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Saturday, January 15, 2011  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Over at, Joe Scarborough has given a lesson on all that is wrong with public discourse and at the same time gives yet another example of why Politico is forfeiting the crucial branding it worked so hard to achieve at launch. What had been begun as a rigourously fair and balanced Beltway news portal has become anti-conservative and anti-Republican in two short years. This is the deep current of the Manhattan-Beltway media elite at work, and it is a sad thing to see Politico swept away in it.

Scarborough is a well-meaning, typically upbeat, generally center-right talking head with a half-dozen years of Congress under his belt and a nice morning talk show that relatively few people watch. Joe isn’t ever going to be mistaken for Brit Hume, but on the few days I have watched him, he turns in a decent product.

His columns, not so much. Different skill set than Joe brings, but Politico has drafted him because Politico’s drift left has been accelerating, and throwing Joe up on the front page tells the world that the editors are trying to keep their center-right readers even as those same editors know that Joe S. cannot possibly bring a single conservative pair of eyes with his byline. The Post picks up Jennifer Rubin, and conservatives start visiting the Post much more often. Politico picks up Scarborough and nothing happens.

This particular column is the perfect example of why Scarborough isn’t a “conservative” columnist at all. Not only does it serve up the anti-conservative slant of the week just ending, it also contributes to the very media environment –poisoned and vitriolic– that it purports to condemn.

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We don’t know yet if politics moved the gunman to action, but I do know that politics doesn’t belong anywhere near our reaction to it.

We can’t yet understand what led a domestic terrorist to try to assassinate a good congresswoman and kill so many others.

But we do know that we can’t afford to miss this warning. No one should give a free pass to talk show hosts and their political guests who have spent the past several years spreading hate speech in search of big ratings, political contributions and book sales.

As I have said for years now, such hateful words have consequences. As Giffords presciently warned less than a year ago, so does the violent imagery that has infected our politics.

This feedback loop of hate speech has created an angry environment that inspires the most troubled.

In that loop lives a talk show host who called this president a racist, another who called the last president a fascist, a congresswoman who urges her constituents to be armed and dangerous and a national figure who told her followers to “reload” against her political enemies

This is a remarkably logic-and-specifics free half-dozen paragraphs. We have known since at least Sunday that the killer wasn’t a political actor. We have a pile of evidence that he is deranged and developed his deadly obsession a year before Sarah Palin arrived on the national political scene. At least one friend has attested that he didn’t listen to talk radio.

So this is the best argument about the shootings from a conservative that Politico can find? Scarborough could have more convincingly argued that the moon made the killer shoot than he made the case for poisoned political environment making him do it.

The point isn’t the lousy argument. That argument was made and exiled from all but the hard left by mid-week, and like the false documents held up by Rather in 2004, only the extreme media will continue to peddle the idea that the Tucson massacre was about political media.

The point is that Politico’s chief conservative columnist made the extreme anti-conservative argument –a week after it had been discredited.

A conservative reader reacts to the Sacrborough column just as a conservative reader reacts to this Politico headline from this morning: “Retreads Still Drive GOP Agenda.” This headline comes in a week in which not one but two former senior Clinto Administration officials return to take the helm of the president’s and vice-president’s staffs.

A little further down the page, another headline slamming the GOP: “GOP Event Dodges Immigration Fight,” and further down a second headline on the same gathering, “Jeb Bush: GOP ‘incredibly stupid’ to ignore Hispanics.”

Other interesting headlines: “Admin reunites Clinton centrists” (not “retreads) and “Obama speech recalls Reagan.”

So what happened at Politico? The big problem is that it grew and you cannot clone Mike Allen, whom everyone generally trusts even though some mistake his affability as pro-Obama tilting. Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith were great second round draft picks though Smith breaks left far more often than he breaks right.

The rest of the team, though, has been built from standard issue, anti-conservative journostriplings who don’t even know their own bias. The tin ears of the senior staff miss headline lurches like this day’s random grab, and whoever came up with the idea of Joe Scarborough to carry the conservative torch is a plant from the Washington Post.

Too bad. I wanted Politico to succeed, to have a site that aimed for comprehensive coverage, that genuinely hit the middle, reported it all without fear or favor and in which when the inevitable bias of political reporting surfaced it could at least be balanced by its opposite number –for every anti-GOP take, an anti-Democrat take. For every pro-Republican piece, a piece that could circulate with “good job” scrawled on it round the White House staff meeting. Most of the time I just want the facts, without the snark that the kids think makes them stand out.

I wanted to trust it to report what was happening, but cannot. The accumulation of left shifts over the last few months has gotten to the point that I just cannot be bothered. I will continue to read Mike because he is a force of nature, and will get to Politico some days when there isn’t much else to read or when someone points me there. But any news organization that is leading with this Joe Scarborough column on this subject and backed up by a list of headlines that could have been penned by Robert Gibbs? Well, that just isn’t a serious place, and certainly not one where you would go to get news of the crucial political battles of the next nine months.


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