There aren’t any famous journalists in Washington who take that approach today, and I can’t think of one who has since I.F. Stone—who stopped publishing his “Weekly” more than thirty years ago. That’s one reason that people like Frank Rich (based in New York) and Glenn Greenwald (who lives in Brazil) are so much more interesting than almost every regular contributor to the Washington Post op-ed page (E.J. Dionne excepted): they live outside the echo chamber where the most cherished values are clubbiness and mediocrity.

Walter Lippmann was the most celebrated Washington columnist of the postwar period, but his copy always suffered from the fact that he devoted almost as much time to the cultivation of the powerful as he did to the construction of his columns. Only at the end of his life did Lippmann redeem himself by breaking sharply with Lyndon Johnson and becoming a fierce critic of the Vietnam War. But that act of courage made the ultimate Washington insider a pariah within the capital. As a result, Lippmann finally decamped from Washington’s fetid swamp, and spent his final years in New York.

 

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Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.