Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Politico? Why Not?

There's an interview of Politico's maestros over at TNR which, to tell the truth, I haven't read yet, but it's causing a bit of a fuss -- Politico and the normally sensible Nate Silver are feuding a bit, for example, mainly (as far as I can tell) because Politico likes to take silly swipes at Silver.

But at any rate, I like what Ed Kilgore says about Politico (his emphasis):
Regular readers know that I’m not a Politico-hater; I think the site serves a legitimate reporting function and sometimes does it well and other times at least covers a lot of landscape that might otherwise escape attention. It’s when Politico tells us what it all means or tries self-consciously to drive narratives that it gets into trouble, often to the point of self-parody.
Silver is upset that Politico's style "seem to lack very much curiosity for the world outside of the bubble." I disagree! Kilgore is correct here: what they can do, and sometimes do extremely well, is to let us know what insiders are thinking and doing. That's good enough.

Moreover, careful readers can often ignore the "what it all means" nonsense.The only thing I do worry about is when reporters, whether Politico or elsewhere, put that "what it all means" junk into the mouths of insiders who really are just worried about how to get from point A to point B. But if it's the insiders themselves who believe hocus-pocus and flim-flam, well, it's helpful to know that.

I'll go back to one of my favorite things -- that the McLaughlin Group promised (or perhaps still promises) "inside opinions and forecasts," and delivered exactly that. Not wise opinions or accurate forecasts -- but they didn't promise those!

I'll tie this all back to immigration...right now I've been arguing the key to immigration is whether mainstream conservatives in the House want it to pass, and that will depend on how they balance out what's good for the party and what's good for them personally. For that, I'd much rather know what Republicans perceive about the electoral effects of passing immigration reform, rather than a good study by a political scientist about the actual effects of immigration reform. And since I'm a careful reader, I don't really care whether reporters mistake House GOP perceptions for reality -- because for this particular question, I want to be in the heads of those Members, and I'm perfectly capable of removing myself from that if I have some other question I want to answer.

Again, as long as they keep their own analysis out of the helpful information they are collecting, I'm all for Politco-style reporting. I'm pretty sure the result is that we know a fair amount more than we used to about what's going on in Washington, and that's a plus -- no matter how much nonsense we have to ignore to get to it.


  1. I do think Politico reporters get spun a lot -- that is, as you put it, they "put that 'what it all means' junk into the mouths of insiders who really are just worried about how to get from point A to point B. Also, the TNR interview is very provoking - Harris and VandeHei are intrepidly trivial in their outlook, determined to give readers what they think they want to read and not try to make them better informed in any meaningful sense. You may well disagree.

  2. I occasionally hear the intro to The McLaughlin Group if I can't get to the remote in time, and I can feel a reflexive sneer forming the moment I hear "The Smartest Talk" used as a description for the old foof who leads it and his panelists Pat Buchanan, Mort Zuckerman and Eleanor Clift. Has-beens one and all.

  3. Oh please. Politico is like US Weekly. It's what political junkies want to believe Washington is like. And then it gets recycled on the Sunday shows. If you believe what is on the Sunday talk shows then they are your jam.

    1. Simply not true. Politico does a ton of excellent reporting.

      And lots of useless wrongheaded junk, and a fair amount of trivial stuff which is great fun for political junkies, but not "useful" in any way.

      But there absolutely is a lot of excellent reporting.


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