Thursday, March 10, 2011

Death of the Anti-Gonzo

The Washington Post's write-up is as good as any:
David Broder, 81, dies; set 'gold standard' for political journalism

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 12:39 AM

David S. Broder, 81, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post and one of the most respected writers on national politics for four decades, died Wednesday at Capital Hospice in Arlington of complications from diabetes.

Mr. Broder was often called the dean of the Washington press corps - a nickname he earned in his late 30s in part for the clarity of his political analysis and the influence he wielded as a perceptive thinker on political trends in his books, articles and television appearances.

Mr. Broder had a "relentlessly centrist" philosophy about politics, the political commentator Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in the New Yorker magazine. Mr. Broder brooked little tolerance toward what he termed, in describing the action of 1960s militant antiwar activists, "confrontation politics, with its constant threat of violence and repression."

While there were many, many things David Broder loved -- centrism, politics, bi-partisanship, equidistanthood, divarication, bisect-uality, decussation -- one thing he really hated was hippies.

Those those damn, dirty, disrespectful fucking hippies.

He especially hated those fucking imaginary hippies: they were the sawdust and breadcrumb filler he kept heaping into his increasingly inedible journalistic meatloaf; the thumb he pressed down ever harder on the scales of his funny little rambles about America during his declining years (which encompassed all of the 21st Century and a big chunk of the end of the 20th) to artificially "balance out" the clear and horrifying fact that Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower that he had known as a barefoot lad growing up in the swampland of Chicago Heights was devolving into a billionaire-industrialist-funded mob of fundies, racists, imbeciles and sociopaths.

In fact, this fetish became so obsessive that, in the end, it became the great, tragic irony of David Broder's professional life. Because at last he simply could not bear to part with his fantasies about what he wished America to be and face the brutal realities of what America was actually becoming, David Broder -- this "Dean of the Washington press corps" -- totally missed out on covering the greatest story of his time; the utter collapse of the American news media and the mutation of the GOP from a political party into a dangerously fascistic cesspit of oligarchs, lunatics and rubes.

It was a story which his background and years of hard work had almost uniquely prepared him to cover, and one that was literally staring him in the face for much of the last 20 years.

And he completely fucking blew it.

But more than anything else, he super-duper-especially hated it when those dang, dirty, disrespectful, imaginary hippies moved into that nice White House at the center his little town and fucked everything up with. From Taylor Marsh:

...David Broder represented commentary that is the worst of insider Washington D.C. thinking and an elitism, a leading member of Sally Quinn’s clan, which meant he was an original member of the Clinton hater club and helped churn the anti-Clinton fervor with gusto.
Sally Quinn’s infamous “In Washington, That Letdown Feeling” captured the insider feelings about the Pres. Clinton after the Lewinsky affair broke:
“He came in here and he trashed the place,” says Washington Post columnist David Broder, “and it’s not his place.”
[...] “The judgment is harsher in Washington,” says The Post’s Broder. “We don’t like being lied to.”
Nothing annoyed the Washington elite more than the hicks from the sticks, Bill and Hillary Clinton. After Ronald Reagan, the Arkansans were see as interlopers. To understand Washington that’s where you have to begin.
Broder turned Pres. Clinton’s moral failings inside out and made it all about them, the D.C. community who considered Washington a small town.

If Hunter Thompson's coverage of politics in 1972 was (according to George McGovern's 1972 campaign manager, Frank Mankiewicz) "the least factual, but the most accurate" of all the correspondents, the award for being "the most factual, but the least accurate" correspondent of his generation must go to David Broder.

The eponymous Father of High Broderism (from the Urban Dictionary)
The worship of bipartisanship for its own sake, combined with a fake "pox on both their houses" attitude. The main goal is the establishment of a permanent ruling class of Washington insiders, our betters who know better. It is their rough agenda which is sold as "centrism" even when it has no actual relationship with the political center in a meaningful way. The establishment of an aristocratic class in America.
and its staunchest Fidei Defensor (from Rick Perlstein)
Richard Nixon ran the most secretive presidential campaign in national history—even making reporters sit in rooms far from the crowds and watch his events on closed-circuit TV. George McGovern made Nixon's secretiveness a major focus of his campaign—begging Nixon every day to debate him. And yet somehow Broder recollects a situation of equivalence. I think it shows how his mind works—and why our political press corps is so badly broken.

