The Conversation

Joan Walsh: First Daughters Off Limits (Unless They're Named Bush)

Today Joan Walsh posted an attack on our own Matt Boyle. She complained he had violated an unwritten rule of journalism by revealing the President's daughters were vacationing in the Bahamas. Joan explained "Reporters don’t write about minor first children except when they’re attending 'official or semi-official events.'" She also quotes a Washington Post reporter on the point:

“There’s a general feeling among the press corps that it wants to be respectful” of the president’s children, said Caren Bohan, the White House reporter for Reuters who is president of the WHCA.

Joan admits that this standard can sometimes be violated. Indeed, she had to allow some wiggle room since Salon published a story about the Obama daughter's trip to Mexico after it was interrupted by an earthquake. That aside, Joan goes on to castigate Boyle and indeed everyone who works for Breitbart News (or the Daily Caller) as racist haters. Her advice to conservatives who don't want to appear racist is "Try treating his daughters with respect."

Surprisingly, Walsh's understanding of what constitutes respect was somewhat different during the Bush administration. In 2001 she wrote a piece for Salon titled "The First Family's Alcohol Troubles." The post uses reports of the first daughters partying and drinking as a pretext to attack their father's drinking history. The piece is illustrated with a large photo of Jenna Bush laughing. It's not clear where the photo was taken but in context it's clearly an attempt to depict Jenna Bush as drunk. Joan wrote:

There’s no evidence either twin has a drinking problem, but the string of news items involving their partying and scrapes with the law in the last few months can’t be ignored. First came the tale of Secret Service agents ferrying home Jenna’s boyfriend after he was arrested for public drunkenness. Then there were randy National Enquirer photos of Jenna, a University of Texas freshman, and a beer-drinking pal, and a story about her alleged marijuana use. Yale freshman Barbara, supposedly the studious twin, had a false I.D. confiscated at a New Haven, Conn., bar. In April, the Enquirer featured a lurid tale of Barbara’s drunken spring-break binge in Mexico, and by the end of the month all major newspapers were carrying a story about Jenna being cited by police at an Austin bar for underage drinking, while Secret Service agents waited outside.

For someone concerned about journalistic standards, Joan seems to have no problem repeating the contents of the National Enquirer for her own audience. Not to mention that she seems awfully familiar with their output.

After much bashing of President Bush, she concludes by psychoanalyzing the behavior of the First Daughters. They aren't just young adults making poor decisions, they're troubled girls "acting out" in an unanswered cry for help:

I’d bet there hasn’t been enough communication in the WASP-y Texas Bush family, and it looks as if the first twins are acting out as a result. Even with a Secret Service detail, there are ways for young women to party, if they’re discreet. Clearly, the first twins aren’t. Their blatant risk-taking and public partying (the Secret Service waits outside the bars where they drink illegally?) seem designed to force a family reckoning that their father’s drinking never triggered.

Is this what respect looks like?


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