Sunday, August 14, 2005

George Will, or the Journalist as Rat[DELETED]er 

In a column published Thursday (we wrote the first draft of this post days ago; it took us this long to edit out all occurrences of the word "fuck," as well as participial and gerundive derivatives therefrom), the spiritual father of Armstrong Williams and J.D. Guckert attempted to rehabilitate his own reputation at the expense of Jimmy Carter's. The appalling George Will is in a state of slightly higher dudgeon than usual because he claims to have caught the former President in a lie:
[H]e is a recidivist fibber. Last Oct. 21, on National Public Radio, he said: "We found out later that one of Ronald Reagan's supporters inside the White House had stolen my briefing book, my top-secret briefing book that prepared me for the debate. And a very prominent news reporter was the one who took the briefing book to Ronald Reagan and helped drill him on the things that I might say if he said certain things." Asked who that reporter was, Carter replied, "It was George Will, and it was later known that he did that."
The true parts: One of Ronald Reagan's supporters inside the White House stole Carter's briefing book. It wound up, by whatever means, in the hands of Reagan's campaign team. George Will was part of the group that, working from Carter's book, helped to prepare Reagan for "certain things" that Carter might say. And Will -- who is, you see, deeply disturbed by Jimmy Carter's lack of candor -- continued to pose as an independent journalist and commentator, never disclosing to his readers and viewers that he had served as a de facto member of the Reagan campaign team until he was outed by Newsweek three years later:
At first, Newsweek merely mentioned in passing that Will had been shown the stolen briefing book "and thought nothing of it." A week later, devoting several sentences to the intrigue of its star columnist, the magazine reported that he "saw the Carter materials" and later helped to prepare Reagan "for his confrontation with Carter. Then, in his role as television commentator, Will gave Reagan a favorable review for his performance -- without explaining that he had personally taken part in the event."

During the summer of 1983, various media pillars rumbled with disapproval. As Newsweek observed, "some of Will's fellow journalists have heatedly criticized his partisan role. Jack Nelson, Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, called it 'outrageous.'"

The New Republic declared Will to be "the one person who has been most embarrassed by Debategate" and faulted him for two aspects of his behavior: "Appearing on ABC's 'Nightline' the night of the debate, Mr. Will was one of the commentators who awarded the 'victory' to Mr. Reagan; he posed as a referee without ever making it clear that he had been one of the seconds." In addition, the columnist "knew about the purloined briefing books" but kept the knowledge to himself. "Mr. Will said nothing about this on 'Nightline'; nor did he write about it."
So what is the lie that was told by the recidivist fibber Carter? There are two, by Mr. Will's reckoning. Carter said Will was "the one who took" the stolen book to Ronald Reagan, but Will did not physically convey the book into Reagan's hands. Never. No, sir. He found it on a table!
"Regarding your briefing book, I will tell you what I have told many others. When I got to David Stockman's house on the day he was preparing to play the role of you in the debate preparations, he had on his kitchen table what I gather was the briefing book. I do not know how he got it; more to the point, I do not know who thought having it would be helpful. Frankly, you deserved better. My cursory glance at it convinced me that it was a crashing bore and next to useless -- for you, or for anyone else."
Mr. Carter's property was of little value, in Will's estimation, and so the fact that he was an accessory to its theft by Republican dirty tricksters is a matter, you will certainly agree, of no moral consequence (although times do change: Juanita Yvette Lozano, convicted in 2001 of stealing George W. Bush's debate-preparation materials and sending them to the Gore campaign, was fined $3000 and sentenced to a year in prison. Gore's team, please note, had immediately turned the pilfered materials over to the FBI.)

Lie #2? Carter has reportedly claimed, in a sermon, that Will once wrote him asking forgiveness for his part in the briefing-book scandal; Will says his only letter to Carter, written in reply to a note praising one of Will's baseball books, was "untainted by any request for forgiveness." We reluctantly score this point for Mr. Will, for although he does not quote his own missive in its entirety, the excerpts he reproduces (including the one directly above) are plainly the work of an graceless, self-infatuated, unregenerate asshole.

Will does, however, interrupt his excoriation of Carter for a fleeting acknowledgement of his own ethical lapses. Don't sneeze, or you'll miss it:
Even though, as a columnist, my support for Reagan was well-known, my participation in his debate preparation was as inappropriate as it was superfluous -- after three decades of public advocacy, Reagan was ready. And speaking of the inappropriate:

The role of ex-president requires a grace and restraint notably absent from Carter. See, for example, his criticism of the United States when he is abroad, as in England two weeks ago. Having made such disappointing history as president, Carter as ex-president should at least refrain from disseminating a historical falsehood.
As you know, Jimmy Carter is not much in the public eye these days; when he is not cruelly besmirching the honor of George Will, poster boy for grace and restraint, he passes most of his time doing charitable work and writing. There are other, more newsworthy presidential lies since Carter's that might profitably engage Mr. Will's attention. Why, then, this explosion of pent-up bile, this petty catalogue of bygone affronts?

Perhaps it is simply Mr. Will's recognition that the facts of the case will no longer be seen to reflect badly on him, for in the quarter-century since his small indiscretion, the Fourth Estate has largely descended to the Stygian level his example set. The old standards of independence and integrity have been abandoned; the distinctions between reportage and propaganda, newsman and shill, pundit and party operative all but erased. Journalists are no longer watchdogs, but handmaidens to power, begging to be used so that they may earn the "access" that will allow them to be used again. And the American people have been successfully trained to expect no better; they imagine it their natural lot to be lied to, defrauded, conned, paying, meanwhile, for the privilege, as if they were rubes and yokels on a carnival midway. Perhaps Mr. Will looks at Guckert and Williams and Bob Novak and Judy Miller and craves the recognition that is due him as a pioneer. Perhaps it is time, at long last, for the bow-tied scrotum to claim his legacy.

In which case, we say [DELETED] him. [DELETED] him until his [DELETED] [DELETED] fall out and his [DELETED] [DELETED] squirt out of his [DELETED] nose. The [DELETED] deserves to be [DELETED] face-[DELETED]-down in a [DELETED] [DELETED] mosquito-infested [DELETED]-pit by a procession of [DELETED]-[DELETED] alligators with giant [DELETED] [DELETED] until he begs for [DELETED] mercy -- at which point it will be our great [DELETED] pleasure to say, "[DELETED] [DELETED]?? [DELETED] you, you rat[DELETED] [DELETED]."

(Admittedly that last section could have done with a bit more tidying-up, but we wanted to finish the post before another day passed.)

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