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May 16, 2013 12:16 PM Worst and Best of Politico

By Ed Kilgore

With a very quick glance at Politico this morning, I was able to see what makes me often crazy about that organization, and what still makes it invaluable.

In the big lead story on Scandalmania ‘13, Jennifer Epstein has this to say:

[A]fter days of anxiety, Democratic operatives said the White House has found its footing. Still, happy as they were to see Obama win a news cycle, they insisted he’s far from being in the clear — Republican adversaries feel that they’re only just beginning, and they’ll have another chance to lay into the administration at Friday’s hearing on the IRS.

Obama wins a new cycle. That typifies the snail’s-eye-view of politics and government Politico often promotes and itself exemplifies.

But you know what? Sometimes the snail sees things we need to know about. Anna Palmer offers a piece today about the “Benghazi Lobby” that was both interesting and valuable:

Behind the scenes, a loose network of conservative groups and activists have been lobbying House and Senate Republicans for months to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya, urging members of Congress in meetings, letters and in social media to keep the heat on President Barack Obama. The strategy kept the issue alive, so when a whistleblower stepped forward last week, it was primed for primetime.
Rep. Frank Wolf told POLITICO the outside groups, especially those with retired military and special forces members, were instrumental to raising the issue’s national profile….
The outside group’s pressure campaign has been a multi-pronged offensive with ex-military officials rallying the grassroots base while Washington operatives at American Crossroads, Citizens United and others have mounted an inside-the-Beltway campaign with online videos, letters to Congress and Twitter activity.

Palmer emphasizes the role of a shadowy group calling itself OPSEC (using a military acronym for Operational Security), supposedly composed of former Special Ops personnel, along with a similar group called Special Operations Speaks, in keeping up the pressure. But more familiar groups were definitely lending more than a hand, particularly in pushing House Republicans to cosponsor Wolf’s resolution calling for a Benghazi! select committee to give the whole ‘investigation” a Watergate air:

Other groups have also joined the fight. In April, conservative leaders like David Bossie of Citizens United, William Boykin of Family Research Council, Brent Bozell of ForAmerica and others signed onto a letter urging lawmakers to sign on.
American Crossroads has run six videos over the last several months, trying to keep the spotlight on Benghazi, most recently featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
American Crossroads’ Jonathan Collegio said the Benghazi is a complex issue spanning disparate elements, agencies and people.
“There has been a real demand for succinct video products to educate average people on what happened, who said what and why,” Collegio said. “The Crossroads Benghazi videos have generated nearly 800,000 views online and millions more on television, which demonstrates the real demand for succinct explanations as to what happened.”

Ah, yes, one of the proud fathers of a phony “scandal” hands out cigars.

In any event, Politico is good at insider reporting at a time when journalistic resources are shrinking coast to coast. It’s when the site tries to raise the fine fresh pine straw it rakes up into trees and forests and narratives that it crosses the line from journalism into agitprop.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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