The Daily Caller's Perfectly Legitimate Crusade Against Holder

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 30 2011 9:37 AM

The Daily Caller's Perfectly Legitimate Crusade Against Holder

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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 29: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (2nd L)) points his finger as he talks to a member of the press at the end of an event to launch a campaign to combat the purchase and sale of counterfeit and pirated products November 29, 2011 at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington, DC. According to a news release from the Department of Justice, the campaign will educate the public on various forms of intellectual property theft, from counterfeit consumer goods and pharmaceuticals to illegal downloads and other pirated materials, with highlight on the potential health, safety and economic consequences for American citizens. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Daily Caller has been on a crusade. For some reason -- I'm not invited to the liberal media planning sessions at Bohemian Grove anymore -- the unfolding scandal over the ATF's botched "Fast and Furious" program has not caught fire in the mainstream press. It gets covered, but it doesn't get A1. Editorialists are not fulminating about it. When it is covered, it gets the treatment Dana Milbank gave it here: An explanation of why a bungled plan to let 1,400 guns fall into the heads of drug cartels in order for agents to track them isn't, you know, a scandal. "Investigators found evidence that an official at the National Security Council, Kevin O’Reilly, communicated with Phoenix ATF official William Newell, but that’s a barrel and trigger shy of a smoking gun," wrote Milbank. "There’s also evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder and others knew about the bungled program earlier than they originally let on, but there’s not yet evidence of any high-level White House involvement."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Yawns from the MSM. Shouts from the Daily Caller. The magazine has covered Fast and Furious as it if was a scandal -- as if all of Washington was burning up about it. They ask Republicans if Eric Holder should resign in disgrace. They get Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, and multiple members of Congress to call for him to go.

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On Tuesday, they buttonhole Eric Holder after an event to advance the story.

The reporter asked him for a response to the growing chorus of federal legislators demanding his resignation. Holder stepped towards the exit, then turned around, stepped back toward the reporter, and sternly said, “You guys need to — you need to stop this. It’s not an organic thing that’s just happening. You guys are behind it.”

Via Josh Gerstein, I see Media Matters giving Holder a huzzah for calling the Caller out. But calling it out for what? Are news organizations not allowed to enterprise stories by asking people whether they think someone should resign? News organizations do this all the time. The Caller's "sin" seems to be doing it with no back-up from the rest of the press. That's just an indictment of the way that calls-for-resignation-hunts work. The polite thing seems to be to wait for a feeding frenzy, and be one of many news organizations asking random politicians if X should resign. When Anthony Weiner sends a bunch of women pictures of his hot bod, it becomes dignified for reporters to ask his colleagues whether he should quit. Maybe you can argue that Anthony Weiner's digital life is a bigger deal than a bungled gun-walking plan that led to deaths, but I won't.

And look, it's not just the Caller goading Republicans. Rick Perry published an op-ed on November 21 calling for Holder to go. If some embed or debate moderator asks a GOP frontrunner about the story, and he says on TV that Holder should go, maybe it would become a "legitimate" question to throw at Republicans. But that's because pack journalism needs to be "legitimized" that way. Think back to 2005/2006, and how questions about the sackings of U.S. attorneys were crazy fringe stuff from TalkingPointsMemo -- until other outlets got on board.

You can argue whether Holder's the right fall guy for Fast and Furious, but I don't think you can fault a news organization for asking politicians if Holder should go. The Caller could toss this question to a Republican congressman and get no answer. It's getting an answer. That's news.

(That said, I wonder how many "ayes" you could get if you asked random Republicans if random Obama officials should go. Paul Broun, do you think Shaun Donovan should resign in disgrace and we should defund HUD?)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.