Monday, October 17, 2011

Do Your Job

James Fallows at The Atlantic has some harsh words for his fellow journalists: be journalists.

I’ve heard angrily from a number of reporters in the last few days. They are objecting to my claims that mainstream journalism is “enabling” Senate dysfunction by describing it as dysfunction plain and simple, rather than as the result of deliberate and extremely effective Republican strategy. That strategy, over the past four-plus years, has been to apply the once-rare threat of a filibuster to virtually everything the Administration proposes. This means that when the Democrats can’t get 60 votes for something, which they almost never can, they can’t get nominations confirmed, bills enacted, or most of what they want done.

You can consider this strategy brilliant and nation-saving, if you are a Republican. You can consider it destructive and nation-wrecking, if you are a Democrat. You can view it as just what the Founders had in mind, as Justice Scalia asserted recently at an Atlantic forum. You can view it as another step down the road to collapse, since the Democrats would have no reason not to turn the same nihilist approach against the next Republican administration. Obviously I think it does more harm than good. You can even argue that it’s stimulated or justified by various tactics that Democrats have used.

But you shouldn’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. That was my objection to a recent big Washington Post story on what is wrong with the Senate, which did not contain the word “filibuster.” And there is an example again this very day. I wish to Heaven that the item had appeared somewhere else, but it happens that it’s also in the Post. A story on what happened to Obama’s jobs-bill proposal in the Senate concentrates on the two Plains States Democrats, Ben Nelson and Jon Tester, who defected during the cloture vote — and not on the 100% Republican opposition to even bringing this bill up for consideration.

I don’t think that there hasn’t been some form of friendship between reporters, editors and the people they write about since the first newspaper hit the streets, and I sure as hell don’t think that there hasn’t been a time when journalists looked the other way when there was a scandal brewing for some politician along the lines of being caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. But when it’s comedians like Jon Stewart and bloggers (ahem) who are asking the follow-up questions and calling out the lies, the least the reporters can do is carry their end of the load.

So they can either do their job or send us the money. I’ll take it via Paypal.