August 4, 2005


Source Code (Ryan Lizza, 08.04.05, New Republic)

Hours before President Bush announced his Supreme Court nominee, a White House reporter from a major daily newspaper was on the phone with one of "the four horsemen." The horsemen--former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, Federalist Society pooh-bah Leonard Leo, and Jay Sekulow, best known as Washington's most prominent Jew for Jesus--had earned their nickname because they were the four outsiders who worked most closely with the White House on the Supreme Court nomination. If anyone knew who Bush was about to pick, it would be one of them.

The reporter declined to identify which horseman he spoke with, but the source confidently provided the scribe with what seemed like confirmation of the scoop of the day--that Bush's choice was Edith Brown Clement. "He was talking about the pros and cons of Clement, and why it was such a brilliant pick," says the reporter.

Elsewhere in Washington, other "sources close to the White House" were also fanning the Clement flames. Up on the Hill, Senator John Cornyn, another self-styled Bush adviser wired into the White House, e-mailed reporters an embargoed statement praising Clement as an inspired choice.

The horsemen and Cornyn were obviously wrong about Clement, but the episode underscores how much reporters now rely on GOP operatives outside the White House to tell them what's going on inside of it. These sources and their ilk fed the frenzied, daylong speculation that Bush would pick Clement, and they now shape the coverage of every major White House story. Whether they are called "sources close to the White House" or "Bush advisers" or "GOP strategists familiar with White House thinking," their role in Washington is the same. They act as an essential lubricant in the daily clash between the White House and its press corps.

This is partly the White House's own fault.

Fault? Mr. Lizza can't really be that oblivious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2005 8:12 PM

Of course it looks like fault because to Mr. Lizza the White House staff is failing in its number one duty: Providing the media with timely and accurate leaks.

When this does not occur, it's the white House's fault. And causes people like Mr. Lizza to break out into a cold sweat as they understand that the administration does not consider them an actual branch of government, and they can't do anything about it - now.

Posted by: Mikey at August 5, 2005 9:04 AM

I hate it when someone doesn't get the joke.

To the reporter and Lizza: Welcome to the Wiley Coyote Association, a growing organization.

Posted by: Genecis at August 5, 2005 9:17 AM