Punditosis Pandemic

February 6, 2007

A couple of years ago, when Internet fabulists were predicting that blogs would replace traditional newsgathering operations, I wrote that while blogs would never replace the news columns of newspapers, they certainly posed a mortal threat to op-ed columnists.

In fact, it becomes clearer every day that the blogs are absolutely necessary for keeping the excesses of big-time pundits in check. Read how Oliver Willis catches David Broder, the drowsy dean of insider columnists, brazenly lying about the reception given to Wesley Clark at this past weekend’s meeting of the Democratic National Committee. Then read Joe Klein’s self-aggrandizing column trying to repaint himself as an opponent of the Iraq War, and see how the commenters remind him that any queasiness he voiced during the runup to the invasion was strictly tactical. (Klein’s use of the old “I’m being criticized from left and right, so I must be doing something right” wheeze is particularly tired.) Atrios takes the analysis several steps further.

I’ve always thought the idea of term limits for politicians was not simply bad but anti-democratic in that it would cheat the voters of the ability to keep benefitting from experienced representatives in government.  

But the past decade has shown us that term limits for pundits should be the norm in journalism. Broder is so immersed in seen-it-all smugness that he sees only what he wants to see, which is all he wants to write about. And Joe Klein’s “I’m a liberal but I ain’t no leftie” routine is overdue for retirement.

In days past, the op-ed section of the newspaper was my daily treat. I always thought of it as the brains of the operation. Now it’s more like an elephants’s graveyard, or a Sargasso Sea of becalmed pundits drifting along with the conventional wisdom. A half hour of reading on the Internet goves me more interesting, and more pertinent, writing than everything David Broder has churned out in the past twenty years, or Joe Klein has written since Primary Colors


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