Opening Act: Somebody Save Politico From Itself

Politico Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen speaks as he hosts a Politico Playbook Breakfast November 28, 2012 at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Politico is home to some of the best budget, policy, Congress, and daily politics reporters. So why, every week or so, does it set out to troll the Internet with some piece of decoder-ring gossip? The “Behind the Curtain” series of voice-of-God punditry by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei seems to exist solely to be mocked, and I hate to indulge that, but where to start with this thing?

- In a column co-written by Mike Allen, we get a third paragraph reference to “POLITICO’S “Playbook” – Mike Allen’s morning newsletter.” The reference is there to dismiss a not-even-interesting revelation in Mark Leibovich’s upcoming book about D.C.

- This sentence: “The targets are the worst-kept secrets in this town, an overused expression of D.C. insiders.” If that’s an overused expression, why use it?

- Liebovich is referred to as a “supremely confident and strangely self-conscious writer,” in a column that’s entirely about Politico bosses self-consciously innoculating themselves from the book.

- Someone is given anonymity to bitch about Liebovich’s chapter on the Tim Russert funeral. “He’s at every single party, and NOW he takes the knife out? And Russert’s funeral? People are appalled.” But the funeral was covered live on TV. It’s Liebovich’s fault that no one else saw a good story in the details?

I only knew one rumor about the Liebovich book. Since Politico broke the news that former Darrell Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella was cooperating with Liebovich, and forwarding him emails, people have speculated that the emails will make reporters – Politico’s especially – look like suck-ups and easy marks. But Politico’s reporters are generally pretty fantastic, and everyone looks like a jerk in the give-take of reporter-source email. (Ask me how I know.) The people who hate Politico do so because they think it allows anonymous sources to stir shit and protect powerful people at the expense of people on the outs. And now the haters don’t need to wait for the Liebovich book!

Lloyd Grove asks what makes the “false flag” folks tick.

Alex Seitz-Walk talks to exactly the same expert—he’s really getting around.

Peter Baker’s wrap on the Bush Center’s opening ceremony is the only one you need to read; the placement on A10 speaks to the relative news value of the insanely-well-covered event.

Correction, April 26, 2013: This post originally misspelled Jim VandeHei and Mark Leibovich’s last names.