Hey Big Daddy,
I was just sort of wondering, what ever happened to the Capitol Press corps?
-Sam in Los Angeles
For your answer, let me point you to the left side of the infield from the old Abbott and Costello routine Who’s On First: I Don’t Know and I Don’t Give a Damn.
I know I quoted old LBJ in this space last week, but I think he merits another citation here. “The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw of character.”
The press has always held an inflated view of their role in society. They view themselves as the watchdogs of democracy, and the arbiters of mom, apple pie, truth, justice and the American way.
The truth is, most journalists are run-down, lazy half-wits who spend time taking potshots from the sidelines, and seizing on easy hits to try to take down those who actually have the nerve to try to do something good and honorable for their city, state or country.
Are there politicians who are crooked? Of course there are. Just as I’m sure that there are some decent reporters out there – somewhere. But in both cases, the truth remains that the vast majority just aren’t that way. You’d be hard-pressed, even in this environment, to find a truly baseless and empty vessel of a politician. And personally, I can’t name you one reporter who I think is worth a damn.
Sure, politicos may like the occasional bottle of wine or four-star hotel room, or take on the occasional mistress in a two-star hotel room, but by and large they are good and honorable people. There are certain spoils that go to those who hold political power. That’s the way it works.
And some people just can’t accept that. There are those who wrap themselves up in the wide-spanning cape of virtue who take a nice meal paid for out of campaign funds — not even public money! — as some kind of character flaw.
Journalists are, by definition, parasites. They get their jollies exposing the human frailty of others. But have you ever seen a reporter interviewed? They immediately cower under the klieg lights and the pressure.
This total lack of self-awareness has always bothered me about the so-called Fourth Estate. They view themselves as pen-wielding vigilantes and gatekeepers. They‘re really just a pack of cowardly bullies who seek to mask their own personal foibles by honing in on the shortcomings of others.
In Darwinian terms, reporters are sandwiched somewhere in between Libertarians and pond scum on the evolutionary chart.
If a tree falls in the forest and no reporter is there to see it, does that mean it never happened? The average reporter would probably say yes, if they could stop complaining about the state of their sorry industry long enough to get the word out of their lips.
The truth is, press attention some times detracts from the work of government.
Reporters don’t want to believe this, but it’s true. They can’t accept the fact that instead of being guardians of democracy, they are often the greatest obstacle to government working where it works best – in a quiet corner, in hushed whispers, where people can honestly and thoughtfully work out solutions to the public’s problems without fear of the retribution that comes with public scrutiny.
Politics, when it works correctly, should be like professional hockey. The politicians have a political code, and should be left to police themselves. Occasionally, someone will lose their front teeth, but that’s the price you pay for being in the game.