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I wrote an item earlier this year about the journalistic practice of the “beat sweetener,” namely writing fawning profiles of top political officials in the hopes of currying favor for future stories. I dubbed as “the most egregious beat sweetener of the Obama years” a profile of Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff, by Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post.
“The story was one of those classic Washington suck-up pieces that get written about political operatives dating back to Lee Atwater, through James Carville and Karl Rove, and continuing with Rahm Emanuel, which invariably attributes near superhuman powers to these partisan functionaries,” I wrote at the time. “Kornblut’s piece on Messina cited a series of friendly sources raving about Messina’s genius and even credited him with single-handedly bringing down the Bush Administration.” The title of the story: “For Obama’s Political Knots, He’s the ‘Fixer’,” which became the standard narrative of almost every journalistic account of Messina.
But now Messina has stepped in it, as senior officials will predictably do from time to time, and the media is, just as predictably, shooting down the image of Messina that it previously helped construct. Viz, this story from Politico, which ran last Friday:
Jim Messina is usually the one who has to clean up a mess at the Obama White House, not the one who makes it.
But the disclosure this week that Messina, a deputy White House chief of staff, presented three government job opportunities to try to convince a potential Senate candidate to drop a Democratic primary challenge in Colorado is fueling a Republican effort to tarnish President Barack Obama’s image as a political reformer.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”