Faking It

In yesterday’s Washington Post, David Broder wrote a column demanding that Betty Currie appear as a witness before the Senate impeachment trial ends. Chatterbox applauds Broder for recognizing that Currie is a much more interesting and useful potential witness than Monica Lewinsky, whose presence in Washington is generating much media excitement. If witnesses are to be called, Currie stands at the top of Chatterbox’s list (though Chatterbox disagrees with Broder’s notion that it’s desirable to call even Currie).

Broder’s column is most interesting, though, for a single sentence that might profitably be studied in journalism schools as an example of how the Washington punditocracy tends to feign intimacy with the people it writes about. (There’s been a lot of press criticism about Washington commentators being too close to the people they write about, but an even more common sin is for Washington commentators to pretend to be close to the people they write about.) Here is the offending sentence: “Everyone who knows Betty Currie knows she is honorable and upright to her core.” Jeez, Chatterbox thought as he read that, how well does Broder know Currie? Not very, Broder admitted when Chatterbox phoned him today. “I’ve known her in the ‘92 campaign and the earlier campaigns she’s worked in, but she’s certainly not a pal,” he said. Broder explained that he based his “honorable and upright to her core” paean largely on the favorable opinion that others at the Post have of her. Then why didn’t he write, “Everyone I know who knows Betty Currie says she is honorable and upright to her core”? Because everyone who knows David Broder knows he likes to sound like a Washington insider.

–Timothy Noah