Friday, October 28, 2011

Embedded Jonathan Alter equates unions with T-Party

After reading Jonathan Alter's latest diatribe against teacher unions ("Tea Party and Teachers Union Make Strange Brew"), I can only wonder who at Duncan's D.O.E. is feeding Alter his lines. Writing for Bloomberg News, Alter somehow equates the NEA's opposition to NCLB test-and-punish accountability standards with the T-Party's defense of states rights and its call to do away with the Dept. of Education. Of course, neither position is held by the NEA. Alter writes:
Talk about bizarre bedfellows. The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, and the Tea Party are both arguing against federal accountability standards in education.
Alter then goes on to praise Duncan's anti-union pal, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who he claims, "understood the importance of accountability when he was secretary of education 20 years ago." Ironically, it's Alexander who has been the most critical of the D.O.E.'s centralized authority under Duncan. He claims that the latest version of NCLB's rewrite gives "too much authority" to the federal government, and would “transform the U.S. secretary of education into chairman of a national school board.”

Not wanting to upset Duncan's apple cart, Alter makes no mention of Alexander's own T-Party rhetoric.

You might recall that it was educational know-nothing Alter who responded to a critical  NYT editorial by leading a charge against administration critic Diane Ravitch, in which he parroted all of the talking points assembled in the D.O.E.'s communications department.

The question remains -- is Jonathan Alter Arne Duncan's Armstrong Williams?


  1. No - Alter's not on the USDOE payroll. He's on the Bloomberg LP payroll. So he can't be Arne Duncan's Armstrong Williams.

    Although, since everybody at the USDOE is either on the Bloomberg LP payroll or eventually wants to get on the Bloomberg LP payroll, I guess that just means that Arne Duncan is Mike Bloomberg's Armstrong Williams.

  2. RBE -

    Don't forget, Armstrong Williams, while secretly on the DOE payroll, was also employed by CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. That's exactly what made him such a valuable tool in promoting NCLB and other Bush administration policies.

    USA Today reported that Williams was hired and paid a quarter of a million dollars "to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same"

    Why do you ridicule the notion that DOE policies haven't changed under the Democrats? I don't know that Alter is actually being paid by the administration, but his (and a handful of other journalists) are so closely attuned to the DOE's line and rhetoric, it seems entirely possible. If he isn't, he ought to be.

  3. No one is saying that Alter is being paid. The comparison to Armstrong holds up without Alter taking money. He is a career party insider who, going back to the Clinton administration, has also been used to get the party line out. He hasn't always done it to everyone's liking, which is the difference between him and Williams, but he definitely was embedded.

    Here's Wikipedia's (ENotes account:

    After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, during which Alter was a consultant to MTV, he was among a small group of reporters and columnists who had regular access to Clinton, though he was far from a reliable supporter, particularly during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "Alter bites me in the ass sometimes, but at least he knows what we're trying to do," Clinton was quoted as saying in the book Media Circus by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.