Ed Driscoll

What You Mean 'We,' Kemosabe?

Ahh, the changing face of objectivity at CBS. In 1987, with President Reagan in office, Mike Wallace gave us a now infamous peek into his worldview:

Indeed, on an edition of the PBS panel series Ethics in America, devoted to war coverage, which was taped at Harvard in late 1987, Mike Wallace proclaimed that if he were traveling with enemy soldiers he would not warn U.S. soldiers of an impending ambush. “Don’t you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?”, moderator Charles Ogletree Jr. suggested. Without hesitating, Wallace responded: “No, you don’t have higher duty…you’re a reporter.” When Brent Scrowcroft, the then-future National Security Adviser, argued that “you’re Americans first, and you’re journalists second,” Wallace was mystified by the concept, wondering “what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by [the imaginary] North Kosanese on American soldiers?”

George Connell, a Marine Corps Colonel, reacted with disdain: “I feel utter contempt. Two days later they’re both walking off my hilltop, they’re two hundred yards away and they get ambushed. And they’re lying there wounded. And they’re going to expect I’m going to send Marines up there to get them. They’re just journalists, they’re not Americans.”

But when the president has the same ideology of those in CBS’s newsroom, all that “objective” distance suddenly goes out the window. CBS’ White House correspondent Norah O’Donnell to Oba-flack Jay Carney today: “You gave them everything they wanted and we got nothing!”

Specifically, CBS’s Norah O’Donnell peppered Carney with terse, accusatory questions about the lack of tax revenue (read: tax increases) in the debt ceiling deal. O’Donnell complained about how many GOP demands were met by the deal, and then said to Carney: “You gave them everything they wanted and we got nothing.” That “we” is very telling. It was a tense moment in the room, and O’Donnell seemed to give voice to frustrated liberals who feel the deal gave significantly more to Republicans than Democrats, and included no tax increases–something President Obama had demanded be included for most of the negotiations.

CBS and the Obama administration are now “we?” As Ace writes:

There is an argument about whether that “we” is as telling as it seems — some defend Norah O’Donnell, claiming at this part of her question, she was asking a question from the point of view of the deal’s progressive critics, and not in her own voice, necessarily.

I’d make three points: First, she’s got some emotion invested in this question. You can hear the frustration in her voice. I don’t think she’s a talented woman, so I don’t think she’s just conjuring up some channeled dramatic pitch here.

Second, it is telling, to me, how solicitous she is of the progressive caucus’ concerns. Throughout this entire debt deal, I have heard again and again how Republicans’ concerns are either illegitimate or possibly borderline, arguably legitimate but will simply have to be put aside for the good of the country; but note that when it comes to a progressive whine about tax increases, she’s on board in trumpeting that complaint.

Because that complaint, you see, is objectively superior to the conservatives’ complaint. It must be, because no objective reporter would otherwise behave as if it has been objectively determined that one side is objectively right and one side is objectively wrong.

Third, and this really is just a variation of the last one, but it’s important: Throughout this we have heard the MFM scream at the tops of their lungs that conservatives must compromise their principles away, and be less willing to fight for their agenda, because compromise trumps conservative values.

But what’s Norah O’Donnell’s implication here? Liberals and liberals alone should have fought harder for their agenda.

Actually, CBS being openly in bed with the Obama administration is oddly poetic, come to think of it.