Media Blog

Leaks and the NYT

Leaks: The “classic Washington game“:

“I think everybody in Washington is flabbergasted,” one [NY] Times staffer said of the memos’ appearance.
Rather than stonewalling reporters and appealing to history as its ultimate judge, the executive branch has rediscovered the art of lobbying the proto-historians of the press. “Somebody is clearly playing a classic Washington game,” said Washington Post White House correspondent Peter Baker. The anonymous source, or sources, is “trying to shape events how they perceive as favorable to them or their position,” Mr. Baker said.

The article aims for the administration (Frank Rich: “I think the administration has lost control of its story”), but it ends up painting a negative picture of the press as an institution that helps government officials avoid accountability by promising them anonymity and furthering their political pursuits.

As Michael Massing (quoted in the article) points out, it wasn’t so fun when those leaks pertained to (flawed) intelligence about Saddam’s WMD programs. As best illustrated by the Plame episode, leakers are either heroic truth-tellers or manipulative scoundrals, depending on the politics of the person you ask. There’s absolutely no consistency to it. It’s just, as Baker puts it, “a classic Washington game.” (h/t Romenesko)