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June 13, 2008

David Broder Angrily Denounces People Named David Broder; "Journalism Is Being Destroyed By These Horrible Broders," Says Broder

Ken Silverstein of Harper's has discovered that Washington Post columnist David Broder has been spending time recently on the business lecture circuit. Among the groups to which he's spoken are the National Association of Manufacturers, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the American Council for Capital Formation, and an organization of health insurance companies.

As Silverstein points out, this is especially notable because Broder's spent years criticizing journalists who do this as being "greedy" and appearing to be "part of the establishment and therefore part of the problem." Silverstein has yet to receive a response from Broder about how much he's been paid for these speeches, although he did find that Broder seems to have received $12,000 for a 2006 talk.

And this behavior is nothing new from Broder. For decades his shtick has been to posture as an independent-minded guardian of the DC press corps' conscience, while engaging in exactly the kind of intellectually corrupt Washington insider-dom he publicly deplores. In fact, he's so shameless it almost makes you feel bad for everyone there with him in the DC muck. They may be all be whores, but Broder—whenever he's on break from servicing the clientele—makes the rest of the hookers listen to pious sermons about the evils of prostitution.*

What's unclear is whether Broder is deeply devious, or suffers from the kind of anti-self awareness usually associated only with severe brain damage. Perhaps it's the latter, and he believes those nice gentlemen are leaving the envelopes of cash on the dresser because he and they share a deep emotional connection.

Whatever the case, here's a little-known but especially hilarious example of Broder at his most Broder-iffic.

Back in November, 1988, the National Press Club gave Broder a "Fourth Estate Award" at a fancy black-tie dinner. The Washington Post reprinted Broder's speech:

BRODER: The redeeming virtue of the press I've known and been part of is its orneriness -- its sense of apartness -- its insistence on going its own way. Especially its determination to keep its distance from government, not only to avoid censorship, but to avoid co-optation. Subversion by seduction. The insidious inhibition of intimacy...

There's a real danger in blurring the line between politicians and journalists, in letting ourselves become androgynous Washington Insiders, all of us seeking and wielding influence in our own ways. The people know what to do with politicians who displease them: They can always vote them out of office. They have no such recourse against us in the press. And if they see us as part of a power-wielding clique of Insiders, they're going to be resentful as hell that they have no way to call us to account...

Besides, I can't for the life of me fathom why any journalists would want to become Insiders, when it's so damn much fun to be outsiders -- irreverent, inquisitive, impudent, incorrigibly independent outsiders -- thumbing our nose at authority and going our own way.

This would be excruciating enough even if all you knew was that David Broder was a longtime columnist for the Post op-ed page...which is "independent" from the government in the same way sock puppets are "independent" from the hands inside them. It's worse if you're familiar with Broder's writing, which—in his determination to explain we're governed by honorable men who sometimes are forced to torture and kill due to an excess of good intentions—is as dangerous and stupefying as an overdose of anesthesia.

But it was Broder's audience that night twenty years ago that made his speech akin to a lecture on proper etiquette from Jeffrey Dahlmer. Who was the other main guest celebrating Broder's orneriness, independence, and determination to keep his distance from government? It was JAMES BAKER.

James Baker was then the incoming Secretary of State. Before that, he'd been George H.W. Bush's consigliere and Reagan's Treasury Secretary. After that, he was the guy who ran George W. Bush's Florida operation after the 2000 election. If you found the most inside of Washington insiders and then cut him open, hiding inside would be James Baker.

Here's how the Washington Post Style section described the scene that jolly evening, as Broder excoriated those journalists "seduced" by "the insidious inhibition of intimacy" while celebrating his own impudence and irreverence:

Baker even brought a little personal handwritten note from President-elect Bush to Broder, reminiscing about how "you've come a long way" since the time the Bushes, Broders, Bakers and others spent three weeks touring China together in 1977 in a kind of private bonding experience (Bush was between public jobs at the time) that they all remember fondly. Ann Broder and Susan Baker were there with their husbands last night.

"Perhaps our nation is a little kinder and a little gentler thanks to David Broder," Baker said. "Read my lips, David. You're a pro."

And indeed, George H.W. Bush was exactly right. That David Broder: he's a pro.

*In all seriousness, I apologize to prostitutes for comparing them to corporate DC journalists. Those trapped in the hell of coerced sex-work (such as many Iraqi women) are probably decent human beings, unlike the people (such as corporate DC journalists) who put them there.

(More of my crass jeering about David Broder can be found here, here and here. I learned about Broder's 1988 speech from Eric Alterman's book Sound and Fury; Alterman paints a fairminded but damning portrait of Broder here. Glenn Greenwald says this and this. Paul Begala believes "David Broder is a Gasbag." And obviously: Broderella.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 13, 2008 03:58 PM

Righto, but most of our fellow Murikans don't want the iconclastic, nose-thumbing and irrevernt journalism of I.F. Stone or Mencken. There's no market for those qualities. They are no longer valued in our colleges (tiny pockets of exceptions) or anywhere else. The maligning of the Sixties, when they flourished here and there and now and then, continues,in the media and in academia. Fellows like Stone would make readers of today's fluff and slime and bullshit unomfortable. Why, they'd make you think. And that would be downright Un-American.
And now, watch the elevation to free-thinking deity of journalism of Tim Russert,now that he's
softballing drivel from his corporate skybox.

Posted by: donescobar at June 13, 2008 05:15 PM

[Not said to support David Broder so much as tear down Paul Begala]

"Why [does Broder hate] Reid? Because Reid has been one of the few politicians with the courage to speak the plain, unvarnished truth to power, and the hallmark of Mr. Broder's career has been to suck up to power."

Umm, yeah, no offense, but Harry Reid *is* power. You know how I can tell? Because if someone more important than Harry Reid were to have him killed tomorrow, that someone would actually get punished for it.

Posted by: James Cape at June 13, 2008 08:47 PM

You nailed it! This should be his eulogy.

Posted by: par4 at June 14, 2008 08:31 AM

In his 1943 book FACTS AND FASCISM, George Seldes identified the National Association of Manufacturers as an American fascist organization. At least there is continuity.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at June 14, 2008 02:53 PM