The real value of a book like this lies in the opportunity it presents for Washington's elite class to distract themselves and everyone else from the oozing corruption, destruction, decaying and pillaging going on -- that these same Washington denizens have long enabled. With some important exceptions, that is the primary purpose of establishment journalism generally. Even better, the book lets our media and political elite -- and then the public generally -- feel good about themselves by morally condemning the trashy exploits of Rielle Hunter and the egoistic hypocrisies of the irrelevant John and Elizabeth Edwards. As The Nation's Chris Hayes so perfectly put it: "Just when you think the news cycle can't get any stupider, Mark Halperin publishes a book." All imperial courts -- especially collapsing ones -- love to occupy themselves with insular, snotty trivialities. As this book and the excitement it has produced demonstrates, providing that distraction is exactly what our press corps most loves to do and what it does best. The media sleazebags who turned Bill Clinton's penile spots, cigars and semen stains into headline news for two straight years haven't gone anywhere; they're actually stronger and more dominant than ever.
-- Glenn Greenwald.
I guess Michael Smerconish is not a particularly big fan of Glenn Greenwald. Today, Philadelphia's best-known radio talker donned one of his many hats and penned a column for the Inquirer about the best-selling political sleazefest that is Game Change and asked, in so many, words, how could the American voter perform his democratic duty in 2008 without the knowledge we now have of John and Elizabeth Edwards' tawdry personal life or without knowing the rumors that Cindy McCain was having an affair? What's more, Smerconish states that it's all the cutbacks in newsroom staff that have prevented news orgs from going after these important stories!!!
This is what happens when newsrooms get cut and replacements work in pajamas. The news cycle overflows with anchors and armchair quarterbacks, producers and pundits. An untold number of media outlets pounce on any morsel of news and whisper down the lane. But largely missing is the kind of old-school, dogged, big-picture-focused investigative journalism that brought us to Watergate and introduced us to Deep Throat.
Instead, we waited years to learn that John Edwards and Rielle Hunter had been parading through the early election cycle so carelessly that their relationship caused several senior aides to quit just weeks before Edwards officially announced his candidacy. Or to find the candidate frantically trying to cut a deal with Tom Daschle to become Obama's running mate (and later his attorney general) - despite knowing his wife's cancer had returned and his mistress was pregnant.
No sense of irony there. I'm wondering if the ever-busy Smerconish even read back on this column before he hit the send button? He's comparing the coverage of Watergate -- a scheme that was authorized by the president of the United States and his top aides to wiretap and burglarize political opponents and then commit criminal acts to cover up their trail -- with a lack of hard-hitting reporting on the love child of the distant third-place candidate in the Democratic primaries. Really?
God knows the political reporting of 2008 and 2009 leaves a lot to be desired. But -- without wading into the ideological morass, not in this post, anyway -- don't most people active in political discussions, on both the right and the left, think that American citizens were not well served by the lack of investigative journalism...on stuff like health care reform?
Smerconish seems to be missing a golden age of journalism in which we can no longer send out of large teams of reporters to find out who Bill Clinton may or may not be doing the wild thing with this week. That's like someone mourning the golden age of TV -- and then you realize he's not talking about "Playhouse 90" and the "Honeymooners" -- but "My Mother the Car" and "Camp Runamuck."