The inimitable Fred Reed spends two weeks in our nation's capital. He analyzes those who live and work there . . . and finds them wanting.
Gangrene of what was once an occasionally honest journalism has certainly occurred. The hostility of the media to Trump was absolute. Having spent decades in the trenches with Washington’s scribblers I am hardly inclined to senior-civics fairy-tale expectations of truth. Still, this was something new. Rachel Maddow, railing against Trump. Some other panel show, railing against Trump. Another called Hardball, railing against Trump. Minor talking heads, headlets if you will, using highly prejudicial wording: Trumps wants to “gut” Obamacare.
It is a lynch mob. In two weeks I saw not the slightest attempt at impartiality.
The customary arrogance of the Beltway Bubble runs strong. The city seems isolated from the rest of existence. It talks to itself about itself and isn’t particularly aware of the rest of the world. (“The Bubble” is shorthand for New York, DC, and Hollywood, the tripartite beating heart of political correctness.)
The city obsesses over twaddle about Russian malignity, over who grabbed whose ass, and transgender bathrooms. I heard nothing of the roiling currents of growth and change in Asia, of the incipient onslaught of new Asian airliners, the BRI, and de-dollarization. The focus on trivia seemed almost adolescent.
A disdain for the rest of the country, nonexistent twenty years ago, now flourishes. It is a virulent snobbishness of class and region. “Flyover land” is the most common name for the rest of America. Hillary made the scorn explicit with her Deplorables, but it shows in casual conversation in which people here speak of Mississippi and Arkansas as “the middle of nowhere.”
This is a different country.
. . .
Washington is fascinated by Washington, by Congress and the Supreme Court and some of the bureaucracy. It has little interest in the rest of the country or the rest of the world. Or knowledge of it. A friend familiar with the Congress bets that ninety percent of the Senate don’t know where Burma is. A member of Congress I know told me of going to Thailand with another member who kept confusing it with Taiwan. This is crazy. But it is Washington.
The city has become a Gotcha polity in which the media look for any actionable “gaffe” as they say, or a “slur,” and then pile on to the malefactor. The preferred sins are racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism. The miscreant is expected to squirm like a puppy that has wet the rug, apologize profusely, and beg forgiveness. Trump didn’t. It galls the city.
. . .
Finally, methinks the Byzantine Kindergarten has badly underestimated the influence of internet. Among the many intelligent people I know (a fair few, eeeeeek! supporters of trump) the Net has become primary, the media secondary. When the New York Times says something nauseatingly PC, well-informed rebuttals surge across the Web. People on the Net, not constrained by political correctness, can speak of the many topics forbidden in Washington.
There's more at the link.
I'm struck by the resemblance of contemporary Washington D.C., as described by Mr. Reed, to Paris in the period preceding the French Revolution in 1789. It was said by some observers during and immediately following that uprising that the Palace of Versailles, seat of King Louis XVI's government, was a "glass house" or a "hothouse", filled with its own concerns, governing an imaginary country that it had concocted for itself in its own collective imagination, but bearing little relation to the real France outside its gardens and hedges, or the needs of its people. The Court was so out of touch with reality that the uproar in the Estates General caught it off-guard. It lost control of events, and never managed to regain it.
I was even more forcibly reminded of that resemblance by newly-elected Senator Mitt Romney's comments about President Trump in the Washington Post a few days ago. The Senator seems to be completely out of touch with the mood of much of the country outside the political and financial elites within which he's moved and lived all his life. His concerns are not those of Mr. and Mrs. Average American. He's an American aristocrat, an enormously wealthy man who's always moved in the circles of Wall Street and Big Business. His views represent them, not the man in the street, and I daresay much of his work in the Senate will be on their behalf, rather than for the people who elected him. I can't help comparing him to the hapless Calonne in pre-revolutionary France.
More and more, I get the feeling that events are overtaking our political class. They're fiddling while Rome burns. Our economy (as we'll discuss later this morning) is in anything but good shape, but neither major political party seems interested in that reality, or in doing anything constructive about it. They're too busy arguing among themselves, and dividing the spoils of power in Washington. Trouble is, unless they start paying attention to reality, those spoils may not be worth having . . .