May 21, 2012 · 1 Comments
By Marie Burns:
The New York Times‘ Sunday review published a guest op-ed by Campbell Brown titled, “Obama: Stop Condescending to Women.” In publishing the piece, the Times identified Brown only as “a former news anchor for CNN and NBC.” Parenthetically, in the eleventh paragraph, Brown wrote, “(I should disclose here that my husband is an adviser to Mr. Romney; I have no involvement with any campaign, and have been an independent journalist throughout my career.)” Neither Brown nor the Times identifies Brown’s husband by name.
Brown’s husband, who she intimates has no influence over her views whatsoever, is neo-conservative war hawk Dan Senor. Senor is a regular on Fox “News” and has a long history of working for Republicans. After serving for a short time as a deputy press secretary to George W. Bush, Senor became a policy adviser to Bush during the lead-up and early days of the Iraq War. (Obviously, he gave great advice!) He was chief spokesman for the disastrous Coalition Provisional Authority which ran Iraq after “coalition” forces toppled the Saddam government – or as Gal Beckerman wrote in Forward, he was “the spinmeister responsible for selling the early years of the occupation of Iraq as a rosy time – even as bombs exploded daily and sectarian violence ripped apart the country”). Senor was a senior adviser to the head of the Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, who had no idea what he was doing.
Later, Senor co-wrote Start-up Nation, a book which Beckerman writes “offers Israel as a glorified economic model for countries seeking to build up their information-technology sector.” In March, Senor wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing President Obama for supposedly taking a hard line against Israel. (The Journal identified him as a Romney advisor.) A few weeks ago, Senor appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to bash President Obama’s foreign policy. USA Today cited Senor in late April criticizing President Obama for leaving our “friends and allies … exposed and isolated in a way that I have not seen in American foreign policy history for years.”
Here’s an interesting tidbit. According to Dana Milbank and Mike Allen of the Washington Post:
In September 2004, the White House controversially employed Senor to coach and ghostwrite the speeches of Iraq’s interim prime minister Iyad Allawi during his visit to the U.S., in an effort to enhance the Bush reelection campaign. At the same time, Senor appeared on cable news programs claiming that Allawi’s positive remarks (vetted by Senor) supported the Bush Administration’s rosy view of the Iraq occupation.
You don’t suppose it’s possible, do you, that just as Mr. Senor was the puppeteer pulling Allawi’s strings, so he is pulling Mrs. Senor’s strings?
I’m not going to say much about the substance of Brown’s essay. Ali Gharib of Think Progress, who clued me in to Brown’s GOP connection, does a pretty good job of that. Besides, her piece doesn’t have much substance. The gist of it that two of her female relatives are muddling through the lousy economy with help from “family, not government… and … they wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Brown also makes the case for Mitt Romney’s respect for women’s rights:
Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that…. The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else.
It was in this context she mentioned that her husband was a Romney adviser and that she is “an independent journalist.” Obviously, we are supposed to presume from the juxtaposition of those two facts that Brown’s thinking is “independent” of her husband’s, so her husband’s support for Romney has not influenced her in any way. What makes this claim preposterous is that the experiences of Brown’s female family members are the centerpiece of her essay. She says straight out that she bases her opinion on women’s issues on what women in her family tell her. So she listens to her cousins and her sisters, but she ignores her husband?
I think Brown’s female relatives would be a little more concerned if independent journalist Cousin Campbell had told them about Romney’s extreme positions on contraception, abortion rights and other women’s healthcare issues. Romney said he would “get rid of Planned Parenthood” (he later claimed he meant only that he would cut all federal funding for the organization that provides healthcare services to hundreds of thousands of women); he favors state “personhood” law and constitutional amendments that would end some or all forms of contraception; since he favors overturning Roe v. Wade, he would presumably nominate judge and justices who agreed with him; he supported the Blunt amendment which would have allowed employers to decide – based on their “moral” judgments – what types of health care their insurance policies would cover; he opposes embryonic stem cell research; and he plans to abolish the Affordable Care Act “on Day One.” (Does Brown think access to health care is not an economic issue?) On other women’s issues, Romney’s embrace of whatever Paul Ryan says would further reduce women and children’s access to numerous social services, would further shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class; he’s not too sure about guaranteeing women equal pay, either, and he is now opposed to raising the minimum wage. So good luck, ladies. Glad you don’t need “government handouts,” because under a President Romney there would not be many.
I favor the New York Times publishing well-thought arguments from varying points of view. Campbell Brown’s essay was not one of them, but never mind. What is more important than the quality of the writing is that the reader know what biases and conflicts of interest the writer might bring to her or his writing. Thus the editorial pages editor has a duty to fully disclose the affiliations of the writers of opinion pieces. In this instance, the Times allowed Brown to sneak her “disclosure” into an obscure place near the end of her piece. The Times did not require her to identify her husband by name. Further, the Times allowed Brown to suggest that as “an independent journalist,” she was above and beyond any influence from her husband – even though in the article, she says other family members influence her views. When the Times identified Brown at the bottom of the piece, which is where most readers automatically look for an op-ed writer’s I.D., the paper did not mention her husband’s affiliation. It should have.
One last note. Identifying a spouse’s affiliation might cure quite a few politicians of taking to the op-ed pages. For those who just can’t help themselves, the reader should be treated to full disclosure. Back when Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was pontificating daily on the healthcare reform efforts he was also holding hostage, if would have been useful if he had been required to include the disclaimer, “My wife is a lobbyist for the health insurance industry.” Maybe it would have shut him up. Well, okay. Definitely not.
Marie Burns blogs at RealityChex.com