One of the worst things about the media's coverage of policy is that it tends to focus on the politics of the policy (and that it often gets the politics wrong, but that's another story) rather than on the actual merits and efficacy of the policy. All too often when a question of policy comes up, a reporter will immediately turn it into a political question. See for example yesterday's exchange between Norah O'Donnell and Jon Decker about torture.
Here's an all-to-rare example of the opposite: During today's online discussion, Washington Post reporter Alex MacGillis was asked about the politics of swine flu - and immediately turned it into a policy question:
Arlington, Va.: Wouldn't the safe political move for Obama be to close the border with Mexico as called for by Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.)? While some few in the US have been exposed, why keep the border open and allow tens of thousands of passengers and drivers, who have either been infected or exposed to the disease in Mexico, enter the US every day? Isn't the administration gambling with the nation's health in order to prevent the airlines and transportation industries from taking a short-term financial hit?
Alec MacGillis: I'm sure all options have been considered. But it's interesting that you plug this as a 'safe political move', and not necessarily something that's necessary from public health standpoint. The president might score some points at home, but one has to bear in mind that such a move would be deeply unpopular with Mexico, which is already upset at us over our role in the drug war that is wreaking such havoc there. Also bear in mind that such a closure would hurt not only airlines and transportation but the enormous amount of back and forth that occurs on a daily basis along the border -- there are tens of thousands who live in Mexico and work in the US, and vice versa.
Good for MacGillis. More like this, please.
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- Health Care