Who Super-Soaks The Watch Dogs?

Glenn Greenwald rightly excoriates members of the press for frolicking with the members of the White House last weekend:

On Friday, CNN’s Ed Henry posted a series of giggly, adolescent updates on his Twitter feed, describing the events that took place at a “beach” party thrown by Joe Biden, at the Vice President’s mansion, for various “reporters” and White House officials.  Digby excerpted just a sampling of Henry’s giddy outburst:

Henry also posted videos and photographs he took of the Vice President and White House Chief of Staff playing with water guns, slides and the White House press corps.

Today, The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder, who often passes along White House thinking under the cover of anonymity, confesses that he, too, attended the water party, and also posted a short video he took of Rahm Emanuel frolicking with a squirt gun along with party participants Wolf Blitzer (the former AIPAC official and current CNN anchor) and The New York Times‘ David Sanger (who faithfully regurgitates every administration fear-mongering claim regarding the Iranian nuclear program):

About all of this, Ambinder writes:

Does an afternoon of leisure with senior administration officials violate journalistic ethics?  To many, the self-evident answer is: “Absolutely.” I have a different view, although perhaps it’s a way to rationalize my own decision to attend the Bidens’ first beach party for journalists. . . .

Yes, “perhaps.”  I personally don’t think that these types of interactions “violate journalistic ethics” because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.  Just marvel at the self-abasing joy in which Ed Henry wallows by virtue of getting to play water sports with Emanuel and the Bidens.  He sounds like a gushing pre-adolescent who just met his favorite boy band idol and got his water gun signed.  Digby asks, quite rhetorically:  “do you think this sort of thing makes it easier or more difficult for journalists to maintain their independence?”

In true Greenwald form he proceeds to pile on and on and on with disappointing examples.

Ambinder defends himself:

Am I fatally compromised?
Well, I walked out of the Naval Observatory Saturday afternoon. I carried a view of the Vice President I hadn’t before seen, a few tips from senior administration officials about a variety of subjects, a wet shirt from Rahm Emanuel’s water gun, and that’s about it.
Perhaps that warm feeling will lead me to somehow subconsciously cover the vice president less aggressively. Actually, in writing about the event, which was on the record, I may never get an invitation to one again. And that’s OK. I know readers are interested in these types of things, and I think there is some value in sharing how one journalist rationalizes them, even if it will only serve to make critics more angry.
This was an experience, a chance to catch up with sources, a chance to observe the Vice President in his natural element, a chance to see the chief of staff interact with his family, a chance to kibitz with other journalists. We did talk about Helen Thomas.
My self-identity as a journalist has evolved from the days when I used to see myself as a neutral arbiter between equal parties. I trust the government less than I did.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about a Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence facility and the way in which its operators may be circumventing restrictions on interrogations. I wasn’t rounded up and thrown into jail. I had some rough conversations with senior administration officials. And then I shared  a beer (well, not really, because I don’t drink) with those same officials. I’m working on a follow-up to the DIA story. I continue to believe that the White House political operation is tame. I continue to believe that Iraq is much less stable than it appears to be. I’m still fairly certain that health care will wind up costing taxpayers more than current estimates project (although with less of an impact than doubters believe).

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.