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October 17, 2013 5:57 PM The Apotheosis of Politico

By Ed Kilgore

Having joked a bit last night about Politico treating the final, predictable phases of the Great Fiscal Crisis of 2013 as a breathtaking drama requiring hourly (if not momentary) updates, I’m not terribly surprised to learn that John Harris was telling his troops that the Insider’s Daily Bread now stands athwart Washington like a colossus:

POLITICO’s congressional reporters and editors have left not just their colleagues but the entire city in awe…of their sourcing, of their expertise on the personalities and process playing out on Capitol Hill, of their keen judgment during the most intense and competitive deadline situations, and of their indefatigable commitment to stay on top of the story. Very often it was as if we had hidden microphones in the private meetings as lawmakers plotted strategy and argued over options.

Lord have mercy, they’re claiming omniscience.

Now I can understand how the whole saga played to Politico’s strengths as well as its prejudices: an inherently insider-y and extraordinarily extended series of negotiations, threats, feints, jabs, rumors, crises, and even votes; the “game-changing” moments came in a cornucopia of very temporarily relevant information and disinformation that only an organization with a snail’s-eye view could possibly follow. Bravo for that, but if the only source of analysis we had during the manufactured crisis was Politico, we’d have all gone stark raving mad by the third day of the shutdown. As I’ve often said, Politico has its legitimate role that it plays quite well, but God save us from its pretensions of understanding the “big picture” or displaying any perspective or self-doubt.

So I don’t know whether this additional comment from Harris is a promise or a threat:

This congressional reporting was the cornerstone that allowed every other team—at the White House, on politics, the policy and breaking news desks, the video unit and webteam, among others—in our newsroom to make invaluable contributions to public understanding of a showdown that likely will shape national politics for a good while to come….or at least until we do this again, under the terms of tonight’s agreement, in January.

Yep, that’s the exciting part to Politico as an institution: the possibility of experiencing this crisis all over in January. Screw good government; give us more apocalyptic nights and hugely significant mornings to “win.”

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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