Friday, October 18, 2013

A Most Important Lesson

Even as many Americans begin their preparations for the weekend today, scores of politicians and many of our media colleagues are already ramping up for the next round of budget battles in DC.

It's ironic, really. After Wednesday's 'Come To Jesus' moment by moderate Republicans in Congress, many of our colleagues in political media are still excitedly talking about all the lessons the Republican Party has yet to learn from their devastating defeat dealt to them by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Yet many of our more tightly wound colleagues seem to have missed one of the most important lessons in life themselves - a lesson that this week's displays by right-wing extremists should have taught moderate Republicans as well as members of the political media.

Indeed, many people we know outside the media business are getting ready for a weekend of relaxing autumn festivals, catching up on sports or television shows, or visiting with some old friends. In short, when people can, folks outside of our business are getting ready to have a day or two off.

Even on our own staff, discussion of a commentary piece by Ezra Klein from Thursday - one that gives a completely wrongheaded assessment about what the Democrats in Congress should do next - drove more chatter than it should for a beautiful autumn Friday.

While we might decide to address that issue on Monday, the fact is, even we forgot - for a moment - the lesson that the right-wing extremists should have taught everyone who's been paying attention.

Indeed, some of our conservative colleagues in the media reminded us of that lesson this week, specifically Robert Costa of National Review Online and CNBC, and Dave Weigel of Slate.

For years, Weigel has been one of our go-to sources for sane takes on what the insane right thinks. His snark is a turn-off to some people, though some of our staff finds that snark gives the perfect amount of bite to stories that otherwise might be a bit too heavy. If you're not already following Weigel on Twitter, we recommend heavily that you do so today.

Even as Weigel is a master of the snark, Costa's work throughout this debt ceiling debacle has provided steady, even-handed, snark-free news reporting. Costa's view of what has been going on inside the Capitol, on the right and the far right, has been fantastically valuable to anyone who cares about truly honest journalism. As Erik Wemple at the Washington Post also noted on Thursday, if Fox News followed Costa's lead, they'd be in fabulous shape. Of course, Fox isn't really in the business of news. They're in television - which is to say, entertainment, not news.

The lesson both Weigel and Costa teach in how they report is the same lesson the extremists in the GOP also taught, in the inverse, this week.

That lesson is simple. If you want to get ahead in life, on a daily basis, there's really no reason to run around screaming your head off, and throwing it around at people. That's going too far, and usually only leads to people running away from you.

In short, if you really want to get ahead in life, you also have to know when to stop.