In "Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem," the Brookings Institution's Thomas Mann and the American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein let loose with a righteous fury that refreshes, mostly because their opening proposition--that Republicans are incontrovertibly "the problem"--ends with an admonitory and almost equally thematic swipe at the problem-children of mainstream journalism. "[A] balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality," write Mann and Ornstein, hence journalism's "even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views" only invites more destructive distortion.
Mann-Ornstein hypostatize 'The Republican Question' through the wretched personage of Allen West, whose latest imbecility, as we all well remember, arrived in his McCarthyization of Democrats' Progressive Caucus--which is like comparing a DAR quilting bee to a neoNazi cadre. Regarding West's "comment," Mann-Ornstein find it "striking" that "such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted" by the GOP leadership; that West is less outlier than outrageously typical.
Which brings us back to the political press, which, as I recall, by and large treated West's obscenity as a soundbite of amusing puff, rather than as a monumental manifestation of a profound institutional problem that is reducing this country to a dysfunctional joke.
Indeed, it took the aggressively blunt Barney Frank to do political journalism's perfectly commonsensical job for it:
It's an indication of the significant deterioration of the Republican Party as a responsible entity that an ignorant, mean guy like Allen West is considered one of their stars.
I ask people, when you hear something so breathtakingly dumb and vicious as that, how do people expect us to be able to work out some compromise with him?
Nonetheless, everyday we are witness to an endless stream of disgust and exasperation from apparently intoxicated political commentators who are disgusted and exasperated with ... Barack Obama, who obstinately refuses, for instance, to embrace Simpson-Bowles and obstinately refuses, in another instance, to tackle tax reform--with the demented likes of a party-full of Allen Wests.
I don't know from which distillery they get their pure goofjuice and from which Latin American country they get their prime goofweed, but both must be the tragic enablers of these commentators' "balanced treatment," as Mann-Ornstein put it, of a wickedly "unbalanced phenomenon." I just cannot think of any other explanation for their dissociative relationship with reality; that they can, with a schoolmarmish pedantry and superior aloofness, hold Obama in any way accountable for not advancing the political ball of moderation.
But addiction to intoxicated pomposity is no excuse. Political journalists who see themselves as the adults--because in their minds they are the fair, even-handed supervisors of a symmetrically immature political playground--are in reality as culpable as the Republican Party's juvenile delinquents.
There is an altogether guilty party here; and it's not the conservative party, which in contrast to the GOP's radicalism just happens to be the Democratic Party, led by a Democratic president. And that's where responsible, conscientious political journalists should start: getting their labels right.