27 July 2006

Worthless Partisan Journalism

Not all partisan journalism is worthless. Indeed, there is an upsurge in stories with a political motivation that add to the debate. If I didn't believe that I wouldn't write for Colorado Confidential or ready Daily Kos. But, some partisan journalism, even at big name traditional media outlets that should have better quality control, is worthless.

Case in point: Yesterday's article by Ramesh Ponnuru in the National Review. If you say that a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the biggest case of the year is wrong on a key issue because of "simple factual mistakes," you had better get the story right. Ponnuru doesn't.

I would going to write a takedown of the story, but Emily Bazelon at Slate did an excellent job of doing just that, so I don't have to. One of the key points that Ponnuru just doesn't get is that:

They criticized the Hamdan lawyers for saying their colloquy wasn't live, asserting "the Congressional Record is presumed to reflect live debate except when the statements therein are followed by a bullet … or are underlined" [their italics]. As I wrote, this is entirely misleading. But Ponnuru omits Graham and Kyl's obfuscation. . . . Kyl and Graham . . . submitted a brief to the Supreme Court suggesting falsely that their testimony was live and implying that their views were public when they weren't.

It is one thing to insert written materials into the Congressional record, which everyone does routinely subject to full disclosures that it wasn't really live. It is quite another to doctor the record to make it appears live when it is not, and then claim in the U.S. Supreme Court brief that it was a live debate. That stance violates ethical standards for both Senators and for the attorneys who represented them in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alas, the corruption of the Republican controlled Congress knows no bounds. It both doctors the Congressional record, as it did here, and also ignores even basic constitutional provisions like the one that says that a bill won't become law until both houses of Congress pass identical versions of it.

There are plenty of issues upon which politicians can have legitimate policy disagreements. Resolving those is why we have a Congress in the first place. But, accurately representing what transpired in a bill's legislative history, and getting bills passed in identical versions by both houses of Congress are not subjects upon which anyone who believes in democracy or rule of law can accept as legitimate.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time that Ramesh Ponnuru has been full of shit.

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