How did this get past Fred Hiatt?

 wrote about it yesterday, but the article, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in the Washington Post deserves some more attention. It is a rare fact-based, accurate and honest opinion piece.  So naturally I have to wonder how something like this got past Fred Hiatt. Now to be fair, it is an article for the Sunday Outlook section and perhaps somebody other than Hiatt is the decider. Regardless how it got there, it is a clear sign that the cult of the “both-sides-do-it” balancers is under attack–and not just because it calls out the Republicans as the problem in Washington.

Mann and Ornstein also call out political journalists in DC. Hiatt’s ears must have been ringing as he read:

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.

Look ahead to the likely consequences of voters’ choices in the November elections. How would the candidates govern? What could they accomplish? What differences can people expect from a unified Republican or Democratic government, or one divided between the parties?

Perhaps, just perhaps, cracks are appearing in the auto-bias reporting of the “both-sides-do-it” stenographers.  Mann and Ornstein have been in Washington for a long time and they are respected. When they basically call you a media whore in the pages of your own paper, it has to sting a little.

And then there is the new book by Robert Draper, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, that details how the obstruction and dysfunction in Washington is a carefully constructed Republican plan that began the day President Obama took office.

Perhaps it is time for the “both sides do it” meme to meet the dustbin of history. Journalist would serve the Nation better if they sought the truth of a story instead of twisting and/or omitting facts to craft yet another iterative fable to feed the fantasy of “balance”. The article by Mann and Ornstein is a solid hit on the cult of the balancers. May there be many more.

OTOH, as our Head of Infidelity notes, Fred may have been too busy with his usual wanking to even notice the slight.



56 replies
  1. 1

    In my dreams, this could be the event horizon we’ve been waiting for. A small crack in the corporate megamedia machine, to over time blast the rot right out of The NETWORK.

    But I fear the dogs of news profiteering have been let loose, and taken over the realm until further notice.

    In other news, I can’t wait to see this.

  2. 2
    sharl says:

    Yeah, I also wondered how that one made it into the WaPo op-ed section. I suspect the combined reputations of Mann and Ormstein helped. Of course, Fred Hiatt’s team brought in Frank Luntz and Doughy Pantload as countermeasures, as TBogg already noted.

    The comments over there are coming in fast and furious – 5000+ and counting, last time I looked. Part of it is the usual wingnut efforts to “work the refs”. They appear to be failing, but they are tossing out enough chaff to make it hard to wade through all the comments there.

    I did blockquote Cole’s 2009 thing – the dinner-of-tire-rims-and-anthrax post. My comment was quickly swept downward and off the front page of comments in the aforementioned heavy traffic, but not before picking up 6 ‘recommends’. Pretty good under the circumstances, I think.

  3. 3
    Baron Jrod of Keeblershire says:

    And WaPo has the last half of the article is behind a sign-in. No WaPo, I’m not going to memorize yet another name and password just to read your bullshit.

    What the fuck is wrong with the idiots running these papers? Their whole business is gathering information yet they can’t figure out how the goddam internet works.

    Fred Hiatt doesn’t need to be worried about this article. It will probably be gone from the internet in a few weeks. Not out of any attempt to suppress it, but because jackasses are running their site.

  4. 4
    danielx says:

    Kinda-sorta on topic…White House Correspondents’ Dinner. At which I’m sure Fred Hiatt is a guest, and I’m certain you’re correct – he must have been on vacation when this got by. I can picture the veins popping out on his forehead as he reads it…”This DOES NOT FIT OUR BOTH SIDES DO IT STANCE!”…

    A true illustration of the old line about how politics is show business for ugly people…slide show at the link below looks like the Oscars with fewer black ties and less cosmetic surgery. Oh yeah, and Rupert Murdoch looks like fucking Gollum next to his wife.

    Also. Too. God bless Rachel Maddow – although I’m starting to think that anyone who attends this event forfeits any claim to be a journalist.

  5. 5
    dlnelson says:

    After 12 years someone speaks up. Call me shocked. I am beyond annoyed.

  6. 6
    dlnelson says:

    Every time I comment I am in a holding pattern. I am not great on the computer, but really.

