Washington gets criticized for lots of things . . . so let's pile on!
Two separate strains of media criticism are eating up the interwebs this week, on the national pastimes of politics and baseball, and both intersect in Washington. It started this weekend with the fanboy gushing of national reporters over a watergun fight and picnic at VP Joe Biden's house.
Salon's Glenn Greenwald brings us the action in a Monday post entitled "Our hard-core, adversarial press corps":
On Friday, CNN's Ed Henry posted a series of giggly, adolescent updates on his Twitter feed, describing the events that took place at a "beach" party thrown by Joe Biden, at the Vice President's mansion, for various "reporters" and White House officials.
Today, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, who often passes along White House thinking under the cover of anonymity, confesses that he, too, attended the water party, and also posted a short video he took of Rahm Emanuel frolicking with a squirt gun along with party participants Wolf Blitzer (the former AIPAC official and current CNN anchor) and The New York Times' David Sanger (who faithfully regurgitates every administration fear-mongering claim regarding the Iranian nuclear program):
. . . I have no doubt that Ambinder -- who promised that "later today, I'll lay out some thoughts about the ethics of all of this" -- is shortly going to explain to us how getting squirted in the face by Rahm (aside from being fun and deeply pleasurable for him) assists his intrepid journalistic endeavors by building relationships and cementing access (he also reported: "Note, too, that shortly after I shot this video, Emanuel sprayed me in the shirt with his Super Soaker. I have a picture of that, too"). All anyone has to do is to look at the relationship between the Washington press corps and the Washington political power structure (the former is an integral part of the latter) to know what an absurd and false rationalization that is (over the weekend, Ed Henry bravely took time out from his socializing with the Bidens to vehemently condemn the powerless Helen Thomas with language he would never, ever use for powerful political officials). The face of the Washington press corps and the role it plays is perfectly embodied by David Gregory's dancing to Karl Rove's tune (both literally and in every other way), and it only gets worse by the day[.]
Fast forward one day, and a quick trip on DC's Green Line to Nationals Park. The whole media world (and the political class) was fixated on the debut of Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg against the Pirates, and the 21-year-old delivered a masterpiece, exceeding the already sky-high expectations for the kid. The worst performance of the day -- yes, even worse than the Pirates -- would go to NBC's lead sports celebrity Bob Costas, who called the game for a national audience on the MLB Network.
Like those in the Beltway political class, Costas has lately been serving the wrong master -- aligning himself more closely to baseball's powers-that-be than the fan. During the Nationals-Pirates that took a step for the worse -- and more awkward -- when the announcing veteran almost made himself, and his self-aggrandizement, bigger than the game.
The Costas backlash started with his kid-gloves treatment of steroids-user Mark McGwire, in his exclusive interview (coordinated by Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer) in January. It continues today.
It's incredible to listen to Costas talk about the "media hype machine" as if he were not a part of it. Hell, he's the engine driver. He scolds "some" for jumping the gun on Strasburg's Hall of Fame candidacy, when just one inning earlier Costas himself suggested that he might be more than a mere Hall of Famer—a "historic" player. Sorry, those were just the thoughts of unidentified scouts, discussing just one of many possible scenarios, all of them equally probable in Costas' world of equivocation and qualifiers. No one deploys the phrase "on the other hand" quite like Bob does.
After last night, Strasburg's talent is unquestionable. Pirates or no Pirates, that was the performance of a seasoned veteran in total command of his abilities. (Having Ivan Rodriguez calling the shots certainly won't hurt his education, either.) He actually got stronger as the game progressed, allowing no baserunners after his two-run homer and never even coming close to a walk. Hell, if Costas wants to say he's better than Johnson right now, that's his privilege. What I find astonishing is the total lack of self-awareness. Bob Costas did more in just nine innings to craft the Legend of Stephen Strasburg than a lifetime supply of Baseball Almanacs ever could. Yet, he wants to use his same breaths to tsk-tsk the big bad media for losing their heads over the man. If you can't restrain yourself, Bob, why should anyone else?
Deadspin posted some of the Costas clips here, including one completely gratutious stab at Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens.
Photo: Rahm Emanuel/Joe Biden. Gawker.