Sometimes I think we’d have a better political press corps if the Clintons had never come to Washington and driven them all out of their collective minds.
In a typical bit of backstage gossip that reporters Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman no doubt thinks is another fine example of a “legitimate scouring of her record undertaken by responsible reporters” Politico wastes bandwidth to report that Hillary Clinton hates the Washington Press Corps.
Ok. Forget Politico. This is just Politico being Politico, trolling for page views, courting Drudge, paying back Republican sources, assuring themselves and the corporate lobbyists who buy them lunch they aren’t in the tank for Democrats.
But the fact is the Clintons, and Democrats in general, are terrible when it comes to handling the Press and that’s a failing. It’s got to be fixed. There are a number of reasons it’s always bad news for Democrats, but one of them is Democrats don’t go out of their way to put reporters in the mood to report any good news.
I know. They are trivial-minded, shallow people with colossal egos who think they know more about how the game’s played than any politician who ever was. They think it’s a game, period. And they’re not in it to be informed or to inform. They’re in it to entertain and be entertained.
Talk to them about numbers and their eyes cross. Try to engage them on the issues or explain policy and they yawn. Insist that any of it really matters, that people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake, and they sneer, they scoff, they essentially tell you to pull the other one. Then they follow up with a cynical question about the latest polls, which they haven’t actually studied because, you know, numbers, and go off to write a story that equates policy with strategy and is all about how it will play out in the elections, careful to give lots of space to the opinionizing of some Republican hack and to quote an anonymous “Democrat”or “friend” or “veteran of past campaigns” saying that you’ve got Democrats worried, confused, depressed, feeling bullied, feeling afraid, feeling defeated, or feeling just plain mad.
You want to tell them to go to hell and they deserve to be told to go to hell but you can’t tell them to go to hell because they will simply write story after story that in one way or another tell you to go to hell back.
You have to treat them as their vanity tell them they deserve.
This is not hard. Here’s how you deal with them.
Get them drunk on good booze.
Keep them drunk.
Feed them well.
Surround them with pretty young things.
Every now and then feed them bits of juicy gossip “off the record.”
Every now and then give them something really newsworthy “off the record.”
From time to time, take one or another of them aside to ask, “What do you think I should do about X?”
From time to time take one of them aside to say, “Great story you did on Y.”
Keep asking, “Can I freshen that drink for you?”
Even better, ask, “Can I have Allison/Jason freshen that drink for you?”
Never let on that you are smarter than they are.
More important, make sure Allison and Jason never let on that they are smarter than they are. No fifty year old Pulitzer Prize winner wants to be told a twenty-three year old political science major knows more than he does, especially because it’s probably true.