But where else can I find such great material?

I love feeling like I'm ahead of major publications, even if a bunch of people read them and a couple dozen people read me. (Thanks, couple dozen!) So this morning's article in The New Republic made me feel like I'm ahead of the curve. I've been making fun of Politico for a while now. From the article:
On the evening of January 22, a few hours after his administration's debut news conference, Barack Obama made a surprise visit to the cramped quarters of the White House press corps. It was meant to be a friendly event, and Obama glad-handed his way through reporters and cameramen, exchanging light banter as he went.

But Politico reporter Jonathan Martin wasn't there to chat. Martin pressed Obama about the president's decision to nominate William J. Lynn III, a former defense lobbyist, to deputy defense secretary and about Obama's pledge to curtail the influence of lobbyists. The exchange turned tense. "See, this is what happens. I can't end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here," a visibly exasperated Obama said. Martin wouldn't relent. "I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys--that's all I was trying to do," the president added. Within an hour, Martin and Politico writer Carrie Budoff Brown reported the exchange on Politico's website: "OBAMA FLASHES IRRITATION IN PRESS ROOM," the headline read.

I love that headline. "OBAMA SHOWS ANNOYANCE WHEN ANNOYED BY SOMEONE ANNOYING." The article goes on to describe how this brainless non-story got picked up by other media outlets, eventually landing in the intellectual cesspool of Limbaughland. Thusly is our Republic strengthened.

In fairness, Politico did break a number of stories, including the Giuliani travel expenses mini-scandal, the McCain "how many houses do I own?" gaffe and the budget for Sarah Palin's wardrobe. (One could argue that all of them are pretty picayune, but at least they appeared to say something important about the candidates in question.) And it's obviously easier to make fun of crappy reportage than it is to generate good journalism.

Even so, Politico is a great source of easy material. Today, for example, there is this dunderheaded offering:
President Barack Obama and his team of change agents may think every tactic in their political arsenal is original — but in turning their fire on the capital’s process-and-power-obsessed political class they’re actually indulging in a time-honored Beltway tradition.

Pitting Washington Insiders against Real People, as Obama and his top aides have increasingly done in recent weeks, is often a refuge for presidents who have suffered missteps or drawn critical coverage, particularly in their early weeks in office.
What a stunningly stupid, speculative opening sentence! Jonathan Martin may think that he's a ninth-order paladin, but he's actually an overpaid hack.

Nowhere has Obama or his team indicated that they think "every tactic in their political arsenal is original." This is a ridiculous straw man, created in the service of facile political "analysis." Further, if Martin would like to argue why Obama shouldn't decry the actions of Washington Insiders when said insiders have been the source of a lot of his recent woes, I'm all ears. Heaven forfend he should do something other politicians have done!
A not-incidental benefit from this us-vs.-them strategy: A new administration that has just won a smashing campaign victory gets to go back to what innocent bystanders might say looks a lot like campaigning.
Oh, how very droll. "Innocent bystanders," indeed. I'm sure those innocent bystanders are simply detached observers, who have no vested interest in concocting a story from weak tea. Apparently campaigning in favor of policy goals signals a wholesale failure of some kind, though what in particular Obama is doing to deserve such arch commentary is beyond me.

Anyhow, in the rush to remain ahead of the Washington journalistic pack, this kind of vapid writing is commonplace at Politico. I still read it, and am grateful to have a ready-made source of risible fodder for the ol' blog. But I hope it doesn't herald the trend in which political journalism is heading.


  1. "Martin pressed Obama about the president's decision to nominate William J. Lynn III, a former defense lobbyist, to deputy defense secretary and about Obama's pledge to curtail the influence of lobbyists."

    And here I thought the job of journalists was to ask difficult questions of those in power. Wasn't it just back a month or so ago when journalists "spoke truth to power" and "comforted the afflicted, and afflicted the comfortable"? Now, of course, if someone actually asks a question about the President's own-goals, implying that our Lightworking Master of Hopey Change is failing to live up to hiw own rhetoric, that person is annoying.

    With apologies to Dr. Strangelove, "You can't ask questions in here, this is the Press Room!"

  2. John, I don't really have a nickel in that dime. Martin chose to use a low-key, informal moment to press for information, as though it was a press conference. Fine. Whatevs, as the kids these days would say. But it's certainly kind of annoying, and it's hardly a big story that Obama would be annoyed.