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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

James Risen of The New York Times: Journalist-Advocate of Government by Elitist Experts

How should democratic government work in the view of James Risen, The New York Times foreign policy reporter and co-author with Eric Lichtenblau of the news story outing the National Security Agency's "domestic eavesdropping" program?

Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report has this snippet from Risen's recent appearance on NBC's Today Show with Katie Couric:

"Risen: Well, I -I think that during a period from about 2000 - from 9/11 through the beginning of the gulf–the war in Iraq, I think what happened was you -we -the checks and balances that normally keep American foreign policy and national security policy towards the center kind of broke down.
"And you had more of a radicalization of American foreign policy in which the - the - the career professionals were not really given a chance to kind of forge a consensus within the administration. And so you had the - the - the principles–Rumsfeld, Cheney and Tenet and Rice and many others - who were meeting constantly, setting policy and really never allowed the people who understand - the experts who understand the region to have much of a say."

Put another way, Risen is saying the career foreign policy bureaucrats should be allowed to determine policy, not the appointed officials representing the democratically elected President. Government by expert, not by election.

Another word for it is "aristocracy." So nobody should be surprised to find the same attitude being expressed by people in the mainstream media regarding their audience - you and me. We ought to just shut up and let them tell us what is news. And what ought to be done about it.

Barone has been covering Washington for nearly four decades, so he has a finely tuned ear for this argument, which is the staple of the career bureaucracy throughout the federal government. Go here for the full Barone report.