[IMPORTANT UPDATE: Those who think Crawford is part of some grand Big Media conspiracy to "get" Romney should take a look at her Twitter feed from the night the Cairo embassy issued its statement. I plan to write a separate post about this, but for now just let me point out that, even before Romney issued his statement, Crawford was passionately criticizing the Cairo embassy statement herself -- and defending free speech. Sample tweet from Crawford: "@ernietedeschi The embassy statement wrongly suggests speech that offends or 'hurts...feelings' is an 'abuse' of the right to free speech." Does that sound like an arrogant Big media reporter out to decimate Romney?!
Armed with this information, I re-read the transcript of the open mic "coordinating" and now see it as Jan essentially pushing another reporter to avoid a tendentious attack on Romney and simply have the press corps ask a neutral question.
More on this later. -- Patterico]
[UPDATE x2: Here is my post showing that Crawford agreed with Romney's sentiments and portrayed them fairly and positively.]
So that whole “coordinating the questions” thing with Romney involved someone I like very much: Jan Crawford. If it were almost anyone else, I’d be assuming the worst regarding the reporter’s bias and arrogance. After all, I think most of us agree here that Romney’s statement was entirely proper and that he didn’t deserve the criticism that Big Media tried to heap on him. We conservatives tend to view anyone who seemingly tried to take Romney to task as one of those arrogant Big Media types that we should be suspicious of.
But Jan Crawford just isn’t one of those types. And I’m not about to discard her based on a few seconds of unclear open mike audio.
I met Jan Crawford in April 2007 when she was Jan Crawford Greenburg. We had drinks in the bar of her hotel during one of her visits to Los Angeles. At the time I wrote that she “is not only a fascinating person, but also someone who is completely down to earth. She is smart, funny, humble, and doesn’t take herself too seriously.”
That, to me, is the most impressive thing about her. She’s completely the opposite of an arrogant Big Media type in every way.
What’s more, she “gets it” when it comes to various conservative issues. Remember, this is the woman who firecely defended Clarence Thomas against charges that he was a Scalia lackey. In her book she examined his jurisprudence and proved that Thomas was more of a trailblazer than Scalia, and that the criticisms of him as a lazy follower were totally unfounded (and, I will add, probably have roots in liberal racism). She had a very wide-ranging, sympathetic, and fair TV interview with Thomas that was revealing and fascinating.
When I met Jan we didn’t discuss political views and I don’t know what hers are. But she is unrelentingly fair in a way that shows she understands conservative positions in a way few in Big Media do, which leads me to believe that she is either at least mildly conservative, or possesses an extraordinary ability to understand the positions of others and articulate them to an audience.
Jan is intellectually honest and knows about firearms. These are two traits you don’t see in most Big Media types. She wrote about Sarah Palin in a way that, unlike most Big Media types, was not condescending.
Most recently, Jan used her contacts inside the Supreme Court to give the country insight into the way that the ObamaCare decision was reached.
When I read that she was becoming CBS’s political correspondent, I said:
I admit to somewhat mixed feelings, since Jan is really a strong legal reporter — the best out there, in my opinion — and I think it’s a shame to lose her in that capacity. But this will mean more airtime, a more visible position, and ultimately better reporting on the most important issues facing our nation. (When I put it like that, it’s clear the upside far exceeds the downside!)
All in all, a great move. Please give Jan your warmest congratulations. I have utter confidence in her fairness and look forward to her political reporting.
I still have utter confidence in her fairness.
So how do I reconcile that with this clip regarding Romney and the embassy statement?
Quite simply: by giving Jan the benefit of the doubt and not assuming that her years of fair reporting and clear articulation of conservative perspectives was a sham, simply because of a few seconds of audio whose meaning is not utterly clear to me.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time in this post trying to defend the audio. I don’t think “coordinating questions” in the abstract is a bad idea, when reporters want to make sure all topics get covered in a short span of time. To me, the issue that maddens conservatives is the media attack on Romney on this issue, which appears to us to be phony. I will note that Jan’s proposed question was not tendentious — just an open-ended “do you regret the statement” question — but it seems like the assumption built into the question is that there is a valid reason he should regret it, which there really isn’t. I guess there are people who believe the statement was a mistake — including Republican strategists (which floors me!) — so it’s not out of left field. But I would have liked to have seen questions that don’t assume Romney screwed up.
Ultimately, if anyone is going to defend this angle, or the few seconds of audio, it would have to be Jan. She knows what she was thinking. I don’t.
Part of me thinks it might be a good idea for Jan to explain what was going on there. Jake Tapper is very accessible and engages with critics, and while he has pissed us all off a few times, he gains a lot of credibility with people when he takes the time to actually respond to people who take him to task.
At the same time, I saw a lot of vitriol yesterday headed Jan’s way that seemed to ignore the history of fairness that I documented above. If I were Jan, I’m not sure I would want to speak out in such an environment.
I have reached out to her about this and invited her to give her side. I don’t know whether she will want to make any statements publicly or not.
Whether she says anything about it or not, I think it’s wrong to take a person’s entire career of fairness and chuck it overboard. Criticize her if you will, but let’s not suddenly make her the Poster Child for Liberal Bias, OK? I would suggest that we seek the ideal of having an open mind and giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who has earned it.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of cynical pundits out there openly exploiting this faux controversy to slam Romney — people like Ruth Marcus or the editors of the L.A. Times, who (unlike Jan) have no history of fairness to point to. I’d start by slamming those people.
UPDATE: I have much more here. I am now dead convinced Jan is getting a bad rap on this. And if you read my post, you will too.
UPDATE x2: Thanks to Instapundit for the link! I’m glad he appears to agree with my analysis.