Let me begin here with a big-ass caveat. I greatly admire Duncan Black, John Avarosis, Kos and David Waldman. They were among the people who inspired me to start this blog, and they continue to inspire me with their insight, writing and reporting. They kept the fires of liberalism burning when many others had given up.
One of the very best things about bloggers is that they were NOT part of the cozy club of journalists and politicians that for so long has stunted and homogenized political reporting. They were outsiders. They had the guts to question the entrenched journalist/politician relationship. They wondered why ANYTHING an elected official says could be insulated from reportage by the utterance of an incantation like "off the record." They questioned whether it was appropriate for politicians to manage the news and control the dissemination of truth merely by saying "off the record." They criticized the mainstream media for placing more value on its clubby relationships with elected officials than on asking hard questions and digging below the surface of the news. Now that they've joined the pols' secret club, this kind of fearlessness and independence is inevitably compromised.
I give the off-the-record luncheon bloggers little credit for disclosing their participation and permitting other bloggers on their sites to criticize it. If anything, their posts about having attended this exclusive secret lunch smack more of boasting than of frank and full disclosure. There is also a whiff of hypocrisy here: had a group of mainstream reporters gotten together for an off-the-record lunch with a group of Republican senators before the November elections, some of the attendees would have cried foul. The principles of independence and skepticism shouldn't be compromised merely because the Democrats are in power now.
I take heart from the fact that there are hundreds of bloggers who aren't members of the exclusive Senatorial lunch club and who will continue to question, probe, provoke and analyze on stomachs not filled with all that good government food. But I am disappointed that some of the bloggers I most admire have compromised their principles and their independence.