POLITICS JUNE 19, 2013
John Harwood has a piece in The New York Times today that exemplifies such astonishing levels of silly conventional wisdom that it must be read in full. Harwood's contention, which is almost too boring to summarize, is that Obama has ignored the "red" areas of the country, rarely visiting them and thus failing to heal our country's divisions. (Sorry, cliched writing is almost impossible to avoid on this subject). Harwood's piece jumps through the usual hoops—a quote from Donna Brazile about Obama's poor job bringing us all together, a quote from an academic stating that Obama is "president of the whole country," a quote from Obama's 2004 convention speech—before moving onto his case. That case is stated in a typically tiresome fashion by Matthew Dowd, who laments Obama's inability to use "the social power of the presidency." (I have never met Matthew Dowd, but I could approximate with 99% accuracy anything he could ever possibly say on any subject).
My interest is less in Harwood's piece per se than in the thought process behind it. What spurs someone on to write an article like this? What mental processes are at work? How does one decide to call Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd for quotes instead of David Gergen and Cokie Roberts? These are the questions that must be answered if we ever want to bridge the divide between Washington pundits and smart commentary, and set our country on a united path to a sustainable future.
Isaac Chotiner is a senior editor at The New Republic. Follow him @IChotiner.