November 11, 2008


Sam Smith

If there is one consistency in media coverage of new administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, it is that the new crowd is brilliant, dramatic, unprecedented, world shaking and historic.

In other words, the coverage is almost always wrong.

The reason nobody cares or notices is that the point is not to demonstrate the sharpness of reporters' brains and eyes but the availability of their butts.

Even with the worst president in history on their docket, it wasn't until both the GOP and Democratic pretenders to the throne led the way that the media was finally willing to describe George Bush as a failure.

And so, less than a week after the polls have closed, we find Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic opening a Facebook group for journalists working on the presidential transition, which promises, "We'll use the space to exchange ideas and stories, and organize social events with members of the transition team." Just what objective journalism needs: more buddy drinking with your sources.

As I described it once: "Official Washington -- including government, media and the lobbies -- functions in many ways like America's largest and most prestigious club, a sort of indoor, east coast Bohemian Grove in which members engage in endless rites of mutual affirmation combined with an intense but genteel competition that determines the city's tennis ladder of political and social power. What appears to the stranger as a major struggle is often only an intramural game between members of the same club, lending an aura of dynamism to what is in truth deeply stable."

Among the victims of this culture - aside from the American people, of course - are those Washington figures who fail to play the game. Howard Dean, in the first post election week, has not only announced his departure from the Democratic National Committee but two hundred staffers of his 50 state strategy - which incidentally helped to put Obama and a Democratic Congress in power - have already been fired.

In another example, John Kerrry - whose only original (albeit inaccurate) thought was that he might be a good president - is among those being mentioned for Secretary of State. That would probably result in a promotion for one of the capital's outsiders and most honorable officials, Russ Feingold. But note how the Washington Post's Al Kamin handles it:

Speaking of secretary of state, it's looking increasingly like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) may get the nod for that post, a possibility that is driving some Senate Democrats to distraction. No, not that they oppose Kerry. Not at all.

The problem is that the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), has picked up a new job. The second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.), has announced that he's staying on as head of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, what with all the troubles in the industry these days. . .

That means, yes indeed, next in line to chair the committee is Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), who tends to approach foreign policy and related matters from, let's say, a leftward direction. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act and is the leading advocate of cutting and running out of Iraq. That means the Obama administration, in addition to getting smacked around from the right on foreign policy matters, could find itself hammered from the left as well.

A town that sucks up to John Kerry and Rahm Emannuel and snubs Russ Feingold and Howard Dean needs some professional help. As things now, Jesus couldn't have his second coming in the capital unless it was on the new president's agenda.