Michael Scherer is at it again:
President Obama won the presidency by promising to be a different, more substantive, less gimmicky leader. He said he would not waste our time on “phony outrage,” like fulminations on the meaning of “lipstick on a pig,” or silly characters like “Joe The Plumber,” a guy who was actually named Samuel and was not even a licensed plumber. No, Obama said he was going to solve problems instead. Now that he is in the White House, he still makes this case, almost every day. On Wednesday morning, during an address about contracting reforms, he referred dismissively to the “chatter on the cable stations.”
But what is the chatter on the cable stations? For most of this week, and for much of the last month, it has been about Rush Limbaugh. Hour after hour, daytime pundits are asked a litany of banal Rush questions: Does Rush really run the Republican Party? Why did RNC chair Michael Steele apologize to Rush? What does it mean that Rush addressed conservatives last weekend? As Jonathan Martin makes clear in the Politico today, this entire controversy has been cooked up and force fed to the American people by Obama’s advisers. In other words, it’s not the kind of change you can believe in.
Republicans in Congress are not the only losers. The American people also lose. At a time of unprecedented threats to the United States, a time of financial collapse, bank failures and record layoffs, at a time when the credit crisis has not been solved, and the stock market is in free fall, at a time of stagnating wars, rising terrorism in Pakistan and growing nuclear potential in Iran, the White House has done the easy thing. It has asked the American people to focus their attention not on solving the problems, but on a big-mouthed entertainer in Florida.
There’s all kinds of problems with this. First, the fact that Republican leaders regularly prostrate themselves before El Rushbo means that Rush does in fact speak for the Republican party; and most of what he’s doing is telling Republicans to oppose Obama. Hence, it is only logical that Rush should be part of any debate about whether or not Republicans will support any part of Obama’s policy.
Second, the idea that cable news would be focusing on “serious problems” if it wasn’t so busy talking about Rush is Just. Plain. Laughable. We know full well they’d be looking for missing white women or talking about beer pong herpes or worse if they weren’t talking about Rush.
Finally, though, there’s the part of this post where I have to get personal: why is Michael Scherer doing this? Is he an actual wingnut? Probably not, he used to work for Salon and Mother Jones. So the answer is clear: he thinks this is good for his career.
This is what it means when people like JMM say that Washington is “wired for Republican control.” Reporters believe that by attacking Democrats and going easy on Republicans — Scherer is probably the very worst example of this, but Jake Tapper’s a pretty glaring one too — that they’ll get ahead in the world of journalism. And the fact is that’s probably been true for the last 30 years. Doing so removed the “liberal bias” taint from a reporter and curried favor with Republicans, who have more or less been in power since 1968.
What’s fucked up about this is that reporters like Scherer hold up their slanted hackery as evidence that they’re straight-shooting tough guys in the mold of I. F. Stone and Eward R. Murrow. They’re not. They’re careerist sociopaths in the mold of Cokie Roberts and David Broder.
What makes Scherer particularly odious to me is that he does all of this while trying to look cool for his (mostly young, liberal) audience by quoting poetry and shedding crocodile tears for David Foster Wallace. If you’ve sold your soul, don’t try to pretend you still have one.
Update: From Boehner’s mouth to Scherer’s pen, apparently:
Political operatives in the White House are trying to divert attention away from the challenges facing our economy, the sinking stock market, and the irresponsible spending binge they are presiding over. This diversionary tactic will not create a single job or help a single family struggling in today’s economic crisis. That’s where our focus should be. President Obama has said we must change the way Washington operates in order to address the challenges we are facing. In the midst of a deepening recession, White House staff should have higher priorities than this cynical strategy.