Aaron Klein is not the only ConWeb reporter with his own coterie of sources he can reliably count on to spout the (Republican) party line.
In a Sept. 10 article, NewsMax's Ronald Kessler marshals his Mighty Wurlitzer to denounce Robert Draper’s new book "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush," for committing the sin of being critical of the Bush administration (for which Kessler is heavily in the tank). Kessler quotes a pair of his old faithfuls -- Andy Card and Brad Blakeman -- to nitpick the book and express "embarrassment" that the White House chose to cooperate with such an author. Blakeman, for his part, happily obliges:
"Draper looks disheveled on TV, and he is critical because the media expects it, and it sells books,” said Blakeman, who is president and CEO of Freedom’s Watch, a new conservative group. “They gave this guy access when he clearly was not qualified.”
“Any company or agency knows that you don’t reward people with access if they are ether incompetent or have a predisposition to trash you, yet this author was given access to the president.”
In fact, far from having "a predisposition to trash" the president, Draper has issued praise for Bush. In a Salon interview, Draper addressed the accusations of critics like Card, Blakeman and Kessler:
I did have a deal with the White House, and that is that I would write a fair-minded, nonjudgmental literary narrative of Bush's presidency, and I think I've delivered that. I do think that the writer of that piece, Richard Wolffe, whom I know and admire, is right that the book has thrown the White House off message when Bush is trying to turn the page on a lot of things. That's not my book's intention. Its intention is to be a lasting book, and I told the president that when I was making my pitch to him -- a book that was not just for and about the news cycle.
Draper went on to offer an honest assessment of the president:
And it's amazing to me that people refuse to acknowledge that he has any gifts at all. But those who are in a room can feel it. And among them is that Bush has a very pungent personality. He has these scruffy charms about him. He doesn't really put on airs. The guy you see is the guy he is, pretty much. Sure, he has a variety of shortcomings, and they've hamstrung his presidency in a variety of ways. But one thing that became meaningful to me in doing that book is that I interviewed people who have been working for Bush over the years -- they love this guy. I don't just mean that they admire him. I don't just mean they are in awe of him. I mean they really love him and would take a bullet for him. I've spent a lot of time now with a lot of elected officials and the people who work for them, and you can't always say that about them.
But beyond the fact that Bush is charming and there's this incredible loyalty that is cultivated between him and his subordinates, he has a surprising intellect. A guy who reads Cormac McCarthy isn't a dummy. And a guy who can listen to an economist talk about a tax scheme and just eviscerate the guy because he doesn't seem to really understand what he is talking about and there's a loose thread in his argument cannot be intellectually lazy. I think that what's difficult to reconcile is this man's brightness with his capacity for incuriosity.
What's wrong with this as far as Kessler, et al, are concerned? Draper appears to care about the truth, whereas they only want hagiography.