Bloggers and other writers have expended a lot of outrage the past week over paying Armstrong Williams to shill for No Child Left Behind. Even staunch conservatives like George Will think the idea of creating propaganda for political programs is wrong and possibly illegal. But there’s something that stinks even worse than the actual deed. The people behind all this think they’ve done nothing wrong.
Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige yesterday defended payments to a conservative black commentator to promote the No Child Left Behind law as a standard "outreach effort" to minority groups who stand to benefit most from the Bush administration’s showcase education program.
"Standard outreach effort" includes paying someone to pretend to be an independent commentator while reading from the company script. And, of course, Williams says he hasn’t done anything wrong either.
Williams has apologized for what he described as "a lapse of judgment" in agreeing to the contract, which he did not disclose to viewers. Like Paige, he has insisted that he has done nothing illegal.
In the end, however, the vast majority of the talking heads on broadcast news and the cable news channels (and Fox "news") are being paid to offer the right opinion. They may not be getting tax money, but all are selling themselves as consultants and advisors to politicians with the right amount of cash. You can be damn sure the line they’re spouting on TV matches whatever part of the political spectrum is currently paying the bills. Let’s face it – that weasel Dick Morris is not living off his charm.