A lot of people think that I gave up reading the Washington Post, or at least paying to read the Washington Post, because of the liberal bias. Not true.
These days it's simply a matter of competence. Any paper that would run the piece I saw this morning by Dana Milbank doesn't deserve to stay in business. In an op-ed called "Roe's Avaricious Offspring," Milbank argues that the abortion battle is all about money: "The annual carnival in Washington around the January 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision...has become more farcical with each repetition," Milbank writes.
"As technology and state-policy changes make the landmark case less important, anniversary observances have devolved into fact-free spectacles that have less to do with abortion than with raising money for advocacy groups on both sides."
How does Milbank reach this conclusion? Not by reporting. He's never been to a March for Life rally in his life. And not by talking to any pro-life or pro-choice leaders. Milbank's basis his entire piece on the fact that both pro-choice and pro-life groups have "donate now" buttons on their websites.
Milbank didn't interview a single person for his piece. Having never been to the March for Life, he has no plans to do so now. It's a mistake to announce that you are canceling your subscription to a liberal paper, because that allows someone like Milbank to puff himself up with false virtue and bogus, self-aggrandizing courage -- oh, those crazy right-wingers just don't like truth-to-power journalists.
The problem isn't bias as much as criminal, sinful incuriousness. It's laziness and stupidity. When I found myself disagreeing with Andrew Sullivan, I read his book. When country music appeared to me to be moronic, I listened to albums to confirm.
I was born and raised in Washington. My father was a journalist at National Geographic, whose building is just a couple blocks from the offices of the Post. Watergate was a seminal event in my young life. Among the details that still make up a part of my soul are the meetings between Bob Woodward and Deep Throat in a garage in Virginia. At one point Deep Throat tells Woodward to stop idolizing the White House: "The truth is," Deep Throat says, "these are not very bright guys."
The not-too-bright guys are no longer breaking into the Watergate. They're at the Post. Anyone who thinks that the abortion war is about nothing but fundraising shouldn't just be banned from journalism, but from making any observations about human beings. Of all the causes in the world today that people are fighting over, the one that has the least to do with money is abortion. I don't care if Milbank is a member of the Communist Party USA. It's more important to know if he is able to simply reason.
John Cardinal O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York from 1984 to 2000, used to give press conferences where he would tell the reporters gathered what they would not write about. He would remind the members of the fourth estate the the Archdiocese of New York had a standing offer to take care of the medical expenses for any woman who decided to have her child rather than perform an abortion. The church would also pay for adoption services. But the media would never report this fact.
It was a remarkable scene -- Archbishop O'Connor would literally stand there and tell the gathered defenders of more information and free speech, the advocates of afflicting the comfortable, what they would write in the next day's paper. "You are so opposed to the cause of life that you won't print this," he would say.
"I know categorically that when I get up tomorrow morning and I read your account of this interview you will not tell the world about this offer." He claimed that over the course of ten years and countless articles about him, he was proven wrong about the press exactly twice.
Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, has a new book coming out in the spring called The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. I haven't read it yet, but if there is a tyranny of cliches, Dana Milbank is its linguistic Hitler.
In his piece in the Post, Milbank scolds both sides of the abortion war. The choice people need to "acknowledge that the other side, and most Americans, have legitimate concerns [about abortion]. Not every compromise means a slippery slope to the back alley." The pro-life side needs to, of course, shower the populace with condoms. They "would stop throwing obstacles in the way of birth control and make sure it's cheaply provided as part of preventative care and not blocked by ‘conscience clauses.'"
What makes this so awful is not that Milbank is a liberal. It's the rote belching up of cliches in place of thought, research, or contemplation. It's the making of an idiotic assertion about financial motivation, followed the inability to follow a more interesting assertion he stumbles over to an interesting place. It's the childish impulse, not to mention the moral sclerosis, of the sarcastic quotes around "conscience clause."
Americans have "legitimate concerns" about abortion. What are they? Have they changed in 30 years? Does the use of contraception degrade the people using it, and can one feel that it does even while supporting sex education? Does comprehensive sex education involve talking about the human spirit and soul, which are inseparable from human love?
Who knows? It's all about money.
Unlike Dana Milbank, I will attend this year's March for Life, just as I have for the past ten years. In the entire time I have been going, I have yet to run into a Washington Post reporter. I read about it the next day, and every year it's the same story, written by Post reporter Michelle Boorstein. The pro-life movement has hopes that a new Republican president will help their cause, etc. I could write the thing myself, right now.
What will not be reported:
On Friday, January 20th, there is a lecture and book signing by Father Robert Spitzer at the Catholic Information Center. Fr. Spitzer is the author of Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues. It is a small but rich book that outlines the basic arguments for life, based on classic philosophy, science, natural law and the gospels.
The Catholic Information Center is located less than two blocks from the offices of the Washington Post. It is also directly across the street from the Occupy DC tent city. Milbank has written about Occupy DC at least twice in the past two months. He has visited the site personally. Don't expect him to make it to the Catholic Information Center, which is actually closer to the Post building.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a building Dana Milbank has never visited, will have its annual Mass for Life on January 21, the night before the march. 10,000 people will attend. There is an all night vigil for the cause of life. The crowd is mostly young people. Also, Georgetown University is holding its annual Cardinal O'Connor conference on Life.
The John Paul II Cultural Center -- which Milbank would need a GPS to locate -- is hosting the Sisters of Life, a community of religious women founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O'Connor, the former archbishop of New York and astute press critic. The Superior General of the Sisters of Life is Mother Agnes Mary Donovan. Before becoming a Sister for Life, Agnes Donovan was an assistant professor at Columbia University. Her story is remarkable, and were she anything other than a pro-life leader she would be profiled in the Style section of the Washington Post.
But who knows? Maybe she's doing it all for the money.