We've long known that Politico exists for no other reason than to make money by celebrating and enabling the continuing devolution of political reporting into content-free, America-hurting cable-news idiocy. But it's still sad to see them actually admit it.
We learned yesterday, when they posted and quickly removed the leaked CNBC video of Barack Obama calling Kanye West a "jackass," that Politico endeavors to be "respectful" in its coverage of the D.C. media—that's the word managing editor Bill Nichols used to explain the spiking of the video. (He meant, we presume, that they want to keep their reporters getting booked on NBC News programs.) And today, we see a perfect example of that respectful coverage in the site's cheeky little version of the Emmys for pundits, wherein they strung together clips of some of the best practitioners of lowest-common-denominator punditry and asked readers to rank them by how "good" they are at it. The intro explains a lot:
Hollywood knows full well how to craft entertainment — and Sunday night's Emmy Awards will honor the best of the year. But here in Washington, the players know how to entertain and inform with that finest of all television genres: the political chat show. On Sundays, the hosts wake up painfully early to make news and analyze the passing scene. During the week, expert guests zip around town to studios where they pontificate at any given moment - and on any given topic.
The acknowledgment that entertainment is even on the agenda, let alone precedes "inform" in the Politico schematic, pretty much says it all. Of course it's accurate—cable news is entertainment, and Sunday hosts do want to be the ones "making news," rather than their guests. But that's very bad and wrong and they shouldn't be praised for it.
But in PoliticoWorld, our intrepid reporting class is judged not on its facility for rooting out falsehoods or illuminating issues of pressing public concern, but in categories like "Best Gets" and "Best Dynamics." Who's a best get nominee? Why, Barney Frank, of course, because he pulled out his earpiece and walked out during a CNBC interview. Now that is some fantastic TV talking. And why is New Gingrinch a "Best Get" nominee?
Although he hasn't held elective office in more than a decade, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) hasn't given up the power that goes with being a lawmaker.
That's right: People who say shit on TV that Politico writes about now have as much power as actual, sitting legislators who have been elected by their constituents. Because they are on TV.
And when it comes to good cable-news "dynamics," what do you think Politico looks for?
Conflict makes for good television drama. But not every commentator can bring the sizzle solo. Sometimes a producer needs to throw Feisty Pundit A into the mix so that Feisty Pundit B will let loose. A producer needs to look for some on-air chemistry - a little charm between two people who want to rip each other to shreds. And it's out there, all right.
That's actually not a bad summation of the indictment of everything that's wrong with cable-news culture. Now who do you think is best at it?
P.S. Politico media reporter Michael Calderone, who wrote up this "respectful" enterprise, is a good guy, but jesus.