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A Contretemps in Greater Vealpenia

On December 9, 2010, Anne Weismann, the chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), published a largely incoherent rant in the Huffington Post against Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

It is difficult to even try to repeat or recapitulate the tos and fros of it. It went something like this. The Wikileaks leaks may look like a good thing but they really aren't, that is don't believe your lying eyes. They make FOIA requests for an organization like CREW harder to win. CREW's FOIA route is the virtuous way to go, even though the government isn't particularly responsive to their requests and has many outs, including national security which would have kept most or all of the Wikileaks leaks out of the public sphere, that is if anyone had bothered to go that route. And Julian Assange is a bad man who wants to harm US interests and he's not Daniel Elsberg (although Elsberg is a big supporter and defender of Assange and Wikileaks). And Wikileaks was irresponsible releasing the leaks the way it did in contrast to the responsible professional organizations it partnered with [even though it put up on its website only the cables that those news organizations published keeping their redactions].

Weinstein simply ignores that Washington and the media exist on leaks. Apparently when unnamed White House officials or Congressional aides or officials of virtually every department in government leak, Weinstein has no problem with it, even though many of those leaks involve classified material. That these officials leak often for no other reason than to score political points garners no criticism from Weinstein. Nor does she speak to the government's obsession to classify everything, not to protect legitimate secrets, but to avoid embarrassment and accountability. And that this, not Julian Assange, is why her FOIA requests are subject to prolonged delays and minimal compliance. It's all Wikileaks' fault.

And the attacks on Wikileaks sponsored by the US government? Weinstein has nothing to say about those at all.

The story doesn't end there. Glenn Greenwald sits on CREW's board and on December 12, 2010, he resigned from it over CREW's and Weinstein's stand against Wikileaks. To which, Melanie Sloan, CREW's director, responded that she welcomed his resignation and lambasted him for not keeping his disagreement in-house, that is secret, thus demonstrating how much she and CREW have internalized the Washington mindset they pretend to criticize.

This kind of circular firing squad shows how fragmented the left is and why Obama and the Democrats have no reason either to respect or fear us. We may not vote for them but we are unlikely to mount a credible challenge to them, not with the likes of CREW on our side. Glenn Greenwald got caught trying to straddle too many groups. You really can't work with the veal pen and maintain progressive independence. They won't let you. The veal pen is an integral part of Versailles, and the Village does not allow you to serve two masters, even if one of those is your own conscience. CREW's moniker with its reference to responsibility and ethics is sad and hollow. It is the Krugman effect all over again. They will criticize the Establishment here and there, but never the Establishment itself no matter how corrupt that Establishment is. And because of this, they really don't serve us, but that Establishment they criticize at the margins but support at the core.

This episode struck me as both funny and pathetic. I hope it gets Glenn Greenwald thinking about where he really does and can stand with regard to the veal pen. For me, it just shows that the left's first real fight is going to be with itself, asserting our independence from most of the organizations and groups that claim to speak for us.

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Submitted by Hugh on

I had originally called it Lesser Vealpenia, but then thinking of the proximity to Washington changed it. The left has think tanks, who knew?

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on


vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

But you're right, juggling the roles of truthteller and insider is all-but-inevitably compromising.

His acceptance of the legitimacy of "public option" and his near-silence on the madness that brought us Obama as a progressive savior are two examples of the kind of compromises entailed in such straddling of worlds.

Note: This isn't to say that CREW is especially insidery (I have no insight into that), but it's clear that proximity to established prog infrastructure and leading career liberal players tends to force decisions on which uncomfortable truths and policy battles one dare do the right thing about.

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Submitted by mikegirard on

His acceptance of the legitimacy of "public option" and his near-silence on the madness that brought us Obama as a progressive savior are two examples of the kind of compromises entailed in such straddling of worlds.

I think Greenwald is a work in progress. He may have been silent in the runup to anointing of the Precious - I wasn't reading him at the time - but he has become one of the most vocal high-profile critics of Obama and the Democratic Party ever since. He is also a very consistent and vocal critic of the wars.

As to his place in the health care debate, I think "acceptance of the legitimacy of 'public option'" is a somewhat misleading characterization of what amounted to least-worst advocacy. He was in favor of single-payer and noted the absence of any mention of it during public debates and media coverage. He was also very vocal about how Obama and the Democrats worked behind the scenes to have the public option removed from the final bill.

Folks can judge his views for themselves via this Democracy Now interview:

When I weigh his good positions, his prolificacy, his readership and influence against his occasional 'compromises', I find the balance is very much on the side of the angels.

Submitted by Randall Kohn on