Ending the war vs. supporting the troops

The Washington Post's political reporter spews cheap political slogans in lieu of analysis.

Published August 23, 2007 12:12PM (EDT)

The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut, analyzing the differences between Republicans and Democrats on Iraq, explained on Tuesday night's Hardball:

ANNE KORNBLUT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It remains, especially in Democratic crowds, the number-one issue. There is no applause line that gets a bigger response when you're out with Senator Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, than when they say the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to start ending this war in Iraq.

Republican crowds are a little different. They still want to be supporting the troops.

Why don't Democrats "still want to be supporting the troops"? The opposite of favoring withdrawal is "supporting the troops." The main difference on Iraq between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats want to end the war while Republicans "still want to be supporting the troops."

This is the "analysis" from the Washington Post's political reporter, until recently of the New York Times. Beltway reporters spend so much time speaking with government officials and political operatives that they actually see and understand the world through the spectrum of the simplistic, meaningless political slogans they are constantly fed.

Observe, for instance, when reporters speak of the NSA scandal how frequently they will use manipulative phrases like "listening in when Osama calls" or how often they depict the dispute as "whether we should be eavesdropping on terrorists." One of the principal functions of political reporters ought to be to dissect and dispense with misleading political sloganeering, but instead, they fulfill the opposite function: they are the most enthusiastic and effective disseminators of these cliches.

Some of them do it consciously and knowingly, for ideological reasons, to curry favor with sources. But many of them are driven by a far more banal dynamic. They "analyze" political disputes this way because most of their impressions are shaped by Beltway political operatives whom they respect and admire, on whom they depend, and this is how they have things explained to them. So these idiotic slogans (Republicans "still want to be supporting the troops"), in turn, becomes the only way they can understand and explain things.

UPDATE: For identical examples, see also: Kornblat on July 10 in the Washington Post: "John Edwards is battling back the 'three H's' that have dogged his campaign -- expensive haircuts, a lavish new house and a stint working for a hedge fund. Now, he is trying to put emphasis on a 'P' -- his new poverty tour across the South and the Midwest."

And here is Kornblut on MSNBC in January, "analyzing" the debate over whether to de-fund the war:

Iraq is much more difficult and I think made more so by the fact that you have, you know, 9,000 people in the Senate running for president, and all of them are going to take a position, especially the Democrats who are running, that's careful not to make them look soft on foreign policy. I think the biggest nightmare for some of the Democrats in the Senate would be a Democratic Party that looks as though it just wants to -- from -- the words from 2004, "cut and run."

"Supporting the troops." "The 3 H's" - haircuts, house and hedge fund. "Cut and run." It's one thing for political analysts to describe how these terms are likely to be used in political campaigns. But that isn't what they do. Instead, this sort of cheap sloganeering entirely engulfs the analysis itself and becomes the only way many political journalists can think and talk about political issues.

By Glenn Greenwald

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