  7. 7
    chrismealy says:

    Mann and Ornstein have it exactly backwards. The Republicans in Congress are actually doing what their supporters want.

  8. 8
    sharl says:

    @Baron Jrod of Keeblershire: I just became aware of this WaPo policy earlier today, via tweet by science quackery foe Ben Goldacre (homepage):

    Just read long Washington Post feature. On final page it demands lengthy registration to finish. Fuck. Off. Tell me that at the beginning. (link)

    There’s no way that can help their business.

    ETA: A respondent to Goldacre sez it is actually a 5-free-clicks-only policy that is doing this. Still, I don’t see this working out for them, just because it will piss off so many people who get ambushed, so to speak.

  9. 9
    Mike in NC says:

    I have to wonder how something like this got past Fred Hiatt.

    No worries: the Post will spend three weeks printing retractions from the usual suspects.

  10. 10
    BGinCHI says:

    A reliable source tells me Fred Hiatt was blowing donkeys when that editorial decision came down.

    Sounds truthy to me.

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    Washington Post embroiled in controversy as columnist accuses Earth’s shape of being round.

    Conservative rebuttals to air over the course of the next three weeks.

    The Washington Post does not endorse the political views of any of its columnists.

  12. 12
    becca says:

    That’s a shitload of comments, even for the WaPo.

    I see that as a ray of hope.

  13. 13
    PeakVT says:

    @sharl: clear the cookies for the site. There’s a nice add-on that can do this for the current window.

  14. 14
    ChrisNYC says:

    The amazing thing about this editorial, other than it’s being printed in that paper, is how little of a splash it’s made. Ornstein is as connected as connected gets, right? He puts his name on this scathing and honest editorial in the Beltway bible and …. silence from the political media. They all must be off vetting Obama. Because Breitbart told them to. Vomit.

    And, OT but the Beltwayers so flatter themselves with that “nerd prom” language for the WHCD. As though they’re all wonky and earnest. The inexplicably-self-satisfied-idiot prom is a much better fit.

  15. 15


    Oooh! Very nice! When I ran into the wall, I backed up and cleared cookies and then marched onward to the end. Hooray!

  16. 16
    chrome agnomen says:


    politifact says mostly true: the donkey did not in fact reach climax.

  17. 17
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    If this starts any discussion about how ‘out there’ the Republican party is, this is going to rile the crazies up to Foaming At The Mouth Drudge Flashing Red Alert Defcon Level 1, no doubt about it. The LAST thing they want is for their illusory “both sides do it” narrative to die and expose them for the crazy assholes they have become.

    Anyone who votes Republican today is either a racist, an ignorant fool, has a gun fetish, is masochistic, xenophobic, misogynistic or a religious zealot.

    Too many of them are “all the above”. Far too many.

  18. 18
    Scott S. says:

    I’m sure Hiatt will post several apologies and retractions, declare Mann and Ornstein personas non grata, and hire noted centrists Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter to get the balance sheet level again.

  19. 19
    dmsilev says:

    @BGinCHI: Mickey Kaus is hogging all the goats?

  20. 20
    amk says:

    @chrome agnomen: It prolly had a long dong and was a democrat to boot.

  21. 21
    jrg says:

    I remember in ’03 explaining to my then-girlfriend there was no way the president would lie us into a war. After all, the last Dem president got a BJ from an intern, and the media spent several years crawling up his ass. There’s no way the media would allow his successor to lie us into a war… They’d ask questions. He’d be held accountable.

    And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Fuck the media. Fuck WaPo in particular. Their failure to do their jobs is the #1 reason this country is the goat rodeo it is today. This article is about 15 years late and a trillion dollars short.

  22. 22
    chrome agnomen says:


    there are also many of the rich, who have some sound reasons for wanting the right in charge of things.

  23. 23
    mai naem says:

    Anybody watching the WH Corres Dinner? I know I sound like an OBOT but these events are when I realize how much I like this guy. But,man, he looks tired. He looks like he’s aged a hundred years since he’s been in office. And, Michelle, ofcourse looks splendiriferous as usual.

  24. 24
    driftglass says:

    Delightful news, but seriously, WTF took them so damn long?

