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Unofficial Washington: The Media, Trump, and the Macker

Terry McAuliffe
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
October 11, 2021

As my colleague Peter Hamby has wisely noted, the clock of political coverage in Washington seems to reset every Monday morning, with a new narrative quickly taking shape as if the past week—or century—hadn’t happened. It’s part of the problem with how this town is covered, with so much of political media driven by a play-by-play mentality. Detractors call it “horse-race coverage,” but, in my humble opinion, it is not about horses or racing them. It is, rather, part of this town’s obsession with sports, especially baseball.

So, what are we obsessed with this week? The debt ceiling has been raised—albeit temporarily. The Hill, it seems, can only get things done when they’re speeding headlong toward a cliff, as veteran Congressional reporter Carl Hulse recently pointed out. As someone who can only get things done when there’s a looming and terrifying deadline approaching, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for weeks: Congresspeople, they’re just like us! Ultimately, this is a town like any other, and, to me, there’s something remarkably similar about my conversations with friends on the Hill and friends who are lawyers or financiers in New York. It’s hard to put big deals together, and moving pieces will keep moving till the last possible minute. The principals will be maneuvering and strategizing, while the staffers or associates have to implement the detailed and legalistic product of their negotiations. And everyone involved will see only their workplaces and very little sleep till it’s all done and signed. The only difference between how a corporate M&A deal goes down and the current negotiations in Washington is that what people on the Hill are currently working on—the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Biden’s Build Back Better plan—will tangibly change the lives of every person living in the United States.