Carville on CNN:
CARVILLE: But what's happening...
BLITZER: ... "USA Today" poll.
CARVILLE: ... to Senator Obama is, he has had a couple of less- than-impressive performances at a health care forum out in Las Vegas and things like that.
CARVILLE: But he's not -- he's a very talented guy. And he's very effective.
And -- and, you know, he started out pretty good. I mean, it's pretty remarkable he is where he is, in terms of somebody...
STEELE: Right. CARVILLE: ... new, and -- and burst on the scene like that.
But I think that what might be a little troubling, if I was running Obama's campaign, is, is that he seems to get up -- need to get up to speed on a couple of these issues.
Of course, what Carville didn't point out, nor did CNN think it necessary to do so, is that Carville is a strategist for HIllary Clinton and has been sending out fundraising emails under his name.
This is the sort of ethical subterfuge that annoys people about the Clinton camp as well as the traditional media. We always joke about the Blogger Ethics Conferences, but traditional "pundits" have been doing this sort of thing for years.
So we have Carville, a Hillary strategist (whether paid or not is irrelevant) on CNN, undisclosed, delivering that day's Clinton talking points in pitch perfect fashion.
Carville was asked about this at a public event with a Q&A. His response:
Carville told Jackson he didn't think he was hiding anything from anybody since he didn't shy away from putting his political views on the table. He said he thought he could manage his dual roles as "analyst" and operative. That's all well and good, but it's also beside the point, which is, how can an active operative be an "analyst?" The question is one of identification--a question the producers of CNN might actually be in the best position to answer. Why not "James Carville: Analyst, Clinton Fundraiser?"
Carville said he thought Hillary had the best (though "less than a 50%") chance of winning, and admitted (obviously, if somewhat grumpily) that he favored, "The Senator from New York."
Bullshit. When I was a consultant for the Dean campaign, I had a big-ass disclaimer, where the most expensive ad on Daily Kos is placed, disclosing my role. Sure, in his cocktail party circuit, everyone knows Carville is a Hillary partisan, but that can't be assumed for the general public.
But the biggest culprit here is CNN, which should put up that disclaimer whether Carville agrees to it or not. It's their responsibility to ensure they remain a "trusted name in news", and refusing their audience full disclaimers of their guests conflicts of interest is beyond the pale. Stoller says:
In fact, there is a very good reason why we should not trust James Carville, which is that he is misleading viewers about their role in the political process. This is not just an issue of James Carville having political opinions. First of all, I don't see why having political opinions distinguishes him from any other American, so he must mean something else. In fact, what having 'political opinions' in cable news-speak seems to be that James Carville has a vested personal interest in the outcome of an election he is discussing on-air. Carville is a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton and sends out fundraising solicitations on her behalf. If she is elected he will again be a senior advisor to a President. The first time this happened to him, in 1993, he became famous and immensely wealthy. If it happens again, it's hard to deny that he won't have access to the same or even increased levers of power and wealth.
This is a very significant incentive. In fact, it's so significant that CNN recognizes that labeling Carville as a 'CNN Political Analyst and Clinton Advisor' would detract from his credibility as an on-air analyst and from CNN's credibility as a news channel. It would allow other participants in the discussion to question whether James Carville is floating narratives that are favorable for Hillary Clinton instead of just doing analysis. These actually would be healthy questions, and I would have no problem if narratives and who floats them were discussed as part of our cable news dialogue. And yet, CNN doesn't think that, and so the channel is very clearly misleading by omission. They label Carville a 'CNN Political Analyst' and leave the public in the dark about the true nature of Carville's analysis.
The problem, of course, isn't that Carville is a senior advisor to Hillary and raises money for her. It's that he doesn't make that explicitly clear when he's bashing her primary opponents on the air. And the problem, of course, isn't that CNN has him on. It's that they willfully mask this important bias.