24 January 2006

Why Deb Howell Isn't Important

I've not posted on the Washington Post's ombudsman Deborah Howell and her comments on Jack Abramoff and Democratic donations, because, frankly, it's damned irrelevant. Yes, she was incorrect when she wrote that Abramoff gave money to both parties. Yes, it was more than "inartfully worded" as Howie Kurtz said it was. Perhaps both had malicious intentions in their deviations from reality. Maybe they're both too proud of themselves and the institution for which they work to admit they were wrong. In the end, it doesn't amount to anything substantial.

What matters is that now the debate has been shifted from who exactly did Jack's companionship benefit to why are Democrats mean. Again, not true; but again, the truth. That's where the debate is right now, and it's because we --- as a blogosphere, not as a party --- shifted the debate from Jack Abramoff to Deborah Howell. Even if she is a shill for the Republican party, how is going after her more important than going after him?1 What we should have said was, so what?

I'll let DHinMI take it from here. This is point 4 out of 5 on what we need to stop doing:
Don't believe that you must prevail on every point. It would be very easy to say "sure, I don't know if Republican felon Jack Abramoff directed his clients to give to Democrats. But that's both easily explained, and ultimately irrelevant. The easy explanation is that his clients wanted to give to Democrats, and he was just providing cover for his real intent, which was to redirect a net increase of money to Republicans, and into his illegal schemes. And it's irrelevant because it wasn't Jack Abramoff's money, the tribes were his victims, and there's no evidence any of those donations were illegal or ethically tainted, or that the Democrats did or should have had any reason to think they were tainted donations." Instead, too many people wanted to show that Deborah Howell is wrong about every point. There's nothing wrong with conceding a small point in pursuit of the larger argument, especially when her small point can easily be dismissed as irrelevant.
Umm. Yup.

If we really want this story to gain traction, we need to make sure that Abramoff is the story. Once facts get out, this becomes quite clearly a Republican catastrophe. I'm not saying that we need to step aside and let the traditional media take of it, but we don't have to quibble with every problem. We lose sight of the big picture too often and by the time we're done bitching about it, the story's changed anyway.

Just keep saying this instead: "Republicans Duke Cunningham, Tom Delay, Bill Frist,,Bob Ney and Scooter Libby have all been indicted in the last 12 months, and more indictments are expected. No Democrat has been indicted, nor is any Democrat under investigation." Sure, it's not so catchy as, "Deb Howell sucks and she's bad at her job," but it's no less true and is exceedingly more important.

1Yes, I know we need to challenge the media and make sure they don't kowtow to the Republicans at every given opportunity. I'm not ignoring that, but we can't let our pursuit of the media become more important than our other goals. See: Daou, P.

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