Guilty Participants

by digby

David Sirota makes note of the media being among those members of the political establishment who pretend to be "innocent bystanders"

As anyone who has read my columns, blog posts or book knows, I have a mild obsession with the Innocent Bystander Fable - the one whereby political actors pretend they have no power or even minor role in the arenas they are elected or hired to participate in. This fable has been most prevalent in the Democratic Party's posture toward the Iraq War and the bailout - they claim, rather idiotically, they have no power to stop the war or fix the bailout. But now, as I am three-quarters of the way through Newsweek's 7-part story on the gossip, innuendo and palace dramas behind the presidential campaign, I see that this Innocent Bystander Fable may be just as powerful inside the media itself.

If you read the piece, you might have noticed that the Newsweek reporting team is constantly referring to "reporters" and "the press" and "the media" - as if Newsweek reporters aren't a part (and a leading part) of those things - as if they are innocent bystanders. More broadly, the way they portray it, candidates and political operatives are larger than life heroes or villains who make Big Decisions and Face Consequences, while the media is a herd of lobotomized automatons that are so mindless and innocent and pure, that they cannot be held culpable for anything at all. Indeed, according to Newsweek, the entire political media is an innocent bystander to politics.

We've talked about this before, perhaps most famously in terms of the Scooter Libby scandal in which members of the media who were intimately involved with the case, even when they were star witnesses and players, talked about the case as if they knew nothing more than the average dolt catching a few headlines on the way to work. They openly speculated about things they knew to be untrue and kept their public in the dark long after it was known that their sources lied and they had no requirement from the prosecutors to keep quiet. It was a shocking display.

But we are seeing another, even more egregious example of it playing out right now. The press is beside itself concern trolling the Obama administration about how the "Clinton Circus" will ruin him, replete with hand wringing and despair about how unfair it all is. But if it is a circus, it's because the media make it one.

As Eric Boehlert wrote earlier:

We've said it before, but we fear we're going to have to make this point many more times in the coming weeks. It's now clear that a portion of the opinion press viewed the historic 2008 campaign through the extremely narrow lens of getting rid of the Clintons; of driving them off the national stage and humiliating the highest profile Democrats of the last 15 years. That's what the campaign was about for them. Not politics or policy or the future of the country. It was about them not liking the Clintons. The campaign represented some sort of deliverance from them.

But now that it's becoming clear that the new Obama team does not necessarily share that deep-seated disdain, and now that it's clear that the media's CDS is not being embraced by a new generation of Democratic Party leaders, some afflicted pundits are very, very angry. What was the point of that election, they demand.

On Hardball this week Matthews appeared visibly annoyed at the idea of Clinton becoming Secretary of State. More to the point he was confused about Obama's overture to her: "Why does he want drama"? Matthews demanded.

So far, according to news reports, Obama has made an overture to Clinton about being SOS. In a few days we will likely find out if she accepts. Where exactly is the drama?

Answer: The drama, has mostly been man-made, it's been manufactured, by the press which loves the "soap opera" storyline.

There was a great diary posted at Daily Kos recently, about the media's, and especially cable TV's, naked attempt to gin up the "drama" surrounding the Clinton story. Not because it's newsworthy and not because it's accurate. But because that's what the Beltway press wants to do. That will be worth keeping in mind in coming days and weeks.

UPDATE: We just found this quote that Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, gave during the pimary season [emphasis added]: "The press hates Hillary. There's a real glee over the prospect of being done with the Clintons."

Whether or not you love or hate the Clintons this behavior should be upsetting. (I will remind everyone that there was a time when the media loved them some Clinton too --- until they turned.) But there is something truly sick about a political system in which the press plays a key role as insiders while pretending to be innocent bystanders --- and uses its power to create scandals and gin up controversies about politicians it doesn't like and then blames the politicians for the terrible coverage.

There are real problems to write about --- too many to even begin to truly inform the public about. People really don't care who Bill Clinton's foundation took money from to fund HIV and global warming programs. (Where's the controversy there, anyway? That these bad actors will influence SOS Hillary to start a war so that Bill can fund more AIDs research? I don't get it.) But, it doesn't matter. The whole point is for all of them (the greatest lunatic, by far, being the very, very emotionally ill Maureen Dowd) to chatter like a bunch of robotic magpies about the Clintons and then solemnly denounce them for being a distraction . Truly, these people need a 12 step program.