Battling Bloggers

(AP Photo)
Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned.

Former White House aide Dan Bartlett has drawn a MediaLand of attention for an interview he did with Texas Monthly, disputing the notion that the media wasn't aggressive enough with pre-war reporting.
White House correspondents have been tagged, unfairly, with not being tough enough on the administration and President Bush in the run-up to the war. If you go back and look, they asked all the right questions. The problem is, they're acting now like they have to be five times more critical, and I think they've gone overboard.
But what really caught this writer's eye was Bartlett's characterization of conservative bloggers:
I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It's a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we've cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.
"Regurgitate?" Really? Coming from a former Bush aide? Oh no he din't. That's basically the equivalent of calling White House reporters 'stenographers.' (And we've learned you don't go there.)

I figured that this wouldn't sit well with right-wing bloggers. But I wasn't quite sure. So I pulled a Captain Renault and e-mailed some "usual suspects."

What did Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit think?
It reads like wishful thinking to me. The White House -- like the GOP generally -- has been extremely lame in dealing with the blogosphere, which is why the left blogosphere has done better since 2004. I get the usual PR stuff, but if they're doing anything more blog-sensitive than that, I haven't been seeing it.
And Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters and political director of BlogTalkRadio, who opted to have a real-life phone conversation?
Us conservative bloggers are just thrilled to find out the White House has a communications department.

I guess my big thing here is the idea that we're a regurgitation device for the White House. If you look at the blogosphere's response to the Dubai ports story or Harriet Miers, it reveals that the blogosphere is its own entity.

Conservative bloggers have no problem being enthusiastic with the White House when we agree. But we don't regurgitate talking points.

Take for example spending. How many times has the conservative blogosphere scolded the White House for spending. We've been talking about this the entire time. They're not really conservative in the critical manner of expanding the government.

The notion that the conservative blogosphere does nothing but regurgitate is, on the face of it, ludicrous. Bartlett's characterization is so laughably false that it shows why this White House has done a lousy job of communication. If they think we're parroting their talking points, they're not reading us or checking their e-mail.

Partly it's because he's out of touch. And partly it's because he's going into he consulting business and he wants to be seen as a master, a guy who was the puppeteer of the blogosphere.

I don't blame the liberal bloggers for having a field day. We would have, if it was the other way around.
And I heard back from Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online:
Eh. I don't think it's that big a deal.

Maybe "regurgitate" is a bad word, but I don't think he meant anything profound or disparaging by it. It is surely true that some conservative bloggers give a very favorable -- they would say "fair" -- hearing to the Administration. But I don't see anything wrong with blogers posting longer and more fleshed-out comments from the administration. Supposedly that's what newspapers and other outlets should want to do if they had the space, right? That's how I read Bartlett.

Some conservative bloggers don't dilute or parse or even mutilate the statements the way the New York Times or -- heh -- CBS sometimes might. Personally, I don't do much of that sort of thing. But I see nothing wrong with it. It's not like Hugh Hewitt or the guys at Powerline are incapable of criticizing the administration or being skeptical of what they're saying. I've seen them stand in opposition to the White House, Bush or Republicans in Congress plenty of times."
More bloggers' responses were cited at National Journal's blogroll.

Another report from Blogistan has Washington Times White House correspondent Joe Curl getting downright nasty with a blogger who picked on him. According to a Daily Kos accounting
– the direct link is not safe for work, let alone many other environments – Curl fired back to an e-mail with salty words that would make George Carlin nod along.

When asked for comment on the Curl kerfuffle (Curlfuffle?), Washington Times Media Relations Manager Kate Brown e-mailed this defense:
This "blogger" called Joe Curl, a veteran reporter and a well-respected journalist, a dishonest hack and accused him of dubiously fixing numbers in his story. This coming from a website with an obvious liberal agenda.

He questioned his character and Joe defended himself.

Funny how bloggers want to be seen as renegade journalists battling mainstream media from the edge, but when push comes to shove, the guy couldn't handle a heated tete-a-tete and instead he tattled to the virtual world.

If you can't stand the heat, it might be time to give back your rebel card.
Wow. Dear readers, we're a long ways from Kumbaya here in MediaLand.

Remember that old school adage about "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel?" The reason being that you wouldn't want to anger a columnist or journalist who could spend space and ink criticizing you publicly.

Remember that? The Internet and blogs have rendered that saying moot. It's a free-for-all out there. Keep your minds sharp and your laptop plugged in at all times.
  • Matthew Felling

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