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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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”