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The Choice In November And The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (In The MSM).

Wednesday, October 4, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

In yesterday’s interview, longtime Woodward colleague from the WaPo Thomas Edsall warned “that there are significant problems in Bob’s reporting techniques, and the product that he produces, that every reader of his work should be aware of.”

With that in mind, read this exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Andrew Card:

O’REILLY: The impression the book gives is that you wanted Rumsfeld to be out, Laura Bush wanted Rumsfeld to be out, but Dick Cheney didn’t. And Cheney won. Is that an accurate representation?

CARD: Not from my perspective, it is not.

O’REILLY: OK. That’s all we need, that’s why.

CARD: Laura Bush never said to me that she wanted to have Secretary Rumsfeld removed. Never. She would talk about people who were helping the president. And I would listen to her, because we both cared deeply about the president, but no one cares more than Laura Bush.

In Sunday’s column, The New York Times’ David Carr specualted about Woodward’s “brand,” and how it is a personal one, not dependent upon the Washington Post or even the quality of his work, but rather on his celebrity. “No one understands the contemporary primacy of the individual brand more acutely than Mr. Woodward, who manages the arrival of his books with deftness and competitive ferocity,” Carr wrote.  And Woodward’s brand needed some repair:

A fresh success might change the subject after his decision to hide the fact that he was one of the people who learned of Valerie Plame Wilson‘s identity as a C.I.A. agent early on, even as he criticized the prosecutor.

Puff talk from his publisher closes off the column:

“A book has a much longer arc than one day,” said David Rosenthal, executive vice president of Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher. “But it has been on sale for one day, it is already causing a ruckus, dominating the Sunday morning shows, and will determine the agenda for the weeks. It is interesting to me that in an age of blogs, Webs and texting that a book, something which is essentially a tortoise, very quaint in its own way, can carry the most immediacy.”

Of course it didn’t determine the agenda for 48 hours, anymore than the Foley scandal will the next 72 hours. (A new blogger seeking traction would find it by cataloging the doubts raised about Woodward’s books and his other misadventures such as the Plame Affair, as well as the “arc” of Woodward’s charges.)

Old media continues to fail to appreciate the hyper-speed with which the “news cycle” spits out narrative that is absorbed, reviewed, often repudiated and rarely believed in large or even small part.  The Foley counter-narrative  –creepy and possibly criminal Congressman used to set up GOP for election fall– has already taken hold, though MSM are generally clueless.

There’s not even much need for a counter-narrative to Woodward as Woodward’s narrative has a Kitty Kelly quality to it, and the Card repudiation of Woodward’s Lara Bush story underscores that.  We are back to Veil and Bob hearing voices, but this time the left is mad at him for not having savaged Bush earlier and for his role in deflating the Plame affair. He’s selling a lot of books, but changing minds?

Any story –any story– that depends upon sources not revealed or which may be subject to a different interpretation simply cannot persuade these days.  Facts persuade.

Foley’s quite likely criminal behavior is a fact, and it led to his exit.  Assertions of “cover-up” by Hastert and others aren’t facts, just spin,and they aren’t going to persuade anyone.

Woodward’s book –a book length gossip column really– will sell and he’ll make his rounds and intone his opinions, but with almost no effect on the public.  Not only has his reputation long been tarnished, he’s got motives for distorting what he “heard” this time around.

The public’s distrust of media accounts of any story/event is so high as to truly make the November elections impossible to predict, though I suspect the consequences of a turnover of power to Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, John  Conyers, Barney Frank, and Charles Rangell is too much for the ordinary midterm voter to stomach. 

Those projected consequences are not facts, but the persons of Pelosi et al are well known and understood, and approach “fact” status.  These Democrats do not inspire confidence in time of war and threat.  The opposite, in fact.

That Foley is a deeply flawed man will not overcome this basic calculation, nor will Woodward’s gossips.

The MSM is simply powerless to change the convictions of an electorate that long ago made up its mind about the world we live in and the people who ought to be in charge of running it, even if they make mistakes and even if some in their number turn out to be corrupt.  The collapse of MSM credibility is complete in the minds of the American public even if it is not recognized by the MSM.

Listen for MSM voices relaying this message in one form or another:  Because of the perverse actions of one Congressman and the already-shredded tales of a long-running Beltway act, the American electorate is going to turn over the conduct of the war to San Francisco hyper-liberal Nancy Pelosi and cut-and-run John Murtha while allowing Detroit’s John Conyers to get impeachment proceedings going and Barney Frank to supervise the nation’s just recovered and soaring equity markets and Charles Rangell it’s tax code.

I don’t think so.

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