One Person's Opinion
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Monday, May 09, 2005
THE PURCHASING OF PUNDITS:
Robert Novak has been in the news the last year or so, because of his role in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name as a CIA agent. But those who see Novak's column or his television appearances over the last three years may have noticed something else about him, something that while related to the Plame situation encompasses some of the other things he writes and says as well.
Novak has, ever since the end of the cold war, been something of a foreign policy isolationist. He opposed the first Gulf War, as well as Clinton's campaigns in the Balkans and W's Iraq invasion. At the time Bush proposed it, Novak ripped into Bush with his normal fierce rhetoric. Since that invastion, of course, some who supported the war have been convinced by the WMD debacle or the postwar chaos to recant their support. However, I know of nobody who opposed the invasion and flip-flopped the other way. Except Novak.
Novak has explained himself by saying though he opposed the invasion, it went better than he thought it would. He is the only person who thinks so. Since Novak's position makes no logical sense, how can it be explained? I think pretty simply. Novak is a journalist and commentator who relies on Washington insider sources to provide the information for his columns. Karl Rove and the Bush Administration are famously adept at playing hardball with those who do not sing their tune. Novak was probably told, either explicitly or implicitly, that if he wanted tidbits and scoops, he needed to play ball on Iraq. And so he flip-flopped.
If this is what happened, it may explain the Plame situation as well. The Bush Administration wanted to discredit Joseph Wilson, so they made Novak prove he was on board by having him print the leak.
I don't know any of this for sure-- it is all speculation. What I do know is that Novak flip-flopped on Iraq, and he flip-flopped in a direction that no rational person would flip-flop.
But I received an indirect boost for my theory when the American Prospect ran this item. Turns out lobbyist extraordinaire Jack Abramoff was able to buy favorable pundit treatment for one of his clients, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, through the use of junkets and favors. One thing I don't think the general public understands is that the commentators that they read in the newspaper or see on television can be whores just like politicians can be. Read the list of the people who Abramoff bought off.
To me, this is a huge issue. People who pose as pundits are implicitly promising their audience to be giving their own opinions, not something that was paid for by a moneyed interest or a political ally. When pundits fail to do this, they are violating their trust with the audience.
Let me say further that this is one of the problems with modern conservativism. Simply put, there is a ton of this. It is abundantly clear that certain pundits NEVER criticize the White House, and ALWAYS say whatever the talking points are. And these people are rewarded with increased access. Further, some of these people are employed by publications that claim to be independent but are actually currying favor with the White House, such as the National Review and the Weekly Standard.
If someone's opinion is for sale, by definition, it is valueless. So remember, the next time you see a conservative talking head on television-- that space is for rent.
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