POLITICS
09/27/2013 02:29 pm ET | Updated Sep 27, 2013

A Government Shutdown And Debt Ceiling Guide For Journalists Who Don't Want To Be Complete Idiots

Writing for the Atlantic, James Fallows has offered a "False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead," by which he means the coming government shutdown shenanigans and the World War Z over the debt ceiling that will likely follow. You should definitely go read the whole thing, but let's highlight his best practices for journalism during this period of time:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a "standoff," a "showdown," a "failure of leadership," a sign of "partisan gridlock," or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. [...]

This isn't "gridlock." It is the struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us -- and, should there be a debt default, the rest of the world.

The only thing I'd add to this is that anyone who suggests in the future that raising the debt ceiling constitutes a "concession" to Democrats is also committing malpractice.

Among the many examples Fallows cites of journalists employing these best practices is the Sept. 27 edition of the Diane Rehm show, in which "panelists Ruth Marcus, Janet Hook, and Todd Purdum all said with a bluntness unusual for a D.C.-based talk show that we are witnessing the effects not of gridlock but of one party's internal crisis." Check it out here.

Naturally, this is a 100 percent accurate take on the matter. This is the GOP's intra-party crisis, not a congressional one. Democrats don't receive any benefit from avoiding a shutdown or a default. Nor do they impose anything on the GOP by calling for a government that continues to run, or a global economy that continues to exist. Republicans are free to stage debates, make arguments, attempt to pass laws, try to strike bargains, and seek redress in the normal cycle of campaigns and elections. At the moment, their party is having a difficult time deciding if it wants to stick with traditional American governance, or swap it out for a series of violent threats on the nation's economic security.

This should be a really easy story to get right.

READ THE WHOLE THING:
Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead [The Atlantic]

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