WHEN TWO of the founders of Politico, John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei sat down with TNR to talk about their insider Washington franchise, Nate Silver had plenty to say after his name came up.
But, by far, my favorite part of the interview comes when the Two Presiding Geniuses decide to pick another fight with Nate Silver that they have no hope of winning. You may recall that, at the end of the campaign, TBOTP decided that Silver’s fancy scienco-math wasn’t for them, because it disagreed with what everybody was saying at John Harris’s dinner table the night before. So they took off after him, and then Silver and the American electorate combined to kick their insidery asses all around the block. Apparently, they’ve healed up, because here the two asses come again, like Jurgen Blin asking for another 15 with Ali. – Charles P. Pierce
The TNR interview is an interesting exchange that includes a bristling response when the two are asked why women depart Politico at twice the rate of men. When asked about Nate Silver’s coverage of the 2012 election, you could feel the testosterone in the room surge, because Silver has been a regular critic of Politico’s insider coverage.
Nate Silver responded in an email to TPM with an observation about Politico that I’ve proved many times on these very pages. That not only is Politico a Washington insider outlet, covering all things Washington, but their point of view is the worst of Beltway logic, analysis and regurgitation of bad talking points. They delight in printing conventional wisdom, even if it’s out of a bygone era, with even the best and brightest of Washington today getting caught up in their analysis at times.
Just recently, Politico caught Steve Clemons, asking him about the NSA and PRISM controversies, with the result one of the worst statements I’ve ever heard him utter. I know Clemons and read him regularly, having learned a lot from his vast experience, but also having seen it displayed in innumerable foreign policy forums. But recently Politico got him on the record on the NSA, with Clemons uttering a statement that was so out of touch it could only be printed in Politico. It’s an example of what makes Politico what it is:
“I think Democrats are ultimately going to have a hard time jumping on the side of the progressive left” on national security, said foreign policy blogger Steve Clemons. “Democrats have tried so much to rid themselves of the Vietnam taint that they couldn’t be trusted … to make national security decisions. It feels to some of us like there have been encroachments on rights in a lot of different directions.”
This is the kind of stuff Politico trades in. Don’t mean to pick on Steve Clemons, but that he could drag back the Vietnam analogy into the present after what Republicans did on Iraq is stunning and could only show up in Politico. It reveals just how badly Steve Clemons needs a rewrite. He’s simply not this out of touch. Something seems to happen to very smart people when they talk to Politico. Conventional wisdom, which is usually wrong, spews from their mouths, because that’s what the reporters are looking for when they do an interview or a story.
Never mind that the criticisms of the NSA spying dragnet and use of PRISM has nothing to do with going soft!
The Republican record during the Bush-Cheney era solidified Democratic prowess again on national security. President Obama’s tough foreign policy strategy mimics anything a Republican could concoct, not to mention that he got bin Laden by giving the order to cross into Pakistan in secret. Then there’s Obama’s drone policy, the assassination targeting, not to mention the targeting of journalists like James Rosen, as well as the AP.
The TNR interview reveals how proud Politico is to be the translator for everything Washington, including the most insipid parts, which continually resurrects old thinking and the worst of Washington politics. An excerpt from the TNR interview:
IC: OK, but what is Politico’s role specifically?
JH: We are edited for those who live in our world. Their needle moves quickly so our needle moves quickly.
Jim VandeHei: The critique of Politico—“Oh my gosh, Politico is so insidery!”—my response is always, “What part of Politico don’t you understand?” This has always been a publication focused on this city. So we write about everything: the good, the bad, the personalities, the politics, the policies. Unless you understand, holistically, all those ingredients, you don’t understand the town.
IC: So what is it for you? Do you want good government? To keep politicians honest? What?
JVH: Helping people understand Washington. Not how they want it to be, not what you think is important, but how it operates. We also really want to save for-profit, nonpartisan journalism. We want to prove there is a business model that works.
The other issue is that Politico represents what journalism and media used to be. The reporting has no relationship to the type of reporting the late Michael Hastings did for Rolling Stone. Politico has no relationship to what Glenn Greenwald or Barton Gellman are doing either. There’s a simple reason why. Politico will not bite the hand that feeds it, which is Washington itself and the coverage that supports the rot inside our politics.
Politico hasn’t been about moving the discussion forward or anything remotely attached to progress, not to be confused with progressive politics, which they do not represent and shouldn’t as journalists.
Washington is stuck in the status quo of the two big parties and conventional wisdom, so that’s where Politico is stuck.