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Those Darned Kids

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 16, 2006 7:50 AM

I'm getting a little tired of reading all these "exposes" of Facebook and MySpace.

Hardly a week goes by without some newscast or newspaper discovering that it can be hazardous to the college or professional careers of young people to post pictures of themselves engaged in drinking, drugging, loving or other racy activity that might be frowned upon by some adult in a position of authority.

Okay, we get it. Hasn't dumb judgment always been hazardous to your professional health?

It's a legitimate story, but I detect a faint whiff of Old Media getting all exercised about the terrible dangers of New Media--why are all those kids wasting their time blabbing on these social sites?--rather than figuring out how to appeal to their young fans.

So if college-type kids want to endanger their prospects by acting online like, well, college kids, let 'er rip. But now comes a new wrinkle: Should embarrassing postings be held against their parents, especially if their parents are, like, politicians?

First Wonkette reports that one of Bill Frist's sons has some weird language in his profile in Facebook (aimed at college students and alums): "Lets bomb some people." (He didn't major in grammar, apparently.) And "FREE DUKE" hanging on his wall.

Then Roll Call found another son of the Senate majority leader declaring membership in the "Jonathan Frist appreciation For 'Waking Up White People' Group" and another group that says: "No Jews Allowed. Just Kidding. No seriously." And there was this gem: "Texans: the lowest form of white man there is."

Wonkette posted a picture of the guy wearing--I don't know the technical term--a belt made out of beer cans.

Now Wonkette's investigative bureau has uncovered a picture of the daughter of a candidate running for Frist's Tennessee Senate seat under the headline "Bob Corker's Daughter Experiments with Marycheneyism." There is indeed a Facebook shot of two young women doing some serious lip-lock and another involving underwear dancing of the kind probably not seen at Senate socials.

Do I think any of this stuff should reflect poorly on their parents? No. But it's on a zillion Web sites now. It's too bad the kids have been singled out because they belong to political families. And after all, they weren't exactly busted for cocaine or arrested in a DUI. But that's life in the Internet age: Nothing is truly private.

A major-league uproar on the Hill yesterday over a Republican resolution designed to pin down Democrats over the war--one of those great, noisy, partisan battles that doesn't really change anything on the ground.

The New York Times : "The House and the Senate engaged in angry, intensely partisan debate on Thursday over the war in Iraq, as Republicans sought to rally support for the Bush administration's policies and exploit Democratic divisions in an election year shadowed by unease over the war.

"It was one of the sharpest legislative clashes yet over the three-year- old conflict, and it came after three days in which President Bush and his aides have sought to portray Iraq as moving gradually toward a stable, functioning democracy, and to portray Democrats as lacking the will to see the conflict through to victory."

Any connection there?

Los Angeles Times : "For the first time since the United States invaded Iraq three years ago, Republican leaders Thursday officially convened a full-scale debate over the war -- an effort that they hoped would showcase the increasingly divergent positions of the two parties and that wound up unleashing passions and acrimony on both sides."

Philadelphia Inquirer : "Republicans firmly defended President Bush's policies in Iraq, and Democrats accused his administration of waging a botched and mistaken war, as the House engaged yesterday in its first extended debate on the war since U.S. troops removed Saddam Hussein from power more than three years ago."

Salon's Peter Daou finds a new reason not to like Bush after he teased a legally blind LAT reporter for wearing dark glasses:

"The point of this post is not that Bush intentionally taunted a blind man, but that his insistence on clowning with the press is undignified and highly inappropriate . . .

"Bush's clownish banter with reporters -- which is on constant display during press conferences -- stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe . . . the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?"

Stephen Spruiell , National Review's media blogger, likes what he heard on Fox:

"On Special Report with Brit Hume, Mort Kondrake had an especially good take on Wednesday's White House press conference. His simple comment really debunks the idea (popular among lefties) that conservatives want a press corps that cheers on Republicans instead of asking tough questions. Here's what he said:

" Morton Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call: 'Well, I mean, it is the role of the press to ask challenging questions of the President. I thought he, in general, he handled them feistily and, you know, for somebody who's jet-lagged and all that, rather more feisty than usual even. What's interesting, though, is that there was hardly any question, critical question from the right, which you might call the Weekly Standard side of the fence. For example, this deal-'

"Brit Hume: 'Let me just ask you a question about that. And which news organization every day represents the Weekly Standard side of events?'

"Kondracke: 'Well, I don't think there is one. So, but, for example, I mean, critics say that the deal that you're offering Iran on nuclear weapons is a lot like the deal that Bill Clinton offered to North Korea, and he got taken as a result of it. '

"There are a whole host of issues on which conservatives disagree with the president -- to the extent they even agree with each other these days. But when conservatives listen to a White House press conference, they hear liberal critiques phrased as questions -- not, as Kondrake put it, 'critical question[s] from the right' (see the rest of Brent Baker's post for examples). We aren't opposed to tough questions. But we don't hear very many that reflect our concerns."

American Prospect's Greg Sargent introduces "a new feature -- called 'Follow the Bouncing Bush' -- which seeks to highlight the most absurd examples of the media straining for whatever scrap of evidence it can find that President Bush is rebounding in the polls. The least absurd examples get a rating of one Bouncing Bush; the most ridiculous get five Bouncing Bushes.

