Who, exactly, watches “Meet the Press”?
When Cory Booker is rescuing people from burning buildings, that’s one thing. Everyone sits up and takes notice. When the mayor of Newark is darting around making Chuck Norris look bad, that is the only thing to do.
But when he’s on “Meet the Press” complaining about negative advertising, or on YouTube later trying to supply us with context for his comments, who exactly is it who cares? And are these people planning to vote?
This is what both campaigns are rapidly trying to figure out.
The Obama camp edited down Booker’s YouTube video explaining his comments on “Meet the Press” from four minutes of thoughtful context to thirty-five seconds of diminished nuance. The RNC started an “I Stand With Cory” petition. And the Twitterati exploded.
I’m sorry, that paragraph —
Part of the price one pays for living in Washington is developing the sense that this sort of thing is not only interesting, but pressing.
But that last cluster of sentences right there — that is something that Aldous Huxley wrote to put in “Brave New World,” then squinted at mistrustfully and discarded as “too inside-baseball.”
It’s the teacup problem of Washington.
You know that you have dwelled in Washington too long when you begin to have the creeping sense that you are Important, just as you know that you have been in New York too long when you get the creeping sense that you are Interesting. (In fact, I think that was a plot point on “Girls” this week.) I don’t know what the creeping sense is that you get when you live in L.A. too long. Maybe it’s just the slowly mounting feeling that you need a colon cleanse.
But this is one of those stories that drives home the peculiar teacup in which you reside.
This is news for people whose idea of a good time is to read articles about the demographic composition of Sunday talk shows.
Politics is a national issue, to a certain extent. But the specific controversies and moments and topics that tend to dominate the debate have the same cliquish you-had-to-be-there-at-4-a.m.-watching-CSPAN in-joke quality to them that you see among obsessive fans of anything (chess, baseball, bunraku) not followed by the public at large. And as anyone who watched all, er, eight hundred fifty-seven Republican debates will tell you, the race also fuels a sort of low-budget reality television industry, most of whose stars are distinctly untelegenic, underslept and underpaid.
Whose fault is this? Is it the 2008 election, with its natural drama, compelling protagonists and the expectation it set that you could tune in to political cable and be entertained? Is it the Internet that allows us to simultaneously pay too much attention to everything and be slightly distracted all the time?
The strange irony of the Booker problem is that the very people mesmerized by this particular debate about what’s off-limits, what should be and what attacks are too below the belt are the same ones who, two days from now, will be papering Twitter in pictures of Seamus Romney riding something.
To a certain extent, politics is one of those strange teacup habitats where everything rapidly swells out of proportion, like bacteria in agar, and about as appealing to the general public. A butterfly flaps its mouth once in the Andes, and by the next day a media storm has engulfed the entire Northeast.
Lord knows we need news.
It’s not that there is no controversy about Mayor Booker’s remarks, in which he said that he was sick both of attacks on Rev. Jeremiah Wright and on private equity, and that such attacks are “nauseating” and “a distraction.” Or that they have not become the subject of The National Discussion, whatever that is and whoever is having it — President Obama’s responded Monday afternoon saying that attacks on Bain were fair game because “My opponent, Gov. Romney — his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying, ‘I’m a business guy. I know how to fix it.’ And this is his business.”
It’s a telling moment of honesty. What’s a distraction? What isn’t? All interesting questions.
But — who’s asking?
On Twitter, Jon Lovett quipped, "Did you catch Meet the Press yesterday?" "No." - America.
That’s about right.