Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Beggars' Banquet

Frank Rich at the “The New York Times” picked up on Sunday, where the scribe left off (“Big Joke” May 3,) regarding the Laura Bush performance.

Rich, who is an insider, fleshed out the story of the First Lady’s appearance and what the heck it all means for our ailing body politic.

The Times columnist discussed how the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner (like a real journalist he provides us the proper name) used to be an event of which the entire country beyond Washington D.C. was largely unawares.

That began to change in the eighties when Michael Kelly, who was killed during Rumsfeld’s mad dash to Baghdad two years ago, invited Fawn Hall to the event; some will remember her as yet another secretary from yet another (r)epublican effort to circumvent democratic institutions, this time led by the notorious Col. Oliver North.

After that, he recounted, things got mixed-up in funny business and celebrity-shine.

Not unlike highwayscribery (and Mr. Rich had a kind word for our entry), but more to meat of the matter, he took issue not so much with Ms. Bush as with the press and its craven transmittal of White House image manipulation.

Unbeknownst to those of us who don’t power lunch every day somewhere along the Bos-Wash corridor (or who don’t have cable), and according to Frank Rich, the new boss at CNN, Jonathan Klein, suggested the event be canceled this year and that the Correspondents’ Association “instead spend that time and energy creating standards – and enforcing them – for those who would call themselves White House correspondents.”

Rich suggested that Klein was referring to Rich Gannon of Talon News who had a White House reporter’s pass when he was everything but a reporter.

the scribe thinks Klein was referring to the whole slavish lot presently holding down the best posts in journalism and doing nothing with them.

Well, not exactly nothing. Here’s Rich, “The Washington press corps’ eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounts to an administration promotional video can now be seen as a metaphor for just how much the legitimate press has been co-opted by all manner of fakery in the Bush years.”

This is the kind of stuff that keeps the scribe getting up in the morning with a modicum of belief in democracy.

And this: “Yes, Mrs. Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her ‘interrupting’ her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng’s morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level. P.R., but nonetheless bought into the artifice.”

Rich went on to make some less fresh observations about how news and fake-news are looking increasingly like each other, what with the proliferation of infomercials, reality shows and other bête noir of what passes for intelligentsia in these here parts.

the scribe thinks it wouldn’t matter what went on in the infotainment world if journalists did their job “write.”

Sour grapes? Straight outta Napa Valley.

the scribe and others with an axe to ground pass time grinding their teeth at the big fat exposes sitting around going uncovered by reporters made timid by the threat of losing “access.”

We want those jobs. We want them to impress our friends, and we want them to help good governance along; as opposed to toasting crooks at the parties they throw.

And since when did you need access to those you were covering? The point is to access the things they are doing and ask what they think once you’ve got ‘em nailed. If they don’t grant access, it’s they’re problem.

But the scribe’s old school (journalism) on that account.

John F. Harris and Mike Allen did a fairly straight-up job of reporting on the new, discreet Tom DeLay in “The Washington Post”.

Their May 9 piece, “Increasingly Embattled, DeLay Scales Back Usual Power Plays,” renders the portrait of a guy who banked on the American populace’s stupidity and laughed (almost) all the way to the vault.

Whenever an adviser warned this bull-in-a-democratic-China-shop that his power plays were over-the-top, the Texas (r)epublican would respond “with a snort suggesting that the adviser is more worried about how a decision will play inside the Beltway than how it will be perceived – if noticed at all – by the rest of the country.”

It worked for 10 years, but now, they report, “Everywhere there are signs of a politician in retreat.”

The report proceeds to enumerate a litany of legislative and/or tactical retreats, but highwayscribery would like to the see a retreat all the way back to where the hack hails from.

At a gathering for something called the National Day of Prayer (which the scribe skipped given that “the nation” and “prayer” should be trains riding separate tracks) DeLay’s “Christian” side got the better of him: “Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door, if collectively we all spent less time taking credit and more time deserving it...”

(Yeah, just think...)

“...If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees.”

Your knee-chatter’s no better than your soapbox bull Mr. Majority Speaker. the scribe would like to suggest you strike a compromise (for once in your life) and step down from the rostrum, but stay on your feet so that you can walk all the way back to Sugarland, Texas.

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