Monday, August 31, 2009

In the Family Way

Jenna Bush Hager has landed a part-time job reporting for NBC’s Today show.

The daughter of former President George W. Bush will contribute stories about once a month on issues like education to television’s top-rated morning news show, said Jim Bell, its executive producer.

Hager, a 27-year-old teacher in Baltimore, said she has always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, and has already authored two books. But she was intrigued by the idea of getting into television when Bell contacted her.

“It wasn’t something I’d always dreamed to do,” she said. “But I think one of the most important things in life is to be open-minded and to be open-minded for change.”

She’ll essentially work two part-time jobs as a correspondent and in her school, where she will be a reading coordinator this year.

I’m sure Ms. Hager will have some interesting things to say, and far be it from me to jump to any conclusions about her journalism skills before she even get on the air. But as Glenn Greenwald notes, it’s a continuation of a trend.

They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it’s really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There’s a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters.

There are two sides to this; you can’t choose your family, and even if you do have a connection via a famous parent or relative, one would hope that if it opened doors for you, you had to prove yourself once you landed the job. In some cases, being the son or daughter of a well-known person may place even more of a burden on you to prove yourself worthy of the name and the reputation that comes with it.

But I do agree with the main point: let’s not fool ourselves with all this talk about the virtues of achieving success without inside connections, and I doubt that Ms. Hager would have been considered for the job over any other 27-year-old teacher/writer in Baltimore if her parents and grandparents hadn’t lived in the White House. One thing I will grant her; she has more legitimate claim to being a reporter on education than Liz Cheney does to being a pundit on fighting terrorism.

Speaking of the Cheney family and nepotism, Andrew Sullivan watched Chris Wallace “interview” former Vice President Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday:

Now look: there are softball interviews; and then there are interviews like this. It cannot be described as journalism in any fashion. Even as propaganda, which is its point, it doesn’t work – because it’s far too cloying and supportive of Cheney to be convincing to anyone outside the true-believers. When it comes to Cheney, one of the most incompetent vice-presidents in the country’s history, with a record of two grotesquely botched wars, war crimes and a crippling debt, Chris Wallace sounds like a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.

This may be one of the reasons the press has turned into such a collection of stenographers and lapdogs for the people in power; it’s really hard to write hard-hitting investigative examinations of the doings inside the Beltway when you have to ask them for an increase in your allowance.