Pox on the Double-Poxers

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A longtime reader and Dem operative sounds off on political reporters …

I just read the piece about filibuster by your reporter correspondent, and it is useful for what it says about 1994, but even more useful for explaining why “the reporters who cover congress” play a far bigger role in the disfunction of the political process then they are willing to countenance.

Your correspondent’s “pox on both their houses” re: the filibuster is, simply horse#$%^. He states:

It all boils down to this: One party likes the filibuster when it is in the minority and hates the filibuster when it is in the majority.

Remember, just a few years ago the Democrats were filibustering all kinds of judges. They loved it then. Republicans hated it while they were in charge during that same period, and now they love using it.

This statement ignored two easily checkable facts. 1) in the last two congress their has been an exponential increase of in the use of the filibuster. It’s not hard to find 2) Judges were different. You know how I know? REPUBLICANS TOLD ME SO! They argued the filibuster was unconstitutional because it was judges – they were extremely careful to say that they wanted to preserve the filibuster for legislative issues.

Also, to argue the the 60 vote cloture rule as making the Senate more partisan is so ridiculous it almost defies comment. Essentially, it ignore the fundamental political and geographic realignment that has occurred since the civil rights movement. For example, former Republican Leader Trent Lott was a staffer for DEMOCRATIC member of congress – in fact, that was his job immeadiatley before he ran for the House as a Republican.

What is infuriating about this is it allow the “reporter” to a cynical, you-all-are-just-a-bunch-of-whiners, attack on those of us who work in politics and engage on partisan fights – and its unwarranted. From my perspective, I believe that the average kid just out of college answering phones in a members office (or at least the same type of kid who has to write constituent letters to people on health care bill) knows a helluva lot more about the policy details in the health care reform bill than the vast majority of reporters writing the daily political story on health care reform.

Quick point on that. Karen Tumulty has a piece up about the MA election where she talks about the people in MA knowing about the Nebraska medicaid deal, and other legislative deal making. She says that’s because that what was being reported at the time of the election and people could find it from various sources. I agree. But that’s a choice made by reporters. We KNOW from myriad polls that voters have no idea what actual provisions are in the health care reform bills. And when questioned, most reporters will point to some overall piece from months back about the issue. But reporters LIKE to write about the political deal making, rather than the policy issues, so that’s what people know.

Finally, this may seem like a harsh attack on political reporters. Well, yeah. It kind of is. Many do good work, but most focus entirely on the game and whose up and down and winning the political contest – they don’t take the act of governing or legislating seriously.

As you know, I am an opp research guy. And over the years I have worked with a lot of good reporters. But I will say that I use almost all the same tools as reporters – some even more effectively (years ago, the Washington Monthly wrote a piece about the FOIA request to the federal government and noted that an opposition research specialist – not a reporter – filed the most FOIAs with federal gov’t during the year they looked – not a reporters).
But early in my career, someone said the following to me. “If reporters did their jobs, you wouldn’t have yours.” And when it comes to bullshit, pox on both your houses, “your complaints are whiny”, type-commentary about serious issues from reporters, they are right.

Sorry to be so long winded. But I HATE being lectured by political reporters.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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