Gang War: The Stenographers vs. the Aggregators
Andrew Samwick Is in Despair...

Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Ceci Connolly/Health Care Coverage Department)

Why would the Washington Post have a health-care story written by a reporter who knows neither legislative process nor health-care policy substance?

Outsourced to Robert Waldmann (Robert! Paul and Nadine Mende say hello!):

Decimate or Alienate: A good sign of a totally bogus argument is reliance on contradictory presumptions of fact. When one is simply wrong, one can often make a convincing argument by inventing facts. When one is being absurd, one can fall into the temptation to invent inconsistent facts.

In this article in the Washington Post Ceci Connolly is being absurd. She argues that progressives (such as movon) who attack Democratic Senators who don't support a public option are endangering health care reform. For brevity only I will call the first group "leftists" and the second "centrists." "Centrists" is not as accurate as "people who care more about the value of insurance company shares than equity or efficiency and who are willing to sell their votes for campaign contributions" would be more accurate but too long.

She presents two arguments: one stated in her own name (in what is supposed to be a news article), and one ascribed to an anonymous source whom she does not criticize.

The first is that the centrists have the power and might destroy health care reform if their feelings are hurt. Hence her personally stated opinion that leftist pressure is a bad idea because "the intraparty rift runs the risk of alienating centrist Democrats who will be needed to pass a bill." Now I know it was rude of me to suggest that said centrists are more or less corrupt, but at least I didn't assert--as Connolly did--that they are willing to leave people without health insurance out of pique.

The second is that centrist Democrats are better than Republicans and terribly weak so that criticizing them will cause them to lose office -- just look what a close call Ben Nelson had last time. Hence the anonymous source:

The strategist, who asked for anonymity because he was criticizing colleagues, said: "These are friends of ours. I would much rather see a quiet call placed by [Obama chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel saying this isn't helpful. Instead, we try to decimate them?"

So which are they? People so powerful that they must not be offended or they will damage the country, or people so weak that one tenth of them will die horrible deaths if they are criticized?... Oh and did the strategist also ask that it not be mentioned whether or not he or she is paid by big business for helping them with public relations?

Just reading the headline, I knew I'd be hearing about this at eschaton, who linked to Adam Green.

Boy am I late on this. I'm not even the first Waldman[n] to denounce Connolly...

And, of course, from the past: Eric Boehlert on why the world would be a better place if Ceci Connolly had never written a word:

The Press vs. Al Gore : Rolling Stone: Lots of well-known embellishment stories were not legitimate, such as the infamous Love Canal incident. When Gore spoke at Concord High School in New Hampshire on November 30th, 1999, and urged students to take an active role in politics, he recalled that it was a letter years before from a student in Toone, Tennessee, that got then-Rep. Gore interested in the topic of toxic waste. "I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing," Gore told the students. "I looked around the country for other sites like that. I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. I had the first hearing on that issue - and Toone, Tennessee, that was the one that you didn't hear of. But that was the one that started it all."

The next day, both the Washington Post and the New York Time botched the quote, erroneously reporting Gore had bragged, "I was the one that started it all."

The Post's Ceci Connolly, who covered Gore campaign for eighteen months and made the error, today insists that her miscue "did not change the context" of Gore's original statement. She contends that the key quote, the one that catches Gore embellishing, was the quote "I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal." Yet clearly from his response, Gore used the term "found" in reference to "looking around the country for other sites like" Toone, and in no way suggested he uncovered the Love Canal toxic-waste disaster.

Thanks to the high-profile misquote, though, the media's echo chamber erupted, with MSNBC's Chris Matthews mocking Gore for being delusional, while ABC's George Stephanopoulos lamented that the vice president had "revealed his Pinocchio problem." (In a press release, the ever-helpful Republican National Committee cleaned up the mangled quote, changing "that" to "who" in order to make the misquote grammatically correct: "I was the one who started it all.") This time Gore responded quickly but was again too humble, calling a reporter the morning after the Concord visit to say he was sorry if his Love Canal comments had not been clear enough.

It was actually local students, enrolled in a media-literacy course, who had to set the record straight by taking the unusual step of issuing their own press release under the headline TOP TEN REASONS WHY MANY CONCORD HIGH STUDENTS FEEL BETRAYED BY SOME OF THE MEDIA COVERAGE OF AL GORE'S VISIT TO THE THEIR SCHOOL.

It took the Post and the Times a week to run Love Canal corrections. Yet one month before Election Day, the usually reliable Associated Press reported confidently, "Gore's exaggerations have placed him more centrally than warranted at the creation of . . . the Love Canal toxic-waste investigation." The episode fit a distinct pattern: Journalists just refused to drop unflattering Gore stories, no matter what the facts revealed...