The fighters: Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead” and Kevin Drum, a blogger for Mother Jones.
Who started it? I’ll give it to Drum, who may have overreacted to what is tantamount to journo love from Tapper to ABC’s Jonathan Karl for a question he posed the other day in the White House briefing room.
Some context: Tapper is often cheered on by the right wing media who sees him as reporter who will press the Obama administration and the Democratic Party for answers. Drum, meanwhile, works for the liberal Mother Jones. And Karl, who doesn’t wear his conservative roots on his sleeve, came from the Collegiate Network, which supports conservative newspapers on college campuses. He has contributed to The Weekly Standard and worked at the New York Post. He was on the board of the right-leaning Third Millennium group, whose goal is to promote young conservative journalism.
Tweet that prompted the fight: It came from Tapper, who was giving Karl props for questioning White House spokesman Josh Earnest about President Obama‘s ambassador picks for Argentina and Hungary.
Tweet that actually started the bickering:
And with that, it was on.
Tapper fired back, “Why what? why is it worth challenging people in power about questionable decisions?”
Drum replied, “It’s kabuki. Everyone knows the answer. It’s happened forever. Earnest wasn’t going to answer. Why waste the time?”
At this point, Tapper was somewhat offended. No one likes to be told their job is worthless. “So my asking this was a waste of time? I disagree.”
Drum came back with this: “But that’s my point! Those are serious issues that WH *should* be confronted about. Exact oppose of @jonkarl‘s theatrics.”
Tapper disagreed with what Drum’s point even was.
“No, your point was entire WH briefing is ‘waste of time,'” Tapper informed him. “And ambassadorships going to unqualified donors is legit line of inquiry.”
Drum, at this vulnerable point in the fight, said he didn’t mean briefings in general and actually expressed regret for what he said. “Apologies for twitter unclearness,” he said. “I was referring specifically to your kudos about ambassador Q. Not to briefings in general.”
This is when busybody Nick Baumann of Mother Jones entered the fray and sided with — WHOA! — Tapper. “Kevin I thought you meant all briefings too.”
Drum squarely blamed Twitter for the confusion. He shot back, “My mistake. I blame Twitter.”
He then offered a “detailed explanation” in a story with the headline, “Can We please Kill Off The Kabuki In the Press Room?”
In it, Drum didn’t back down. He questioned the value of of Karl’s question about the ambassadors, considering that “neither one has any special diplomatic experience, and one of them is a former producer for a soap opera.” He cited the historical precedent of “rewarding” campaign contributors with “cushy ambassador posts” who are weak on experience. Drum maintained his original point that the exchange between Karl and Earnest was “pointless.” He also came clean that his own colleague, Nick Baumann, defended Tapper. Still, he asked, “Is this truly an example of holding those in power accountable?”
Status of the relationship between the fighters: Asked if he’d be willing to have a drink, breakfast or muffins with Drum, Tapper replied, “As I think you know, Betsy, I’m a fairly collegial sort and am always happy to have a cup of coffee or drink with anyone, including those with whom I disagree.” Drum, on the other hand, when asked the same question, basically said no. But he reasoned, “I’m in California, and not allowed to eat out at the moment anyway.” UPDATE: Drum tells me he’d happily meet with Tapper. “I didn’t refuse to sit down with @jaketapper. I’m in California. I’m housebound. If we ever meet, happy to chat.” He added, “This was a pretty routine disagreement. Not sure how you turned it into Mount Vesuvius.”
Who won? It’s a draw. Tapper’s point that the daily briefings aren’t a waste of time is valid. But Drum’s gumption and view that answers hardly ever come often or easy also rings true. Also: his blaming Twitter is comical. Twitter should be blamed for everything wrong with the world.