Breaking news this evening: Yes, it's actually true - real journalism has been committed in the nation's capital.
That's right, after the entire Washington press corps and all of cable news did their best stenography act and refused to ask a single serious question about the blatant hypocrisy in President Obama's "we're getting tough on corporate tax havens" announcement yesterday, ABC News' Jake Tapper demanded - and actually got - some answers at today's White House press briefing. Specifically, he asked the White House how it can be claiming to be serious about cracking down on corporate tax havens while simultaneously pushing a Panama Free Trade Agreement that would reward and legitimize the practices of one of the worst tax havens on the planet.
|White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, clearly conditioned after years of D.C. press work to be unprepared for any kind of substantive question, had absolutely no answer for Tapper, except to promise him that someone from the U.S. Trade Representative's office would get him something. Tapper stuck to the story, and eventually broke some real news when he spoke with the U.S. Trade Representatives' office:
Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, tells ABC News that "Ambassador Kirk has been always been very clear that it will be necessary to address outstanding issues on labor and tax policies, and we continue to work on those tax issues. Our refusal to tolerate tax havens is precisely why we're working with the Panamanian government to address concerns regarding its international tax policies. We can work to improve international tax practices and open markets for entrepreneurs and workers at the same time."
Guthrie, of course, is bullshitting when she says "Kirk has been always been very clear that it will be necessary to address outstanding issues on labor and tax policies." All he's been clear on is that he wants the Panama deal passed. But now forced into a corner, he's stated that the "precise" reason the administration hasn't introduced the Panama pact in Congress is its attempt to "work with the Panamanian government to address concerns regarding its international tax policies." That's actual, genuine and important news - a statement far clearer and more precise than any of the general bromides of the past.
This is a victory both for Real Journalism as well as the Make Him Do It Dynamic.
Tapper shows the value of having reporters who do more than write fluff stories about White House officials, sourced by White House officials. And, he shows the value of Washington reporters trying to listen to voices from outside of Washington. I say that because I originally Twittered him the question idea from all the way out here in Denver - the kind of heartland locale that most in D.C. treat as Siberia. He evaluated the question idea, saw some merit to it, fashioned it in his own way, and actually asked the kind of question that the D.C. conventional wisdom-mongers would never think to ask. I'm not patting myself on the back - it was a basic, commonsense question. I'm merely giving Tapper kudos for being one of the few D.C. reporters to seek input from outside of D.C. (and if he's doing that on a regular basis with many citizens via new media, that's great).
This is also a victory for the congressional Democrats who are fighting the good fight against the Obama administration and demanding that it take the tax-haven and labor concerns in the Panama Free Trade Agreement seriously. Had they not made lots of noise - had they not "made him do it" - you can bet the Obama administration would be pushing this deal forward immediately and without change. If they don't continue making that noise - and if we don't help them - then the changes that do come out of Kirk's alleged negotiations will be weak.