October 14, 2010
The cozy relationship between the press and the politicians
The shameless schmoozing of beltway journalists with the politicians they are supposed to be covering critically continues in the Obama administration. I wrote earlier about how Obama started this practice a week before he was even inaugurated. Is anyone even surprised anymore that the media is so lousy and so pro-establishment and only gets worked up over trivialities?
Glenn Greenwald highlights (item #6) the cozy relationship between the media and the politicians they cover that is on display in this article, detailing how influential Mike Allen of Politico is in shaping the media narrative to the liking of powerful people:
On a recent Friday night, a couple hundred influentials gathered for a Mardi Gras-themed birthday party for Betsy Fischer, the executive producer of "Meet the Press." Held at the Washington home of the lobbyist Jack Quinn, the party was a classic Suck-Up City affair in which everyone seemed to be congratulating one another on some recent story, book deal, show or haircut (and, by the way, your boss is doing a swell job, and maybe we could do an interview).
McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, arrived after the former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie left. Fox News's Greta Van Susteren had David Axelrod pinned into a corner near a tower of cupcakes. In the basement, a very white, bipartisan Soul Train was getting down to hip-hop. David Gregory, the "Meet the Press" host, and Newsweek’s Jon Meacham gave speeches about Fischer. Over by the jambalaya, Alan Greenspan picked up some Mardi Gras beads and placed them around the neck of his wife, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who bristled and quickly removed them. Allen was there too, of course, but he vanished after a while -- sending an e-mail message later, thanking me for coming.
Or, as Bob Somerby reports, consider the case when Ted Koppel, alleged journalist, drives to Colin Powell's house, a person whom he supposedly covers, to show him his new sports car and to let him take it for a spin. According to Powell, Koppel frequently drops by for coffee and to chat. Somerby also talks about "Bob Schieffer playing golf with George Bush; Gwen Ifill giving home-cooked meals to Condi Rice; and Tim Russert off at Don Rumsfeld’s Christmas party."
Aw, how sweet! Gwen making sure Condi has a hot meal. How nice and cozy!
Somerby also quotes Richard Leiby on a party thrown by John McCain in 2004:
Sen. John McCain tended to his political base Sunday night: the entire national media. The maverick Arizona Republican, once (and future?) presidential aspirant and press secretary's dream, hosted a hyper-exclusive 68th birthday party for himself at La Goulue on Madison Avenue, leaving no media icon behind. Guests included NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, ABC's Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel and George Stephanopoulos, CBS's Mike Wallace, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, ABC News chief David Westin, Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, CNN's Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, CNBC's Gloria Borger, PBS's Charlie Rose—pause here to exhale—and U.S. News & World Report publisher Mort Zuckerman, Washington Post Chairman Don Graham, New York Times columnists William Safire and David Brooks, author Michael Lewis and USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro. They and others dined on lobster salad, loin of lamb, assorted wines, creme brulee, lemon souffle and French tarts...
Your media, the watchdogs of democracy, at work. (Susan Gardner also weighs in on this topic.)
As for whether such schmoozing violates journalistic ethics, Glenn Greenwald says:
I personally don't think that these types of interactions "violate journalistic ethics" because I don't think such a thing exists for them. Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation's leading "journalists" really are: desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it -- and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.
The establishment media defends these practices by arguing that they need to be on good terms with major establishment figures in order to get information. This is not true. You are better off dealing with mid-level or lower-level people who really believe in what they do or remain idealistic or are not really interested in the turf wars being waged at higher levels.