Each year we’re subjected to the spectacle of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner where the elite Washington press corps rubs our noses in the fact that we live in a plutocracy. The blow-dried crème de la crème of our vapid infotainment universe gather in an exclusive hotel banquet room, put aside their roles as “journalists,” and party down with members of the Beltway power structure who are not only the “sources” for their “exclusive stories,” but also for their status and personal fortunes. For one day each year they really show their gratitude.
In good times and in bad, this lavish annual schmooze-fest brings together Beltway pundits, talking heads, news anchors, and TV hosts for a night of drinking, “dancing,” laughing, yucking it up, and generally carrying on like the powerful millionaires’ club that it is. A few years ago at a similar event David Gregory of NBC’s “Meet the Press” was on stage getting “jiggy” with Karl Rove in an impromptu dance session where Rove called himself “MC Rove”; it was a sight worthy of poking your own eyes out with an ice pick.
These elite journalistic hacks who value “access” to their “sources” above everything else have nothing to celebrate. They failed the nation in recent years by completely missing the two biggest, most important stories that will continue to affect gravely the United States well into the 21st Century: The set of official lies about the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq that drove the nation into a $3 trillion war; and the financial meltdown that sapped 11 million jobs and $8 trillion from the U.S. economy.
Despite all of their close ties to Washington officialdom, and all their sacred “access” to “inside sources,” and despite their ability, like Bob Woodward, to construct “fly on the wall” narratives about the inner workings of the Bush White House and the National Security Council, they failed at the moment when their fellow citizens needed them the most to do their jobs.
The manner in which White House correspondents and the Washington press corps reported on the run up to the war in Iraq — where they repeated the official lies about WMD to the point of “conventional wisdom,” and then cheered on the war and relished in Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo-op (the seventh anniversary of which happens to fall on the same day as this year’s correspondents’ dinner) — will be forever known as one of the worst collective journalistic performances in American history. This duplicity on the part of the press has cost the lives of 4,500 Americans and at least 200,000 Iraqis.
They also stood by passively as the Bush Administration systematically dismantled what was left of the regulatory institutions charged with overseeing the financial services sector. They said nothing when Bush appointed Christopher Cox, a financial industry hack, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. And they were too busy fawning over “the Oracle” Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben Bernanke, to ask them any tough questions about the explosion in house prices that had nothing to do with supply and demand but everything to do with the orgy of predatory mortgage lending. They willfully ignored an avalanche of data streaming from outside the Beltway that people were losing their homes due to chicanery written into the loans that reckless banks hooked them into, such as Washington Mutual, which became the biggest bank failure in American history. The press was too busy celebrating the “ownership society,” as David Brooks called it, to do any actual reporting on it.
And these “journalists” are now patting themselves on the back with a stately dinner tonight for totally botching the biggest economic story since the Great Depression? While they’re putting on their evening gowns and black ties will any of these people take a moment to reflect about just how monumental was their collective failure? With whom is David Gregory going to get “jiggy” tonight? Wolf Blitzer? Rahm Emanuel? Larry Summers? Where the country is today there is nothing to celebrate.