A “Hit-Back”? How Can I Help?

Typically, reporters make some sort of effort — transparent though it may be — to conceal the fact that they’re being used.

Yesterday, CNN’s Dana Bash made no such effort. And while we’re tempted to cheer her candor, we’re mostly startled — after all, it’s not every day that a reporter breezily reports on how she has, is and will be used by the White House.

Bash filed a CNN.com piece previewing the "’campaign-style’ strategy" that anonymous "top White House officials" told her they are developing "in response to increasing Democratic allegations that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to make its case for war." The "hit-back," as Bash’s anonymice called the strategy, will apparently commence in the coming days. The anonymice also detailed for Bash the "hit-back"’s top talking points (pre-war intelligence was faulty, but it was not manipulated; everyone was working from the same intelligence; here are some quotes from Democrats talking about WMDs as if they existed).

"Telegraphing the beginning of a communications effort is a tactic the Bush team has used in the past, especially when it comes to Iraq," Bash wrote. Or, put another way, I, along with my colleagues in the press, have been used in the past to preview assorted White House public relations plans and talking points.

And I’m told — and I’m telling you — that I and my colleagues in the press will be similarly used in the near future.interviews
"White House to ‘hit back’ at Democrats," read the headline on Bash’s story. The subhead should have been: "Confident the press will play along."

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.