Greetings Altercators, Reed here. Eric’s off this week, but here’s his latest Nation column: “The Cuban Missile Crisis: Thirteen Days…and Fifty Years,” which revisits some of the common myths of the incident that readers of his book “When Presidents Lie” will no doubt recognize.
As for me, the past few days in New Jersey weren’t without some drama as well, but I was definitely one of the lucky ones. Many more of us in the Garden State, where following the devastation from Sandy we might temporarily rename ourselves the Generator, Sump Pump and Chainsaw State, didn’t fare so well. Fortunately, we now have a president that actually gives a damn about things like disaster recovery and a governor whose facility for wielding pomposity and self-righteousness like a cudgel might finally have found a worthwhile cause to fight for. And not for nothing, but if the latter’s effusive praise of the former effectively acts as a political shiv to Mitt Romney’s plans after next Tuesday, well then I guess the old saying about every cloud having a silver lining really is true. To be sure, other less-than-pure theories abound about the reasons behind Christie’s very sudden appreciation for Obama’s competence. But in terms of ridiculously wild speculation, I submit that none will surpass The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who believes that, this being Jersey, maybe subconsciously, this all comes back to Bruce.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Election
by Reed Richardson
I don’t profess to know, on my own, what path our country will have chosen come next Wednesday. But as a journalist, I take some comfort in the fact that not knowing something is a professional necessity. The attempt to fill that gap is what propels you forward every day, drives your curiosity, and—in my case recently—keeps you up at night.
By the same token, however a healthy press corps does not begin each day from the stance that it knows nothing. Journalism, more so than perhaps any other pursuit, involves the steady accretion of knowledge, adding to today what one knew yesterday. It’s a never-ending process, in other words. So it is not surprising that one of the common occupational hazards among the media is when it projects precisely this same mindset onto its coverage. And nowhere is this proclivity for process-obsessed journalism more prone to occur than in the context of a political campaign, which steadily marches toward an inevitable, clear-cut conclusion.
The press’s fascination with political scorekeeping is an understandable failure then. It’s not always easy, after all, to churn out something new, day after day, about a candidate’s positions or policies—unless, ahem, they constantly change. But where a candidate stands versus their opponent is an angle that is always sitting there, waiting to be picked up, pored over, and pushed out.