Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hail Delong!

Did the Daily Howler analysts stand up and cheer? We did here at Citizen Cain, when we read J. Bradford Delong’s recent angry post about the press corps’ contempt for public policy. The immediate cause of Delong’s ire was Michael Crowley’s execrable New Republic article about Bill Clinton, in which Crowley ridicules Clinton for his interest in the details of foreign and domestic policy, and his concern with the welfare of people in remote parts of the world. Crowley regales us with tales of how Clinton has bored celebrities, regular folk, and journalists by discussing policy issues with them at length.

Delong then continues with additional examples of Clinton getting similar treatment—in reviews of My Life by Weston Kosova and Michael Isikoff in Newsweek and by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. His conclusion:

I have not yet figured out why so much of our elite press--the Crowleys, the Kakutanis, the Isikoffs, and the Kosovas--is so... what should I call it? Feckless. Corrupt (in the sense of well-rotted). Decadent. Why does Michael Crowley react with contempt to Clinton's interest in Lesotho, or New Orleans? Why do Weston Kosova and Michael Isikoff cover the government--rather than, say, cover something like advances in bartending--if they find debates over policy the equivalent of crossing the Gedrosian Desert? Why does Michiko Kakutani think it pointless and boring to wake up early to watch the inauguration of the first democratically-elected president in sixteen years in a country of 130 million people?

It is a mystery to me.

It is, however, one reason that we are saddled with an incompetent president like George W. Bush. As David Frum writes, it has long been clear to insiders that Bush is not a "diligent manager of the office of the presidency, [or] a close student of public policy, [or] a careful balancer of risks and benefits"--that, in short, George W. Bush is totally unqualified to be president, totally unprepared to make the decisions a
president has to make. But by and large the elite press has simply not cared about the necessary qualifications to be a good president, and fears a president who is qualified to be president. For, after all, strikes them as bizarre and weird for somebody to actually know where Lesotho is.
Citizen Cain has explored this theme in relation to the Nora O’Donnell’s lack of interest in discussing U.S. policy towards Iraq, and her preference for talking about strategies for managing U.S. public opinion about the war in Iraq. Bob Somerby has also developed this theme. See his posts on how Al Gore put Maureen Dowd to sleep by talking about the environment, energy, and health care, and on how Gail Collins found it so tedious to listen to Gore and Bill Bradley debate their health care plans.

Not everyone has to be interested in policy issues. It takes all kinds. Perhaps when choosing a date for Friday night, most people would prefer someone who is good at making small talk, and steering away from heavy topics. But it’s sad when our press corps evaluates our politicians using Dating Game criteria.