Recently, Politico's Jonathan Martin and Carol E. Lee wrote a nonsensically long article on Obama's post-election church-going habits that read like an undergraduate composition assignment and was just as boring. It didn't mention how George W. Bush rarely went to church during his time as President, either, which would have gone a long way to making MediaMatters happy, but would have made the piece even more long and boring.
Then, on December 7, Politico's Ben Smith picked up the ball and wrote a blog post on the topic that was also boring and inconsequential but nevertheless superior to Martin's in that it was blessedly short.
Then John Judis wrote a short and overheated post on center-left nerd journal The New Republic's "The Plank" blog about how the Politico was all invading Obama's privacy, even though we bet a) Judis has probably complained about how secretive the Bush administration is, at least once in his life, and b) The Politico didn't really expose anything about Obama's private life.
At no time did any normal person, encountering any part of this story, fail to experience the effects of deadly, crushing dullness.
It's hard for me to pick a side in the whole affair. This is because the stakes are so terrifyingly low! Nothing in our lives hinges on whether or when or where or how President-Elect Barack Obama goes to church. The only place is seems to matter is to media types, off chasing picayune inanities.
Anyway, here's some relevant things you need to know, that speak to why this boring story was made a part of our lives.
1. You should realize that Politico is about detail, not thought. They are about activity, not achievement. They basically do a whole lot of tick-tock stuff, a lot of campaign press release stuff, a lot of what happened stuff, and they'll try to do it fast. They're pretty good at it too. Unlike Mark Halperin's The Page, you don't feel like you've been cheated or shamed, and Politico's main competitors -- The Hill and Roll Call -- are built on websites that Boing Boing would classify as steampunk.
2. So, if you want to know what happened, you could do worse than Politico. Just don't ask them for analysis because it will be an agglutination of only the most conventional of wisdom, topped off by -- depending on who writes it -- borderline psychopathic egomania.
3. Politico is basically obsessed with territorialism and exclusivity. Remember that time an otherwise unassuming reporter from a little-known outfit called the Capitol Standard tried to point out to the Politico's Josephine Hearn that she didn't, in fact, break a bunch of news she thought she had? Hearn defended her claim like it was a life and death struggle for survival, instead of a nothing story that no one was going to remember a week later anyway.
4. Because of this, the worst thing Media Matters could have done was draw attention to these dumb Obama-church stories, because it all but assures that it's going to become some kind of "beat" now at Politico, and it will never ever go away.
5. At the same time, Ben Smith should probably acknowledge how stupid it was to say, "If nothing else, the tone of the responses reflect how defensive the left still is on faith." The "left" isn't defensive about their faith, for starters. Also, John Judis, Eric Boehlert and Jamison Foer don't get to be stand-ins for "the left," because they are just three dudes. In actuality, it would have been more accurate for Smith to write: "If nothing else, the tone of the responses reflect how these three dudes are ready to saddle up and complain about the most niggling things."
Basically, there's really nothing more to say about it. Does anyone really want the Politico to go back through eight years of Sundays to chronicle George W. Bush's churchgoing habits, and put things back in balance? No! Because we are not insane people! We take it on faith that President Bush's storied incompetence was not learned in church. So: let's just agree that anyone who writes any future blog posts about Barack Obama's churchgoing habits is terrible and boring and probably deserves to be laid off.
Besides, all of you are hypocrites anyway, because none of you go to church. You sit and watch those horrible Sunday Morning Political Shows. And they don't count as church unless you are watching them out of penitence, like me.
UPDATE: Remember when we said, "...let's just agree that anyone who writes any future blog posts about Barack Obama's churchgoing habits is terrible and boring and probably deserves to be laid off?" Yeah, well, Ben Smith, predictably, rushed in to lay claim to that title. Chances are, he felt like he was in a RACE AGAINST TIME to advance THIS CRITICAL STORY. He also seems to think that I wrote a story "about Obama's church attendance." Ha! I have done no enterprise reporting on that matter and hope to always be able to say that!
At least he counted every blessed word I wrote. Like I said: Activity over achievement!