Thursday, March 29, 2007

Karl Rove Entertains Press Corps Heavyweights

It's a strange era. I've long been a critic of a media industry that gives away six and seven figure salaries (are we up to eight yet?) to big name people who don't really deserve it. And it's always interesting to see the reactions of the tuxedo set at special functions. Last year, Colbert was brilliant when he roasted the president and yet many media types squirmed and withheld their applause. But Karl Rove? Well, here's the always observant Dan Froomkin of White House Watch:
It seems fitting that even as Karl Rove's politicization of the White House's policy apparatus draws greater scrutiny from Congressional investigators, Rove himself last night was prancing in front of members of the Washington press corps, who appeared to be delighted.

"I'm MC Rove," the political guru yelped as he flailed about in an improvised rap sketch at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner.

It has to be seen to be believed. Here are video excerpts via C-Span and the AP.) Mary Ann Akers blogs for with the details.

Rove is indeed the Bush era's master of ceremonies -- and its leading beat-the-rapper. He is also peculiarly able to charm journalists.

Froomkin goes on to say that Karl Rove may be headed for more troubled times, though it would surprise no one if he continues to weather yet another scandal.

But it's the media that troubles me as I write this. Maybe the media no longer thinks much about where we are in these times when they have the salaries they do these days. With a single year of Katie Couric's salary, most of us could retire quite comfortably. But Couric merely represents for many of us the nonserious side of journalism, even if she gets in an honest piece of journalism now and then. She was hired to be perky, not to shine a bright light on places like Washington.

It's the supposedly more serious side of journalism that worries me, from Christopher Matthews manic 'unanalysis' (okay, maybe that's not a word) to George Will's bouts of outright fictions to Tim Russert's overt affection for Republican buffoonery to Joe Klein's egotistical belief that he holds all the answers to everything.

There are good journalists out there but I'm puzzled by the number of good journalists who slowly turn into petrified examples of conventional wisdom or turn into establishment journalists still plying their trade but who barely seem aware of what it is they're saying after a while or what it is that's in front of their noses that they so easily ignore a moment later after an irrelevant distraction like Anna Nicole Smith. And there are big shocks out there sometimes.

Some years ago, one of my bigger shocks was realizing how bizarrely conservative David Brinkley was becoming near the end of his life. This was a guy who had nearly the same legendary status as Walter Cronkite and who covered many political campaigns over the years. In his last years, he hinted on several occassions that what we needed was not democracy but some sort of authoritarian rule. It was weird listening to him.

I can easily understand the cynicism of Washington journalists (and there's the added factor that Brinkley's position seemed to shift over the years) but to turn that cynicism towards something even worse? What was that about? And what was Brinkley's show about? Cokie Roberts. Sam Donaldson. George Will. Was that the new definition of fair and balanced?

The show goes on with George Stephanopoulos but at least over the years George Will was clearly identified as the conservative, but what have Donaldson and Roberts been all along? Conventional wisdom? The continuing voices of Brinkley's cynicism? Like neoconservatives touting the advantages of invading Iraq, I don't take Donaldson or Roberts very seriously except as symptoms of a breakdown in Washington, a breakdown largely driven by the money and power-grabbing of the far right and sometimes supported by weathervane politicians.

One of the ironies of the current era is that a great deal of what we know about Bush Administration scandals and incompetence is because there are still people who know how to do journalism who don't get paid much, and there are people who speak up who care about the law and care about how our government is supposed to function and these people are sometimes Democrats, sometimes independents, and, yes, sometimes Republicans.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

The chance to interact one-on-one with the rich, powerful and famous is heady stuff, indeed, especially when those who do it well are paid so handsomely.

And doing it well means doing it without burning bridges.

Today's D.C. journalists are exemplified by self-promoting nouveau-riche knowitalls like Chris Matthews and rock-solid pro's like Helen Thomas, with an occasional wannabe-true-believing Twinky like David Broder thrown in.

Oh, and let's not forget partisan pro's masquerading as journalists, Tony Blankley, John Fund and memo-reciting Kate O'Beirne ("Hi, I'm chatty Katie; pull my string and I'll tell you what the RNC wants you to hear today.") all being prototypical examples.

This situation is made all the worse because the nation's dwindling number of local newspapers and expanding number of TV stations, with very rare exception, no longer operate Washington bureaus. They leave it to the big boys and wire services.

Paradoxically, although we're inundated with "news" and commentary more often via more media outlets than ever before, nearly all of what we get is reiterations of the same things.

Maybe the capper for how bankrupt this setup has become is the fact that the new and supposedly high-powered/high standards, go-to place for political news,, has already gotten burned (once or was it twice?) in its short life by relying on "leads" from the likes of no-credibility hack Matt Drudge.

3:26 PM  

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