Bad news from Steve Benen at Political Animal:
Update: I've spoken to Dan [Froomkin], who confirmed that he is, in fact, leaving the Post.
“I’m terribly disappointed,” Dan said. “I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn’t “working” anymore. Personally, I thought it was still working very well, and based on reader feedback, a lot of readers thought so, too... I also thought White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online.
“As I’ve written elsewhere, I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That’s what I tried to do every day. Now I guess I’ll have to try to do it someplace else.”
Indeed, far-right complaints notwithstanding, Froomkin has spent months scrutinizing the Obama White House, cutting the Democratic president no slack at all. Just over the past couple of days, Froomkin offered critical takes on the president’s proposed regulations of the financial industry, follow-through on gay rights, and foot-dragging on Bush-era torture revelations.
Froomkin was one of the media’s most important critics of the Bush White House, and conservative bashing notwithstanding, was poised to be just as valuable holding the Obama White House accountable for its decisions.
When I worked at the Washington Post myself, in the pre-Watergate days, it was considered a liberal paper. But it wasn’t. It merely, as Karl Marx once said of John Stuart Mill, drew its eminence from the general flatness of the terrain. The only truly liberal dailies I can remember from that period were the Madison Capital Times in Wisconsin, the York Gazette in Pennsylvania, and the New York Post. (Yes, you heard right.) The Washington Post owed its liberal reputation almost solely to its anti-McCarthy cartoonist, Herblock.
And then came Watergate.
Any paper willing to stand up to Nixon and take him down had to be liberal, Q.E.D. Right? Actually wrong. Ben Bradlee hated Nixon because Bradlee was in Kennedy’s inner circle. And Nixon was a parvenu, a sweaty striver. Left vs. right had little to do with it.
It would have taken a close observer to discern an ideological difference between Kennedy and Nixon. On questions of race, war and peace, and economic policy, both were slightly right of center in what had become, after World War II, a very frightened, aggressive, and conservative nation. On the most important issue of the day, the Post supported the Vietnam war so slavishly that President Johnson named its editorial page editor, J. Russell Wiggins, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
(Wiggins offers further proof of my theory that you can never trust a man who parts his name to one side; I knew I was in trouble when I arrived at our embassy in Laos at the height of the war to discover that the ambassador and my new boss was a gun-toting, draft-dodging old Yalie who called himself G. McMurtrie Godley III. You can’t make this shit up.)
But back to the Washington Post.
There were and are many fine reporters at the paper, and they have done immensely valuable work over the years. But though the leash was sometimes a long one, it was always present. Since Eugene Meyer bought the paper at a bankruptcy auction in 1933, that leash has always been held by conservative publishers from his family.
The surprise isn’t that Froomkin has been fired, but that he lasted as long as he did. And the beauty of the internet is that he will be able — if he so desires — to keep the audience the Post enabled him to assemble.
I hope he so desires.