So Who Was Doing the White House's Bidding?

Carol Platt Liebau

7/4/2013 1:31:22 PM - Carol Platt Liebau

In a New York Times piece serving as an appetizer for his new insider account of DC, reporter Mark Leibovich includes the following nugget of information, about White House attempts in the summer of 2010 to smear prospective Government Oversight and Reform Chairman Rep. Darryl Issa:

I had no idea of Issa’s history until I got a call one summer afternoon from the White House, peddling oppo. Bill Burton, then the deputy press secretary at the White House, urged me (in the most sheepish and above-it-all tones) to spend some time “getting to know Darrell Issa.” As an hors d’oeuvre, Burton mentioned the auto thefts.

(If you're wondering who in the President's entourage at the time might have been pushing this approach along with Burton, here's a possible clue.)

As a matter of curiosity, it's interesting to see who, exactly, did the White House's bidding on the Issa.  The results are instructive.  In June 2010, it seems that Media Matters for America took the administration's line hook, line & sinker and ran with it (not surprising, given the Daily Caller's February 2012 report of the close coordination between The White House and the lefty outfit).  

After the election, however, others joined the fray, referencing the allegations, including:

New Yorker: Elizabeth Kolbert's comment "Uncomfortable Climate" (11/22/10)

Washington Post: Philip Rucker's piece "In power seat, Issa recasts self as Washington's whistleblower" (12/19/10)

New Yorker: Ryan Lizza's piece "Don't Look Back" (with a subhead mentioning that Issa "has had some troubles of his own")

The lefty press was in full cry by January of 2011, some openly citing Media Matters research, which (presumably) had come directly from The White House.

Did Kolbert, Rucker or Lizza become acquainted with Issa's background after being encouraged to do so by The White House?  We don't know.  But it would be helpful if we did.

"Transparency" is supposedly a big buzzword in Washington these days.  Wouldn't it be refreshing if, rather than simply presenting story ideas offered by partisans as their own, reporters actually credited those who provided them (even in general terms, e.g., "from The White House" or "from Republican congressional staff" or the like)?  Of course, it won't happen -- no one in the press wants regular Americans to understand how much "information" has been spoon fed to those who are supposedly "investigating" and "reporting" on it. But it would be honest.  And it might even restore some much-needed credibility to an institution that badly needs it.