Friday, May 9, 2008

Travis Tritt conservatives

I need one good honky-tonk angel,
To turn my life around.
That's reason enough for me to
lay this ol' bottle down.
A woman warm and willin',
that's what I'm lookin' for,
'Cause the whiskey ain't workin' anymore.

Seems like some young Republicans are sobering up:
In many ways, the Right has lost its logic. . . . Much of the DC-based infrastructure on the Right . . . has become the entrenched bureaucracy seeking its own promulgation.
The Republican Party isn't serving the Right, and the Right isn't likely to continue serving the Republican Party.
Good points, and many more in the comment field. I would note, however, that the founders of the proposed Next Right project -- Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffini and Soren Dayton -- are all GOP campaign operatives. Ergo, all that is necessary to shut down the project is for some Republican organization to hire theses guys and say, "Shut it down." For a quarter-million a year, in other words, the Establishment could buy them out.

There is a credibility issue here. For example, why would the various constituencies of "the Right" (inter alia, pro-lifers and Second Amendment activists) take advice from Ruffini, a former Giuliani operative? Why would amnesty opponents or free-speech proponents seek the counsel of Soren Dayton, who would still be working for John McCain if he hadn't Twittered that YouTube video?

How can one be a political operative for hire and still maintain credibility as an honest broker? Can frank and independent criticism of the Republican Party be expected from people who pay their bills with consulting contracts from Republican candidates?

Understand that I don't mean to criticize professional political operatives as such. It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, and a man's got to make a living. As I've said, I wouldn't mind selling out if anybody was offering to buy me off. I'm just weary of people marketing themselves as pure-souled idealists when all evidence indicates they're at least as cynical and selfish as I am. (An honest cynic inevitably faces a supply-and-demand problem. How can you ever hope to sell out your principles, if you don't even pretend to have any principles?)

I would never take a dime from the McCain campaign or the RNC. Now, maybe if they offered six figures . . .

UPDATE: My friend Jon Henke responds:
My time can be bought, but my opinions have never been bought.
I suppose I should explain that my skepticism is to a great degree colored by the situation that developed in 2006 with Patrick Hynes, who was blogging at Ankle Biting Pundits while consulting for John McCain -- a situation Hynes had not adequately disclosed. Hynes was discussing the Republican '08 presidential field (including slams on Mitt Romney), and people were reading and quoting his opinions without knowledge that Hynes had a stake in the game.

Potential sources of undisclosed bias are not, of course, limited to such fee-for-service arrangements. But in the wake of the disclosure of Hynes' fee-for-service arrangment with John McCain's PAC, some things made a lot more sense. Hynes may genuinely admire McCain's "composure and dignity" -- qualities that are indeed admirable -- but the fact that he had a consulting contract with McCain certainly gave Hynes a greater incentive to share that admiration with his blog readers, an incentive to which his readers were not privy.

The revolving door between journalism and politics has been one of the most shameful facts of life in Washington for decades. If it is a scandal for Democratic Party operatives like George Stephanopoulos, Tim Russert and Chris Matthews to present themselves unbiased journalists, why isn't it a scandal for Republican Party operatives to present themselves as unbiased bloggers?

I don't mean to attack anyone personally here. Rather, I'm decrying what I see as a trend where the political blogosphere seems to be following the path of the MSM with the revolving door and undisclosed allegiances. This stuff matters because it affects the quality of the product. Content written with the reader's interest in mind is more engaging than content written with a client's interest in mind.

When I was an editor at The Washington Times, I used to get pissed off at reporters (for some reason, the Capitol Hill bureau was always the worst about this) who engaged in what I call "writing for your sources" -- for example, using terminology that only makes sense to insiders. You can't start throwing around phrases like "budget offsets" and assume that everybody who picks up the paper knows what a "budget offset" is.

Another pet peeve of mine as an editor (and, again, this always seemed worst with the Capitol Hill bureau) was reporters who got into the herd mentality and started trying to pattern their reporting to match what their peers in the press corps were doing. But what's the point of reading The Washington Times if it just reports the same story in the same way as The Washington Post and The New York Times? Try to do something different, find an angle that other reporters are ignoring.

All this is a means of saying that bloggers, like journalists, should always keep in mind the ultimate consumer -- the reader. It may be that Next Right is aimed at a narrow audience that's interested in a discussion among GOP political operatives, and that is unconcerned about the potential for undisclosed sources of bias in the discussion. I'm in no position to judge a site that hasn't even gone online yet, but if the potential for a credibility problem is obvious to me, you can assume that others will see the same risk.


  1. (shrug) Anybody who has or wants a job can, by definition, be bought. That's no more or less true of us three than of anybody else, Left or Right. Anyway, all three of us are fortunate enough to have employment that doesn't ask us to limit our blogging in the least.

    Ironically, reaction on my end has been split between the Lefty blogs, who are certain that I'm a diehard Republican stooge, and the commenters on my own blog, who think I'm a dumb liberal stooge.

    My time can be bought, but my opinions have never been bought.

  2. I'm skeptical about the whole venture. I'm not at all sure that yet another website full of inside baseball and wonkery is what's needed here.

    More thought is needed. I might have some of them in cogent enough form later tonight.

  3. Wow, I knew that Stephanopoulis, Russert and Matthews were morons and shills, but I assumed that their stupidity from my point of view was that they were so obviously working against Democrats. They certainly do their best to frame the debate to be about silly issues such as flag pins and salutes rather than the future of our country, and they seem to forget they they were all for the invasion of Iraq, which was going to be humane, cheap and brief, and end with flowers being thrown at our troops.

    So if conservatives think they are morons and shills because they are perceived as working FOR Democrats, that pretty much means that nobody likes them.

    If nobody likes them, why do these fools still have jobs?