  25. 25
    RossInDetroit says:

    Perhaps, just perhaps, cracks are appearing in the auto-bias reporting of the “both-sides-do-it” stenographers.

    My money’s on it getting worse, not better. There’s less money for real reporting. It’s easier and faster to avoid reporting actual news. that situation is not going to reverse itself. The press can’t afford to think, dig and report when they could just be calling the play by play and let the public’s short attention span sweep the slate clean every day.

  26. 26
    mainmati says:

    I have two brothers that are journos; one is at the Dallas News and the other is Senior Regional Editor for Reuters-Thompson in Singapore. Both are award-winning serious journos. They aren’t both sides do it but, then again, they don’t do editorials but rather hard news and analysis. The bullshit on the editorial page is just that. Fred Hyatt and similar aren’t real journalists.

  27. 27
    Insider says:

    Sunday Outlook is not under Fred Hiatt’s control, it’s a newsroom section run by Carlos Lozada. (“Editorial,” Fred’s domain, is completely separate from the newsroom.)

  28. 28
    Scott S. says:

    @RossInDetroit: I think it’ll definitely get worse. Most of the Village reporters are Republicans, and what do Republicans do when someone calls them out on misbehavior? They double down.

  29. 29
    chrome agnomen says:


    agreed. their voices would be even further reduced in significance were it not for CU.

  30. 30
    RossInDetroit says:

    @Scott S.:

    Most of the Village reporters are Republicans, and what do Republicans do when someone calls them out on misbehavior? They double down.

    There’s that, but I think it’s mostly the loss of incentive to find the truth and report it. Traditional news media are going broke because they can’t keep up with the supercharged speed of the news cycle. Stuff that *looks* like news but is just trivia can draw as much attention and revenue as real reporting. There’s just no point in putting 3 days into writing and reporting something that will be forever lost and forgotten in 12 hours.

  31. 31
    schrodinger's cat says:

    When did WashPost go from being the paper that broke the Watergate scandal to being the Pravda on the Potomac?

  32. 32
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @RossInDetroit: I tend agree I mostly think that they are incurious and lazy, more than the being Republicans. Horse race stories are the least amount of work, than say some actual reporting.

  33. 33
    Emerald says:

    The M$M will never change. They’re bought, they’re trained and they believe themselves to be the pros. But they’re becoming ever more irrelevant. It’s all on the intertoobs now.

    Um, is there a broadcast of the Correspondents Dinner anywhere except the CNN live feed? I’ve got that going on my Roku but it seems to be nothing but a long shot. They appear to be eating dinner.

    Probably including a choice of tire rims and anthrax.

    I may go back to the eagles for awhile. They have better table manners anyway.

  34. 34
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:


    That kind falls under the following category: Ignorant Fool :)

  35. 35
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @chrismealy: They weren’t saying that the people in Congress were following the Republican voter’s wishes, they were saying that the entire Republican party has gone crazy. They even blame some of it on the voters.

  36. 36
    JPL says:

    @Emerald: How do you get the cnn live feed on roku? I didn’t realize that you could get a CNN live feed,I thought it was only taped programs. CSPAN online is covering the event but the President doesn’t speak until 10:20 so I’ll wait until then.

  37. 37
    Emerald says:

    @JPL: There’s a CNN channel, which has their live feed as a choice along with the regular stream. Also, it shows up in the Nowhere Channel, which has a plethora of marvelous stuff such as the BBC live from London 24/7, and Euronews live, the full vidcast of Rachel Maddow every night, and all kinds o’ stuff. They just added all three years of the old Connections series with James Burke.

    You can’t find the Nowhere channel in the channel store. You have to google nowhere channel roku, and get the link that’s within the Roku website. Add it to your channel lineup from there. Then go once into the channel store–dunno why–and after that it will appear in your lineup. At first it disappeared a few times, but I got it back just by visiting the Channel Store. Since then no problems.

    I also got the Ustream channel, so I can watch the Decorah Eagles on Roku too.

    Glad to hear the Prez doesn’t speak until after 10 (7 my time).

    Heh. I wonder if Assad is worried tonight.

