Is NewsMax's Kessler getting liberal?
If you read the last two columns by Ronald Kessler, Newsmax.com's chief Washington correspondent, that's a reasonable question to ask.
First up: "Obama was born in the United States," which ran on December 8 and offered a scathing description of Philip Berg, who's mounted one of a few legal challenges to Obama's pending inauguration. (In addition to accusing the U.S. government of letting 9/11 happen, Kessler wrote, Berg also keeps ducking his questions: "You would also think that Berg would be happy to be interviewed about the case by a journalist like me. But although he agreed to an interview at [a] conservative dinner, he has since failed to respond to my voicemails and e-mails asking for him to call.")
Then came "Obama is a quick study in intelligence briefings," which was published three days later and read, at the outset, like something you'd find on the Huffington Post:
Barack Obama is getting high marks from the intelligence community for the way he responds to daily intelligence briefings.
Three weeks before the election, Obama and John McCain began receiving intelligence briefings similar to what is available to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees. After the election, the president-elect began receiving essentially the same briefings President Bush receives.
“Obama is a quick study,” says one intelligence official. “He absorbs a lot of information, digests it, and asks strategic questions.”
“He has a way of being reflective about what we give him,” says another intelligence official.
Ronald Kessler, what in blazes is going on here?
"I consider myself a journalist with pretty good credibility--I've worked at the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal--and I like to tell the truth wherever it may lead," Kessler tells the Phoenix. "And as the last paragraph of the birth-certificate story says, the last thing conservatives should be doing [with Obama] is emulating what was done with Bush"--i.e., in Kessler's estimation, trafficking in conspiracy theories and treating the him with disrespect.
Kessler's readers don't necessarily agree with his call to treat Obama better than the left treated Bush. "I'd say I got 300 emails about [the December 8 column], and probably ninety percent of them were unfavorable--people insisting that I didn't know what I was talking about, and that I was crazy," Kessler says. That said, "The other ten percent, I'd say, said, 'Well, it's about time someone told the truth and put those ridiculous rumors to rest.'"
Lest Newsmax diehards and other conservatives suspect Kessler of creeping liberalism, though, there are two points to consider. First, his column on Obama's intelligence-briefing M.O. also criticized the president-elect's decision not to tap John Brennan as his CIA head. (Whether this was Obama's decision or Brennan's is not entirely clear.)
Second, Kessler's conversation with the Phoenix ended on a decidedly conservative note. By giving Democrats their due, Kessler claims, "we enhance our credibility. The New York Times editorials--who needs to read them? They're always going to say the same thing: 'Bush is bad.' And I happen to think that's one reason a lot of the media is losing readers and viewers--not just because of the internet, but also because they lack real credibility."