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Secrets and Scoops
The Times story on Paterson, by contrast, involved only political wars. But it was devastating in its specifics, attributed to "two senior administration officials and a New York Democratic operative" who "spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions with the governor were intended to be confidential." Of course, by leaking the account to the Times, they were deliberately shattering that confidentiality.
Reporters Raymond Hernandez and Jeff Zeleny wrote that Obama had approved the tough message, that it was delivered to Paterson by a Queens congressman, and that the White House had concluded the governor could not recover from his slide in the polls. Paterson inherited the job after a prostitution scandal toppled Eliot Spitzer last year, and the story served as a neon sign for Democrats thinking of backing state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the 2010 race.
But why should the Times have allowed the Obama team to disparage Paterson's chances for reelection without a single official putting his name to the hit job?
Zeleny says the paper considered the question but that "we had confirmation from several people that this was going on. It was more important, in my view, to report this meeting, this extraordinary effort. We gave Paterson a chance to comment and he didn't. . . . The White House was not thrilled about the story coming out. It was not handed to us by any means. I had a lot of angry phone calls about this."
Such decisions can be tricky. But too many journalists err on the side of keeping readers in the dark about those pulling the strings offstage.
Burying the Hatchet
Bill Clinton made the media rounds last week, sitting down for interviews with Matt Lauer, David Gregory, Larry King, Jon Stewart . . . and Christopher Ruddy.
For those who remember Ruddy's name from the scandal wars of the 1990s, that is nothing short of remarkable. Ruddy wrote a book titled "The Strange Death of Vincent Foster," questioning whether the Clinton aide, who committed suicide, had been murdered. He also questioned whether Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash, had been shot in the head. And yet here was Ruddy, now chief executive of Newsmax.com, telling Clinton that "I was one of your critics" during his administration, and Clinton responding with a laugh: "You did a good job."
Ruddy says in an interview that he was "overzealous" and "over the top" when publisher Richard Mellon Scaife was financing his Clinton investigations. (Scaife has also made peace with his onetime nemesis.) "I think he was a much better president than I thought," Ruddy says. "I think he was a great president."
Clinton and Ruddy made peace at a 2007 lunch set up by their mutual friend, ex-mayor of New York Ed Koch. Still, it's intriguing that Clinton would grant a 20-minute sitdown to the conservative Newsmax, a monthly magazine whose Web site attracts 3.7 million visitors a month, according to Nielsen.
"We are the heart and soul of the Republican Party and not out to demonize people," Ruddy says. He says other Republicans have privately told him of their affection for Clinton "after I came out, so to speak."
Apology of the Week
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner expressed regret to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin for what it called an "offensive" headline about her speech in Hong Kong: "A Broad in Asia."
Sad news yesterday about the passing of Bill Safire. Whether you were a fan of his political views or not, the man had one heckuva second act.