This has been one of my overarching memes in the time I've been blogging here at Crooks & Liars (now in my fifth year, can you believe it?): THE WASHINGTON MEDIA IS CREATING NARRATIVES THAT SUIT THEIR PURPOSES AND RARELY EXIST OUTSIDE OF THE
October 10, 2010

This has been one of my overarching memes in the time I've been blogging here at Crooks & Liars (now in my fifth year, can you believe it?): THE WASHINGTON MEDIA IS CREATING NARRATIVES THAT SUIT THEIR PURPOSES AND RARELY EXIST OUTSIDE OF THE BELTWAY. One must always question conventional wisdom that comes out of the Washington bobbleheads because it is neither conventional nor is it but rarely wisdom.

Joe Klein, a man who rather likes his comfy niche in the Beltway, discovered that himself on a cross-country trip to talk to those outside the DC Cocktail Clique.

I talked to dozens of politicians running for office and hundreds of voters. The voters were, with few exceptions, more eloquent and unpredictable — and, of course, candid — than the politicians. They tended to be extremely frustrated with the national conversation as presented by the news media. They tended to be more anxious than angry — although the infuriated, fist-shaking third of the electorate, the Tea Party cohort, seemed a far more powerful and immediate presence in people's minds than the President of the United States or his party. Republicans seemed more talkative than Democrats, and more precise about their solutions: lower taxes and less spending. "People say to me, 'I don't like the Democrats because I don't know what they stand for,' " said Lisa Urias, a Latina businesswoman in Phoenix. "I tell them, 'I hate the Republicans because I know exactly what they stand for.' "

I found the same themes dominant everywhere — a rethinking of basic assumptions, a moment of national introspection. There was a unanimous sense that Washington was broken beyond repair. But the disgraceful behavior of the financial community, and its debilitating effects on the American economy over the past 30 years, was the issue that raised the most passion, by far, in the middle of the country. Many Americans also were confused and frustrated by the constant state of war since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But for every occasion they raised Afghanistan, they mentioned China 25 times; economics completely trumped terrorism as a matter of concern.

Just think what might have happened had Joe Klein been brave enough to venture into more urban areas, where joblessness is even higher and more and more of the safety nets are being stripped away or threatened. Peggy Noonan, of the pursed lips and condescending attitude, assures us that this is because Obama is so out of touch with the American voter, but still concedes that the Republicans offer no greater appeal to voters either.

While Noonan is eager to keep her self-appointed title of grand doyenne of the fashionable Republican set, the truth lies right there in Klein's reporting, as much as he could grasp that differed from his own media bias. What they report on is not of concern to most Americans. We aren't focusing on socialism, Marxism, deficit spending, tea parties and the like. They don't impact most Americans for as much as they media love to discuss them. We're not thinking about who will be the Vice Presidential running mate for Obama in 2012 or which of the myriad of politicos will be the Republican challenger. We don't care, no matter how many times the media tries to make us care.

We ARE angry. We are feeling unstable, on dangerous ground and nervous about the future. But much of that anger also comes from feeling that the media isn't listening to us or caring about our concerns. How many of those 99ers stressing about falling off the unemployment rolls would like to see a little socialism in this country to help them as they struggle with years of being unable to find a job? How many are wondering how much longer we're going to send jobs to China only to have products returned to us filled with poisons or heavy metals that could kill us? How many parents are wondering how many deployments their child will have to go through (one of the service members in this week's In Memoriam post has been on TWELVE deployments) before they can go home and attempt a semblance of a normal life again?

But these aren't the stories that we see on Sundays, or any other day of the Washington news cycle. And Joe Klein just got a taste of it...what will it take to wake up more of them?

Transcripts below the fold:

Transcripts below the fold

MS. NOONAN: One of the things that turns off people about politics is that it can be so negative, so personal. They know as they look at their own lives, anything they did could be made into something huge, negative and bad if it were turned into a 60-second spot. And a lot of people running for office this year do not want to talk about issues or do not want to talk about their past stands on issues, and so they’re just pounding each other personally. He lied, she lied, he did this. It lowers everything and is not fortunate during a crisis.

MR. KLEIN: It does, yeah. It seem...

MR. GREGORY: Does Obama help him, though, here? He’s, he’s really been aggressive in campaigning. Is there an Obama effect in Illinois?

MR. KLEIN: Well, Obama’s—listen, I, I was in Kirk’s old district during this road trip, and Obama has like 60 percent--59, 60 percent approval in that district, a—you know, a district that’s gone for Republicans in the past. Obama’s still very popular in, in Illinois.

But I want to pick up on what, what Peggy said. And the amazing thing to me about this debate is how much it is at variance with the way people are actually feeling in this country.
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MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. KLEIN: They are freaked out, they’re panicked. They’re really scared that the jobs that we’ve lost are not coming back this time, and that their kids won’t live as well as they have. And instead of this kind of tit-for-tat political stuff that you see in all the negative ads, they want to hear real ideas about how we’re, how we’re going to rebuild the economy.