  38. 38
    Joseph Nobles says:

    I’ve gotten the distinct impression that uncovering Watergate was a mistake on the Post’s part and they’ve been making up for it ever since.

  39. 39
    JPL says:

    @Emerald: thanks
    I wonder if Assad is worried tonight.


  40. 40
    Emerald says:

    @JPL: Here’s the direct link.

    The Nowhere Channel is listed first. Scroll down for CNN and other goodies.

  41. 41
    RossInDetroit says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    It’s easy to say “the press have become stupid and evil” but I don’t think anyone actually believes that’s possible. A more likely explanation, and maybe the universal explanation for everything but dawn, sunset and the weather, is money. It just profits them more to be superficial and avoid drawing conclusions.
    The bottom line in media has disappeared and this is what we get when there’s no money in it any more. Not to mention competition from the much discussed new media is pressuring them to be faster and flashier. Speed and appearance are the enemies of depth and thought.

  42. 42
    sharl says:

    OT (but not entirely):
    For the Twitter-inclined, Foster Kamer is tweeting the WHCD. Some of his tweets seem too good to be true, but I’m gonna believe they are true anyway. #TeamPlayerIyam #NotANatteringNabobOfNegativism

  43. 43
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:


    You don’t have to be a political junkie to see what direction the Republican party has been headed. Even a cursory glance at the right should tell any sentient person all they need to know. I know people have busy lives, I live one, just like everyone else. But if you just ignorantly pull a lever at voting time then you are just playing the political lottery. What these people ignore is that when it comes to lotteries, most people lose.

    There are few winners in any lottery.

  44. 44
    Shalimar says:

    @BGinCHI: I didn’t realize Eddie Murphy had gotten that desperate.

  45. 45
    Alison says:

    @mai naem: Not watching, but I’ll of course watch all the clips that will be blogged to death in the next day or so. But indeed, the main thing I look forward to is seeing what Michelle wore and how freaking amazing she looked, because I don’t doubt for a second that she did :) I’m sure it’s inappropriate to speak this way about the First Lady (though maybe slightly less so since I am also a lady? or maybe not since I’m a lady who sometimes likes ladies?) but she is hot to death. And stylish as all get out.

  46. 46
    David Koch says:


    It’s nice that the #whcd organizers set out an empty cocaine & straw place setting in remembrance of Andrew Breitbart.


  47. 47
    Raven says:

    Wasn’t as funny as last year.

  48. 48

    Nerves Have Been Struck……

    Cracks appearing among the “both-sides-do-it” stenographers? Don’t count on it. This piece was probably a one-off. Look for more whining every time Obama does something the Republicans have been doing since forever …….

  49. 49
    Joe Bohemouth says:

    “When did WashPost go from being the paper that
    broke the Watergate scandal to being the Pravda
    on the Potomac?”

    Truthfully, it’s always been like that even in the Good Old Days. Stenography for the defense, intelligence, and Responsible Business communities.

    It just so happened at one point in the 70s they had a sharp young Navy intelligence veteran (Woodward) whose sources were practically banging him over the head on a story – and probably buttonholing Ben Bradlee at G’town cocktail parties – because things were totally out of hand.

    We don’t have a worse WaPo. We have a more disciplined bureaucracy.

  50. 50
    Amir Khalid says:


    (“Editorial,” Fred’s domain, is completely separate from the newsroom.)

    That right there is what’s wrong with Hiatt’s section. When the people who pontificate on the news are a caste above those who labor at the mere gleaning of it — treated as stars, with fancy salaries and offices, even some media attention of their own — they tend to think of themselves as better than plain old newsroom folk, of their gig as not informed by quite the same values. And too many of the punditocracy never were reporters and editors themselves, especially at a prestigious joint like the Washington Post, which only compounds the problem.

  51. 51
    Steeplejack says:


    Are you allowing cookies for Balloon Juice? Your first comment (with a nym and an e-mail address) is sequestered in moderation until a front-pager releases you into the general population. Thereafter, your comments go through automatically as long as they have the same nym and e-mail address attached. If you don’t have cookies enabled for Balloon Juice, you will have to manually enter those each time you comment, and inevitably you will forget. Then your comment either gets rejected or goes into moderation.

