It’s so interesting to see how folks from the different parallel universes perceive the same ink blot. Today I was interviewed by CNN (and a bunch of other places) about the McCain ad implying that Obama has a Messianic complex, and how that might feed the internet rumors that Obama is, er, the anti-Christ.
The liberal website, mydd, said this proved that CNN was contemptible and worthy of boycott because it was trafficking in grotesque rumors and then airing commentary from “three conservative guests” (that would be me and the two hosts).

Meanwhile, the conservative website Newsbusters used this CNN report and my analysis to show CNN’s liberal media bias.
For good measure, it began its item with a “CyberAlert” that “Waldman had worked in the Clinton administration promoting AmeriCorps.” I now understood why Beliefnet’s publicist earlier told me that another media outlet was asking if I had been a “Clinton advisor.”
Since these things can spiral out of control, I’d like to actually address that. While working as a correspondent at Newsweek, I wrote an article and then book about the creation of AmeriCorps, the civilian national and community service program. (Btw, the book is available on Amazon for One Penny! The indignity!) I became convinced that there were few things that could help America more than encouraging community service.
So, I left journalism and went to work as a senior advisor for “policy and evaluation” for the Corporation for National Service, the quasi-independent government agency that manages AmeriCorps (it has a bipartisan board of directors). This was risky because I knew that working in government would inevitably tarnish my perceived objectivity, and also because the program had been slated for elimination by the new Republican Congress. But I decided to do it anyway because a) I’m a big believer in community service and b) felt that actually working in government for a while would help me to better understand and cover it later.
Yes, working at the Corporation for National Service technically made me part of the Clinton administration. Some Clintonites would undoubtedly find it amusing that I’d be now called a “Clinton advisor” since at the time they tended to view me as a disloyal renegade. Harris Wofford, the program’s extraordinary CEO, and I were working feverishly and sometimes against the wishes of key folks in the Clinton White House to make the program more cost effective and acceptable to conscientious Republicans. Wofford and I were viewed as naïve and overly solicitous of the enemy. We happened to think that some of the Repbulican critiques were actually true and could lead to quality improvements. More important, we thought bipartisanship in this case was shrewd politics and governance as it would position AmeriCorps for a long life.
It’s one of my proudest professional accomplishments that Wofford and my strategy worked. We got Republicans who had been targeting AmeriCorps elimination to literally switch sides and become advocates for the programs continued existence. The program survived. Since then, the program has become ever more bipartisan to the point that George W. Bush became a major advocate. I eventually went back to “objective” journalism and then co-founded Beliefnet, but I’m very proud of that one year at the Corporation for National Service.
I’m mentioning all this because, well, first I never pass up a chance to tout the wonders of AmeriCorps – and, second, because I wanted to illustrate the perils of using labels. I do it. Everyone does it. But boy is it hard to get right. Did I work in the Clinton administration? Yep. But now that you know what I actually did over there, can you see how that doesn’t actually tell you a whole lot about whether my reporting on the McCain ad was full of right wing bias, as MyDD implies, or left wing bias, as Newsbuster reports?
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