official organs and touching voters through media they know and trust, among them the blogosphere.

Other professional highlights include a previous stint at the RNC during the 2002 cycle and time well spent at the American Enterprise Institute...

Patrick is an able, aggressive, and intelligent apparatchik for the current Republican point of view--not a great thinker with a solid reality-based position on policy, but a great communicator of facts, factoids, visions, and soundbites that tend to make potential voters look more favorably on Republican candidates.

This is of interest right here and now because of the great gap between Patrick Ruffini's self-description and how he is described by Politico honcho John Harris. In his attack on Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing column, Harris wrote:

PressThink: John Harris: [M]y reservations about [Dan Froomkin's] "White House Briefing" are... that... he is presenting a pretty standard liberal critique of Bush... [that would] not be appropriate at all for a news reporter.... I know most readers are not idiots and get the idea that we are sponsoring a blogger. But we know there is confusion on the point.... How Dan would be writing about a Kerry administration is obviously an imponderable. Does Dan present a liberal worldview?... [A] great many people would say yes.... I don't want them thinking he works for the news side.... Without agreeing with the views of this conservative blogger who took on Froomkin, I would say his argument does not seem far-fetched to me...

"This conservative blogger" is Patrick Ruffini. An alternative, more honest John Harris would have written:

Does Dan [Froomkin] present a liberal worldview?... [A] great many people would say yes.... This argument made by the eCampaigns Director of the Republican National Committee and the former webmaster for Bush-Cheney 2004 does not seem far-fetched to me...

Instead of:

Does Dan [Froomkin] present a liberal worldview?... [A] great many people would say yes.... [T]his conservative blogger['s]... argument does not seem far-fetched to me...

Quite a difference, yes?

When I first ran across this, I laughed. I figured that Patrick Ruffini had either accidently or intentionally caused John Harris to mistake astroturf for grassroots--that due to John Harris's poor online research skills, he thought that Patrick was a grassroots conservative weblogger rather than a paid Republican message apparatchik.

Then I learned that I was wrong: that John Harris knew damned well who Patrick Ruffini was and knew damned well whose payroll he was on. He just didn't think he should tell his readers. And I was dumbfounded. John Harris had the sourcing ethics of Judy Miller--the reporter who had promised Vice Presidential aide Scooter Libby that she would identify him not as "a senior administration official" but as "a former Capitol Hill staffer."

So I'm not going to be reading The Politico. There are too many smart, dedicated people writing things trying as hard as they can to tell me how things are for me to spend time reading people who are trying to tell me how things aren't.