The recent unveiling of the Pulitzer Prizes had more of the same politicized whiff that the Oscars oozed earlier this year. Merit is taking a back seat now to "edginess" in both the news and entertainment media. "Speaking truth to power" is in vogue, even if it's not true and even if it's not in the public interest.
The roster of Pulitzer winners had an unmistakable get-Bush smell to them, especially Dana Priest's exposing secret prisons in Europe for terrorists in the Washington Post, and James Risen's and Eric Lichtblau's NSA-surveillance exposure in the New York Times. The Pulitzers have a prize for Public Service, but these leaks in the War on Terror might better deserve an award for Public Endangerment. As Bill Bennett put it, many Americans think it's odd that on these stories, "the leaker can be prosecuted, but the person who wrote it down, told every citizen about it, and told every enemy of every citizen of this country gets a Pulitzer Prize."
There were other awards. The Washington Post won for exposing the offenses of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Nothing wrong with that except for this: Notice that Post reporters like Susan Schmidt, whose work on the Abramoff beat won an award this year, never won a Pulitzer for dogged investigations and scoops they unearthed in the Clinton years.
In fact, if you look back through the eight years of the Clintons, you'd be incredibly hard-pressed to find more than one Pulitzer awarded for exposing the ever-bubbling Clinton scandals. In 1999, a New York Times team (including ace investigator Jeff Gerth) won for disclosing the "corporate sale of American technology to China, with U.S. government approval." Columnist Maureen Dowd won that year for her Lewinsky-era columns, but they attacked all sides with equal vigor. She railed against Ken Starr for "dragging us down to the point where we have to hear the sex secrets of crepuscular Republican swamp life" like Rep. Dan Burton.
Even the lesser Pulitzer prizes this year carried a political tinge. Feature photography winner Todd Heisler of the Rocky Mountain News won for "his haunting, behind-the-scenes look at funerals for Colorado Marines who return from Iraq in caskets," it being too difficult, I suppose, to capture visuals of dramatic, front-line scenes of Colorado Marines performing acts of heroism.
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