Connor Friedersdorf, writing for the Atlantic, suggests a new form of journalism – or rather, an optional new mission statement for journalism – that shuns the typical infatuation with inside baseball and “crisis of the hour” fascination, that avoids becoming mired in the intricacies or theatrics surrounding an issue, and that would likely yield far better results from our political leaders than we are getting now.
One way of looking at things is that governing is complicated, and journalists need to roll with it, doing the best that they can to explain the inside baseball. When Bob Woodward says, “I spent two months reporting on how they came to the sequester,” he’s presumably operating on that theory. But covering politics in that way is a choice. What if the political press is doing a disservice to Americans by making it? What if we’re needlessly tailoring our content to the prejudices and preferences of insiders without even fully realizing that there are other options available? What if this particular option more often than not empowers whoever is most adept at spin?
I see no way around explaining something as complicated and jargon-laden as the sequester, even though many educated Americans will either misunderstand it or tune it out completely. But daily accounts of the closed-door negotiations? Regular analysis of their tenor? Pieces on the inner thoughts and feelings of the people involved? Capturing all that accurately, given that every source involved has an incentive to lie or spin, seems impossible to achieve with any consistency. Perhaps it can be achieved, occasionally, by reporters who spend many months reconstructing events with as many sources as possible. But the press as it now operates attempts to publish this sort of journalism on an up-to-the-minute, look-what-just-happened basis.
Isn’t there a better way?
Well fear not – and go ahead and crawl back out from under the couch now – because it turns out there is.
His inaugural address aside, the president is not “more liberal” than he was on January 19. He’s still a cautious centrist with a jones for a purely functional view of government. But the one thing he is very good at is forcing the country to look honestly at the politics through which the country has chosen to govern itself. He has forced the issues. He has made the country confront the ignorance, and the lassitude, and the tolerance for the stupid — and, hell, the tolerance for the intolerant — that it has allowed to have pride of place in our political debate simply because it too often served to win elections. This is what the Obama presidency has become. It’s the detox ward of politics. It’s the world’s most elaborate intervention.
– Charlie Pierce, writing for Esquire’s Politics Blog, in reference to the virtue of Obama’s current unexpected popularity.
High on my list of Obama’s Un-kept Promises is his inconsistency on medical marijuana policy. When he was entering office, there was a perception that Obama was going to respect the laws of states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes – currently numbering seventeen, though less at the time – and that he would essentially stand-down Justice Department prosecution of cases related to the issue. Where did this perception come from? Maybe here:
In a March 2008 interview, Obama told the Oregon Mail Tribune that medical marijuana ranked low on his list of priorities.
“I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate,” Obama said. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”
Obama said this to the Oregon Daily Mail during his first campaign. However, Obama’s own personal penchant for smoking marijuana has been well-documented, so perhaps he just forgot. Because during his first three years in office, Obama’s Justice Department was responsible for over one hundred medical marijuana busts. In his first term, his wrath on dispensaries has exceeded even that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
And, as we all undoubtedly know, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use under the state laws of Washington and Colorado (a similar measure was defeated in Oregon) – so the sky should be falling down any day now.
Romney’s loss on November 6th came as a relief to many people, myself included. Unfortunately for him, the judgement passed on him, and more importantly, the decision not to vote for him, was not entirely dependent on his opinions or actions. In fact, it wasn’t even mostly dependent on his opinons or actions. For me, and for many people, the scariest thing about Mitt Romney was the party he represented.
