Readers of Politico have come to look forward to process stories from Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei. Every week, Allen and Vandehei will serve up something to set Washington's tongues a-waggin', a profile of White House aide Valerie Jarrett, say, or a look at Paul Ryan's new path to power. They sometimes feature biting, anonymously-sourced quotes about beltway heavies, but rarely do they inspire real outrage like the kind that animated Rush Limbaugh's bizarre response to this week's installment in the Allen/Vandehei oeuvre.
In "Obama, the Puppet Master," Allen and Vandehei offer a sharply critical view of the White House spin machine and even portray the president as a master manipulator of the media. To punctuate just how seriously you should take this claim, they adduce Democrats (like the Clinton administration's Mike McCurry) and representatives of the mainstream press (Ann Compton of ABC News) to show that something big is happening and that right-thinking non-partisans should be concerned—"the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government." "This is an arguably dangerous development," they write, in what should be read as the companion piece to Ed Henry's protest over the president's round of golf with Tiger Woods.
Vandehei made the point explicit when he pitched the article to conservatives in a Politico webcast, saying "this has been the biggest critique by conservatives and we argue in our column that it's an accurate critique." He got no thanks, however, for embracing the conservative critique, least of all from the nation's most vocal conservative. On Tuesday, Limbaugh tore into Allen and Vandehei for not embracing enough of the critique, for not concluding that "a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated." For that, Limbaugh reserves his most transporting bouts of rage:
"Now, this is bovine scatology here, folks. None of this would be possible without a news media as a willing accomplice to this. If Obama's the puppet master, they are willing puppets. They are eager puppets. They are eager manipulators, or eager to be manipulated, happy to be. They like the guy. And I'll tell you again, you can't take the racial component out of this in terms of journalists, the fact that they're gooey-eyed over this presidency."
So there you have it, Mssrs. Allen and Vandehei, just in case you thought there was much audience for process stories on the right. Martin took on the "controversy" surrounding White House media manipulation in a panel with Joy Reid, managing editor of the Grio, and Washington Post political columnist Dana Milbank.
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