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Froomkin, Harris, Downie and the Washington Post, or Would You Like Fries With That, Mr. Mehlman?

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Some people simply do not know when to contemplate the virtues of silence. I mentioned yesterday that the Washington press corps has no idea of the smoldering public rage that threatens to engulf them, but who knew that it was about ready to immolate the Washington Post's National politics editor John Harris so quickly. Or that he would work so aggressively to bring it on.

After his haughty laird-of-the-manor remarks about Dan Froomkin and what an affront his column entitled "White House Briefing" was to the real reporters who cover the White House, readers struck back with some 675 comments supporting Froomkin.

Harris responded by telling the Post's readers to pipe down and dismantled their piffling complaints with his masterful strokes o' lairdly logic, if he did say so himself. And then OH MY GOD IT GOT UGLY. As one impertinent plebe had the audacity to exclaim:

"Don't be so hard on poor Mr. John Harris. The only thing in his post that I take issue with, is that he forgot to start with: 'Hey Rubes!' After that, his whole post makes more sense."

But Harris evidently looked down and saw excess feet in need of shooting, and engaged in yet another round of target practice in an interview with Jay Rosen. Does he care anything about the thousand plus readers who have written in almost unanimous support of Froomkin, whose column the site acknowledges to be consistently amongst its most popular?Not a damn. Says Harris:

Without agreeing with the views of this conservative blogger who took on Froomkin, I would say his argument does not seem far-fetched to me.

If you follow the link, you will find it leads to Patrick Ruffini, webmaster for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign, who calls Froomkin a "second-rate hack," a "trite Democratic partisan" and accuses him of writing "fluff."

Nice.

But here's the money quote. Rosen asks if White House officials are the ones complaining about Froomkin's column:

John Harris: They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.

This flap is brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party, who will not stand to see itself criticized by a major media outlet without seeking to take down the one who is doing so. And John Harris dutifully complies. Of course, considering Harris's past as one of the people who hijacked the nation and started speaking in tongues over rumors of penis-shaped ornaments on the Clinton Christmas tree, this is hardly surprising.In addition to changing the name of the column to something less likely to pique the GOP, Harris also wants someone hired to "balance" Froomkin who is a bit more up on the latest wingnut fashions. Maybe he should do a Dick Cheney and nominate himself. From an online chat with Harris in October:

Washington, D.C.: Bottom line -- who is the source of the leak, if you had to make an educated guess?

John F. Harris: . . . We certainly know a lot more about how this story got spread than we did before, and the essential role of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and probably others in playing damage control against Joseph Wilson's allegations....

Blacksburg, Va.: Could you comment on US News & World Report's article from the 18th that stated that due to the CIA Leak case "the vice president might step aside..." Have you heard this from your sources as well? Do you think Cheney might be culpable in this probe as well as Libby and Rove?

John F. Harris: I saw that US News item and have to confess I laughed. I think that is getting waaay ahead of the story.

[Note: Later in the chat, Harris admits that his newsroom has been discussing Cheney's possible indictment.]

Danbury, Conn.: . . . Was the position within the CIA, of their employee whose name was leaked, one which really was "secret", "covert" . . causing revealing the individual's name [to be] a crime under any statute? . . .Would revealing the name of even a janitor or receptionist be a crime?

John F. Harris: I think you are identifying important questions. What was the actual degree of intelligence damage by the disclosure of Plame-Wilson's name, and what was the specific crime?

It has long also seemed to me that Joe Wilson's own activities -- publishing op-eds etc. -- were not exactly calculated to maintaining secrecy about himself and his family.

In the 90s, the Post dedicated teams of crack reporters to charting the incremental movements of Bill Clinton's jock. Now they whine about their need to play White House lapdog for the purpose of maintaining "access." That this seismic shift neatly dovetails with John Harris's own political bent is just one of the joys of kismet, I guess.Not to be outdone, in an interview over at E&P Len Downie removes any doubt about which masters the Post overseers serve in this matter:

"We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion," Downie told E&P. "And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."

Great, Len. Seeing as how Froomkin is not assigned to cover the White House, has no official contact with them and has written none of the paper's articles on the subject, you have to wonder at their confusion.

Maybe a simple phone call might be in order.

Jane Hamsher regularly blogs about the CIA leak and other matters at firedoglake.blogspot.com.