Dispatches > The Buzz

Blogwatch

Issue: "California's new governor," Oct. 4, 2003

Backlash against a backlash

Is an anti anti-Iraq-war-backlash backlash brewing in the press? Numerous bloggers have pointed out that journalists who were opposed to the Iraq war are accentuating the negative in the rebuilding process. Now newspapers like USA Today are also pointing out an underreporting of progress in rebuilding the country. Glenn Reynolds (glennreynolds.com) laid out the problem: "It may be ... that there really isn't a single coherent story on Iraq. But the Big Media reporting has tried to construct just such a story, not because it's true, but because ... it's the story that they want to tell."

Phil Carter (philcarter.blogspot .com) has often been the blogosphere's go-to guy for military issues, but he occasionally comments on how military opinion can affect other issues. Last week he commented on Wesley Clark's chances of maintaining his poll surge: "The military establishment will leak every negative detail of Clark's military performance to the press that's there to leak-and some that aren't.... And the press will soon stop swooning over Clark like a first date. At that point, which I will call the 'decisive point' of the campaign, Clark will have to retain the ability to raise money and raise issues. If he can, he has a chance; if he doesn't, he's toast ... this will be the toughest fight of Clark's long and impressive career."

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'Loopy stuff'

After Walter Cronkite compared John Ashcroft to the Inquisition's Torquemada ("one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice"), James Taranto (opinionjournal.com /best) critiqued the King of Old Media: "This is loopy stuff. Either Cronkite is lost without a script, or he's lost his mind. And that's the way it is."

Despite recent poll gains, Mr. Taranto thinks that the Democrats will lose in 2004 because they are focused on the wrong thing: "George W. Bush, unlike his father, has somehow managed to become the dominant figure in the Democratic Party.... The whole argument is over Bush's policies.... The debate is all about the Bush tax cuts, the norm against which all the Dems measure their own positions.... Every time they talk about it, they remind the voters that President Bush cut their taxes. Thanks, President Bush! ... When was the last time you heard [a Democratic candidate] say anything that wasn't about Bush, his policies, or his 'lies'? Without Bush, these guys are nothing."

Predictably, Eric Alterman (msnbc.com/news) disagrees: "There's an awful lot of slime to be flung between now and November '04, but [the polls] prove (again) that the RNC folks have people working for them who are unaware that anybody else has access to either the Internet or a long-term memory."

The California outsider

Was it "the seminal moment" in the history of blogging? That's what one blogger (rogerlsimon.com) called the battle between Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub and his employer. Mr. Weintraub, author of The California Insider blog (sacbee.com/static/ weblogs/insider/), is highly regarded for his pithy commentary on the recall election and California politics. But Mr. Weintraub came under attack for posting this on his blog: "If [the California Lt. Governor's] name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher ... it's indisputably true that the legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity."

After reporters from the Bee's newsroom and politicians from the California legislature complained, the Bee decided (in essence) that an editor would check Mr. Weintraub's comments for political correctness before posting them. Mickey Kaus (kausfiles.com) pointed out that the delay in posting might hurt Mr. Weintraub's effectiveness: "The whole point of blogging is that you get someone's take right now, when it can make a difference." Hugh Hewitt (hughhewitt.com) wrote, "Weintraub's blog ... was a genuine innovation in journalism, a decision to move one paper into the new century by equipping its best talent with a computer and a mission to report in real-time, thus moving an old-media dinosaur out of the swamp. Weintraub has consistently delivered scoop after scoop and most of his postings have shaped the news cycle that followed."

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