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Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, June 19, 2005
 

Jekyll and Hyde Milbank ties Post in knots


Right on schedule (earlier piece) Post ombud Michael Getler has opined on Dana Milbank and the Downing Street Memo.

Not so much his coverage of the Conyers DSM meeting, but a piece of June 8 Seldom-Discussed Elephant Moves Into Public's View on the Bush-Blair presser of the previous day.
Yesterday's East Room meeting of President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was worth a cool $1,000 to Steve Holland, Reuters' chief White House correspondent, if he cares to collect it.

Earlier in the day, Democrats.com, a group of left-wing activists, sent out an e-mail offering a "reward" to anyone who could get an answer from Bush about whether a recently leaked British government memo from 2002 was correct in saying the Bush administration had "fixed" the intelligence about Iraq's weapons to justify war...

Holland, a consummate professional, wasn't trying to satisfy the wing nuts -- "good grief," he said when told later about the prize money -- and won't be collecting.


It was the wing nuts crack that got FAIR cracking on an email campaign, apparently.

Getler has a word about Milbank's current Janus-like (or bicephalic, perhaps) status at the rag:
Milbank is one of the paper's most talented and observant reporters. On the other hand, for the past several months he has also been serving as a columnist, frequently writing observations that go beyond straight reporting in a column labelled "Washington Sketch" that appears in the news pages of the A-section.

But is not explicit about the Post's reasons for creating such an anomalous role for him. Which, I've assumed is this: they guy has a knack for vitriol, Hedda Hopper-style, and quality bitching gives readers those subscription-renewing ya-yas.

On the other hand, the rag's bench of political newsmen is not so deep that it can afford to allow Milbank to move to the op-ed pages (where comment is not only free, but free and easy.)

Getler helpfully confirms that
Unfortunately, it has never been announced or explained to Post readers that reporter Milbank is also now columnist Milbank.

And - wait for it! -
The reference to "wing nuts," as in left-wing nuts and right-wing nuts, appeared in the June 8 column, not a "news story," as many e-mailers wrongly stated.

Is there a word of explicit criticism of Getler's masters for having omitted to inform their readers of the bifurcation of Milbank?

Or sympathy for those whose powers of mind-reading (or rune-reading) were insufficient to wise them up to this arcanum?

I should coco!

There is some attempt at mollification of the outraged by Assistant Managing Editor Liz Spayd - I kid you not! - whilst Milbank himself, having spent time around the WH news operation, dispenses a Glasgow kiss - and not only to the lefties:
While you have been within your rights as ombudsman over the past five years to attempt to excise any trace of colorful or provocative writing from the Post, you are out of bounds in asserting that a columnist cannot identify as 'wingnuts' a group whose followers have long been harassing this and other reporters and their families with hateful, obscene and sometimes anti-Semitic speech.

Now, had this been old Dan Okrent, one would at least have got a smartass kicker - suggesting that, with his two jobs, Milbank was probably in need of a holiday, or should stick to decaf, or whatever.

From Getler, nothing.

My guess is that Milbank enjoys the close support of Uncle Len Downie to add a little touch of Hannity in the night - in tone, rather than ideology - to the Post mix. And Getler - I have an idea he's stepping down fairly soon: which, if true, would be an additional reason to avoid confrontation.


MORE

The comparison of the multirole Milbank with Pooh-Bah is irresistible. (For the passage, Ctrl+F on festivities.)


STILL MORE

Milbank's anti-Semitic comment can, perhaps, be linked to this passage in his piece on the Conyers meeting (yesterday):
The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration "neocons" so "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation," McGovern said. "The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti-Semitic."

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq's threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his "candid answer."


Moran's willingness to complain about the craven US Middle East policy has excited the Likudnik tendency before (March 21 2003). His is a name that anyone seeking to insinuate by guilt by association a charge of anti-semitism against a person might connect with that person.

The passage is an item in Conyers' complaint letter to the Post.

Is Milbank batting for Sharon? We have a recent item with which to test his (ostensible [1]) Likudnik credentials: his May 24 piece on the latest AIPAC conference.

We're only into graf 3 when we get
The annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has long produced a massive show of bipartisan pandering, as lawmakers praise the well-financed and well-connected group.

Being the object of pandering, even if bipartisan, is not a mark of distinction.

The sarcastic tone continues with references to the immense quantity of victuals ordered (there's a juicy stereotype wrapped up in there, if you care to look for it); the defensiveness of executive director Howard Kohr -
"...your presence here today sends a message to every adversary of Israel, AIPAC and the Jewish community that we are here, and here to stay."
- and a comment on Kohr's carefully sculpted reference to the AIPAC spying operation:
Kohr, without mentioning the fired staffers, told participants that "neither AIPAC nor any of its current employees is or ever has been the target."

(Reminiscent of Bob Newhart's USS Nautilus, which had the record for the largest peacetime Jap tonnage sunk...)

There's more of the same.

He tees up the kicker with
...the attendees overall showed an impressive ideological discipline -- right down to AIPAC's multimedia show, "Iran's Path to the Bomb," in the convention center's basement.

Which is
In a succession of rooms, visitors see flashing lights and hear rumbling sounds as Dr. Seuss-like contraptions make yellowcake uranium, reprocess plutonium, and pop out nuclear warheads like so many gallons of hummus for an AIPAC conference.

If Milbank is a Jew [2], the evidence of the AIPAC piece is, he's a self-hater. And if he's a covert Mossad agent, it didn't exactly blow his cover!

I'd say the null hypothesis - that the two references to antisemitism mentioned above were purely coincidental - has yet to be negatived.

My impression is that Milbank furnishes equal opportunity snark. To establish the contrary would require Nexis access and motivation, neither of which I have. I'm happy to leave the field wide open...

  1. Covert Israeli agents are not unknown in the US, I believe.

  2. The index here of 42 databases of Jewish surnames produces one reference; Getler appears in nine.


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