Former Bush White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett has roiled conservative bloggers and activists with a candid interview in the new Texas Monthly. For no apparent reason, Bartlett came out and debunked two of the most persistent claims in the conservative blogosphere. The Republican spinner admitted that there is actually is no liberal media bias in the White House press corps -- somebody call Brent Bozell -- and then relished that conservative bloggers are not independent, so they "regurgitate exactly" the Republican talking points.
First the press. Bartlett says reporters he knows care more about careerism than ideology:
I get asked the question all the time: How do you deal with [reporters] when they're all liberal? I've found that most of them are not ideologically driven. Do I think that a lot of them don't agree with the president? No doubt about it. But impact, above all else, is what matters. All they're worried about is, can I have the front-page byline? Can I lead the evening newscast?
Then the bloggers. Bartlett likes what the Right Wing bloggers are cooking -- he just has a strange way of showing it:
...talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It's a very efficient way to communicate. [Conservative bloggers] regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we've cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.
Since the quote was flagged by TPM, many conservative bloggers have been quick to protest. Taking a page out of the Bartlett-Rove book, James Joyner returned fire at the messenger, telling Bartlett he has actually "done a horrid job" at blogger outreach. Ed Morrissey touts the conservative "blogospheric response to Harriet Miers, Dubai ports, and most of all immigration" as independent stances that were inconsistent with Bartlett's "'regurgitation' model." The Republicans can sort this one out among themselves.
Moving past media, (new and old), Bartlett was not shy about his presidential picks, either. He thinks the Republicans are down to a three-way race, arguing that McCain cannot win, even if he takes New Hampshire. As for the Democratic field -- where a Republican strategist's comments are obviously suspect -- Bartlett claims Clinton is particularly beatable, and she would "very much excite the Republican faithful to get out and work hard." He's unsure that Barack Obama would have the same galvanizing effect on Republicans. Bartlett does not mention John Edwards at all. That's a bit odd, actually, since Bartlett was part of the 2004 Bush Campaign strategy to highlight John Kerry during the primaries, hoping to avoid facing John Edwards, who was deemed the most formidable opponent. Then again, reading anything into these statements is like asking Karl Rove to give Obama campaign advice.
Ari Melber writes for The Nation, where this post first appeared.