Monday, May 15, 2006

Adam Nagourney’s Frustrated Head

Any regular reader of the New York Times knows that “reporter” Adam Nagourney was once humiliated in bed by a Democrat. OK, that’s not exactly what we all know, but we know that AdNags has a hard-on for the Democratic Party for as far back as anyone can remember, and that Nagourney does journalistic gymnastics on a regular basis in an attempt to beat it out. (I know, I know, never work blue.)

In a Sunday column (is it a column? At least the Times had the decency to run it in the “Week in Review” section instead of near the front page, but it did not run on the opinion page, so is this supposed to be taken as “fact?”) titled “Hey Democrats, Why Win?” Nagourney waxes and whines on the dangers of the Democrats actually retaking control of Congress in November. In the course of the piece, AdNags picks up Republican talking points previously aired under the guise of reporting last weekend by Tim Russert on Meet the Press.

Russert asked (OK, more or less told) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that if the Democrats regained control of Congress there would be “payback.” Nagourney followed suit on Sunday:

Another worry is whether some Democrats would use their power in what could be perceived as payback against Republicans. Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, have talked of investigations into allegations of malfeasance across all parts of the Bush administration.

First, “could be perceived” by whom? This annoying little trick is all too common in today’s establishment media, and, here, AdNags gives us a classic example. It seems like unbiased reporting because it is put in the subjunctive and implies perception rather than stated fact, but the “perception” lacks attribution. It is not the reporter’s job to anticipate reaction, and by throwing out this hypothetical, Nagourney, like Russert before him, is actually spinning and not reporting.

Second, note the structure of this paragraph—“investigations” are analogous to “payback.” Ignoring the absurdity that, within the construct of this sentence, this is even an issue—aren’t “allegations of malfeasance” supposed to be investigated?—the construction of our government makes oversight and fact-finding not a political choice but a legal mandate. As Pelosi herself put it to Timmeh, “Investigation is the requirement of Congress. It’s about checks and balances.”

Of course, what Russert and Nagourney are doing is echoing a strategic talking point put front and center by RNC chair Ken Mehlman. Mehlman is duly scared about what November elections could bring, and he (and, no doubt, Karl Rove, as well) are out to stimulate the very hardcore Republican base while suppressing the turnout of so-called “persuadables.” Nothing turns on the base like the thought of Democrats giving as good as they have gotten, and nothing, according to the Hotline (via Kos), turns off persuadables like nastiness—and “payback” sounds very nasty.

“Payback” also sounds like “politics as usual”—divisive, inside-the-beltway squabbling—rather than governing in the interests of those outside the beltway. And, it is the idea that this is all nothing but politics—a kind of sport, really—that is the underlying meaning of Nagourney’s piece. AdNags uses quotes from former Representatives Coelho and Frost, former Senator Kerrey, and former DNC chair Andrews to paint a picture of a Democratic Party that is weighing whether winning is in the best interests of the politicians; conveniently, none of these ex-men discuss whether two more years of a Republican controlled Congress is in the worst interests of the American people.

Nagourney doesn’t entertain (and Ken Mehlman doesn’t want you to entertain) the possibility that Democrats might have ideals, or, if not ideals, at least ideas—ideas different from those of Republicans. That disinterested and disenfranchised voters tune out when they feel elections are just part of a game played by a bunch of “politicians” (said with a sneer) is common knowledge enough to be part of the Republican strategy. That talk of payback and strategizing to “almost win” plays to this, dare I say, “perception,” should be (and probably is) obvious to the likes of Nagourney and Russert.

But it is this handicapping of the horserace—this taking measure, with a thumb on the scale, of the strategy—that seems to be all that AdNags can wrap his frustrated mind around. The story that appears impenetrable to Republican shills like Nagourney is that Democrats might want to regain control because they agree with over two thirds of the voters and believe that this country is on the wrong track, and that by seizing the reigns of power, Democrats can start to at least try to once again set it right.

(Cross-posted over at Daily Kos)


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