I read the CJR profile of Chris Cillizza, which is something you should definitely do as well, regardless of your opinion about the man he is (IMO unfortunately) a big shot, and it’s worth thinking about why. I wasn’t a fan before reading and I came out not a fan, though I will say that he seems like a decent guy who sadly doesn’t really have much talent for political reporting. I think his popularity exists because he turns politics into a shallow soap opera that we can all safely look down upon with superiority, which is an extremely dangerous attitude to foster if you want your democracy to remain a democracy. Shrill as it may be, not everything should be fodder for a joke, because joking about something is an implicit separation from and judgment upon it. Not that it should be a totally humorless thing either, but one needs to have the wisdom to know what to take seriously and what not to, and Cillizza just doesn’t. No point of view, in other words. This is what people liked about Jay Leno, I think, though Cillizza isn’t even as funny as Leno. Leno could write a joke with a punchline, not go “hrm, ok” as a response to stuff.

Also interesting to read that Richard Ben Cramer is his idol, and that they struck up a friendship. I generally liked What It Takes even though I felt it could have been trimmed a lot (I don’t care that much about Mike Dukakis’s college years, really not at all actually), but that book was the real deal in terms of nailing the psychology of the politician, and giving us some finely sketched characters. I’d never pondered the connection before this article but so much of what’s wrong about political journalism must come from that book, people without the perceptual gifts of Ben Cramer writing entirely about personality because policy is hard. I’m not sure if that’s the genesis of it, however, it could be a second-order influence via Cillizza.

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