June 29, 2009

Such a dick, indeed.

So Dana Milbank is outraged, outraged we tell you, that the White House prearranged a list of journalists it intended to call upon at last week's press conference -- as though this were not something, as we just noted, that's been going on for years, and which reached its zenith with the Bush White House using a fake reporter named "Jeff Gannon" to raise questions favorable to its talking points.

Of course, what Pitney did was precisely the opposite: He actually asked an extremely tough question that President Obama had a difficult time answering (and in fact failed to answer). Yet this is what the Village folk are all waving their Gucci torches and Armani pitchforks about.

Moreover, as Eric Boehlert observes at Media Matters, Milbank never bothered to even write about this on the pages of the Washington Post, either while it was happening or afterward.

However, he did in fact appear on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Feb. 9, 2005, to talk about Gannon. And while he was happy to kick Gannon around a little, this was his rationale about the whole affair:

MILBANK: Let's call him Mr. G. He did get to ask a question of the president whether that was deliberate or not.

You know, what it really comes down to here is that it is not the type of question he was asking. I find that funny, it was a brief break, it was an amusement. The fact is he was representing a phony media company that doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership, it's affiliated with something called GOP USA. So there are many people, Fox News, Washington Times, they are conservative but they are legitimate organizations. So this guy is not a real journalist. And he was hanging out there wasting everybody's time in the press room.

Now, Milbank can't possibly object to Pitney's presence or inclusion in the press conference on the grounds that Huffington Post "doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership" -- it in fact has one of the largest readerships of any entity on the Internet, dwarfing even the Washington Post's.

So he's left to cling to the thin fiction that Pitney's preselection by the White House was some kind of massive transgression of the unwritten rules of White House press conferences. And in a way it was: It proved that the old unwritten rule -- that Beltway hacks like Dana Milbank will be permitted to dominate our national conversation by trivializing press conferences with dumbass questions about baseball and swimming suits -- is no longer quite so operative.

Indeed, no one seems to have asked the really relevant question here: Why did the White House feel compelled to ensure that someone asked an Iran question? Answer: Because they almost certainly feared the usual onslaught of swimsuit, baseball and Michael Jackson questions.

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