Define ‘partisan hackery’

DEFINE ‘PARTISAN HACKERY’…. Newsweek‘s Katie Connolly had a blog item yesterday on the discussion over “czars,” which raised some worthwhile points. Indeed, as a substantive matter, it touched on key details that often go overlooked.

Connolly noted, for example, that “czar” is an ambiguous term with no specific meaning. The piece also emphasized the fact that White House “czars” have been around for generations, including George W Bush’s 36. The Newsweek item even included some helpful historical context: “The appointment of czars makes Obama a communist about as much as a fake Kenyan birth certificate does. Remember that whole Russian revolution? The Tsars and the commies didn’t really see eye to eye on much…”

As Matt Yglesias noted, however, the post also included one frustrating observation.

Anyone who watches cable news surely knows that conservatives are getting themselves all hot and bothered over the Obama administration’s appointment of so-called czars. Today, the Democratic National Committee is going nuts in response. I’ve got more e-mails from them about this today than I care to count. This whole debate is descending into complete partisan hackery: GOP operatives are fanning ridiculous fears while Democrats are proffering inflated claims to counter them.

I’m sorry to hear about the DNC filling Connolly’s email inbox, but I suspect the party finds it necessary because a) Republican “czar” critics are saying a lot of things that aren’t true; b) there are relevant facts here that many news outlets are ignoring; and c) the DNC knew the media would be covering the Republican press conference yesterday and wanted to get the facts out. This is, after all, one of the reasons the DNC exists.

As Matt put it, “Silly Democratic National Committee, boring reporters by tediously pointing out that the central political argument being made by their opponents is totally dishonest! What partisan hackery! How sad that the debate is ‘descending’ to this level! But who’s to say who’s to blame for this situation? Maybe the DNC should have just turned the other cheek and not annoyed Newsweek with its pesky emails.”

As for the notion that “Democrats are proffering inflated claims to counter” Republicans, I don’t know what this refers to. What “inflated claims”? I received some of the same emails yesterday, and didn’t find any factual errors at all. In fact, the Newsweek item included some of the same accurate figures in its post.

I suspect what happened here is what happens often — Newsweek realized that Republican claims are both misleading and hypocritical, but didn’t want to be accused of “bias,” so it gratuitously added criticism of the DNC. That way, the piece was “balanced.”