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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9838/off-the-record-with-cato/

“Off The Record” With Cato

April 23, 2009 by

Some time ago, I was exchanging e-mails with a professor who was on leave to work at a government agency. He was complaining about his poor treatment at the hands of agency management — who failed to appreciate the value of his research. The professor was careful to note in every email, however, that he was speaking “off the record.” I found this amusing because (1) I’m not a reporter and (2) it shows just how deep the post-Watergate culture of anonymous sourcing and media secrecy extends.

With this preface, I would note this post from Erik Wemple, editor of the Washington City Paper — or should I say, “a source familiar with Erik Wemple’s thinking”:

On April 28 at 11 a.m., the Cato Institute will be hosting a public gathering titled “Restoring the Pro-Trade Consensus.” It looks like a panel discussion among several experts, with the headliner being Tim Reif, general counsel for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The discussion will center on the fate of the “bipartisan, pro-trade consensus that served U.S. interests so well for nearly six decades” and which “collapsed during the Bush administration.”

Of course, that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part lies right in the roster (emphasis all mine): “Featuring Tim Reif, General Counsel, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (remarks off the record); Anne Kim, Economic Program Director, Third Way; and Dan Ikenson, Associate Director, Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute.”

Let me get this straight: You’re convening a fully public event, listing the thing on your Web site, getting the announcement in the listings of local papers, recruiting a huge audience of thinkers and hangers-on, yet you’re trying to declare an off-the-record rule?

Hey Cato, do you need government speakers so badly that you’ll violate all norms of logic and transparency just to nail one down? Think about how ludicrous this is: There’s going to be a panel discussion, and there’s no question that Reif and the other panelists will engage in an exchange of ideas. But anyone wishing to chronicle the exchange will be obligated to, like, delete Reif’s contributions because he’s off the record?

I couldn’t believe this until I visited Cato’s website and confirmed the “off the record” invite for Reif. Honestly, I haven’t stopped laughing long enough to come up with an appropriate response to this.


Sukrit April 23, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Well, I guess that’s what happens when you try and lobby the elites. It’s also why I prefer the Mises Institute’s approach of lobbying the masses, rather than trying to convince the crooks in Washington.

Although Cato is generally good on issues of war and peace, has anyone else noticed that they don’t criticize Israel as much or offer many comments on that ongoing conflict?

common sense April 24, 2009 at 12:26 am

isn’t it the one gathering the information (reporter) that grants the ‘off the record’ status? how does the one willing to open their mouth then get to determine when and how his comments are used? sure, they can ask, ‘can i speak to you off the record?’ at which point the reporter either obliges and gets his scoop, or refuses and potentially ends the conversation.

Ivan April 24, 2009 at 8:59 am

Actually, it is interesting that guys form Cato like any other pinko libertarians like to blame Bush not only for his clear failures like increasing federal spending, regulations and shameful bailouts, but also for things Bush is not one to blame. Why that morons didn’t tell the public that “free trade consensus” collapsed not because of Bush’s administration, but because Obama and other Democratic politicians have toppled it. Obama and Democratic Congress are ones who refuse to ratify free trade agreements with Colombia (with stupid pro-union excuses), South Corea and Panama. Bush and vast majority of Republicans were pro free trade, specially when compared with Democrats.

Ivan April 24, 2009 at 9:03 am

So, it would be much much closer to the truth to ssay that “bipartisan pro free trade consensus collapsed “during Pelosi’s Congress”.

Ohhh Henry April 24, 2009 at 10:19 am

A couple of years ago there was a situation where the head of the Bank of Canada (central bank) was making a speech in which he promoted (in a weasly, equivocal way) that the federal government fund a universal daycare program (the nanny state, literally). His speech was preceded with these remarks, freely quoted, “Now let me emphasize that I am not speaking in any way whatsoever in my capacity as the Governor of the Bank of Canada when I present these ideas.”

Within a few days, a socialist member of federal cabinet was making speeches that said, freely quoting, “But don’t just take my word for it that this social program is needed. No less a person than the Governor of the Bank of Canada has stated that this is an essential requirement for future economic progress …”

Of course the ever-vigilant media immediately picked up on this and roasted both the central banker and the cabinet minister, and the banker issued a public demand that the cabinet minister stop misrepresenting his endorsement of government policy … not.

But that was some time ago and the federal nannies have not been unleashed yet on Canada. We have a new central banker, a former longtime employee of Goldman Sachs, so I imagine that the central bank has, er, other priorities at the moment.

Mark April 24, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I’d make a comment but I don’t want to be quoted anywhere.

TomOfTheNorth April 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm

In order to convey Reif’s remarks without violating the off-the-record stipulation, I would merely cite a ‘source who requires anonimity’ who then procedes to quote Reif verbatim. Reif can’t repudiate the quote because my ‘source’ also recorded the event.

Misesian April 25, 2009 at 7:44 pm


Let’s not forget that these so-called “free trade agreements” are just code for “free trade for some of my friends in Colombia as well as for a few of my pals here in the U.S.”. This is nothing but more managed trade and favored trade status for a the few politically connected.

The liberals only scrapped Dubyas wording of the agreement, i.e. dumped some of Dubyas pals and will soon re-word it to appease the corporate gangsters that lobby on the other side of the same statist coin.

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