The most dangerous place in Washington DC, the old joke goes, is between a politician and a television camera.
It’s a wonder there are any such places left, so intimate have the third and fourth estates become. Periodically, American journalism gets itself into a funk over its proximity to power and the consequences for integrity and neutrality. The lamentations are sincere but short-lived and before long the quarrelling lovers are reconciled and slip into old habits. ‘I hate myself for loving you,’ sang Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, lashing at the morbid affections of co-dependency.
Iraq was supposed to be The Line. The press corps concluded in retrospect that it had been too credulous about the Bush administration’s claims. It failed to scrutinise the case for war, the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, and the preparations for post-war reconstruction. This would never be allowed to happen again, we were assured; but self-reproof without reparation is mushy self-help, the ego is massaged but the soul unsaved. Soon enough, Barack Obama arrived and the fearless inquisitors reverted to awestruck scribes, jotting reverently from the hopey-changey court of New Camelot.