Pox on Both Houses is Bad Both for Politics & for Journalism


  1. a :  the art or science of government
    :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
    :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government


  1. a :  the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media
    b :  the public press
    c :  an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium

I loved this Twitter exchange between Ron Fournier and Matt Lewis:

Matt had written a well-crafted rebuttal (No Moral Equivalence On Benghazi) to Ron’s rather trollish National Journal piece (Everyone’s Lying to You About Benghazi, which I responded to here: Who’s the One Making Stuff Up Here?) on the politicization of the Benghazi scandal.

This is a growing theme in Ron’s messaging.

And one that deeply offends me.

I like Matt’s response:

Matt Lewis croppedThis exchange all occurred out of my sight. I came across it just now as I was looking for another of Matt’s tweets in prep for this post.

To me, Ron sort of encapsulates his thinking in this area in a very helpful way.

Unfortunately I don’t think his Pox on Both Houses approach and attitude is helpful at all, either in politics or in journalism.


Because it’s either the result of an absolutely unattainable idealism, or a crushing and toxic cynicism about governance and persuasion.

Or both.

I’ve talked about this in Ron’s writing (and tweeting) before.

Here’s a bit of it:

As I imagined this post in my head, I was wishing Madison were still alive and that he were tweeting.

He’s not, though he did leave us this:

It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

—James Madison, Federalist 51

Why I think this is important (and why I keep bugging Ron about this)

Progressives—including Ron Fournier—build their whole theory of governance on the idea of perfectibility (or, in Ron’s case, denying the repercussions) of mankind’s fallenness.

Their programs are designed with complete faith that men and women of total and incorruptible good will exist and that someone will be in place to make the thing run well and accomplish its stated purpose without fail or favor.

Frankly, as Madison acknowledged—and, not coincidentally, built our constitutional structure on—men are destined to fail from their own blindness, limitations, and personal and party ambitions.

So when conservatives encounter a Ron Fournier disappointment in races “to the bottom,” we are puzzled by his evident surprise.

We know people fail and we’ve taken it into account in our political philosophy and governing (and non-governing) recommendations.

We are not disillusioned in the least by the frequent need to choose the lesser of evils.

The Pox on Both Houses approach is bad for politics

It both poisons the well for discussion and obfuscates the mistakes and deceptions of the people in charge.

Folks we need to be holding accountable.

Folks the press is supposed to be helping us hold accountable.

Instead, we have a well-thought-out article clearly showing the culpability of this administration both in execution of it foreign policy and then in the continued cover-up of its failures.

And then we see that, well, Republicans have done some bad things too.

In his own piece that he refers to here, Matt effectively rebuts Ron on the basis of false equivalence, temporarily setting aside any factual rebuttals to Ron’s case.

That night, having read both pieces, but unaware of this Twitter conversation, I wrote my own rebuttal, in which I demonstrated that the stand-down charge was not a product of some depraved GOP brain trust, but came from direct, sworn testimony before a duly-constituted Congressional committee.

The idea that Issa and Republicans lied (which, as I demonstrated, is itself a lie) about the stand down is one of two “outrages” Ron cites in counterbalancing White House culpability with Republican abuses.

The other is something Matt deals with in a follow-up:

Matt Lewis, Daily Caller: The Case For Fundraising Off Benghazi

What is the nobility of politics if it’s not about righting a wrong, or exposing a wrongdoing? And how can this be done without launching a campaign? And how can that be done without money? One man’s unseemly witch-hunt is another man’s purpose-driven cause to expose the truth.

In my estimation, one big factor, in terms of appropriateness, has much to do with timing. In the immediate wake of a tragedy, your first thought shouldn’t be about politics, but about the victims. What is more, for a time, the victims and the public are in a state of shock, and are thus vulnerable to emotional manipulation. So trying to pass an anti-gun law five minutes after a tragic shooting is problematic not only because it immediately turns to politics, but also because it’s exploitive. The goal is to pass a law based on the emotional zeitgeist — which might not have passed in a more sober, less emotional, moment.

That, of course, is not the case with Benghazi. We are going on two years, and it now belongs to the ages. If the GOP decides that it wants to make uncovering what went on there — as well as the potential cover-up — a primary objective, is that not a legitimate project? Barack Obama arguably became president based on his opposition to the Iraq War. Was he exploiting the people who died for the liberation of Iraq, or was he taking a legitimate political stance on one of the defining questions of our time? Possibly, the answer is both.

There’s much more and it’s all good (read the rest here).

Ron’s whole indictment of Republican misbehavior was taken down thoroughly and pretty quickly.

But he hasn’t admitted it.

The Pox on Both Houses approach is also bad for journalism

In my previous post I challenged Ron with the idea that there aren’t just two houses vulnerable to various poxes,

As a journalist, he operates out of his house—the press—and the people in that house, in my estimation, are the most guilty of all.

You notice Ron left out one important charge against the administration: Clinton in front of the caskets.

And he left unanswered the question I kept having as I read his article: Where was the press when the White House was stonewalling?

The simple truth?

I think they hoped it would all go away.

Now that it hasn’t,

False equivalence is the way of escape for those who can’t deal with the failings of those they align with.

And a way to keep from pointing at the culpability within their own house.

It’s not working in this case.

Too many people can read.

Pox on Both Houses is a pox on journalism because it prevents journalists from bringing the one thing that justifies their profession:




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