Jane Hamsher is exactly right on this one:
"This makes it very difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs," Jonathan Alter, a columnist and political reporter for Newsweek, said in an interview. "If you don't have trust, you don't get good stories. If someone comes along and uses deception to shatter that trust, she has hurt the very cause of a free flow of public information that she claims she wants to assist."
"You identify yourself when you're interviewing somebody," Mr. Alter added. "It's just a form of cheating not to."
But to Jane Hamsher, a onetime Hollywood producer who founded Firedoglake, a politics-oriented Web site that tilts left, Mr. Alter's rules of the road are in need of repaving. For starters, she said, the onus was on Mr. Clinton to establish who Ms. Fowler was before deciding to speak as he did. That he failed to quiz her at all, Ms. Hamsher said, was Mr. Clinton's problem, not Ms. Fowler's. As a result, Ms. Hamsher said, the public got to experience the unplugged musings of a former president (and candidate's spouse) in a way that might never have been captured on tape by an old boy on the bus like Mr. Alter.
"It's hurting America that journalists consider their first loyalty to be to their subjects, and not to the people they're reporting for," she said.
President Clinton was at a public event, in a crowd, shaking hands with people. The woman asked him a question and he answered it. She didn't misrepresent herself. The answer was reported accurately. Clinton's an adult. End of story.
The controversy Steinberg tries to gin up is nonexistent. Steinberg doesn't even bother to inquire as to whether the President had any objection. Instead he writes that the posting of the audiotape at the Huffington Post "might have caught Mr. Clinton by surprise." Either it did or it didn't, and I suspect the President was happy to have his criticism of Purdum made widely known.
Leave the media circle jerks to Howie Kurtz, Jacques.