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David Weigel On Political Reporting

David Weigel On Political Reporting

The roaming journalist reflects on the media and covering pols.

Dave is a political reporter. He’s worked for The Washington Post, Slate, Bloomberg Politics, and he’s currently at Semafor. He’s also a contributing editor at Reason. In 2017 he wrote a book called The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, and he’s also a Daily Dish alum.

You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — on how the MSM doesn’t talk like ordinary people, and the role of Biden’s age in the next election — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: growing up in Delaware; going to high school in England not far from my hometown; the UK vs US media when it comes to objectivity; writing about Labour and anti-Semitism; voting for Ralph Nader before turning libertarian; his “pathological” travel as a reporter; coding his own blog in the early blogosphere; not wanting to be a Helen Thomas in the press corps; his memories of covering Obama, Gretchen Whitmer, Sharice Davids, Michael Moore and others; taking Trump seriously in 2015; having a nose for what the GOP base finds compelling; the party’s broken promises on immigration; Reagan’s amnesty; the MSM’s bias and arrogance on immigration; how Mexican-American Dems often use the term “illegals”; Jesse Singal’s intrepid coverage of trans kids; “platforming is not privileging”; Dave’s focus-group of normie friends from his hometown; gender reveal parties; the protest of the NYT’s trans coverage “causing harm”; Hunter Biden’s love-child and the White House not acknowledging her; Trump’s three marriages; Kamala’s dismal popularity; Rathergate; the Tom Cotton op-ed controversy; the right-wing media bubble; the unwillingness of the MSM to integrate conservative voices; January 6th; the depressing prospect of a Biden-Trump sequel; and Dave discussing prog rock and his favorite band, King Crimson.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another conversation you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Jean Twenge on the key differences between the generations, Matt Lewis on ruling-class elites, and Lee Fang on how public policy is shaped by moneyed groups. Please send any guest recs and pod dissent to Here’s a listener on a recent episode:

Kudos to Tabia Lee for standing up for her beliefs against the Critical Race Theory nonsense.

But like you, I was flabbergasted when she said she did not understand what the equity agenda meant when she took on her DEI job. True, the ideologues pushing this agenda have done their best to disguise what their real intentions are, and the mainstream media has played along with this, so the average person could reasonably claim ignorance about this three years ago, but no longer.

Nowhere in the 1.5-hour conversation was Martin Luther King’s dream of a colorblind society mentioned. This has been the foundational philosophy of racial justice in America for 50 years, but it has now been completely rejected in the equity agenda. It seems to me that the simplest and most obvious line of inquiry from those who are opposed to “equity” is to simply ask the equity crowd, “Why do you no longer believe in MLK’s dream of a society where people are judged upon the content of their character not the color of their skin?” Isn’t that the most powerful argument against this nonsense?

Speaking of a colorblind society, a reader comments on the end of affirmative action in higher ed:

The many articles I have read suggest that Harvard’s program was designed to benefit Harvard, mostly in projecting a certain image. The program apparently moved a number of Black students from second-tier Ivy League schools and top-tier state schools up to Harvard, and moved a similar number of more highly qualified Asians in the opposite direction. These Black students were mostly from wealthy American families or from elite families from Africa and the Caribbean. Many of the Asians came from working-class families.

I don’t see how this helps America generally, or any Black Americans who have been held back by a society that has oppressed them. But it’s easy to see how this helps Harvard with its public relations, marketing, and fundraising. It’s also easy to see how it violates laws against race-based discrimination. 

From another reader on affirmative action:

The solution to the race and college admissions issue seems easy to me: increase the efforts of K-12 schools to properly prepare students of all races to attend prestigious universities. Our system now takes bright but poorly prepared minority students and places them in highly competitive universities competing against much better prepared students. It is no surprise that they struggle, particularly in math and the hard sciences. Justice Jackson’s extensive review of the horrors inflicted upon black people in the country is compelling, but it will not help black students pass calculus and physics.

Your guest last week, Tabia Lee, blamed the emphasis on wokeness and equity for school’s struggles, but the reality is that schools that struggle to teach reading and math cannot teach CRT and equity either. Teachers are not teaching the wrong things; too many are not teaching much of anything. The issue is not DEI, but low expectations, grade inflation, and social promotion. It’s common in schools with large minority student populations to see students who are failing every class promoted to the next level. Justice Jackson should focus on this form of racism.

This next reader dissents over my three cheers for last week’s SCOTUS rulings:

You’re far too dismissive of the rights at stake in 303 Creative. You frame it as a free speech case. But that gives the game away from the outset. 

Properly understood, it’s a case about the tension between free speech and freedom from discrimination — and that matters, because there’s history here. The balance between those rights was struck long ago, in the 1950s and ‘60s, when segregationist restauranteurs (like Lester Maddox, later governor of Georgia) argued that racial integration threatened their speech and association rights. Segregation wasn’t bigotry, they said; it was simply an expression of their desire to create all-white public spaces. The Supreme Court didn’t buy it then, viewing it (rightly) as an end-run around equal protection. Why should the justices buy it now?

Well, the Court says, some businesses (like website design) are more expressive than others. But are they? By what metric? The guy who runs our local coffee shop views his business as mission-driven too — an effort to build community and express shared values. How is that not expressive? I’m not one for slippery slopes, but there’s no honest limiting principle to the Court’s reasoning.  

Reduced to its core, then, 303 Creative says that some businesses — some! — can treat LGBT+ people as second-class citizens. How can that not alarm you? How can you not stop and wonder … what’s next?

Since this argument was specifically rejected in the ruling, and the narrowness of the case emphasized, I’m not bothered. I am, in fact, gobsmacked by the MSM disinformation about the case. And yes, making a website celebrating something that violates your conscience is not the same as barring all members of a race from entering your restaurant. And there’s a massive difference between gays and lesbians in 2023 and African-Americans under segregation. To equate them is, to my mind, obscene.

Another dissenter digs up a similar case I commented on in 2017:

Your discussion last week of the gay-marriage website case aptly illustrates how 2023 Andrew Sullivan has become derailed with right-wing, identity grievance politics. Today, you question not why gay rights could have suffered a constitutional set back, but how this was even a question at all:

In the free-speech case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the issue was whether the state could compel an individual — through public accommodation laws — to create expressive messages which violated her religious conscience. How, I wonder, is this even a question? 

Italics mine. Let’s compare that to 2017 Andrew Sullivan writing about the nearly identical case involving the same Colorado anti-discrimination statute and a gay denial-of-service by a Christian wedding cake designer (italics mine again):

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