From Gonzo to Bonzo. From Hunter S. Thompson to James D. Guckert aka Jeff Gannon is certainly a greased slide down the journalism evolutionary ladder.
And… so what? I’ve received several emails urging me to comment on “Gannongate.” Here’s my one word response: YAWN.
Please tell me what the scandal is here. Someone in the White House machinery let a partisan goofball slide into the presidential press briefings. OK. That’s what it means to be partisan—helping out the people on your side. Like, um, a young gal named Monica Lewinsky getting a job interview with then-UN Ambassador Bill Richardson.
Or Clinton giving a last minute pardon to the fugitive financier husband of a very partisan campaign contributor.
So, yes. The Bush White House is corrupt. Maybe as corrupt or perhaps more so than the Clinton White House.
I don’t know how high up the ladder Gannon’s connections went – whether he was just waved on through by the White House communications staff or whether he was literally “planted” in the press audience by Karl Rove himself. I don’t much care, except for sake of amusement.
I do know this much: the higher up it goes, the dumber and more pathetic (as opposed to sinister) the White House will appear. I’ve been to oodles of government press briefings in my life, including several presidential briefings (usually on the road). There’s inevitably a whacko or two in the regular crowd. Usually, but not always some sort of right-winger. And he or she will ask some or another sort of asinine question and everyone will roll their eyeballs while the briefer tries not to laugh.
Take my word for it—there’s no group of more intrusive, nosier, competitive and jealous busybodies than a roomful of journalists. They know who everybody is, where they are coming from and what their probable next job is. No one in the White House press room fell for Gannon’s ruse and no one – except Scott McClellan—paid any attention to his softball questions. If I were Karl Rove and I was going to plant somebody in the White House corps to do my bidding, I’d go with someone like Judith Miller over a buffoon like Gannon (anyway, Miller didn’t even need supplemental encouragement to do her work).
In any case, we should be fighting for more open-ness, more access to the government, fewer rules and regs on the press – however you define it. Anyone should be able to ask McClellan or the President Himself any damn thing he or she wants. And when you open it up like that, I’m certainly not going to be the arbiter of what is a proper or improper question. As it is, most questions lobbed the way of the White House make me grimace. The last thing I’m going to do is to work with the Bush administration in further restricting access and making it more difficult for reporters, bloggers, or just plain fools to ask whatever they please.
UPDATE: David Corn has a similar and much more detailed take.