"There's a difference between going around the press in an effort to avoid troublesome questions, and trying to de-unseat the idea that these people who call themselves 'journalists' have a legitimate role to play in politics. Ashcroft was out to unseat that idea about the traditional press. He wanted it out of the picture."Froomkin:
"Even more of a charade these days are the daily briefings held by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, whose robotic adherence to repeating the predetermined messages of the day -- no matter what questions come his way -- as driven some correspondents to despair."Hertzberg:
"What all the memorable scandals of the past thirty years—real and fake alike, from Watergate to the Clinton impeachment—have had in common is that the opposition party controlled at least one house of Congress, which gave it the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas. If Bush ends up having an easier time of it in his second term than any of his two-term predecessors since F.D.R., it won’t be because the scandals aren’t there. It’ll be because the tools to excavate them are under lock and key."Suskind:
"There is a varied, national, forceful, coordinated campaign to . . . to try to create doubt about the long-held and long-respected work of the mainstream media. Absolutely. So that Americans believe that what we do and say, what the mainstream media offer, is not of value, is not honest, is not factually accurate. And [that we are] not in any way connected to strong traditions of American public dialogue, that we've been co-opted, that we're not objective, and that essentially we are carrying forward an agenda."Rosen:
"An illegitimate press demands not only national scorn but practical replacement. It is in this sense that 'Jeff Gannon' deserved his press pass, Armstrong Williams deserved his $240,000, and Ketchum public relations deserved $97 million of taxpayer money to help the Bush Administration communicate the message. (My sense is that the big uncovered facts in this scandal are to be found there, in the $97 million pot of post-press money that went to Ketchum, a PR firm willing to bend the rules, and help create a replacement for real journalism."Boehlert:
The White House and its media allies, echoing a deep-rooted conservative antagonism toward the so-called liberal media, say they are simply countering its bias. But critics charge that the White House, along with partners like Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, organizations whose allegiance to the Republican Party outweighs their commitment to journalism, is actually trying to permanently weaken the press. Its motivation, they say, is twofold. Weakening the press weakens an institution that’s structurally an adversary of the White House. And if the press loses its credibility, that eliminates agreed-upon facts — the commonly accepted information that is central to public debate.
These comments combined tell a tale of a Fourth Estate in decline as the Bush administration acts with impunity to manipulate the mainstream media while effectively discrediting and even punishing dissenters.