The Broder/Todd Worldview

Posted on March 14, 2011

Even if he hadn’t died last week, critiquing David Broder has always felt slightly superfluous. Almost lazy. The consensus-building model of journalism has lots of manifestations, most of which are far more subtle (and therefore insidious) than the archetype himself, so zeroing in on Broder is akin to using Cosmo Girl magazine as your primary evidence for the societal objectification of females. Branch out, you know?

That said, I’m going to belie my own exhortation and relay a very telling remark about David Broder’s legacy that I happened to see yesterday on Meet the Press — specifically its “Take Two” segment, which is the extra few minutes of roundtable punditry available to online viewers.

Chuck Todd, filling in for David Gregory, said this while mulling over Broder’s career: “He was a protector, I felt like, of the institutions of Washington. In a good way.”

The text is jarring enough, but there was something about Todd’s wistful and laudatory tone that made me recoil. First, I’d be curious to know if there’s a “bad way” in which one might seek to protect the institutions of Washington. Second, which institutions are we even talking about here? Congress? The National Governor’s Association? The promise of liberal democracy?

I get the feeling that Broder probably would have said something like the latter, because declaring an intention to fortify and legitimate actual institutions might’ve threatened his pristine appearance of objectivity. In any event, I’d be interested to have Chuck Todd elaborate on the ethical implications of what he said yesterday, and I’d be curious to know whether he’s sought to emulate Broder’s courageous journalistic model. Because if anything in America needs protecting, it’s the institutions of Washington.

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