Reporter's Note: President Obama’s dressing down of the Republicans continues to make news, as do their responses to what he had to say. It was a pretty unusual moment in presidential politics. And that’s what I’m writing about as I continue my relentless quest to write a letter every single day, to the man on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
I know I wrote about your big meeting with the GOP’ers just yesterday, but I really want to pick up on that theme again today. Only this time, I want to talk about myself. Or rather, me and a lot of people like me, who comprise the media.
As you made that call for a change of tone in the political debate, one of your complaints is that we media types focus too often on the bitter words, sharp exchanges, and what an old friend of mine used to call “chair throwing” fights. Fair enough. I’ll readily admit that my profession has an unseemly appetite for flamethrowers on both sides of the aisle. Sure, we could make room for moderates to chew over the fine details of a pending agreement, but it’s so much more fun watching a pair of grenade lobbers square off. (To be honest, I actually don’t find that fun at all. Usually when I hear strident voices from either the far left or far right I start looking for a snack and wondering what is on ESPN. That said it is a simple equation for grabbing quick viewers, and that is certainly part of the problem too.)
But here is where you and I may diverge. I think both parties love blame the problem of uncivil talk on the media, but much of the time Dems and Repubs alike absolutely live for precisely that kind of coverage. They willingly provoke and invite it, and then stand around professing “shock, shock, that there is gambling here!” Both parties, with uproarious regularity, heave great bursting bombs of invective at each other, and they make sure in every way they can that we not only notice those attacks, but also that we give them front and center coverage. Ask to see my e-mail one day, and I’ll line up enough “poison” messages sent by political operatives about their foes to stretch from here to Kansas. If we start ignoring the folks who are specifically tasked with doing that in both parties, we will simply never hear the end of it. You pols all express dismay at the erosion of civil discourse, but that’s nothing compared to the open howling we in the media hear whenever we do not give air time to those explosive comments.
Seriously, do you think Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner would sit quietly by if they held a “hot oil over the parapets” news conference and we ignored it? And when was the last time you publicly dressed down Rahm Emanuel or Robert Gibbs for speaking too critically about the opposition?
You want to hear about what we media folks do wrong? Open the confessional and I’ll be the first one in. But on this issue, DC is flooded with hypocrites of the worst kind in both parties. Again I’ll say it: If the parties wants to cut the bitter, knife slashing comments out of the debate, and see media coverage that centers more on reasonable talk, there is an easy way to do it. Quit launching unfair attacks on each other. Quit telling half truths and whole lies. Cage your attack dogs, and publicly disavow untoward comments loudly and immediately, especially when they come from your own party.
You do your part, and Ill do mine.
In the meantime though, uh….call me,
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