In the course of its disingenuous, paint-by-numbers breastbeating over the human frailties of journalists, the Wilmington News Journal studiously conflates Dan Rather's "mistake" on the Bush memos with Armstrong Williams' acceptance of federal bribe money:
Armstrong Williams' mistake was even more insidious. The Department of Education paid the television pundit and syndicated columnist, $249,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind program himself and to others.[Huh?] Mr. Armstrong first said he didn't realize he had done anything wrong because he had no formal journalism training.What this editorialist fails to notice is that what Williams did or thought or said is utterly immaterial. What's important is that the Bush administration uses taxpayer money to bribe people; that fact would remain true even if Williams had turned the money down.
The Williams story isn't about a crisis in journalism, but in governance. The crisis in journalism is a subsidiary one, and one sees it primarily in the willingness of the media to throw themselves on any grenade that might threaten BushCo, just as this editorialist does by trotting out the usual self-flagellating journalistic cliches: "We have high ideals, but we're only human. In future, we really must try to be less partisan. Opinion and news must be separate, and clearly defined."
It's all improvisatory, incoherent, and totally beside the point. The only thing the Williams story means is that the federal government uses taxpayer money to bribe people. Anything Williams said about why he took the money, or how he feels about it in retrospect, merely confirms that our money was offered to him illegally.
UPDATE: I got up early to write this post, but not early enough to outfox the preternaturally shrewd Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, who was kind enough to point out that the editorial couldn't even get Williams' name right; you'll note that the article refers to "Mr. Armstrong." Pretty goddamn lame, eh?