Sunday, January 09, 2005

High Comedy

The Meet the Press gang discussing ethics in journalism:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn back home. This was a jolting issue in USA Today newspaper on Friday, that, "Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same. The campaign...required commentator Armstrong Williams `to regularly comment on NCLB [No Child Left Behind] during the course of his broadcasts,' and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004."

Senators led by Democratic leader Harry Reid have written the president, Albert Hunt, to say that Mr. Williams should give the money back, that this was a violation against the law of blatant government propaganda.

MR. HUNT: Well, I don't know what the law is. It strikes me that it's not a very good use of taxpayers' money. It's certainly as egregious a journalist violation as one could engage in. Mr. Williams' column was yanked, as it should be. I will say this. Armstrong did deliver his promise, because I occasionally worked out at a gym and Armstrong's there, and he told me several times, you know, "Why don't you write about No Child Left Behind." I don't know if I'm going to be on one of those government expense accounts or not but...

MR. RUSSERT: How many columns did you do?

MR. HUNT: I didn't do any. So I let him down. I'm sorry, Armstrong. Listen, I'll tell you this. I'll bet that there will be a great market for FOIR, Freedom of Information Requests, in the next couple weeks because I suspect Armstrong Williams is not alone. There have been other people who've been doing this.

MS. MITCHELL: In fact, the Census Bureau has done this. The Department of Health and Human Services has done this in the past on Medicare and other issues. So they have gone to not just to journalists, but they have put out fake news releases...

MR. RUSSERT: Video news releases.

MS. MITCHELL: news releases that are misleading to the average person who believes that they are news reports. And I think that the lines are so blurred. We have to also take a step back and ask, you know, "When did the lines become confusing to people, between what a real journalist is and commentary, analysis or political figures being used as commentators?" I mean, that's really the issue because with all due respect to Mr. Williams, he didn't rise through the normal track of journalism and...

Fascinating comment from pundit Andrea Mitchell, about to provide false information about social security, even though according to NBC her job is:

Andrea Mitchell is the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News, a position she’s held since November 1994. She reports on evolving foreign policy issues in the United States and abroad for all NBC News broadcasts, including “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and for MSNBC.

Later Mrs. Alan Greenspan tells us:

MS. MITCHELL: Well, you're absolutely correct that, if you look at the numbers, these private accounts or personal accounts, and their polling shows them--that if you call them personal accounts, they're not as unpopular; there's, in fact, some support for it compared to private accounts, so it's a matter of semantics in advertising.

But if these accounts were put in place, it would not nearly solve the problem. You're going to have to deal with the essential question, which is that our population is not growing fast enough, combined with immigration, to create enough workers to support a pay-as-you-go retirement system. And if that's the case, you either have to revert to inflation increases rather than wage increases as your standard for what your pension is going to be based on, or make other kinds of changes that will reduce the benefits.

Actually, the private accounts don't address the problem, which may not even exist, at all. And, Ms. Mitchell left out one other possibility, which is a very tiny tax increase.

Let's end with a pop quiz: how many on Russert's roundtable mentioned how much the Bushies are planning to borrow to cover the Social Security transition?

Answer is precisely equal to the number of times Ms. Mitchell's personal affiliations were mentioned.