The Naivete of a Washington Cynic

There’s a particular tone that many young Washington pundits adopt (having learned it from the masters) that seems counterintuitive and knowing, and yet manages to be predictable and hilariously naive at the same time. Here’s a classic example of it, from Josh Kraushaar, editor of The Hotline, in a regular column whose name, “Against the Grain,” should have been a flashing warning sign of the smart aleck/dimwit combo to follow.

In yesterday’s episode, Kraushaar promises “The Real Story on Campaign Money.” While Democrats complain about outside money and likely foreign corporate contributions driving the election, Kraushaar says, “Money chases momentum -- not the other way around. ... If the political environment weren't as poor as it is for Democrats, and if the House and Senate weren't in play, there wouldn't be as much interest in donating to outside groups like American Crossroads.”

He’s right. In 2008, when Republican fortunes seemed dim, similar GOP groups had trouble raising money, and Wall Street split its donations 50/50 between the parties. Now, corporate America is solidly back in the Republican fold.

Why is that? According to Kraushaar, it’s because their feelings are hurt. It’s “the administration’s anti-business rhetoric,” and the Chamber of Commerce is “outraged over White House policies on health care and climate change.”

Kraushaar should have stopped at “money chases momentum.” The Chamber, Wall Street, and other corporate interests aren’t throwing money at Republicans this year because Obama said mean things about them. They’re doing it because this year Republicans have a shot at winning something. And they didn’t give to Democrats in 2008 because Democrats promised to be more corporate-friendly. They did so because they wanted to be at the table when health care and climate change (no surprise to anyone) were negotiated – and they were. Having stripped one of those initiatives to its barest outline, and blocked the other entirely, they can now turn around and use them as weapons against the Democrats, in favor of their natural party.

Behind the hard, know-it-all posture, a D.C. pundit is required to believe sentimental morality tales, such as the idea that the Chamber’s Tom Donahue was simply hoping for a friend in Washington, until Obama turned on him and revealed his left-wing fringe agenda.

Stopping halfway on the path to cynicism is a dangerous position.

-- Mark Schmitt

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