A Broken Media Looks Back At The CampaignNow is the time when campaign reporters file their last, wistful dispatches of this hellbound two-year horse race. There is an absolute mess of these things! They all serve to fill space on the final, news-free days of the campaign, and also to remind readers of the invaluable role that the true heroes—political reporters—play in our democracy. We've slogged through the morass of remembrances today in order to answer the meta-question that really matters: what did this campaign mean to the media? You have to remember that for a lot of reporters, today is the last gasp of glory. By the end of this week the campaign will be over, and there will be far fewer opportunities to go on TV and be "experts." There may also be far fewer opportunities to be, you know, reporters; some percentage of these people are bound to be laid off in the coming year. We already know that the LA Times will be laying off the bulk of its Washington bureau. And most ofl those plucky young embedded reporters from TV networks are preparing to be fired when this thing wraps up. Everybody wants to make sure that you know that they were on the inside. Just because you, the consumer, didn't get all the colorful anecdotes in your morning paper doesn't mean that they didn't happen. Reporters have all types of fun memories from the campaign that they would like to share with you now that the campaign is over! Most of these fall into two categories: the "God these candidates are more morally bankrupt than I could ever say outright in the pages of my tepid publication," and the (more popular) "I made friends with important people!" Some key examples of each: God these candidates are more morally bankrupt than I could ever say outright in the pages of my tepid publication Michael Scherer from Time went to some Republican retreat in Michigan where politicians "came there to speak to state party activists, serving up stump pomp while waiters in white-tie tuxedos served drunk diners with pecan-coated ice cream balls." Then he finds a regular lady who says everyone in town is not like that. He rejoices. HuffPo's Sam Stein was set upon by a gang of disgruntled Hillary supporters in a Washington bar. "And soon the denizens were letting me have a piece of their mind. 'HuffPost sucks! HuffPost sucks!' they chanted, as I bit into my now-arrived Reuben. 'Fox News, fair and balanced! Fox News, fair and balanced!'" Although he does not say so, he hates them. Marc Ambinder from the Atlantic recalls watching Obama's little daughter Sasha talking to her daddy on stage at the Democratic convention; it "was very cute, but it also revealed how staged even Obama’s campaign had become." The thought of a little girl talking to her dad now makes him want to absolutely vomit. Politics has ruined him. I made friends with important people! Wacky old Dana Milbank from the Washington Post remembers Mike Huckabee "taking reporters hunting, taking them jogging, taking them to the barber for a face massage and shave." Dana Milbank would not object to being asked to appear on Mike Huckabee's teevee show, if Mike Huckabee so chose. Ana Marie Cox from Time had fun singing karaoke with McCain campaign hacks Mark Salter and Steve Schmidt. Salter even sung Dylan tunes! Later they went back to figuring out how to oppress black people. Adam Nagourney from the Times liked nothing better than sharing his Christmas dinner with failed Hillary flack Howard Wolfson: "We were quick to discover that there aren't a lot of restaurants open in Des Moines on Christmas night (or bars, but that's another story). But what was open was sure to warm the heart of two displaced Jews from New York: A Chinese restaurant." Aw! Then they made passionate love. You see, just about everyone on the campaign trail goes a little crazy. It's classic Stockholm syndrome; trapped on buses and planes for months on end, reporters come to regard their captors as friends. Just to get a fact-free look back at the election season to fill a hole in its Week in Review section yesterday, the NYT had to turn to Frank Bruni, who's spent the entire campaign eating brains at Manhattan's finest restaurant. But they needed an outsider who could say about this godforsaken campaign, presumably with a straight face, "that we have, if anything, undervalued and even lost sight of its significance at times." Had they put Adam Nagourney on that story, the editors would have had to spend hours rewriting his knowing asides about Howard Wolfson's bewitching cologne. For the media, the campaign means life. It means purpose, and employment, and attention, and a sense of self-importance. It's an unparalleled opportunity to cast oneself as an expert with no qualifications whatsoever, and to profess to speak for millions of "real Americans" without any factual basis. In reality, campaign reporters have a far less objective view of the Presidential race than a fat, laid-off auto worker sitting on his ass playing XBox in the ugly part of Toledo. It takes a rare breed to remain sane during the ordeal. And we should salute those who do. So Joshua Green of the Atlantic, we salute you; you alone have found a moment that appropriately embodies American democracy:
My most memorable moment on the trail was getting offered weed by a Ron Paul supporter during the Republican primary in Ames, Iowa. He had urgently wanted to discuss the gold standard and I wasn't having any part of that, so I guess the weed was intended as an enticement.
USA. [Pic: HST]