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The Obama Swoon

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Investigative reporting doesn't just mean maintaining separate SWAT teams. Beat reporters do important digging all the time, but that requires having a few extra days or weeks to pursue leads and pore over records. If, in depleted newsrooms, they have to churn out copy every other hour, the chances that they'll look into the mayor's land deal or the congressman's favors for big contributors are greatly diminished.

Newspapers -- good ones, at least -- do two things that, if their staffs shrivel, no TV station, Web site or blogger will be able to match. One is to provide detailed local coverage of schools, hospitals, zoning battles and town councils. The other is holding public officials and business executives accountable with aggressive investigative work.

They are also tradition-encrusted places that need to become less cautious, less stuffy and less arrogant. But if the critics think that a starvation diet will somehow produce healthier reporting, they are fantasizing.

End of Discussion

"I was hoping he'd say 'You're fired!' " -- Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, recounting how Donald Trump hung up on him during an interview on local criticism of his planned 92-story Windy City tower.

Looking ahead . . . What will Beltway life be like after November 7th? Rich Lowry says the press is soft-pedaling what's in store for the Pelosi reign:

"Let the Nancy Pelosi honeymoon begin. Sure, the current House Democratic minority leader hasn't won a House majority yet, and it is traditional for honeymoons to follow, rather than anticipate, the blessed event. But the media can't help themselves, not when they are tingling with anticipation over the prospect of a Democratic victory.

"Say what you will about Pelosi, but it is a matter of record that she's far left of the center of American politics -- her rating from the liberal lobbying group Americans for Democratic Action is routinely a 100 percent; that she enforces party loyalty -- her Democrats voted along party lines 88 percent of the time last year, a record for the past 50 years; that she has primarily occupied herself with blocking legislation in the House -- she has tried to kill practically every Republican initiative, no matter how small; that she uses tough rhetoric -- Republicans are, according to Pelosi, 'corrupt,' 'incompetent' and running a 'criminal enterprise.'

"There's nothing wrong with any of this. Politicians should have deep convictions, and they should work to organize their party around them and to defeat the opposition. Nor is there anything wrong with sharp rhetorical elbows. But the press usually professes to like none of these qualities, and typically dubs someone exhibiting them as 'radical,' 'partisan,' 'obstructionist,' and 'mean-spirited.' Instead, in a typical media treatment, the Washington Post finds Pelosi a 'tough-minded tactician.' She has 'kept the fractious House Democrats in line.' She has 'thwarted many GOP initiatives' by getting the Democrats to 'hang together.' Yes, Republicans accuse her of being an obstructionist, but that's just the sort of name-calling Republicans always engage in, now isn't it?"

Will John Dingell investigate the bejeesus out of Republicans if he gets his old chairmanship back? The New Republic's Michael Crowley came up with a novel tactic--asking him:

" 'Privacy,' he begins. 'Social Security-number protection. Outsourcing protection. Unfair trade practices. Currency manipulation. Air quality. We'll look at the implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. We'll take a look at climate change. We'll take a look at [the Department of Energy's] nuclear waste program, where literally billions of dollars are being dissipated. We'll look at port security and nuclear smuggling, where there's literally nothing being done. We'll look at the Superfund program. We'll take a look at EPA enforcement.'

"He pauses for a breath--but he's just getting started: 'On health, we'll take a look at Medicaid and waivers. The Food and Drug Administration. Generic drug approval. Medical safety. We'll also take a look at food supplements, where people are being killed. We will look at Medicare Part D [prescription drugs].' Is that all? 'Telecom. We'll look at FCC actions . . . Media ownership. Adequate spectrum for police, fire, public safety, and addressing the problems of terrorism . . . We will look also at the overall question of Katrina recovery efforts.' "

Okay, so he'll be busy.


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