In the Arena

Broder: The Blogosphere Strikes Back

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I’m so pleased to have received the coveted wanker of the day award from Atrios, whose civility knows no bounds. But slightly disappointed in the Matt Yglesias post that Atrios links to, since Yglesias does have a reputation for substance over slime.
And then there’s this from a reader:

Exactly what “little people” does Broder talk to? The scorn that is heaped upon him by the blogosphere is warranted most of the time. Do you read his columns? Or do you let a friendship get in the way of objectivity? Did Broder get out there and talk to any of the marchers in the anti-war protest?

To which I reply:

1.) I’ve not always agreed with Broder, especially during the Clinton years. I always believed, and wrote, that the Republican impeachment fantasia was doing far greater damage to the Republic than Clinton’s embarrassing self-indulgence, which harmed the rest of us not at all (except for the work Clinton might have gotten done). That’s why I wrote the book that Yglesias cites–to remind people about what the Clinton administration actually accomplished during its two terms in office. Other readers have posited that I don’t like the Clintons, which is hilarious after 15 years of being accused, by the left and the right, of being a shill for them. To set the record straight: I like both Clintons personally. I respect their utter seriousness about governance and policy. I often agree with them, but I reserve the right to disagree–almost always on matters of substance–when I do disagree.
2) Whom does Broder talk to? The reader’s right–not antiwar protesters (and not the pro-life protesters who came to the mall last week, either), although he certainly has done so in the past. No, what I most like about Broder as a reporter is that he has taken pains over the years to talk at length with the sort of people who don’t go to protests, and even to folks who don’t go to political meetings in Iowa and New Hampshire. He’ll actually go door to door, or convene a group of neighbors, to find out what’s important to them. This informs the questions that he asks the candidates, and I must say he’s done it in an entirely fair way over the years, even when I’ve disagreed with his judgments.
3. To answer Matt: A Senate hearing is a place to ask questions, not make speeches. Since Senator Clinton has made herself one of the best-informed Democrats on military policy, especially counterinsurgency, I do believe her questions might have illuminated how difficult the belated use of these tactics will be. Finally, Matt avoids responding to the real point here–I’m really interested in the quality of questions Hillary, and all the other candidates, will ask as President. A Senate hearing is the perfect place to demonstrate she has perhaps the most essential skills a President can have–intellectual curiosity and the ability to ask the right questions.