New York Times reporter highlights broken political system in lecture - Montana Kaimin: News

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New York Times reporter highlights broken political system in lecture

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Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 1:21 am

The rise of political self-obsession on Capitol Hill in the last 20 years is hurting our country according to Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine. Leibovich gave a talk on campus as part of the President’s Lecture Series on Wednesday afternoon.

The rise of political self-obsession on Capitol Hill in the last 20 years is hurting our country according to Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine. Leibovich gave a talk on campus as part of the President’s Lecture Series on Wednesday afternoon. 

“One of the greatest things about D.C. these days is the opportunity to leave D.C.,” Leibovich joked with a crowd in the Gallagher Business Building. “Washington has evolved from this government of public service to a government of self-service.”

As a political journalist in Washington, D.C., Leibovich brings personal insight to the inner workings of our nation’s capital. His book “This Town” highlights what he calls a “broken system” in federal politics: An exclusive club based on money and self-promotion.

When Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet the Press” died in 2008, Leibovich witnessed the renowned television journalist’s funeral descend into a circus of political self-promotion and “enough about me” eulogies. He said watching “the club” operate at a funeral finally gave him the motivation to write a book about self-servicing lawmakers in D.C. and what can be done about it. 

“Washington has reached a tipping point of self-celebration,” Leibovich said. “Some (politicians) have done some spectacular public service, but they’re all part of this club.”

Leibovich highlighted the rise in the number of politicians who remain in the capital after their terms in office. He said 47 percent more politicians stay in D.C. after their political terms than in 1974. Politicians in today’s age gain connections they use to transition into high-paying careers in lobbying or public speaking.

The relatively new dynamic of big money for ex-politicians created an “insider club” of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, obsessed with building and protecting a certain image, Leibovich said. 

“The question used to be, ‘How can I use public service to give back to the community?’” he said. “Now, it’s ‘What can (I) do to further (my) career?’”

The media provides the fuel necessary for this new order of self-seeking politicians, Leibovich said. He claims a journalistic takedown like Watergate could never happen in modern times, where journalists are often more focused on Facebook statuses and Twitter followers. He said most modern consumers have no interest in reading a 5,000-word feature

A new strategy among newspapers is to blur the lines between hard news and opinion columns on the front page, he said. Most readers want more of a feature-sounding voice to big news, he said.

Leibovich claimed that by giving the consumers what they want, the media often gives incredible amounts of airtime to anyone who is standing out.

“We’re in an environment where if you get attention, that’s your currency,” Leibovich said. As an example, he used Sen. Ted Cruz, whose filibuster on the Affordable Care Act increased C-SPAN’s viewership by 400 percent.

There is still cause for hope in D.C., Leibovich said. Many politicians are honest and hard-working individuals, and people are “more complicated” than just  “corrupt or righteous,” he said. The general public needs to acknowledge the federal system is broken and must be fixed, he said.

Leibovich said most of his book’s criticisms were not factual disputes, but rather a collective “How dare you?” from those in “the club.” 

“I’ve been told I’m a hatchet man, but I have a good heart,” Leibovtiz said. “I guess I take that as a compliment.” 



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