Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Washington Post Woodshed

UPDATED Sunday, March 26

With John Burns out of Baghdad and Judith Miller sent off to pasture, The New York Times has now ceded its throne to The Washington Post.

Not the reportorial throne; WaPo's owned that for a bit and has been sitting snug there.

And not the editorial throne; even behind the wall the Times still has the big names.

I'm talking the Page Six throne.

It seems like there's an awful lot of people at the Washington Post that don't like one another.

Editor & Publisher reports about the "firestorm" which has erupted in the blogosphere over the Post's hiring of conservative blogger Ben Domenech, co-founder of RedState (which hopefully will soon be followed by the hiring of an equally partisan blogger from the left - Froomkin doesn't count) but it's the words of one WaPo reporter about another that really struck me.

Washington Post National Political Reporter Tom Edsall thinks that Washington Post National Political Reporter Dana Milbank has no vision, thrives on ridicule, and tends to crawl on his belly and slither all around the office.

Unless he's joking.

Milbank excerpts from Edsall's discussion at WaPo:

Tom Edsall: The hiring of Ben Domenech of RedState has provoked a firestorm, if the volume of questions this morning is any measure. One theory in the newsroom is that he was hired at the behest of Dana Milbank.

More seriously, I am told that this is part of the Post's web operation's efforts to provide diverse views. These decisions are, unfortunately, above my paygrade, much as I would love to have the power to hire and fire.


Tom Edsall: The idea of trying to balance Dana Milbank poses some very interesting questions that I would love to explore, but my suggestions (hire someone with vision, who does not thrive on ridicule) would take too much space. Many of us do believe Dana is rabid.


Dale City, Va.: Why does the Post feel a need to "balance" Dana? First off I don't consider Dana liberal, just irreverent. I suspect he will use the same tone regardless of the politics of those in charge. Also, the right has many, many places where only the right gets a hearing or is the main voice, like the Washington Times or Clear Channel. "Balance" has nearly destroyed the media. Just spouting two sides because there are 2 sides with no regard for which is correct is a bigger problem than a lack of Bush views.

Tom Edsall: As I suggested, there probably is nothing human, at least, that could balance Dana. I have suggested a close examination of various reptiles, and it may be that we need to go to the Galapagos Islands to find something appropriate.

Washington, D.C.: "Many of us do believe Dana is rabid" Can you explain what you mean by 'rabid'? And who is 'many of us'?

Tom Edsall: Dana provokes levity.

It is hard to tell what Tom's serious about and not.

But if that last line is a jab. That Milbank can't be taken seriously. And that his very name conjures up hilarity. Then there is a problem.

One thing's for sure, though. Milbank didn't provoke anything this time. Edsall brought up his name in the first place before any of the commenters did.

How does Tom Edsall acting like an ass differ from Dana Milbank acting like an ass?

And anyone that thinks that Dana Milbank is slanted to the left has only cherrypicked his regular column, Washington Sketch, which manages to piss off both sides a helluva lot.

Now I've attacked Dana Milbank in the past.

And so have other more partisan bloggers from the left like firedoglake's Jane Hamsher and Bob Fertik from Democrats.com.

And...yeah...he was a clown on Olbermann's show...no doubt.

But he's done some fine reporting...such as here ...and anaylsis...such as here.

For a Skull and Bones man, Wilbank has done some especially good stuff, for sure.

Especially this from October of 2002, during the spikes of activity but before the invasion of Iraq:

President Bush, speaking to the nation this month about the need to challenge Saddam Hussein, warned that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States."

Last month, asked if there were new and conclusive evidence of Hussein's nuclear weapons capabilities, Bush cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were "six months away from developing a weapon." And last week, the president said objections by a labor union to having customs officials wear radiation detectors has the potential to delay the policy "for a long period of time."

All three assertions were powerful arguments for the actions Bush sought. And all three statements were dubious, if not wrong. Further information revealed that the aircraft lack the range to reach the United States; there was no such report by the IAEA; and the customs dispute over the detectors was resolved long ago.

As Bush leads the nation toward a confrontation with Iraq and his party into battle in midterm elections, his rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy in recent weeks. Statements on subjects ranging from the economy to Iraq suggest that a president who won election underscoring Al Gore's knack for distortions and exaggerations has been guilty of a few himself.

Anyway...if Milbank gets sent to the woodshed again or worse...I'm sure he'll do just fine.

At least he has work to be proud of.

Who the fuck is Tom Edsall?

(I have brought up Edsall at least once at this blog, though not in a good way.)


Dana Milbank was asked about Edsall during an online discussion on Friday and poked back at him. It's still hard to tell whether or not Milbank and Edsall have a serious beef with one another:

Cache Valley, Utah: Hello Dana -

I love your work and your chats here at washingtonpost.com are laugh-out-loud funny and very informative. My question is: did you know that one of your fellow reporters, Tom Edsall, called you all sorts of rude names - he had the audacity to call you rabid - during his chat here earlier this week? What's up with that? Is he just jealous or what? You want for us to take him out back to the wood shed? Just say the word...or maybe we could make him pretend to be Jim Brady and deal with the new brouhaha over that plagiarizing Domenech blogger-type person recently hired by Herr Brady. Anyway, you're great and Edsall is a back-stabbing coward and should apologize immediately.

Dana Milbank: Edsall is an acquired taste. He was, I believe, attempting to be funny, although with Edsall you can never be sure. That said, I am rabid.


Boston, Mass.: I have to agree with your assessment that Domenech lacks stature. Of course, I'd consider a serial plagiarist who can't even spellcheck his work for The Post lacking a little more than "stature".

Dana Milbank: Now, now, Edsall has his problems, but there's no need to call him a serial plagiarist who can't even spellcheck.


Dazed, Confused, and Plagiarizing: Do Washington Post and Post.com employees share the same office complex? Which employees are given better bagels?

Dana Milbank: Excellent question. The post.com people work in Arlington. The ink-stained wretches are on 15th Street. They get bagels and massages. We have Edsall.

Since Milbank included Edsall's email address four different times in the discussion I get the feeling that this isn't just fun-'n-games.

As for my "Who the fuck is Tom Edsall?"

My apologies to Mr. Edsall who has done some fine work, just not as famously.

Here's a link to an awesome Abramoff-related article Edsall wrote on the Heritage Foundation, and how it "changed its assessment" of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad "at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage's president, began representing Malaysian business interests."


Brad DeLong left this comment on the Haloscan thread:

Edsall and Milbank are trying to be funny. They are good friends--or say they are...

They've also worked together before. Here's a link to a story they shared a byline from in 2004: "Bush-Cheney Lawyer Advised Anti-Kerry Vets."

So I guess they're just joshing.

Did Edsall go to Yale?


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