Last week the Beltway media kicked off ScandalFest 2013, their periodic celebration of talking point transcription and self-righteousness disguised as investigative journalism. (More)

ScandalFest 2013 and Media Responsibility

Salon‘s Joan Walsh saw it coming on Monday:

The National Journal’s Ron Fournier tweeted “Welcome to the 90s,” with no apparent irony or self-awareness about the role of the media in ginning up that decade of phony scandals that paralyzed our last popular second-term Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

In fact, Fournier contends Benghazi will hurt Clinton and President Obama, even though he acknowledges the GOP’s claims are overblown. “If nothing else, Benghazi is a blow to the credibility of the president and his potential successor, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. This could be big … Credibility is Clinton’s vulnerability, dating to the unjustified financial accusations that triggered the Whitewater investigation. Doubts persisted about her veracity and authenticity throughout the 2008 presidential campaign.”

“A good old-fashioned Washington pile-on”

As Walsh notes, Fournier claiming that “Credibility is Clinton’s vulnerability” and citing as proof “the unjustified financial accusations that triggered the Whitewater investigation” is a jaw-dropping case of media irresponsibility. If the charges were “unjustified,” then Hillary Clinton’s credibility should not be a “vulnerability” … unless you buy into the Beltway media meme of Where There’s Republican Smoke, There’s Democratic Fire.

And the Beltway media have bought into that hook, line, and sinker, as POLITICO‘s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei gleefully admitted yesterday:

The town is turning on President Obama – and this is very bad news for this White House.

Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama – and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.

Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on – so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.

The Washington Monthly‘s Ed Kilgore does an admirable job of puncturing this self-interest and self-righteousness masquerading as investigative journalism, concluding:

On this particular occasion, Harris and VandeHei come so close to self-parody that every sentence is like a pinata you could hit from any direction. But make no mistake: this is a declaration of war by elements of the Beltway Media who are determined to show us all they still have the power to “bring down a president,” as they arrogantly used to say about Watergate, and that not only the GOP but the Breitbartian wingnuts have a new ally in the “Vetting” of Barack Obama.

“Their town”

Perhaps you think Washington D.C. is our nation’s capital, a city dedicated to We the People, the living expression of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But the Beltway elite disagree, as Digby pointedly writes:

But this particular community happens to be in the nation’s capital. And the people in it are the so-called Beltway Insiders – the high-level members of Congress, policymakers, lawyers, military brass, diplomats and journalists who have a proprietary interest in Washington and identify with it.

They call the capital city their “town.”

The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent echoes the point:

The claim that the press now has “every incentive” to be “ruthless” is fascinating, and worth unpacking. Why, exactly, is it more in reporters’ interests to be more aggressive in its coverage of Obama right now than it was before? Easy. Now that “the town” has turned on Obama, being as aggressive as possible in going after him will lead to accolades among media colleagues and ingratiate you with sources, including even Congressional Democrats who will presumably now distance themselves from the White House, in the knowledge that “the town” has decided the President is in political trouble.

So if you’re wondering why children being kicked out of Head Start, seniors losing Meals on Wheels, cancer patients seeing treatment delayed, and the myriad other hardships inflicted by the sequester can’t get fixed, while Congress jumped to eliminate airline flight delays before flying home for their spring recess and the media ignore our falling deficit to salivate over ScandalFest … the answer is simple.

Washington D.C. is “their town.” Not ours.

“These are not folks you piss off”

That’s also why the Beltway media are frothing over the discovery that the Department of Justice subpoenaed telephone records for 20 lines at the Associated Press, who last June published a story based on leaked information that forced Britain’s MI-5 to sneak their Al Qaeda double-agent out of Yemen. Attorney General Eric Holder recused himself from the leak investigation because the FBI had called him as a witness, but yesterday he defended the investigation:

But Holder did not hesitate to defend a decision he said he did not make: to subpoena two months’ worth of telephone records from more than 20 Associated Press telephone lines. He said American lives had been endangered by the disclosure.

It was “a very, very serious leak,” Holder said. “It put American lives at risk, and that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk.”

But who cares about an Al Qaeda double-agent, or whether other sources were compromised. Certainly not Ron Fournier, who warned Attorney General Holder not to upset AP reporters:

As the Beltway media see it, government exists not to protect and serve We the People, but as a locus for inside sources who provide them with juicy gossip. This, they claim, is “investigative journalism.” By the same Beltway media who blithely reported doctored Benghazi emails without fact-checking them. The same Beltway media who say – with no apparent sense of irony or self-awareness – that “unjustified accusations” prove “credibility is Clinton’s vulnerability.”

Because it’s “their town.” Not ours. And they’re determined to celebrate ScandalFest, the rest of us bedamned.

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Happy Thursday!