David Broder sired and suckled an entire generation of well-heeled, well-connected, establishmentarian insider merchants of Beltway Common Wisdom who have made a massively profitable cottage industry out of displacing honest reportage in favor of passing around empty "process" stories, vapid D.C. gossip tricked out in somber political rhetoric and the status and style updates of Very Serious People like Tennessee Williams' proverbial "dirty postcard".

And the glue that holds the whole ugly, toxic scam together is the relentless, reflexive, completely-dishonest buffering of any and all Republican crimes, treasons, hypocrisies and obscenities...of any any any venue...on any given day of the week...with the Broderite mantra of "...but the Liberals": a habit so ingrained b y now in the Villager Hive Mind that the Center-Right Shill Factory known as Politico could not help but go out of its way to take a gratuitous swipe at the dirty fucking hippies in the middle of their eulogy to Mr. Broder (emphasis mine):
Broder, who grew up in Chicago and was a graduate of the University of Chicago, revered the political process and admired those he saw as rational voices focused on achieving results. That sometimes opened him up to criticism from ideologues on the left, who saw him as the epitome of conventional, inside-the-Beltway wisdom. But he also earned respect from prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle, many of whom released statements soon after news of his death was announced Wednesday.

Sorry, Politico, but however much of a legend his hard, on-the-ground, sandal-leather reporting on what the Average Roman thought about the first Punic War ("Hiero II of Syracuse shoulda listened to his general onna ground!") may be, David Broder's lasting legacy is ultimately a tragic one.

For against the tide of imaginary of dirty hippies who were forever plotting to mess up his lawn, and in the name of an idolatrous worship of the God of Fake Objectivity, the Dean of the Washington press corps' most enduring contribution to his profession has been as the Patient Zero of a lethal strain of syphilitic Villager Centrism which may be more responsible than any other single factor in all-but wiping out anything resembling honest national political journalism in America.

And that is the definition of tragedy.

UPDATE: Welcome Vanity Fair readers and many thanks to the matchless James "The Enforcer" Wolcott for pointing you in my direction.


bgob said...

Really. Chicago Heights. My hometown. Must be why I fled West as soon as I was old enough. Shit, my parents must have gone to school with him. Oh well. He sure won't be missed.

Here's one dirty fucking hippy saying, "Buh-bye!!"

Anonymous said...

As a Wiccan, my religion compels me to show respect for the deceased. So, I will say, with sincerity, may in his next life and next lifetime may he find the peace, compassion, and enlightenment that eluded him in this life.

Anonymous said...

And Broder's "declining years (which encompassed all of the 21st Century and a big chunk of the end of the 20th" were all too well represented PBS ( see below.)

John Puma

Bluesborn said...

I don't know what it is about Broder's generation and holding a grudge,but boy do they excel in that department.My Father came from that era and never got over the whole "Dirty Fucking Hippie"thing.I have a vivid recollection of him taking one of my brother's Bob Dylan albums off the shelf,calmly opening the front door and launching it Frisbee style about 100 yards up the street.It caught a good cross wind and sailed in a spectacular arc over the distant roof tops before disappearing forever in a final flash of reflected light.

marcus II said...

As Mr. Burns of The Simpsons would say, Excellent."

There really is a bigotry in the stubbornness to hold onto the idea that we live in a two party system, representing legitimate popular views. The reality is a criminal state with (most) Democrats playing the part of the Stockholm Syndrome victim.

Cirze said...

The interesting thing to me while living in today's truly tragic time is the perpetrators being labeled "tragic" figures when they are mainly deluded and pathetic.

That this guy continued to be "venerated" on the MSM during this decade was the tragedy.

And he hadn't been able to actually "report" on any story since he lost his mind over the Bush/Cheney War Party's relevance.

And he completely fucking blew it.

P.S. As the fossils die off, I foresee the Time of Driftglass aborning.


Anonymous said...

This is really very good. Why isn't this in a national magazine somewhere?

Phil said...

Ya didn't disappoint me .


jim said...

Here is the nastiest insult I can inflict on anyone in the word-pimping business: I cannot in all honesty tell you with certainty that I either have or haven't ever read anything by Broder.

