This morning’s Politico Playbook brings this unusually prudish paragraph:

FAILURE TO GOOGLE: A quick search would have showed McChrystal that caution was warranted around the irreverent reporter, Michael Hastings, a former Iraq correspondent for Newsweek. Starting when he was 25, Hastings spent two years reporting in Iraq as Newsweek’s youngest-ever war correspondent. He wrote four cover stories for Newsweek International, and published a memoir, ‘I Lost My Love in Baghdad.’ Covering the presidential campaign for GQ in 2008, Hastings wrote in ‘Hack: Confessions of a Presidential Campaign Reporter’: ‘There was no small amount of hypocrisy when it came to journalists discussing the sex lives of the people they cover, since fidelity wasn’t exactly a prized virtue among reporters on the campaign trail. For my part, I watched a lot of porn. … It occurred to me … that [enjoying pornography] in a hotel room was not unlike the larger experience of campaign reporting.’

While the latter section of this paragraph does suggest that Hastings, the author of the Rolling Stone profile that’s landed General McChrystal in hot water, is on occasion a bit irreverent, it’s not clear to me why the fact that he was young when he started reporting in Iraq, or that he wrote a memoir, or even that he once analogized campaign coverage to masturbating means that McChrystal or his team should have taken unusual caution around him. (Earlier in the Playbook, Mike Allen, its author/compiler, opines that the general’s “blowhard staff … obviously thought they were off the record.” It seems to me that knowing if what you are saying might be quoted is a very basic level of caution.)

Anyhow, take note of that relatively G-rated bracketed phrase: “enjoying pornography.” Allen, who writes a breakfast-time product (Katie Couric reads it in bed each morning!), subbed it in for Hasting’s original phrasing. The ellipsis free original, as quoted elsewhere on the Internets, reveals that Hastings has constructed a pretty funny—and pretty apt—metaphor:

It occurred to me, as I sat there watching an interracial couple banging, that jacking off in a hotel room was not unlike the larger experience of campaign reporting. You watch two performers. You kind of like it when one of them gets humiliated. You know they’re professionals, so you don’t feel much sympathy for them. You wish you could participate, but instead you watch with a hidden envy and feel vaguely ashamed for watching. You think you could probably do as good a job or better. You sometimes get a glimpse, intentionally or not, of society’s hidden desires and fears. You watch the porn week after week, the scenes almost always the same, none of them too memorable. The best ones get sent around the Internet.
If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of 10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.