Romney’s policies are one thing, and there is plenty of fault I could and did find with them, but that largely was not the issue I voted on. In the current political climate, I thought it would be immensely damaging to the country to put someone in the Oval Office who could be at all beholden to the current Republican party, as radical and unstable as it has become, and far more damaging than anything Obama was or is likely to do. Romney, the former moderate governor of Massachusetts (and I would have been a lot more likely to vote for him if he’d stuck to those positions) flipped hard right in order to win the Republican primaries – particularly in states like Iowa and Texas – by changing positions to portray himself as “severely conservative,” in order to appease the increasingly radical Republican party (with its increasingly relevant and powerful fringe). Whatever his motivation was, this sets up a precedent for doing whatever he had to do – appeasing whoever he needed to – in order to win. A Romney win would have provided a conduit, if you will, for the radicals to possibly have influence over the Oval Office. This, in essence, is the main reason he lost my vote, and, I believe, the votes of many, many other moderates. The allegations that Romney would simply “rubberstamp the Tea Party agenda” – of which there were many – rang too true. As National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnuru put it, “Romney was not a drag on the Republican party. The Republican party was a drag on him.” This, to me, is the number one reason it is good Romney did not win the presidency.
Many people across the political spectrum – myself included – have spent the past few weeks hoping, surmising, and even expecting that one result of this election, perhaps the most important result of this election, is that it may have delivered to the right a wake-up call. That the drumming they received in state houses, legislatures, on the Hill, and in the White House would bring about some new thinking, that more prescient members may come around to the idea that they must as a whole stop doing so much to appease the radical fringe – currently in the form of the Tea Party (one lone but germaine example of which is here, and the subject is also covered quite well in David Corn’s book Showdown) – and halt these elements from dragging the whole party further right, which continues to alienate voters. That they may decide in order to win elections, in order to continue to influence events and remain relevant – and in order to stave off the emergence of a third party, as has been suggested in some circles – they might need to go after voters other than upper-class white men (if there’s one thing we should have learned from this election, it is the importance of minorities). They might decide, “it’s time for Republican elected leaders to stand up and to repudiate this nonsense [of the extreme right wing], and to repudiate it directly,” says Republican strategist Steve Schmidt (on Salon.com). They might think, as Newt Gingrich put so eloquently:
“For the conservative movement and the Republican Party to succeed in the future (and while they are not identical the two are inextricably bound together) we will have to learn the lessons of 2012. An intellectually honest and courageous Republican Party has nothing to fear from the current situation.”
From an email I wrote to a friend last week, who, in the words of Mitt Romney, is “severely conservative,” in a way that Romney himself never actually was:
So I read your articles, which wasn’t a problem, since reading articles is what I do with a large amount of my time lately [the articles he sent me are here, here, here, and here.] I don’t have any interest in or support for a particular candidate, though, I’m more interested in the machinations of politics, the strategy and tact that goes into elections and governing. I myself would of course never run for anything – just imagine that for a minute, what the attack ads against me would look like. Which brings me to my first point…
I am not an Obama supporter. I’m not. I voted for him, but I am not the person who thinks he has all the answers, or that liberalism and progressivism are the only paths to enlightenment. I was in 2008. I bought in to the whole hope and change, let’s-elect-the-first-black-president, history-making craziness of it. Not that my support was a whole lot of help, as I spent most of my time at that point trying to figure out if I could, in fact, ingest my own body weight in, uh, jelly beans before my liver gave out – 2008 was not a good year for me – and was just generally a worthless human being. I actually saw the final election results in Troy, where my dog-man dwelleth, rather than at home, and I never actually made it to the polls to vote for anyone. But I am not a supporter now. I think he’s made a lot of mistakes, that there are a lot of things he could have done better, that he is not an infallible individual (when he got the Nobel prize I thought that was RIDICULOUS). I think he has no where near lived up to the hope and promises he made in 2008.
Tensions over the fiscal cliff debates reached new heights today as Speaker of the House John Boehner’s blood pressure exceeded his doctor’s recommendations upon receipt of a White House proposal to, among other things, implement a $1.6 trillion tax increase. The Speaker’s apparently frazzled state rose past miffed, passed quickly over piqued, completely skipped disturbed, soared over pissed, perturbed, and confounded, crow-hopped distraught, and landed squarely on…
“I was flabbergasted,” Boehner said.
John Boehner: single-handedly bringing the term “flabbergasted” back for America.
(Full story here.)