Politics & Media
Jun 08, 2010, 10:43AM

Get Over Yourselves

The political blogs are a-buzzin'.

A lot of bloggers are having a field day with Vice President Biden’s soirée with the White House press corps. Personally, I’m glad we now have an image of Rahm Emanuel wielding a Super Soaker (which goes along nicely with that silly story of him approaching rogue members of Congress in the shower).

Marc Ambinder doubles over himself trying to explain that, hey, it’s a spot of fun but it actually doesn’t mean I won’t put the screws through these people when I have a good lead:

My self-identity as a journalist has evolved from the days when I used to see myself as a neutral arbiter between equal parties. I trust the government less than I did.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about a Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence facility and the way in which its operators may be circumventing restrictions on interrogations. I wasn't rounded up and thrown into jail. I had some rough conversations with senior administration officials. And then I shared a beer (well, not really, because I don't drink) with those same officials. I'm working on a follow-up to the DIA story. I continue to believe that the White House political operation is tame. I continue to believe that Iraq is much less stable than it appears to be. I'm still fairly certain that health care will wind up costing taxpayers more than current estimates project (although with less of an impact than doubters believe).

Ambinder is a good reporter, and I’m okay taking him at his word that it is possible to be a good reporter while RSVPing to this kind of event.

Andrew Sullivan’s one-liner: "And we wonder how our leaders got away with torture and murder. I mean: enhanced interrogations."

That’s slightly hyperbolic—and I do mean slightly. The White House press corps is not a paragon of reportorial excellence. For Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, et al, the WHPC is wholly and utterly complicit in pretty much every major mistake/flaw/lie/cover-up of the past however-many years.

My take on this beach party is this: stop writing about, linking to, and altogether paying any attention to those you deem unfit. Stop treating the White House press corps as some monolithic purveyor of information and perhaps your readers will, too—and then your readers’ friends might stop, as well.

It’s not that simple—reversing paradigms never is. But—to use the phrase my colleague Robert Downey believes is our generation’s “whatever”’—it is what it is. Ever since FDR pioneered executive management of the press, any discerning reader needs—is required to have—skepticism when digesting copy from the pool. It’s part of the pony show. Bloggers love yelling “stenographer” at WHPC reporters, and sometimes it’s good that it sticks (see: most of Politico).

But stenography, for all of its glory-less existence, is the “record” that anonymous sources so often avoid.  It’s not perfect; it’s not all that illuminating; but the “Record” has to start somewhere. The WHPC is the first biased draft of the day’s history.

In a post over at National Journal, Charlie Cook coughs up some blasé 2010 horserace predictions, and then says this:

So, the things that Democrats were worried about in September and at the beginning of this year are still big problems. But they have also now been exacerbated by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which has invited competence comparisons, whether accurate or not, to former President George W. Bush's handling of 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

Of vastly lesser importance, but still a nuisance for Democrats, are admissions that the Obama White House attempted to lure Democratic Senate challengers out of races with administration jobs, charges that are probably not legally significant but do interfere with the "different kind of president" narrative from the 2008 campaign

Cook is no stenographer—and I apologize for singling out a few parahraphs from his fine body of work—but here he is commenting on two issues that are so beyond the pale of reality-based writing it’s simply depressing. Comparing the BP spill to Hurricane Katrina—either in terms of presiding presidents, environmental damage, or simply political spin—is horseshit. Nearly 2000 people died in that disaster; a city was left to rot. The BP spill, a manmade disaster is going to take years—years—to clean up. Both catastrophes deserve their own context, their own analysis, their own fucking reporting—not some tepid “on the other hand”/“whether accurate or not” add-on that is, quite simply, reporting on what other bloggers/pundits are saying.

The press creates its own stories over and over again, the most prominent and ludicrous involving the White House and Joe Sestak. That the mainstream media and pundits and bloggers alike have spent so much time and money and effort into reporting on a completely non-existent controversy is mind-boggling. Selective memories are the pets of terrible journalists. Greenwald and Sullivan should save their collective umbrage over the Biden party and get on with disseminating ideas of actual importance.


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