Hang on. I don't say he "deserved" it. I do say that he should have expected it, and was foolish to have thought that he could get involved in secular politics at his level and not have it come out. His hubris, as much as the act itself, brought about this act of self-immolation. As someone famous said recently, you can't be naive if you want to play in that sandbox. Posted by: Rod Dreher | August 25, 2004 12:40 PM
It's no surprise, I guess, that there are waves of interesting ideas and questions in the comments section of the Deal Hudson post. One of the big questions remains: Was the National Catholic Reporter story a "hit job"?
Come on folks, of course it was a hit job. But it was also a valid news story. Remember that NCR is a partisan publication. It's in a doctrinal war with orthodox Roman Catholics (and, on another level, this White House) and the purpose of the story -- however that purpose is worded -- was to take somebody down. On the flip side, see the Clinton era. Many hit jobs? Yes. Many valid stories? Yes.
What could have improved the NCR piece?
It appears, of course, that Hudson did not do an interview with them that would tell his side. I can understand that. To do that interview would have required trusting NCR.
But let's stop and think about this, since this blog is in the business of encouraging the coverage of religion news in mainstream media. Hang in there with me. What if Hudson had granted that NCR interview? (Let's assume that he can speak, without violating some kind of settlement agreement a decade ago.) And what if he had granted that interview on the condition that he could tape it, as well. Then he could run the transcript on a website or print it in Crisis. Last time I checked, he was associated with a magazine of his own, correct?
In other words, the story is going to come out. And the NCR report contains part of the story. A valid part of the story. A damning part of the story. The NCR story contained the sin and some of the punishment. However, if any journalist is going to be able to detail the repentance and the reality of the life AFTER THE FALL, then that information would have to come through Hudson and his contacts. Correct? Who else can talk about that?
This is part of what I was trying to say about the tragedy of major stories breaking in partisan media. This is a journalism job for Richard Ostling at the Associated Press -- QUICK!
One more thing. Let me assign everyone to read Chapter 10 of the revised edition of Chris Matthews' "Hardball." It's called "Hang A Lantern on Your Problem." The key section deals with a less explosive issue, but the principles are still relevant. When faced with nasty comments about his age, Ronald Reagan made this a central theme OF HIS campaign.
"In slaying the age issue, Reagan had also demonstrated an important lesson of politics: if a question has been raised publicly about your own personal background, you need to address the issue personally."
The question, of course, is whether religious conservatives can trust the mainstream media to serve up balanced, accurate and in any way nuanced reports that will tell their side as well as the side of the critics. The hard truth is that a 50-50 news report is a bloody miracle in the current media climate, where the sexual revolution has defined the sacred cows in most newsrooms and not just the openly partisan ones.
But, again, did Hudson think that the story was not going to get printed? Did he think no one would read an NCR story? Did he actually think, as many conservatives do, that they could hinder the printing of a partisan story by refusing to cooperate?
Get real. Faced with NCR printing large chunks of the truth about his past, his only real option -- rather than writing a small insider piece for National Review -- was to jump right on the issue in a media forum that was more powerful and more dedicated to fairness than the Catholic enemy that wanted his head.
Any suggestions on the newspaper or wire service to which he should have offered the story? I say Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post.
UPDATE: Catholic Exchange has a new commentary up on this sad affair. Here is a long, and gracefully sane, passage from this editorial.
Deal Hudson portrayed his becoming a confidant of the Bush team as something he was tapped for rather than as something he actively sought. Be that as it may, it is surely the fact that regardless of whether he put himself forward or was brought into the limelight, he has known all along about this sordid incident lurking in the background, and he could have demurred -- it is our opinion that he should have. Poor judgment on his part left his vulnerabilities open to attack, and it is therefore correct for him to say that he let many people down. But even as we forgive, we beg our fellow Catholics to regard this as a cautionary tale. ...
If you are a Catholic seeking to serve the Church or your country and you have a scandalizing secret that you never want your children to read in the papers or on the web, keep a low profile. There is much to be done -- in fact most of the work of building God's Kingdom is being done -- in the background, out of the public eye, and you are indispensable in only two positions: being a husband or wife to your spouse and a father or mother to your children.