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Federal Johns hire hookers

President Bush has told subordinates to stop seducing phony "journalists" with cash.

What's depressing is that he needed to: depressing that government officials would sink so low and more depressing that people who pretend to be journalists would sink even lower.

The feds have armies of PR people on the payroll. They hire even more. And every administration has thousands of loyal political appointees sprinkled through the bureaucracy to pitch the president's line.

That massive PR firepower wasn't enough for some Bush officials. They also wanted spokesmen who appeared to be independent and honest - who appeared to be working for their readers and viewers, not for paying politicians.

These officials created phony "news" programs that pushed administration policies. They sent these programs to TV stations dim enough, desperate enough or dishonest enough to air them.

Other officials made outright cash payments to corruptible opinion mongers. The most egregious example was the $241,000 that columnist and broadcaster Armstrong Williams accepted to push Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind program.

By comparison, columnist Maggie Gallagher was a piker, taking $21,500 directly from the government for assorted services that just happened to promote the president's "pro-marriage" policies. She took another $20,000 in a roundabout deal involving a private group.

Mr. Williams and Ms. Gallagher say it never occurred to them that taking money from federal officials to betray their readers and viewers was wrong, or that they should have mentioned it to the readers and viewers who thought they were getting unbought opinions.

These people aren't journalists. They're prostitutes. If they had any principles, they'd quit writing and find an honest way to make a living.

Of course, if they had any principles, they wouldn't have sold themselves to the government.

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