May 28, 2024

Of Reporters, Hacks

Earlier today Glen Greenwald published what he believes is an email sent to by him Colonel Steve Boylan, the spokesman for General Petraeus.

Boylan – or a clever imitator – gives Greenwald grief about his ethics and objectivity, providing him a tailor-made opportunity for a righteous riposte.  Greenwald eagerly exploits this by decrying the military’s preference for releasing information to media outlets that are receptive to it.

Speaking about Boylan, Greenwald says:

We communicated as part of a matter of public interest about which I was writing — namely, Gen. Petreaus’ selection of blatant right-wing hacks as his interviewers. Of course I was going to write about the communications I had with his spokesman on that issue — that was the whole point of my writing to him — and unlike Tim Russert, I don’t write about things I learn only after I first obtain the permission of government and military officials. The fact that Boylan expects journalists (or anyone else) to keep what he says a secret unless he gives permission speaks volumes about the state of our “political press.”

And later, writing about Steve Schmidt:

The fact that the White House dispatched to Iraq a pure political hack — the former Bush/Cheney ’04 communications official — to incorporate into the U.S. military those communications techniques is obvious evidence of the White House’s deliberate effort to politicize the military’s war communications.

Everyone who disagrees with Greenwald, it seems, is a hack, an incompetent, a tool of the right-wing conspiracy that denies him the ability to make his world view a reality.

This phenomenon is not unique or even isolated to the left side of American politics. But liberals certainly are working hard at it, as the NY Times demonstrated today in the form of a snide editorial by Frank Rich:

“Americans do not yet realize how far outside of the mainstream of conservative thought that Mayor Giuliani’s social views really are,” declared Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council leader, in February. But despite Rudy’s fleeting stabs at fudging his views, they are well known now, and still he leads in national polls of Republican voters and is neck and neck with Fred Thompson in the Bible Belt sanctuary of South Carolina.

There are various explanations for this. One is that 9/11 and terrorism fears trump everything. Another is that the rest of the field is weak. But the most obvious explanation is the one that Washington resists because it contradicts the city’s long-running story line. Namely, that the political clout ritualistically ascribed to Mr. Perkins, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of American Values and their ilk is a sham.

These self-promoting values hacks don’t speak for the American mainstream. They don’t speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves.

James Dobson is a self-promoting hack? I’m not an expert on Dobson, but I dare say that his Focus on the Family books and videos have done far more good for more American families than Rich’s writing ever will.

The common theme in these articles is one that has been frequently noted before. At the risk of tainting this article with Ann Coulter’s name, I like the way she describes the methodology when she says that that liberals’ strategy is to “Always advance as if under attack”.

Anyone who disagrees with them is a hack and an enemy, an approach to politics that reminds me of the Bush administration’s post-9/11.

Given this, is it any wonder that no middle ground can be found in Congress on issues like S-CHIP?  And if there’s so little room for negotiation in that body it’s not surprising that there’s even less give in the offerings of left-leaning writers like Greenwald and Rich.

Read Frank Rich’s article closely and you’ll see that he misses no opportunity to add the additional adjective, to slide in the extra, unnecessary slur. Examples:

  • Rudy Guiliani’s lead is “the great surprise of the 2008 presidential campaign”
  • Christian’s use of their voting power is “bullying and gay-baiting”
  • Voters who like Rudy are “ignorant”
  • James Dobson’s influence is “ritualistically ascribed” to him
  • Members of the Values Voters Summit who didn’t list liberal issues among their own “didn’t even think” to do so
  • Christian leaders are “hypocritical” for not endorsing a hopeless candidate like Sam Brownback
  • Guiliani’s hard line with Iran is not just wrong, it’s “apocalyptic”
  • Christian leaders are “reigning ayatollahs”

Rich gloats without the least shame over the apparent decline of the Religious Right, celebrating Rudy Guiliani’s lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination as proof of a more secular, liberal, conservative party.


Rudy Guiliani is both a flawed man and a flawed candidate. In another electoral cycle he would not fare nearly as well as he is presently. But his perceived advantage over Hillary Clinton in the general election is his teflon armor, the magic alloy that will deflect his opponents’ attempts to shoot him down. That’s why Rudy is winning, make no mistake. As long as he can maintain that perception the race is his to lose.

It is true that the Religious Right’s influence may be on the decline at the moment. Certainly many fiscal conservatives would like to re-focus the Republican party’s message back on financial discipline and responsibility.  I, for one, don’t blame them for that.  George Bush has been a dreadful failure from the fiscal perspective.

It’s ironic, then, that Frank Rich should work for another American institution whose power and influence is fading. The Times’ stock price as been sliding badly this year and is at a 10 year low. Morgan Stanley, the Times’ parent company’s second-largest shareholder, recently sold its entire stake in the company.

Not exactly a vote of confidence, is it? Add to the paper’s financial woes the rumours have been flying about the Times possibly being up for sale and it sounds like the long-standing ability of the Times to influence Americans’ thinking may be dwindling fast.

If Frank Rich’s latest is any indication I can see why.

The question of the day is, who exactly are the hacks here?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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