In my new “Think Again” column, I apparently explain that “former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s explanation of why he supported the Iraq war doesn’t inspire much confidence in our punditocracy.” It’s “It’s Not What Bill Keller Believed About Iraq—It’s Who” and you can read it here.
Now here’s Reed:
By Reed Richardson
Last night’s Republican presidential candidate debate, coupled with the upcoming address on President Obama’s jobs plan later this evening, has all the feel of a presidential campaign finally in full swing. And clearly the folks over atPolitico couldn’t be happier, as the site’s front page today offers up a veritable orgiastic feast of speech previews and blow-by-blow debate reviews. None of it more foreboding of where campaign journalism may be heading over the next 15 months, perhaps, than Politico’s Twitter’s-eye-view wrap-up of the GOP debate.
Written by one Juana Summers, this piece notably goes on for nearly 1,000 words with nary a mention of any candidate’s actual position from the debate on a serious matter of policy. Instead, Summers views the whole debate through the narrow prism of viewer and pundit Tweets, condensing down further the typical, context-free debate recap form into something that ominously suggests even the old, seven-second soundbite is quickly being cast aside for the 140-characters-or-less micro-thoughts. (I’d also add that conspicuously absent from Summers’ curation of last night’s debate Tweets is fellow Politico blogger Maggie Haberman’s laughably sycophantic paean to debate moderator John Harris, who also just happens to be her boss: “Needs reiterating – Harris is doing a great, great job at the GOP debate.”)
As I mentioned, there are numerous other post-debate story angles on Politico today, but read them all and you’ll still be hard pressed to understand why, for example, Social Security really isn’t a Ponzi scheme, despite Texas Governor Rick Perry’s claims. Or why Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s vacuous non-answer on deporting undocumented immigrants exposed her once again as a little more than a demagoguing xenophobe. Or why taking a flight in Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s ideal vision of America would be a lot like playing Russian roulette. According toPolitico’s editorial vision, all the policy repercussions of what the GOP candidates espoused last night only matter as background to the more important narrative: how they affect the horserace.
Thanks to our country’s long tradition of non-parliamentary-based, regularly-scheduled election cycles, it was perhaps inevitable that the phenomenon of so-called horserace journalism would arise. As campaign seasons elongated and newsholes proliferated, the corresponding explosion of extra column-inches, time slots, blog posts, and, now, Tweets to be filed require something, anything to cover. And, let’s face it, there’s a reason why it’s called a political campaign, because, just as with a military campaign, a large majority of the time nothing of interest is really happening.