Friday, May 05, 2006

Pundits of the Floating World

Lance Mannion writes:

The idea that once they clock out, unzip the coveralls, and gather together at the old brass rail, Senators, Congressmen, Presidential aides, the boys and girls of the Press, and the lobbyists buying the round are, Republicans and Democrats, Liberal and Conservative, really just a bunch of bosom pals forced by circumstances to work in different, rival departments of the same firm and what happens during the day is just the dirty job of earning a paycheck and their real lives begin after the cocktail hour is, I suppose, necessary to their sanity and useful for getting laid.

Whenever I hear a Washington insider bemoan the polarization of politics I know that person is either a Republican about to launch a vicious attack on a Democrat, a Democrat terrified of being viciously attacked, or a journalist who just hates all the muss and fuss because it makes picking which parties to attend a trickier business---choose wrong and some miffed hostess will cross your name off the guest list for a whole month's worth of A-list fiestas.

Insider Journalists seem to have found the path to their self-congratulatory "objectivity" by way of the sports pages. At least when they appear on TV, they adopt the detachment of New York baseball writers forced to cover a crucial series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres---it's interesting because it's baseball, but it's not the Yankees, so let's not lose our heads here.

This is one of Shakespeare's Sister's themes. They cover politics as if it is a game, as if the people involved, the "players," are players, colorful characters whose quirks and foibles make their stories funnier or more dramatic, but whose political views are no more important than a ballplayer's pet superstitions or diligent pursuit of an arcane record. It's not just Joe Klein. He's the model. That Tom DeLay is a thief and a thug and he posed a real threat to the useful functioning of the government never seems to figure in the coverage of him, even as he disappears back down the sewer from which he crawled. The Bug Man, the Hammer, he's just contemporary Washington's Ty Cobb, isn't he?

(As if Cobb's racism and sociopathy were of no real consequence.)

The assumption underlying and propping up all this chummy let me buy you a drink and we'll call it even bonhomie is that "We're all in this together." Everybody in Washington is there for the same reason. To do a job. And that job is to keep the country moving. We may have different ideas about how to get there, but finally we all want to end up in the same place, don't we?

One thing I've observed is that what really drives the elite chatterers crazy is the notion that people actually give a damn about anything. Sure, some of that giving a damn gets channeled into anger, but I often find simply "giving a damn" recast as "anger" when it isn't deserved.

It's weird.