If You Don’t, They’ll Screw You. And If You Do, They’ll Screw You Too

Time Magazine’s Michael Scherer emits the platonic form of atrocious punditry:

“I won’t bore you,” President Obama said, as he broke into America’s prime time TV lineup on Monday night. This was ironic, because he went on to talk about Triple A credit ratings, Dwight Eisenhower and the debt limit. If not for him, America could have been slouching toward another Law & Order rerun, or watching a British guy with hair plugs yell about food, or a bachelorette in Fiji pretend that exhibitionist polygamy was a workable method for discovering true love.

In fact, President Obama had come to bore us all. He had no new announcement to make, no breakthroughs to share, no facts to utter that had not already been uttered. He spoke 2,264 words with a single purpose: To posture in public for political advantage on the issue of reining in federal deficits and raising the debt ceiling. This too was ironic. Pretty much the only thing most Americans dislike more than being governed by people who can’t get important stuff done are politicians who posture in the meantime. “I believe that enough members of both parties will ultimately put politics aside and help us make progress,” Obama said. Just not yet.

The President, of course, was not alone in his trespass. It takes two to make a “stalemate,” after all, which incidentally was the unfortunate metaphor Obama used for the state of our nation, a term from chess that means both players have exhausted their ability to move and the game is over. Obama’s political rival, House Speaker John Boehner, followed the President’s appearance on the boob tube with an address of his own, filled with even more biting zingers meant to win the same political high ground. …

Boehner has decided to threaten a small but significant crime of inaction, which if carried out will certainly mean economic devastation for millions of Americans, who will see the cost of borrowing money rise, and dramatic diminishment of the United State’s economic place in the world.

So, first off, we learn that Scherer thinks that Obama’s mentioning of boring stuff like stupid dead people like stupid Dwight Eisenhower is, like, totally uncool compared to all the stupid stuff that stupid Americans normally watch.

Then we get Scherer’s insight that Obama was only talking on TV because he wanted to get public support for the policies he wants to enact! Weak!

But then, in a twist that’s not a twist to anyone who’s read a newspaper before, Scherer gets around to criticizing the GOP. They just want the public to support the stuff that they want to do, too! OMG, aren’t politics so lame?

Down in paragraph six, Scherer shares with his readers what this debate is all about: avoiding “economic devastation” for Americans and “dramatic diminishment” of America.

That sounds important! You’d think that might be up near the top of the article somewhere!

But rule #1 of MSM punditry is that critiquing the choreography and possible electoral consequences & motivations of political actors always takes precedence over policy consequences. (Rule #2: “Both sides are too extreme.” This rule holds regardless of how many sides there are, and regardless of how extreme any given sides actually are).

Some time ago, I thought that the catastrophe that was the invasion of Iraq would shake our political elites out of this pose; I was mistaken.

Of course, had Pres. Obama & Speaker Boehner not gone on TV to try to build support for their proposals, all the Time’s Scherers and Halperins would be mocking them for failing to “use the bully pulpit.” That’s the fun thing about policy-free punditry: there’s always something to sneer at.

Needless to say, there’s no context in Scherer’s 1500 words of posturing about political posturing to inform his readers about the causes of the debt, or our debt levels relative to comparable OECD countries, or the rates we’re paying on bonds, or the past history of debt ceiling raises, or what the debt ceiling even is, or the impact of the proposed cuts, or much of anything else that might be useful to any citizen who wants to learn what this debate is about.

If you rely on Time Magazine and the rest of the MSM for your information, you come away with the illusion of being informed, when you learn next to nothing about what– or, hell, whether– policies are being discussed.

This is rather a huge bummer, because the reason we care about the government is because it implements policies that affect people’s lives.

Post title is a line from Warren Zevon’s “Bill Lee”:

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6 Responses to If You Don’t, They’ll Screw You. And If You Do, They’ll Screw You Too

  1. dedc79 says:

    We have more access to information than we’ve ever had but it’s buried/hidden under so much crap that doesn’t even deserve the name journalism.

    I listened to NPR this morning while getting ready to go to work and I heard absolutely nothing about what Boehner’s proposal would mean for Medicare/Social Security or where the cuts would come from in Reid’s proposal. All I heard was “a pox on both their houses” from NPR’s political “analysts”

    • Yeah, NPR is among the worst with the “above the fray, politics are lame, both sides are bad” pose. I almost mentioned them in this post. Their reporting is so-so– always tinged by the aversion to policy impact & substitution of moral equivalence for factual accuracy– and their punditocracy is generally horrible.

      People sometimes call NPR “Nice Polite Republicans,” but that misses the distinction here. Their tone is centrist, of the type I’ve been criticizing here, not conservative.

      It’s interesting, in terms of who gets a megaphone, and whose views wind up in the inner circle, that Pres. Obama’s current WHPC is Jay Carney. Dems can have centrist media people like Carney, who are generally hated by actual Democratic voters, as their press team. In contrast, Republicans choose folks like Tony Snow from the right-wing paramedia, which is generally well-received by its base.

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