Friday, June 01, 2012

Re: POLITICO ... As We've Been Saying All Along

CALL THIS A BELTWAY MEDIA POWER PLAY from a player which cannot compete on breadth or quality of content but which owns the inside track to setting the Beltway narrative, Washington Establishment-Republican. In a presidential election year, especially this one, that is a crucial place to be, in command of the political, not moral, high ground.

Enter the major traditional press competitors for coverage of the GOP from a center-to-center left editorial position: The New York Times and WaPo. They can't really compete with the day-by-day political gossip-mongering and churning of the fabled "Beltway narrative" for which POLITICO has become notorious and which is its m├ętier. POLITICO seldom breaks major news, like its two target-'competitors', but it is first in line at framing/spinning the narrative in concert with Washington Establishment-Republican thinking and messaging.

Therefore, we have seen for instance, the marginalization of progressive views as way outside the mainstream, so much so that MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, whose noonday show is a platform for the POLITICO "briefing" and setting of the daily narrative, generally calls on Rachel Maddow (who serves the same purpose on MTP) to 'interpret' any issues attendant to progressives which, naturally, fall outside the Beltway Media scope. As if we're exotic political specimens.

Generally, the Idiot Punditocracy/POLITICOs will broadbrush progressives as the Democratic Party "base" and immediately postulate an elitist false equivalency between the two "political extremes," which is a complete and utter bastardization of the political spectrum — in outside-the-Beltway reality, it is extreme right wing (fascism by any other name) to center-center left. The false equivalence of equating the Tea Party (but not so much Grover Norquist, who in a rational era would be laughed off the national political stage) and progressives (including OWS, which gives the elites succor) is a deliberate distortion by POLITICO and its Beltway Media denizens, spreading the word on political cable channels for wider dissemination to the body politic.

Neither WaPo nor the New York Times play POLITICO's Beltway Media parlor game. Both are actually among the few remaining serious news gathering organizations in this country. Whatever imagined competition with POLITICO is asymmetrical, deriving from its singular, entrenched influence within the Beltway, which prompted such a surprisingly fierce pushback from WaPo and the Times to POLITICO's cheap shot hatchet job broadside.

Surprising because, in fact, POLITICO lacks the resources to match the Times or WaPo, or even the new kid on the block, Huffington Post, in doing serious journalism. But what it lacks in resources it more than makes up for in influence and connectedness. The two traditional media organizations' reaction to POLITICO's hit piece was a frank recognition of its D.C. media fiefdom and pull.

The POLITICO story itself, written by top POLITICO honchos Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, implying "bias" against the GOP on the part of the Times and WaPo is ludicrous, bordering on the sophomoric — a piece that more resembles a high school paper production. It's laughable for POLITICO to hide behind the "GOP" interviewing a Party hack Haley Barbour to claim "blatant bias in vetting" with the canned phony outrage adjective "livid" in such silly phrases like, "No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign. To them, reporters are scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience — and once again downplaying ones that could hurt the president."

Sounds like something Mark 'The Mole' Halperin would try to sneak into a Hardball segment past the trusting Chris Matthews. Oh wait — he did! Went right over Chris's head, but we alerted him to Halperin whining that "the press" was being "unfair" to Romney and would be "sympathetic" to the Obama Team's attacks on Bain. Unlike his partner in crime, fiction writer John Heilemann, Halperin forgot to add a disclaimer that this wasn't his personal view — because of course, it was, oh and also the GOP's.

So these GOP conspirators have been cooking this "unfair press" whine meme for quite some time. What fascinates me, to coin a phrase used by the Chris Cillizzas and Chuck Todds of this world, among many, who are not affected by the horrors of which they speak — as "fascination" implies something positive to someone observing from a safe distance — is to contemplate whether the conspirators actually sit around a conference table brainstorming these things. (I can easily see 'The Mole' actively contributing ideas from his intimate knowledge of the enemy.) But, probably not. They're much too shrewd about maintaining the appearance of news neutrality — unless you're a Fox associate producer — to be caught in such a compromising position.

Josh Marshall of TPM called it "an astonishingly bad piece of reporting/analysis from POLITICO." I concur. Josh noted GQ, of all mags (Jonathan Capehart will be proud), nailed it:
Let’s get macro for a moment. This POLITICO story was written by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, two people at the very top of the organization’s masthead. It’s effectively an unsigned house editorial. And it levied a charge of journalistic malpractice at two of POLITICO’s biggest rivals. The house position of POLITICO, as evidenced by this piece, is that they are fair and their chief competition is not. It’s a thinly disguised, fundamentally craven argument for POLITICO’s superiority in the world of political coverage. Let’s call this article for what it was. It wasn’t journalism. It was business.
I disagree slightly. Dispensing with the niceties of the "business" POLITICO is neither "fair" nor, dare I say it, balanced. They are now, and have always been, in bed with the GOP. As far as "business" is concerned, they go where the money is. This was a naked power play to neutralize media which would turn a critical eye to the GOP early in this presidential campaign. POLITICO wants no challengers to running the media narrative table. Sure it's business. There's plenty of money to be had, and made, in this bagman's paradise presidential campaign. But first it's strategy. Romney strategy.

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