The Washington Post’s coverage of Monica Goodling’s testimony was so poor as to warrant mention. I won’t even bother with Dana Milbank’s buffoonish account. I’ll focus on the Post’s attempt at serious news coverage, rather than its attempt at comedy.
The Post’s report by and Dan Eggen and Paul Kane presents a misleading and in some cases inaccurate picture. First, consider this breathless comment: “Goodling’s appearance opened broad new avenues of inquiry for congressional Democrats who think Gonzales presided over intensifying political meddling at the Justice Department.” Eggen and Kane decline to identify these avenues. Goodling did not provide any new information about “political meddling” in the decisions about which U.S. attorneys to fire. Her interrogators hit a dead-end here, as Eggen and Kane acknowledge (they do so by way of claiming that Goodling “minimized her role,” which I also think is an inaccurate characterization of her testimony).
Perhaps the Post-men are referring to Goodling’s testimony that she sometimes “crossed the line” in processing applicants for career positions. But Goodling’s testimony did not implicate others in this regard, so there is no “broad avenue” for inquiry here, either. The “broad avenue” claim more closely resembles a Democratic talking point than the reality of the hearing.
The authors also present a misleading picture of Goodling’s testimony on the extent to which she “crossed the line.” They have her saying that she “routinely” used potentially illegal criteria to make personnel decisions about filling a “wide array” of career jobs. But Goodling did not say she used political considerations routinely. Moreover, Eggen and Kane omit the fact (emphasized by Goodling) that many of the prospective employees in question were seeking political jobs but also wished to be considered for career positions. Asking one of these individuals about political matters would not be improper. Only using the answer in an effort to deny the person a career job would be. Goodling did not testify that she did this routinely or, indeed, more than rarely.
The claim that Goodling used political considerations for “a wide array of career professionals” is also flatly false. Goodling identified two positions where this occurred and a third (assistant U.S. attorney) where she took such considerations into account in reviewing requests for waiving hiring freezes. As I understood her testimony, “politics” entered into her thinking here to the extent that she didn’t want to waive a freeze if a new U.S. attorney might be taking over soon. This makes sense, since the new boss would want to hire his or her own people. In any event, the “wide array” language once again sounds like a Democratic talking point, and certainly is not an honest description of Goodling’s testimony.
Eggen and Kane probably were hoping for a big day, one that would yield considerably more than their usual “More Prosecutors Considered For Dismissal Than Previously Thought” fare. Perhaps their inaccurate reporting of Goodling’s testimony reflects frustration with the event itself.
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