02 February 2007


Matthew Yglasias explains part of the trouble with our political press.
The problem is that the press corps approaches political rhetoric with such reflexive cynicism that it's basically all tossed out as bullshit. In its place, they've substituted characterological analysis, the conclusions of which are generally divined from two days spent hanging with the candidate and a cursory glance at other reports from similar profiles. By peering deep into the politician's soul, writers supposedly assemble carefully observed facial tics and freudian slips into an accurate portrait of the subject's soul, thus illuminating Who He Is and, on a more essential level, what he'll do.

It's crap, of course. Indeed, the nice thing about working at an understaffed magazine with limited lede times, no travel budget, and spotty access is that it's forced me to approach political profiling in a different way. When I did the Gore piece, I was stunned by how much lay write there in the public domain, in his speeches and travels and deeds, but had never been noticed because no one bothered to look.

It occurs to me that this also reflects one of the virtues of the web. Candidates can and must tell their story at length on their websites. And anyone can now dig up a wealth of information about a candidate's actions and speeches with the simple expedient of a Google search.

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