Imagine that while a slick death spreads across the Gulf of Mexico, a group of respected reporters from America’s best-known media companies attend a pool party hosted by the VP of British Petroleum. Imagine that they take their kids to play with the kids of executives from BP and the oil industry, and that the journalists claim to have had a wonderful time and post pictures, and videos and tweets of their perfectly friendly interactions with the people who are responsible for the greatest environmental catastrophe in a generation.
Now imagine those journalists, a few days after the party, claiming that their integrity had not been compromised, and that they are perfectly capable of reporting accurately and aggressively on the doings of BP and the oil industry.
Would you believe them? Hold on to that answer, and consider this: No such meeting happened with BP. But on the grounds of the Naval Observatory last weekend, Vice President Joe Biden and the DNC hosted a pool party for their friends in the Washington journalism industry. It was “a nice way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon,” according to the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder.
It was also a great way for the journalists in attendance —Wolf Blitzer and Ed Henry of CNN, as well as David Sanger of the New York Times — to reveal that their integrity is water soluble.
Ambinder’s defense is the stock defense of all those involved in this seamy underworld of co-optation: This is how Washington works. Power holders like to socialize, and journalists only stand to gain by getting as close to them as they can whenever an opportunity presents itself. And in case anyone doubts that getting super-soaked by a boat-shoed Rahm Emanuel won’t lead to scoops that serve readers, well, what the hell do you know? Probably not as much as Ambinder, the editor of the politics channel at the Atlantic, a political consultant to CBS, and a former editor at ABC News. And now a flack for the Obama White House.