Dover Bitch

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Context matters

Via Atrios, DB sees that CBS' Mark Knoller has a beef with Bill Moyers.

Now, I’m the first to concede there are plenty of good reasons to criticize the White House Press. We’re an irascible and unlikable bunch. I’m one of us and I don’t like us very much. But the point made by Bill Moyers at the start of his program last night is just off base.

The broadcast began by focusing on the performance of reporters at President Bush’s news conference on March 6, 2003. We didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be 13 days before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Moyers charges in his opening sentences that the press “largely surrendered its independence and skepticism” and joined with the Bush Administration in marching to war.

Pointing to that news conference, Moyers claims that the White House press corps asked “no hard questions” about the president’s arguments for war.

He shows only a single, brief example of a question – deep in the news conference – in which a reporter asked Mr. Bush to reflect on how he was guided by his faith at that difficult time. Admittedly, it was a softball.

But Moyers did not cite any of the other much more pointed questions put to the President that evening in the East Room.

That would be a great point if a) "much more pointed" than a softball was a real standard; b) the entire thing wasn't scripted; and c) that scene represented the entirety of Moyers' broadcast.

Others have already written about their favorite parts. Jane Hamsher enjoyed seeing Tim Russert play the blue-collar card. Christy Harden Smith enjoyed Judy Miller's moments in the spotlight. Atrios enjoyed seeing Peter Beinart change the subject when he was called on his lack of expertise. Glenn Greenwald highlights the tragic reality that the most demonstrably clueless pundits have even more prominence today and didn't have the guts to talk to Moyers.

All of those segments reverberated with DB as I reflected on the program. But there was another I thought was telling. Moyers (and Eric Boehlert) pointed out that the real story -- THE TRUTH -- was out there for a real reporter to find. The proof was Knight-Ridder.

This news conference wasn't only pathetic because the questions weren't tough enough, it was horrible because by the time it happened, a Washington press corps filled with skeptical and aggressive reporters -- like Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel at Knight Ridder -- would have been armed with enough evidence to make that press conference something Mark Knoller wouldn't feel compelled to defend in 2007.

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