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March 23, 2007



will it never occur to you WATBs that perhaps a luncheon like this might be educational for the politicians? of that it is a net gain for those of us without a real voice for the past 25 years or so? or are you looking for a bloggers' Purity Ball?

James F. Trumm

It's not the luncheon that I mind; it's the off-the-record nature of it. I mind this for the same reason I mind Rove et als. insisting that no transcript be made of any testimony he might give to the House or Senate Judiciary Committees.


Hey great. A link from Atrios.

Oops, he was mean to you.

At least you weren't wanker of the day.


No offense, but why on Earth do you suppose that any of these advocates (not journalists) have any obligation to refrain from dining with the legislators who propose and pass the legislation that enables the ideas that they advocate? Do you think that Markos, who has never claimed to be anything other than a strong supporter of the Democratic party, has some requirement to maintain objectivity? Or Duncan or any of the others? They're bloggers, not newsmen. Why shouldn't they brag a little about getting some of the nation's most powerful legislators to sit down for lunch with them? Wouldn't you?


shorter James F. Trumm: please only do what I want. Thank you.

Ken Houghton

I have no problem with OTR conversations. Blogging isn't telling everything to everyone; if it's done well (as they do), it gives useful information to others.

Useful enough that we put up with the cat pictures.


They'll be wearing their matching "Please take me seriously, I need the validation" T-shirts.

It's all Moulitsas and his pals ever wanted, just to be allowed into the MSM through a different door. If you think these are rebels or principled outsiders, you're kidding yourself ... tragically.


Also, why do you think that there is any obligation to disclose anything these guys do? They're not objective journalists. They're not required to tell you anything. If you are reading blogs for news content exclusively, you need to diversify your sources.


Who are you?

Leo Drongo

What's wrong with conversation? What's wrong with negotiation? What's wrong with hearing what somebody else has to say, and the other person hearing what you have to say, sitting around a table of civil discourse? Why is it a problem if it is disclosed? Isn't our nations' selective refusal to sit down and talk with others at the heart of some of our nations' worst problems? Why is it different at a personal level? Get over it.

James F. Trumm

I note that Atrios has called my post "very silly" and said "My principles are not anything you happen to make up for me, and my role in this universe is not anything you happen to imagine it to be. I've never claimed to be an "independent journalist" and never suggested that politicians can't have conversations without them being broadcast to the world. My goal is to influence, not report, and I've never pretended otherwise."

In his first sentence, he's making the Charles Barkley argument: I am not a role model. I think that both Sir Charles and Atrios are mistaken. None of us--even the famous and influential--get to define what we mean to others, or how others view our roles. Just as Barkley's denial that he was a role model didn't make him any less of one, so Atrios's protest that his role in the universe isn't what others perceive it to be doesn't make it true.


James, I have to disagree with you. You don't make party political planning sessions public. NOBODY does that, for every office from President to dogcatcher.

I greatly admire Dr. Black, and trust Markos' intentions even if I think he goes off the deep end sometime. If they get Senators using blogs for better netroots outreach, more power to them. What ulterior motives would they have? What dark favors would they ask? Atrios asking for better public transportation in Philly? Doesn't bother me, although I live a thousand miles away. Pushing for net netrality? More power to them. Some deep dark plan to trip up Karl Rove? Good Lord, nothing would please me more.

I trust those gentlemen to further my interests. That's all I need to know.


He's James F. Trumm.

Don't forget the "F."

He enjoys "discourse."

Dr. Morpheus

Why off the record? What do they have to hide? I've met with my Senator before and have never requested that our meeting be held off record.

Oh, and I went to discuss his support of the new bankrupcy bill before it was passed.

And who the hell does Duncan Black think he is getting all high and mighty attitude?


You're kidding, right?

It's too bad you're offended by progressives other than yourself increasing their influence even more than they already have.

Doctor Biobrain

I believe you're confused as to why people have a problem with Off-the-Record conversations. They're not inherently a problem and there's nothing wrong with reporters meeting with politicians on a personal basis. The problem is when reporters report what was said in the "Off the Record" conversation, without telling us exactly what was said or who said it. When it's all "on background".

And that's a problem because it removes accountability from the entire process, and thus gives permission to the politico to deceive people. The Whitehouse used that quite effectively before the war, to sell phony information that they didn't want traced back to themselves; and are still using it fairly well. Apparently, modern reporters would rather report a scoop than the truth. That's also why it's wrong for "reporters" like Tim Russert to grant automatic Off-the-Record status to all politicos. By doing so, they've perverted the entire process and given politcos a free-pass to lie all the time.

