January 19, 2014

After Steve Kornacki's blockbuster scoop about Hoboken's shakedown for Sandy funds, pundits went into overdrive.

Less than an hour after Kornacki's report, he hosted a panel which included a long-time New Jersey journalist and Baruch College instructor. To my amazement, both downplayed the quid pro quo demand by Christie's Lieutenant Governor as "typical politics." Both also downplayed the suggestion that such politics might be corrupt.

Sunday morning, Candy Crowley carried the torch for "politics as usual" on her show. Using talking points provided by Governor Christie's office, Crowley proceeded to try and paint Mayor Dawn Zimmer as somehow naive about how politics works.

"Why are you here now?" Crowley asked. "We have seen you say in a tweet that you're so glad Chris Christie is our governor. So, can you square that for me? Because coming at this point, what the Chris Christie office says, this is just politics."

Meet the Press went the same way, with David Gregory carrying water while interviewing factually challenged Rudy "911" Giuliani.

Otherwise, viewers were left with the impression that quid pro quo politics which includes holding up federal funds for disaster relief to citizens is considered "politics as usual."

The danger of groupthink, writ large right there. Why didn't pundits challenge that claim rather than echoing it?

My theory goes two ways. First, they don't challenge it because they're invested in having Christie rehabilitated in time for 2016. That's certainly a possibility.

But I think the second reason is probably more likely. When a group of people -- journalists or otherwise -- become desensitized to things ordinary people find abhorrent, they stop being objective. I don't know very many people who would willingly agree that leveraging disaster relief funds in exchange for preferred zoning is simply the business of political gladhanding.

It is as if we should simply accept that which our gut rejects because the pundits say so, and the more they say it, the more we're compelled to believe it.

Contrast Crowley, Gregory and the rest with MSNBC Reporter Dafna Linzer's remarks at the end of this video, which also has the remarkable comments by Brian Murphy and Michael Aron I referred to in the beginning of this post. You have to watch through to the end to catch them, but Linzer is the only one on the panel who actually sees this through a clear lens.

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