Journalist Makes News, Apologizes

Politico editor-in-chief John Harris takes pride in having coined the phrase “slow-bleed” to describe John Murtha’s plan for forcing the Bush administration out of Iraq while punching up the story in which that phrase debuted. At the same time, he expresses remorse at having inadvertently become part of the story.

It is Murtha’s job to defend his own policies. But I’d prefer not to hand his opponents ammunition in the form of evocative but loaded language.


A journalist’s job is to clarify political debate, not further muddy it. In the two weeks since his original article, Bresnahan’s reporting has continued to clarify the unfolding Iraq argument, even as his editors made life more difficult for him.

It’s inevitable that these sorts of things will happen, since reporters, editors, and headline writers all want to write lively, clean, succinct prose. But cutesy terms have connotative weight that a more bland description might lack.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Media, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. On the other hand, I think the phrase did quite a bit to “clarify political debate”. Murtha wants the US out of Iraq. He tried to do it by slight of hand since direct action is beyond him. Pointing out the slight of hand, even with colorful language brings clarity to Murtha’s actions.

  2. Tano says:

    Its kinda strange to charge someone with using slight(sic) of hand when he states explicitly what he is trying to do, as Murtha did.

    And it should be pointed out that Harris did make the point that when he used the term “slow bleed” he was referring to the ebbing political support for the Bush administrations plans, not to any strategy of bleeding away financial support for the troops. He characterizes the Republicans (mis)use of his term as demagogic.

    Just for the record..

  3. Wayne says:

    The truth of the matter is Murtha’s plan is a slow bleed plan. I suspect Harris wouldn’t care if it hurt a Republican.

  4. Christopher says:

    That has to be the most hilarious thing I have ever read!

    Liberal reporters (read: 90% of all reporters. Forgive me if I don’t use their preferred term of “journalists” because most aren’t) have been coining derogatory terms and making politically slanted reports against conservatives for
    Y E A R S.

    Then someone finally reports the truth of a traitorous liberal and what do they do? They apologize for it. HA!

  5. graywolf says:

    More like “its inevitable that these sorts of things happen” because the media and Democrats are one and the same.

    The media essentially being pom pom girls for the hate-America left (ie Democrats).