I have no particular brief for — or against — Sarah Isgur Flores, the former Justice Department spokeswoman hired by CNN to be a political editor. Maybe she’ll be great, maybe she won’t. But I find the freakout about CNN’s decision a bit pathetic. I don’t like the revolving door between politics and journalism very much. But its existence doesn’t hinge on my approval. It was a thing long before CNN hired Flores and it will still be a thing if they decide to throw her under the bus.
If anything, I prefer it when the migration goes from politics to journalism than the other way around. Or at least I think that it’s less unseemly.
Recall that a remarkable number of supposedly objective journalists found jobs in the Obama administration, including Rick Stengel, Jay Carney, and Linda Douglass. What was unseemly was how so many of these journalists insisted — sometimes with Biblical levels of haughtiness and eye-rolling — that it was nuts to think that mainstream journalists were biased. And, yet, like a flipped quarter landing on heads 99 times in a row, whenever these objective reporters revealed their partisan biases we learned — literally to no one’s surprise — that they were run-of the-mill liberal Democrats.
I like the reverse migration better because there’s less dishonesty to it. No one will have any doubts about Flores’s views and, perhaps because of that, she’ll try to compensate in the name of balance.
I understand that the guild is trying to make this about her qualifications more than her ideology. Fine. But those rules have been bent over and over. Just off the top of my head: Tim Russert was an aide to Pat Moynihan and Mario Cuomo before he made the leap to NBC News where he quickly rose to be Washington Bureau Chief and host of Meet The Press. George Stephanopoulos was a prominent aide to Bill Clinton and before that a Democratic staffer on the Hill. Then he went to ABC News. Pierre Salinger was a White House press secretary for both JFK and LBJ before becoming an ABC News correspondent.
And then there are all of the analysts who got their start in politics.
Jeff Greenfield was a speechwriter for Bobby Kennedy. Chris Matthews was an aide to various Democrats. Perhaps no job buys you more instant cache as a pundit than being a former White House speechwriter. I’d list them all, but it would take too long.
Again, I have no idea if CNN made the right hire here. But the freakout on Twitter and apparently within CNN feels more like the guild of cool kids closing ranks against an outsider than a serious argument about her qualifications or the sanctity of their profession.