If you’re wondering what the hell the water carrier’s water carrier is trying to communicate, a rough Invertebrate-to-Human translation would be “Serious reporters like me and Haberman do mysterious serious reporter stuff like off-the-record. Commoners can’t hope to understand our serious reportering and they should not question our serious reportery ways. They should shut up and buy our books and subscribe to our substacks. So there.”
Tl;dr: “Access uber alles, baby!”
Because apparently Matt really does think political reporting includes intentionally withholding information about extremely powerful politicians until such time that the reporter decides they no longer need access to that source. Such as when they have a book to sell.
Where he veers from the cynics who say the same thing about reporters like Haberman is that he’s such a hack that thinks this is a good thing that speaks well of reporters who do it.
The public should assume that interviews of anyone who is in office must be incomplete because the reporter might want additional interviews, and there’s no possible way this could damage public trust. Or worse, cause subscribers to wonder why the hell they’re wasting money on a subscription.
He also seems to think that political reporters only ever want or need to interview one politician. I’m pretty sure “I won’t tell what you tell me. Until I decide to write a book” is the sort of trick that is much harder to pull off the second time. But perhaps the idea is to get rich off the book proceeds?
Anyway, after the first tweet he remembered the concept of going off the record, which sounds like serious reportery stuff. And it is, but it isn’t as mysterious or difficult a concept as some people like to make out.
And for the purposes of this discussion I’m really not seeing how the fuck it is relevant.
Unless he thinks that everyone she spoke to for the book asked her to keep their remarks off the record before they spoke to her and she didn’t bother to see if someone else would corroborate the information on the record.
So, just to take the example of TFG mistaking Congressional staff for White House waitstaff because they weren’t white, Lt. Yglesias of the Haberman Defense Squad wants us to believe she is so bad at her job that she couldn’t find at least one other person to confirm that it happened. If this is a defense it’s the kind that involves friendly fire.
Then, I guess he thinks that when she decided to publish the book she diligently went back and asked each and every person quoted if they’d agree to be on the record and only included something in the book if the source agreed.
Or at that point she decided to get corroboration from someone willing to speak on the record.
None of the scenarios are impossible but the same could be said of a stray bolt of lightning bolt zapping the orange paint off TFG’s hide. It would be a very ham-handed and unnecessarily tedious way to do things. Not just reaching out to sources but reminding them of communications that happened years ago and – according to Yglesias – she was planning to use the information at some point, so why wait?
Or, in the spirit of not giving the hack’s hack any benefit of the doubt whatsoever, he’s saying that off the record assurances are only good until a reporter decides to write a book full of juicy bits.
On the matter of Haberman-defending. A few thoughts on why the “Let’s see you do it then” defense is a defense that would embarrass anyone but accountability-hating boot-lickers who get off on the idea of a professional class that can never be challenged because that’s what they want to be when they grow up. While wondering if he’ll ever fix that typo.
I hope that whenever Drezner goes out to eat, the kitchen burns his food. And when he complains the waitstaff responds “Let’s see you do it.”
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