So that's the problem. Not that reporters don't tell us everything they know. It's when they only tell us the pieces of information that the politico wants us to hear and denying us the ability to properly judge the context of what was being said. It's better to not know a fact at all than to know only part of the fact and think you've got the whole thing. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.


If a bunch of journalists had an off-the-record coversation with Republican senators before the election, what exactly is the problem? Speaking as a former journalist myself, journalism cannot function without off-the-record statements and anonymous sources.

I think Josh Marshall and his crew are doing some very fine journalism right now, but, frankly, most blogging is parasitic on MSM reporting. That's not a bad thing; bloggers have enriched media. But as a result, bloggers too depend on "off-the-record" as fodder for their own writings, albeit indirectly.

Do you thing Seymour Hersh could have broken the Abu Graib story without having off-the-record conversations? How about Dana Priest's breaking the secret CIA prisons story?

When off-the-record conversations and anonymous sources are used as a shield to slag other people ("He looks French" comes to mind), that's a problem. But off-the-record isn't a bad thing, in itself.

Dr. Morpheus

Let me ask the posters who are indignant that James Trumm dare question why these meetings were held in secret if Atrios, Kos, et. al are above criticism?

You may blindly trust someone you've never met, but I don't and frankly I'm pissed as hell at you supporter's "these people are holier than thou" attitude.

Porgy Tirebiter

Shorter David F. Trumm:

Everyone who is more successful than me is corrupt.


hey commentators, there's no reason to get nasty with mr. trumm just because he disagreed with atrios.

but i do disagree with him on this.

atrios et. al. holding an off the record conversation with senators is not the same as karl rove giving testimony without a transcript. rove's testimony would be part of an investigation. if duncan black were part of a panel investigating the senators for something, then you would be right to criticize holding it off the record. your analogy fails.

as for the charles barkley analogy, that's not quite as flawed. i do agree with you that neither atrios, nor any other famous (or "famous") person gets to decide how others see them, nor should they close their eyes to the reality of their effect on the world.

but i don't think atrios is closing his eyes to his effect on the world here. as he wrote:

My goal is to influence, not report, and I've never pretended otherwise.

and that strikes me as absolutely true. atrios doesn't hold himself out as a reporter. and if others few him as a reporter, i think they are simply mistaken. his schtick is drawing attention to issues and offering analysis. he doesn't post interviews, he doesn't have a "beat", he doesn't do anything resembling reporting.

so i think ultimately the charles barkley analogy fails too. atrios is not closing his eyes to his effect on the world. meeting privately with senators to air his concerns is not contrary to what he does on his blog at all.

on top of that, i think it's okay that reporters sometimes have off the record conversations with people in power. off-the-record is a tactic that can be useful to lead reporters to better information. the problem is when off-the-record is used for its own sake, when it no longer is a tactic for getting more info but rather is just a way for reporters to pal around with the powerful. but that doesn't mean we should throw out the entire concept of "off the record."

so even if duncan black were a journalist (which he isn't), it still would not be clear to me that an off-the-record lunch with senators is out of bounds.


Mr. Trumm: you really cannot tell the difference between having a strategy session off the record and refusing to testify in front of Congress unless the testimony is off the record, with few witnesses, and no transcript?

Here's a starter: in one case, a possible crime is being investigated.

As for whether Duncan Black is a "role model", you're avoiding his point. You criticized him for not being open and transparent. You implied that his conversation was shady by making an analogy to how people would behave if this is what mainstream media reporters did. Duncan's reply was that he was not a journalist, never promised to always report everything that he discussed with anybody, and it's bizarre for you to place this requirement on him. Furthermore, he is an openly partisan blogger, not a reporter feigning non-partisanship. The comparison, quite frankly, does not work.

Dr. Morpheus, should we all send requests to you when we want to have private conversations with anybody? Is that really where you think the line in the sand should be drawn? Quite frankly, I think this position is barking. If any private conversation between any two people in positions of influence is going to upset you, you are probably going to be upset and "pissed as hell" your entire life.

Bertrand Russell

You guys are pathetic. He makes a well thought out argument and you just attack and insult him. Way to go.

Congratulations, you all have officially become the left wing version of Ditto heads and Malkinites.

And the suggestion by atrios that this is just jealousy for not being linked to is disgusting. He should be ashamed. I 100% agree with this post and the one on dkos.

Nasty Girl

Gawd forbid politicians ever spend a lunch listening to the views of grass-roots bloggers instead of, say, more lunches with AIPAC, oil lobbyists and Ahmed Chalabi. What has happened to Washington? For shame!


Bertrand Russell's email address goes to [email protected]?


No, of course Atrios and Kos are not above criticism. But that doesn't mean Trumm isn't being a pedantic knob who thinks wearing a hat makes him a police officer. "You'd Make A Great Cop!"

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