Conflict of Interest?

In this week's New Yorker magazine there’s a major piece by media writer Ken Auletta (search) on the Kerry campaign and why it seems to be losing wheels as it goes down the road. Auletta makes an interesting statement in the early parts of the piece:

"Recently a number of former Clinton aides — among them James Carville (search), who was the Clinton campaign chief strategist in 1992 and Stanley Greenberg, who was Clinton's pollster that year — began helping out, many of them informally."

Now this has been the subject of some discussion in the media business for a week or two because it has become obvious that Carville has either got his hands in the Kerry campaign directly, or is trying to use sidekick Paul Begala (search) to be his surrogate inside the Kerry campaign.

Fine. They can do what they want. Good for both of them. I don't know Carville, but I used to know Begala at another network. He’s a nice enough guy despite his politics.

But here’s my question: Is the Columbia School of Journalism pestering CNN about why two hosts of a show on politics are actually working on the campaign of a candidate? If Tucker Carlson were working for the campaign of George Bush would CNN make him quit? My guess is yes. So how is it James and Paul get a pass?

There is, of course, a history to this. While he was still running the news network, a former CNN executive advised Al Gore on the debates, or so it was reported.

But this is pretty brazen. Carville and Begala say what they think Kerry should do all the time. Fine enough. I like to hear their insights. But is it really kosher for the hosts to actually be working for the election of a candidate, in the employ?

Oh, by the way, before you ask, I not only don't work for the opposite candidate, I can't get those guys to return my calls. So no, the fact that I say what I think here, is not the same thing as working for a campaign.

That's My Word.

What do you think? We'd like to hear from you, so send us your comments at Some of your e-mails will be featured on the air or on our site.