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Outside the Echo Chamber

I'm hearing an increasingly common refrain these days: That Washington's media and political elite just don't get it. See, for instance, my recent posts: Washington vs. the Rest of America and Obama: I Won't Play Washington Games.

Along those lines, Washington Post opinion columnist David Ignatius takes on his fellow members of the Washington media establishment this morning: "Media coverage of the $787 billion stimulus package signed Tuesday by President Obama has had an air of unreality -- as if people were reporting on a baseball game or a tennis match. Is Obama up or down today? Did the Republicans gain or lose momentum? Meanwhile, as Washington obsesses over the political box score, the economy has been going down the toilet.

"You get a better sense of what the crisis feels like -- and the real impact of the stimulus package -- when you leave the miasma of federal spending and examine state and local governments. Here, the impact of the downturn is severe and immediate...

"Did President Obama have a good day Tuesday when he signed the stimulus bill? You bet he did. But the point that weirdly seems to get relatively little attention is that it was a good day for millions of Americans who are getting hammered by the recession."

And Greg Sargent blogs at "At a private White House cocktail reception last night for leaders of major progressive groups, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle appealed to these leaders and signaled that their groups would play a key role in driving the big progressive changes at the heart of the White House’s legislative agenda, an attendee tells me.

"The message was that these groups would be valuable as a kind of progressive outside 'echo chamber,' as the attendee puts it."

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 19, 2009; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  Bubble Watch , Obama v. D.C.  
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Depends on which groups were there and who was representing them.

Democratic party politics have for many years been dominated by organized interests fiercely dedicated to specific, relatively narrow policy agendas. It's never been easy for Democratic Presidents to get them thinking outside their narrow areas of concern -- abortion, Israel, tort law, gay rights and so forth -- and people from "the groups" would need to do that to be useful. They'd also have to have an idea as to how government policy can address a crisis unlike any most of them have ever seen, and there are not many people like that, working for interest groups or not.

What President Obama may be hoping for is that consulting with "the groups" will be helpful in getting their support for his policy proposals. It's not a bad idea, but historically Democratic interest groups have been most interested in their own proposals. We'll see if liberal organized interests are more willing to do for Obama what they were relatively unwilling to do for past Democratic Presidents.

Posted by: jbritt3 | February 19, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to make two comments:

One is that I much prefer the old format, although it's possible I'll get used to this new format over time.

The second comment relates to my observation that I agree that primarily with the cable news organizations, they seem to attempt to attempt to depict everything they cover as an athletic contest with a 'winner' and a 'loser' and they seem to want to keep score.

I don't think this is helpful as some topics are not so easy to analyze in this way and require time to mature and to provide information based upon reality and not compared to some arbitrary projected result.

Posted by: RichRable | February 19, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Face it, the broadcast and cable media are so biased to the right that everything they say comes out as some kind of fantasy TV farce, except two on MSNBC and two on Comedy Central, who are in reality centrists. There is no voice for the American people because GE, Westinghouse, Disney/Capital Cities/CIA media, Fox, Time/Warner,etc. would never allow a balanced discussion, let alone a true leftist voice. Look at the cartoon that was on Saturday Night Live spoofing media ownership-they only showed it once and cut it out of reruns.
We are victims of propaganda with an agenda that supports the GOP, no less than the Soviets with Pravda, Izvestia, Krasnaya Zvezda, and Krokodil. I say the proletariat should start fighting back now, we have nothing to lose but our chains!

Posted by: sparkplug1 | February 19, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

First, I much prefer the old format, please
bring it back!

Second, I would very much like to know what organizations and which individuals were present at the White House reception you mentioned for "progressives".

I would like to believe that Obama has not abandoned all the hardworking progressives that helped him get to the presidency, but many of his appointments, especially the economy-related ones, seem
merely to re-anoint the same anti-regulation folks that got us in this mess in the first place.

Were Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz at the reception? If not, were there any progessive economists there at all?

I think your new format makes you more prone to leave out such details. Please lets go back to your great and comprehensive reporting!

Posted by: JustinaJustice | February 19, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The sports analogy noted by others is precisely the problem with the understanding of government from local to national.

One need only glance at the CVs to see that all sides promote people with extensive sports reporting backgrounds. Sports is a zero sum game - if one side wins, the other side must have lost. If that is your worldview, is it any wonder deeper comprehension is absent? [For example imagine a world in which ESPN had hired el Rushbo 15 years ago instead of passing him by... we'd all be happier.]

Tragically, unlike sports where the score can't be fudged, our problems aren't easily quantified into two sides. Few people have the time or interest to fact check. Few seem capable of grasping complexity. Pro football has only 22 on the field at a time, and congress has 535 on the field at all times. It's likely congress is profoundly more complex than football. Instead, it is reduced to the Rs vs the Ds, featuring the 2 co-captains of each team.

I suggest the "news business" does not include a moral hazard. "Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions." source Wikipedia

Note the "full consequences" concept. Pundits and buffoons alike can say what they want and suffer little if any consequence from their actions.

Posted by: boscobobb | February 19, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for drawing attention to this. Of course, bloggers have known this for years and have been harping on it. But will Washington insiders (the "Villagers") EVER get a clue?

Posted by: Digger2 | February 19, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

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