    If that is not the problem, apparently you are mentioning socialism and poker too much.

    ETA: Not clear above that if you have cookies enabled your nym and e-mail address will be automatically populated for you above the comment form.

  52. 52
    Jennifer says:

    We shouldn’t start sucking their dicks just yet.

    They didn’t even make it through the entire piece without falling back on the ol’ false equivalency – stating that Republicans had moved from their 40 yard line past the end zone, while at the same time, Democrats had moved from their 40 to their 25.

    In what fucking universe these guys have been living in are today’s Democrats to the left of McGovern? Are we really supposed to swallow that going from the Great Society to “welfare reform,” cuts to education funding, union busting, NAFTA, etc etc etc were LIBERAL initiatives? For fuck’s sake, Richard Nixon would be to the left of most Democrats today.

  53. 53
    TG Chicago says:

    While this article is good overall, I have a real beef with this part:

    The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

    What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South. They included the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs.

    First of all, they claim that the Democrats moved the 40-yard line to the 25 with no evidence. (Jennifer mentioned this @56, but I just wanted to reiterate — she goes into more detail)

    But what really sticks in my craw is that they briefly breeze by the effect of civil rights legislation on the realignment, but then insist that “there were larger forces at work”.

    Really? Larger forces than racism? Larger forces than the ones which caused those very same states to attempt secession on the basis of their claim to white supremacy?


    I was born and raised in the south, and sometimes I get a bit sensitive to claims about the backwardness of my home region. But I can deal with some hurt fee-fees when the facts are clear.

    The south attempted to rip this country in two in order to maintain white supremacy. That is a fact. And the southern states flipped their political allegiance the moment that the Democratic Party stood up for Civil Rights. That is also a fact.

    Were there other issues? Okay, I can buy that. Were there “larger forces at work”, as they claim? No! There is no relevant force larger than the one that motivated vast numbers of Americans to attempt to cleave our nation in half. Racism, to appropriate Biden’s phrase, is a big fucking deal!

    Is abortion a big deal, too? Sure it is. But no southern state has yet attempted to secede over it. So it’s not as strong a motivator in their view.

    Racism is clearly the largest force at work in the realignment, and it’s very frustrating that this otherwise-encouraging article would claim otherwise.

  54. 54
    Rogers says:

    Cracks?! Mr. G. I love you but get a grip- Mann and Ornstein bravely throw open the barn doors to reveal…an empty barn.The beauty part is Norm probably typed up his portion sitting in his office at Amer.Enterprise.

  55. 55
    Chris says:

    @TG Chicago:

    Is abortion a big deal, too? Sure it is. But no southern state has yet attempted to secede over it. So it’s not as strong a motivator in their view.

    Uber-Catholic Paul Weyrich has gone on record saying that he toured the South back in the seventies after the Roe v. Wade position trying to drum up support for a Catholic-evangelical pro-life coalition (would’ve been the original religious right) and received nothing but indifference or lukewarm support. Wasn’t until after Carter revoked the tax-exempt status of segregated, all-white “Christian” academies in the South that these evangelicals suddenly started calling Paul back.

    That’s what’s so awesome about it: their leaders have admitted, again and again, that they play the ever-living shit out of the race card (last shown by whoever-it-was on Romney’s staff talking about the terror of an America where white people were no longer the majority just this past week). But don’t you dare ever suggest that so much as a single one of them is racist, or you’ll hurt their delicate fee-fees and make them cry enough tears to water the lawn.

    Good on Jennifer and you both for pointing this out.

  56. 56
    RalfW says:

    “Perhaps it is time for the “both sides do it” meme to meet the dustbin of history.”

    Of course. But only through a ton of hard work.

    Why, just on Friday, the Orange satan (no, not Kos, Boehner) boohoo’d “Does everything have to be a fight?” not but a couple days after Draper’s book made it plain as day that everything is a fight because the GOP wants it that way.

    How many news outlets ran Boehner’s rant with zero context a la Draper? I’d wager 99% just quoted him and said bupkus about this being the entirety of the Party of NO plan.

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