MR. GREGORY: To that point, here—the cover piece I just mentioned. This is a portion of it that, that I thought was so interesting. You write this: “I found the same themes dominant everywhere—a rethinking of basic assumptions, a moment of national introspection. There was a unanimous sense that Washington was broken beyond repair,” which I just want to underline. “But the disgraceful behavior of the financial community, and its debilitating effects on the American economy over the past 30 years, was the issue that raised the most passion, by far, in the middle of the country.” It’s as if to say Americans are saying, who do we trust now?

MR. KLEIN: Right, exactly. I mean, the investment community, people are putting two and two together. The same people who did the mergers and acquisitions that led to a lot of these jobs being shipped overseas are the—then turned their attention to the housing market and began giving, with the help of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, these mortgages to people who shouldn’t have gotten them and then created these crazy financial products, made a gazillion dollars off them, and then the—and, and caused the crash of 2008.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. KLEIN: So people are looking at the financial community, they’re looking at China, and they’re not seeing the president of the United States or the Republicans really talking about this.

MS. NOONAN: So true.

MR. GREGORY: And, Peggy, to that point, I mean, you, you have—look, you’ve got some populism, you’ve got the tea party, you’ve got Christine O’Donnell. Some of these candidates come out of a place of deep economic anxiety that could be prolonged. I mean, there could be a real effect on our politics of prolonged unemployment and economic malaise.

MS. NOONAN: Yeah, there could. Look, I think—Joe and I were talking before we came out—the biggest change politically in my entire lifetime is the fact that the American people now no longer feel that they will be handing on to their country a stronger, better place where their kids will get a job and their kids can get a house. The—I wouldn’t call it pessimism, but a new sober, almost sadness is out there...


MS. NOONAN: ...and I think in part is shaping things. Nobody expects the kind of economic growth that we are going to need to produce enough jobs not only for everybody to keep their job, but for young people coming up, the new people, to keep these jobs.
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MR. GREGORY: And you write—in the, in the preface to the new book you talk about Reagan and that sense of optimism and belief in the future.


MR. GREGORY: And our, our recent poll indicated that what’s really tough is not only that so many people are out of work, they don’t have much faith in the president’s policies to turn things around. That is kind of a death knell for a political party or for a president.

MS. NOONAN: Yes. And I think part of what’s coming in just a few weeks in November is, is probably a rebuke...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. NOONAN: ...of our current leadership, and I, and I think that might be fairly severe. But the larger issue is that I don’t think the American people look at Washington and see people who, A, can know what needs to be done; and B, can actually summon the will and grit to do it. They don’t see that leadership...

MR. KLEIN: That’s right.

MS. NOONAN: likely, and so they are frustrated because, you know, they hire leaders to make things better. And now they don’t feel, whoever they hire, it’ll get better.

MR. GREGORY: What, what is the dominant feeling or sentiment you hear expressed out there about the president himself?

MR. KLEIN: Well, I didn’t go through the deep South where—which is very red, and I also didn’t go into urban neighborhoods, which are very blue. I went down diagonally across the center part...

MR. GREGORY: Right. We have the map we can show, actually, of your travels.
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MR. KLEIN: Oh, really?

MR. GREGORY: Yes, yes.

MR. KLEIN: I like—do I want to remember this? But anyway, people respect him. You don’t see the fist-shaking anger that you often see on cable news. Certainly, there’s some Obama haters out there. Most people respect him, but they don’t quite admire him. He’s floating over this debate in an—you know, and, and doesn’t seem to be part of the things that people are most concerned about. They don’t understand what’s in the health reform legislation, they don’t understand what’s in the financial reform regulation. They’re beginning to see the stimulus in a different way because you can’t drive 30 miles in this country without hitting a road crew. And they’re feeling a little bit better about the auto bailout. But they feel that the big issues that we’re talking about here—the jobs being expressed overseas, China—they haven’t heard from him. For every time someone mentioned Afghanistan, the war in Afghanistan, which is an issue I’ve been obsessed with, they mentioned China 25 times.


MS. NOONAN: Can I say...


MS. NOONAN: ...that I, I think the issue, the way I would put it with regard to the president, is a certain off-pointness. The country has consistently be—been talking about and thinking about A, B, and C, and he’s on some other letters of the alphabet. And even when he comes forward, I think the past week when he is on the stump, the issues that he’s speaking of seem extraneous to the central issues and anxieties.

MR. GREGORY: But, but is there a confidence, though, Peggy, is there confidence in the Republican Party?


MR. GREGORY: In other words, the frustration I hear is...

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MR. GREGORY: Right, that we don’t see it now.

MS. NOONAN: No, I got to tell you...


MS. NOONAN:’s part of the sadness.

MR. GREGORY: But the frustration I hear is that we don’t have people in Washington who are real problem solvers, who are willing to speak like adults to other adults and say this is what has to happen.


MR. KLEIN: That’s right.

MS. NOONAN: I think, look, the rise of the tea party, the great cliche we’ve all been talking about, is very interesting, very evolving, very changing. But its most interesting element is that it is not only a reaction to Democratic Party leadership, it is a critique of the past 10 years of Republican leadership.

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