Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Word "Directed"

In the e-mail exchange between the WaPo's Jim Brady and myself (here), I take his organization to task for continuing to assert that Jack Abramoff directed his clients to funnel monies not only to Republican members of Congress, but to Democratic lawmakers, as well. Why does it matter?

Well, the Washington Post, however properly, is still considered one of the better newspapers in the country -- although with few exceptions, all the newspapers in the U.S. have seemingly abandoned investigative reporting where the current administration is concerned. If "abandoned" is too strong a word for you, Deborah, Jim... let's just say this nation's reporters certainly do appear to stop digging shortly after being handed the official White House storyline.

But setting aside all that, for the time being, what excuse is Mr. Brady or Ms. Howell prepared to offer for this glaringly imprecise usage of the word "directed?" After all, journalists of the caliber found at the WaPo ought to hold themselves to more exacting standards. I'm certain their grasp of the English language exceeds my own -- and I find this use of the word "directed" to be entirely unwarranted, given the facts in evidence.

As I understand it, Jack Abramoff was hired by select tribal leaders to lobby Congress on their behalf.

Now, if I were hired by someone to do a job, would there be any conceivable instance where it would be accurate to say that I directed the people who hired me to do anything? To be sure, I might suggest a course of action; I might even recommend that my bosses do a certain something. But would I, by any stretch of the imagination, direct them?

If you can believe that to be possible, you'll probably even buy a shooting victim apologizing to the person who accidentally shot him.

However, you'll note that using the words "suggested" or "recommended" with regard to what Abramoff may have done regarding his tribal employers' contribution amounts to Democratic legislators would make it much harder to sell to the public that the Abramoff scandal is, as WaPo and so many other claim, bi-partisan. The word "directed" makes it seem so... authoritative, and fact-checked. If it is said that I directed you to do something, it's implicit that you actually did it -- a direction is a command, whereas a "recommendation" or "suggestion" can be disregarded.

Setting aside semantics (and please note, I'm trying to be fair to Mr. Brady and Ms. Howell, in all my set-asides), does WaPo provide a single piece of evidence that Abramoff's tribal clients did what he "directed" them to do? Would it matter if the amounts of cash he "directed" were less than what the same clients had given to the same lawmakers in the past? Have we seen comparisons from the WaPo on those amounts, both prior to, and after Abramoff's hiring by these tribal clients? If so, I seem to have completely glossed over those reports.

Peter Daou had a very interesting post on media bias, and the provability vs. assertibility thereof; I recommend y'all read it.


  1. paul lukasiak2/18/2006 9:19 AM

    Setting aside semantics (and please note, I'm trying to be fair to Mr. Brady and Ms. Howell, in all my set-asides), does WaPo provide a single piece of evidence that Abramoff's tribal clients did what he "directed" them to do?

    The Post itself hasn't provided a single iota of evidence that shows that Abramoff "directed" campaign funds to democratic candidates.

    Circumstantial evidence does exist that suggests that Abramoff may have "directed" money to Democrats --- but the evidence is merely circumstantial, and there is no evidence that has Abramoff personally and directly telling tribal clients to give to Democratic candidates.

    Ron K at Next Hurrah, Ron B from raw story, and I spend time hashing out the publicly available evidence, some of which can be found in the discussion thread at

    IMHO, the Post is guilty of three journalistic "crimes"....

    1) making every effort to turn this into a "bipartisan" scandal that is all about native american tribes and their gambling interests -- when in fact its a Republican scandal that involves far more than Abramoff's Native American clients

    2) making every effort to turn this into a Congressional scandal, when the real corruption that occurred involved Bush administration officials that were doing favors for Abramoff --- this is especially true with Gale Norton and the Department of the Interior, which has gone out of its way to screw the vast majority of Native American tribes (most of whom are not represented by Abramoff) by denying them funds due to them through oil leases and other materials that have been mined from indian lands under the supervision of the Department of Interior.

    3) Making every effort to keep this scandal out of the White House, and away from Abramoff's non-native American clients. Bush doesn't give a damn about Native Americans --- but he does care about bid business and oil interests --- and those are the abramoff clients that had significant executive branch access....

    We know Sue Schmidt is a whore, and that her "investigation" is being directed by GOP operatives who want to keep the focus on Congress and the tribes, and away from the White House and the Abramoff's big corporate clients.
    Despite Howell's claim's, Schmidt doesn't do "investigative" journalism---if someone hands her a document, or a quote, she's write a story, but she doesn't do "data mining".

    Brady is turning into just as much of a whore as Schmidt, Howell, and Harris. He wouldn't know real journalism if it slapped him in the face.

    Basically, WPNI is turning into Pajamas Media --- a "net savvy" organization whose content is all but worthless. Sure, there is some worthwhile stuff associated with Pajamas media, just as people like Walter Pincus still write for the Post --- but on the whole the Post's is merely a waste of bandwidth.

  2. paul -- Thanks for your comments. Nice to see you here, btw.


  4. anon -- If you're from Downers Grove, IL, yes!