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The Daily Caller is once again at the center of a bizarre, political media war. This time it managed to unite even habitually opposed writers at The New Republic and National Review. Both think the Daily Caller overstepped.

How? Friday, The Daily Caller published a story in which the National Review was criticized by anonymous Republican aides for a supposedly "prearranged" editorial praising the Republican "Pledge to America." In particular, one aide was quoted calling the piece a "political blowjob."

National Review editor Rich Lowry retaliated by calling the claims "anonymous, baseless, bizarre," and the political blogosphere appears to agree with him. Many commentators are also bringing up The Daily Caller's earlier hit job series publishing partisan emails from the liberal JournoList archives.

  • What Is the Problem Here?  "In essence, what you have here is the Daily Caller busting Cantor's press aides in the act of ... doing their jobs, which is to try to get as much good press as possible for their boss and the rest of the GOP leadership," sums up The Washington Post's Greg Sargent. He hopes Republicans will be more skeptical of Caller stories in the future.

  • 'Doing What the New Kid Often Does,' says Politico's Ben Smith of the Caller: "Taking shots at more established rivals." That's all fine and well, and "there's a great tradition of this--after all, if the rivals were perfect, you'd have no reason to exist." But "the Caller's problem is that it keeps missing," Smith says. He also looks at the way the Caller story was revised as National Review disputed it.
Now, updating online stories--when you correct, when you just write through--is another evolving question, something POLITICO's been working on, and the subject of a recent (and itself corrected) Slate story. It's easy to over-read changes--stories have always been fiddled with between editions--but the Caller's retreat does suggest they'd pushed it a bit too far in the first place.
  • 'It's Not Even Clear What Exactly Is Being Alleged,' writes a perplexed Jonathan Chait at The New Republic, who also calls the Caller a "conservative online tabloid."
What was "prearranged"? Was it the fact that NR would write some kind of editorial on this subject? That's silly--this is the kind of thing NR exists to editorialize on. Was it the tone of the editorial? It's very common for politicians to seek out favorable coverage among opinion journalists. ... It's possible something less ethical went down. Obviously it all depends on exactly what happened at this meeting. But the story provides zero evidence--not even vague characterization--that the contact with NR was anything more than a routine spin session. And given the Daily Caller's record of utter contempt for basic journalistic norms, the very strong presumption should be that this is a non-story.
  • 'Personally, I'm Perplexed by the Whole Unlikely Tale,' chimes in National Review's Kevin Williamson, who adds that "as the semi-official Jon Chait basher in these parts, I should point out that his remarks about the Daily Caller's lame and gutless attempt to defame this publication and its editors are both clear and gracious. Many thanks." Williamson continues to wonder why John Boehner would attempt to contact National Review editor Rich Lowry "through Kate O'Beirne and April Ponnuru. Rich Lowry is a shadowy character and a man of mystery, to be sure, but I'm pretty sure that John Boehner could get him on the phone, if he wanted to." In addition, he wonders how the Caller would explain Andrew McCarthy's fairly thorough trashing of the "Pledge to America"...which also appeared in  National Review.

Meanwhile, the Caller's founder and editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson is standing by the story. "In addition to the two trusted sources who spoke on background to Ward," he writes, "we have evidence that there was in fact coordination between National Review and Congressman Cantor's office." He does not, on the other hand, respond to other journalists' questions about what, exactly, was wrong with that.

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