"Well, today we have another winner! It is . . . NBC News for this headline and lede on the story about the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

"Bush's standing rises slightly:

'WASHINGTON - After a week of positive news for the White House -- including the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the formation of a new government in Iraq -- the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that President Bush's standing has slightly improved, especially when it comes to the situation in Iraq.'

"Guess how much Bush's standing rose. One point! In two months! The poll says Bush's approval rating is now at 37 percent, up one point from April. The margin of error for the poll? Three points. So how do we know his rating has risen, then? We don't, of course.

"What's more, way down in the story, we learn that fifty-three percent say the decision to attack Iraq was the wrong decision, compared with 41 percent who say it was right. And another 53 percent indicate they are less confident the war will conclude 'successfully' (though that figure is down four points).

"OK then -- so why wasn't this the headline: 'Despite good news, majorities still oppose war and are pessimistic about outcome.' "

Well, here's a new nominee, from today's Journal: "Add this to the list of things that have gone right lately for President Bush: Americans appear to be drawing closer to his view on the immigration debate . . . By 50%-33%, the survey shows, Americans support the views expressed by President Bush and also by businesses, Hispanics and Democratic leaders: that steps to strengthen border security should be combined with a guest-worker program for prospective immigrants and those who have been in the U.S. for at least two years."

At Right Wing Nuthouse, Rick Moran is still mad at a man he calls a "weasel":

"Given Kerry's numerous statements during the campaign in 2004 that he didn't 'regret' his vote to authorize force, one wonders what has changed in the intervening two years. There have been no formal findings that Bush 'misled' the country about WMD's or that Saddam didn't pose the same kind of threat that Kerry had been talking about for 10 years prior to the war. Hell, Kerry even voted for regime change as a goal of US foreign policy in 1998 . . .

"What has changed is the attitude of a vast majority of Democratic party activists who have stated flatly that they will not work for a candidate who voted for the war in 2003. This includes the lucrative block of netnuts who can be counted on to raise enough money to give the candidate of their choice a decent shot at upending Hillary Clinton's drive for the nomination.

"These are weasel words from a weasel of a politician who has proven time and time again that he will do or say anything to curry favor with those who can help him politically. It is one thing to do this kind of thing with issues like taxes or spending or some domestic issue. All politicians do it to some degree. But to try and weasel out of a vote taken in 2003 that was based on his past positions regarding regime change and the danger Saddam posed, one should look very carefully at this calculating, changeable man who apparently would sell the security of the United States down the river in return for a few measly bucks."

Feels like 2004 all over again.

Nation Editor Katrina van den Heuvel says bloggers are MIA in one area:

"Just hours after the army of bloggers left Las Vegas, the beleaguered United Auto Workers opened its convention in the same town. But this week there were no lavish bashes, no big-ticket politicians clamoring to speak to a union whose membership fell from 1.5 million in 1979 to less than 600,000 last year. The UAW's convention's tone was somber--in sharp contrast to the triumphalist mood of the Daily Kos convention.

"I say, all power to the participatory politics that the Internet is bringing to our anemic democracy. But I wish a few bloggers had stayed behind to report on how the UAW's members are faring and feeling. I wish a few of them had used their laptop power to hold politicians' feet to the fire for failing to think big about how to rebuild an economy that would provide opportunity to America's ravaged working poor and middle class. And at a moment when the mainstream media, the rightful target of so many bloggers, devotes fewer column inches to labor coverage than at any time in modern history (and has shown the door to almost all its labor reporters), what better role for crusading bloggers to fill?"

My story yesterday , quoting sources as saying that CBS has decided not to renew Dan Rather's contract, brought cheers on some conservative blogs, but this reflection from television writer David Blum :

"The CBS executives who leaked the story of Dan Rather's imminent exit from the news division to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post today clearly despise the former anchorman. They blame him for the 2004 National Guard documents scandal that tarnished the reputation of CBS News. They hate him for the ratings slide of the CBS Evening News that began in the final years of his tenure. They resent him for his oddball persona, his addiction to the red light of the camera, and his multi-million-dollar annual salary."

I just wonder how Blum can be so sure of the motivation of sources I haven't named.

"It all seems a bit harsh when you consider his enormous contributions to the history of television news -- his reporting from the front lines of hurricanes, assassinations and wars; his classic confrontations with Richard Nixon during Watergate; his memorable '60 Minutes' stories that helped the show achieve its first number-one Nielsen rating in 1975, and even his absurdist but groundbreaking 'Gunga Dan' reporting from Afghanistan in 1979. In light of those legendary achievements, it seems coldhearted and callous for CBS to cast Rather out so mercilessly, and so publicly, in the twilight of his career . . .

"For anyone who knows Rather -- and that includes just about everyone in America, thanks to his highly personal style and his longevity -- it's going to be sad to imagine him wandering around the streets of New York, searching for the red light of a camera. Maybe there ought to be a kinder way for business executives to treat legends of the news business -- at least by doing something nicer than leaking stories of their dismissal to media reporters hungry to cover the latest casualty of progress."

Speaking for this hungry reporter, sometimes stories aren't just handed to you.

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