What I can say is that I have yet to hear anything that even dimly recommends his writing as an object for my curiosity or my time & effort.

Save us from the immoderate Moderates: their version of fairness is as helpful to the future as Solomon's sword was to babies.

Anonymous said...

Late to the game, been very busy lately. All I can say is the Good Doktor would be proud, DG.

Just beautiful.


Anonymous said...

I saw Broder deliver the commencement address at Bradley University in 2008. Aside from the normal platitudes, the speech was a not-so-thinly veiled screed ripping the baby boomers for failing America, ostensibly filtered through the lens of the upcoming 2008 election.

Before this day, I had heard of the phenomenon of "losing the crowd" but I had never actually witnessed it. As he got into the tone-deaf heart of it, I could hear a murmur rippling through the basketball arena. A lot of boomer grandparents and even late boomer parents were in that room, and the perfunctory applause at the end would have withered anyone with the slightest bit of self-awareness. I wish I could remember the text or find a video somewhere...

Batocchio said...

oligarchs, lunatics and rubes...

Or evil, crazy and stupid. Nice formulation!

You and Wolcott nailed Broder. (Jon Swift penned a classic years ago, too.) Broder had many compatriots in the evil of banal, inaccurate, gutless reporting, but he set the tone. No reporter ever did more to avoid calling things straight, in granting conservatives and Republicans unearned respectability, in gullibly taking at face value crap that Newt Gingrich and other proven scoundrels said. He believed "real" Americans were conservative, and somehow, "bipartisanship" for him always meant, "do whatever the Republicans want." The man's moral compass was so warped he believed that Clinton should resign for lying about a blow job, but Bush shouldn't for lying us into a war. He viewed hippies as radical – but not Bush and Cheney's authoritarian power grabs. The most charitable view of Broder is that his views on how the world worked ossified long ago, and he simply could not write any other narrative, reality be damned. But I think he was far more culpable in his own bland-blind-and-mute performance, beyond even specific faults such as falsely claiming that Muskie cried, and regarding Gerald Ford, who cut a deal to pardon Nixon, as "one of the most decent human beings in Washington." People paid to cover politics have flat-out refused to report on the central storyline of the past 30-50 years, the increasing plutocratic, reckless and insane Republican Party. No one who cared about democracy and good governance could have missed it. And Broder epitomized that willful, eager, desperate ignorance.

Wherever a Mara Liasson called a conservative a "centrist" or "moderate," wherever a Tim Russert treated a warmongering Dick Cheney with doe-eyed innocence, wherever a Peggy Noonan clucked about "civility," a Mark Halperin declared "good news for John McCain" and a Cokie Roberts shouted, "But the Democrats" - that's where you'll find Dave Brode.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't your judgment of Broder's work as toxic, dishonest and syphilitic be strengthened if you presented, say, one (1) example of something Broder had actually written that merited those epithets -- as opposed to all the secondary commentary you cut-and-pasted?
A purported quote from a piece by Sally Quinn doesn't count. (Unless you want to rest your argument solely on Ms. Quinn's accuracy.)
You're critiquing someone who wrote thousands of columns and articles. Surely you could have read, analyzed and cited some of his actual syphilitic work?

driftglass said...

I come to bury Caesar
Not to parse him

filabolo said...

"I come to bury Caesar
Not to parse him"


Jay Schiavone said...

@ Anonymous: My takeaway from the piece is that the writer assumes that readers of this blog are all too familiar with his Broder's oeuvre. It would be superfluous and depressing to shovel out the more egregious quotes.
"Unless you want to rest your argument solely on Ms. Quinn's accuracy." Since Broder and Quinn worked at the same paper, and since he had ample opportunity to field a corrective response, we may very safely assume that the quote is accurate. As a troll who supports Broder, how did you get permission to impugn the integrity of Sally Quinn? I guess we know why you're anonymous.
As I think back on one of Broder's more pandering, awful profile pieces in which he waxes fondly on a meal of wild quail at Karl Rove's cabin, I can only imagine that now he is eating crow with the real Satan.

ScarabusRedivivus said...

When I remember Broder, it's less from what he wrote than from his regular appearances on television. And I remember his affect more than his words: pompous, patronizing, "I've spoken. Case closed."

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