Remember the halcyon days of liberal ascendancy, back when Iraq was flubbing, U.S. Attorneys were being fired, Valerie Plame was whining, and Hurricane Katrina was sinking George Bush's approval ratings as fast as it was flooding the Ninth Ward? Those sure were the days for liberal publications. Back then, they could spend their time excoriating the President (and, before 2006, Congress). They did so regularly. And, even from my conservative vantage point, a lot of them were well thought out and argued. They saw what they didn't like and opposed it.
Now, they have nothing to say.
Browsing through the pages of overtly liberal publications--The Nation, The New Republic, The Huffington Post, The Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo--you get the feeling that they don't know what to do anymore. Even those publications that lean left without officially acknowledging it--Slate, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times--offer pretty terrible reporting now. None of them wants to really go after Obama, or even question him harshly for that matter, what with their perpetual 2008-gasm over him, making their articles pathetic recitations of the White House's policies and throwbacks to what they didn't like about Bush. Take, for example, Slate's recent "How Obama Is Like Spock" article or Newsweek's "Obama Struggles With Life in the Spotlight" (detailing how Obama never really wanted to be such a public person). The problem isn't the articles themselves so much, since many of them could stand alone and be somewhat interesting; it's the fact that the publications of repute now have nothing to say. The media thrives when it challenges the authority, not when it coddles. John Dickerson asking George W. Bush what his greatest mistake had been was a perfect example--the media (and the American people) expect good answers for tough questions. The problem is that they need the tough questions to be asked. Offering arguments of why Obama is so thoughtful or why Dick Cheney shouldn't be listened to because he's so mean doesn't confront the core of the debate--ultimately, do 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and Gitmo work, and if so, do their benefits (information gained, potential terrorists taken out of the field) outweigh their costs (respect lost around the world, incitement of extremism)? That inability to deal witht the arguments seems to stem from (a) a desire to not harm or question Obama's policies, and (b) a refusal to allow an argument by Dick Cheney to be considered, simply because it is from Dick Cheney.
Now, liberal publications are looking a lot like The Weekly Standard and The National Review did during the Bush years; they are simply fighting back against the onslaught, combining puff pieces for the president and 'it's not that bad' articles. Instead, they should be leading the mob, probing our leaders in a constant, considered fashion.
It's a shame. I used to enjoy perusing most of those sites and dealing with their arguments, but now that all I need to do is listen to Robert Gibbs's press briefings to get the same thing, there's no real point.