Dumb ‘adviser’ takes a shot at the ‘internet left fringe’

DUMB ‘ADVISER’ TAKES A SHOT AT THE ‘INTERNET LEFT FRINGE’…. CNBC Chief Washington correspondent John Harwood raised more than a few eyebrows yesterday afternoon. Appearing on MSNBC, Harwood was asked whether there are concerns among liberals about the White House not yet delivering on some agenda items. He replied:

“Sure, but if you look at the polling, Barack Obama is doing well with 90 percent or more of Democrats so the White House views this opposition as really part of the ‘Internet left fringe,’ Lester. And for a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn’t take this opposition, one adviser told me today those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult.”

This has caused quite an uproar in some circles, and for good reason. Harwood’s unnamed source seems to have made a ridiculous and insulting comment.

That said, my outrage is tempered by some relevant details here. I don’t think Harwood is the kind of reporter to just make something like this up, but this was a blind paraphrase of an anonymous advisor of unknown significance. We don’t know who Harwood spoke to, or what kind of access he/she has into the White House’s thinking on its relationship to liberal critics.

Indeed, Harwood’s quote doesn’t seem to even include a quote. It’s not all clear where the paraphrase begins and/or ends, so as far as the viewer is concerned, this is Harwood’s interpretation of an unknown person’s perspective. Not exactly iron-clad information.

For that matter, Harwood cited “one adviser.” Now, “adviser” can have ambiguous meanings in political reporting. I’ve seen it used to describe top White House aides, but also applied to outsiders who may have the ear of someone in the West Wing. What did Harwood mean? I have no idea.

For what it’s worth, the White House is a reasonably big place. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of folks there who think the netroots and progressive activists in general are a dynamic force in American politics and valuable agents of worthwhile change. Likewise, I don’t doubt those same folks have colleagues who think bloggers are worthless, naive amateurs who should be ignored.

What matters to me more is whether the White House actually treats the larger, diverse community as “bloggers who need to take off the pajamas,” and in my experience, it doesn’t. In fact, I’ve seen largely the opposite — far from dismissing the “Internet left fringe,” the White House has engaged in a fair amount of direct outreach, including a conference call a few months ago with the president himself. To use Harwood’s word, that speaks to a West Wing that takes the netroots at least somewhat “seriously.”

Nevertheless, the comment, as reported, was bizarre and offensive. I don’t think it necessarily reflects White House thinking, but the more the White House does to distance itself from the paraphrased comment, the better.