political martyrs

Joshua Marshall has posted one of the most important posts he has ever written on his TPM blog. It nicely sumarizes and puts into context the emerging self-interested critiques of Blumenthal's new book, The Clinton Wars. He nicely parries Michael Isikoff's clumsy attempt at portraying Blumenthal as acgting out of self-interest, for example - speaking from the perspective of a Washington insider who knows the backstory.

But the meat of his point is that the reason Blumenthal's book has attracted so much negative attention by the media is NOT because of GOP or partisan resistance or even the Mighty Wurlitzer:

Blumenthal's book is a harsh and incisive critique of Washington's insider culture and its prestige press corps which is -- as a group, if not individually -- corrupt, rudderless and often insipid.
The essential question about the 1990s is whether the scandals were principally a matter of Clintonian wrongdoing or his critics' concerted opposition and resistance to his presidency using every, and often the lowest possible, means available. Mix in of course a lot of what Richard Hofstadter called 'the paranoid style.' Blumenthal picked choice #2. And, to my mind, he's been vindicated on that choice again and again.

Setting aside the truly egregious examples like Sue Schmidt of the Washington Post, most journalists who covered this case either had no sense of the larger context of what was happening, or didn't care. Often it was both, but more often the former. They were following a cookie-cutter script in which the prosecutors are the good guys and they eventually unearth a president's vile misdeeds and bring him down in a mawkish morality play. To them, the whole melange of alleged scandals had no larger political context. It was just the Clintons being accused of this or that -- the only larger meaning being how the First Couple supposedly represented various sorts of psychological and sociological maladies. The fact that few if any of the 'charges' ever held up under scrutiny didn't matter all that much since the whole drama spawned by the antic accusations and defenses could be written off, as it were, as a charge against the psychological and sociological maladies ledger.

This has much less to do with media bias than with the conversion of our media into a vehicle for entertainment rather than journalism. I've blogged about the failure of the Fourth Estate before and I started this blog and the mailing list as my own personal attempts to counter that trend for my own benefit.

On the matter of Clinton - he disappointed me. I believed he was innocent of the Lewinsky thing until that night in August 1998 when he finally admitted to it. I heard his admission on theradio as I was driving on I-90, having just left my job in Boston and headed to Houston for grad school. I never will forgive Clinton for his conduct but I am able to separate his personal faults from his record as President, and I still feel he was among the best Presidents that this country ever had. And he still has that visionary intellectual understanding of the role that America plays in human history and how our society is evolving - his recent comments at the University of Arkansas were compelling and a rigorous, and as always a catalyst for debate and honest appraisal about the choices our society makes and just how critical a role the media and the punditocracy play in shaping those choices.

Hehe, the prodigal political rockstar. BTW, the 22nd Amendment doesn't say anything about serving as Veep.

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