Esquire on What America Needs: Politicians Who Can Do Things, Doesn't Matter Much What


I have praised and lamented Esquire (a magazine I pay to receive, and mostly quite like) for its political coverage in the past, but the overriding spirit that makes its political journalism generally its worst aspect is that it tends to treat politicians and politics with a thoughtless spirit of veneration, one expressed not only unquestioningly on the part of the writer, but as if the writer can't imagine that any reader would question it.


A huge feature in its November issue (featuring Sexiest Woman Alive, so-called, Penelope Cruz who stars in a bizarrely misconceived story that mixes profiling her with some superdated and unenlightening coverage of a bullfight, whose symbolic power is somehow believed to still pulsate decades post-Hemingway) by Mark Warren is called "Help, We're in a Living Hell and Don't Know How to Get Out."

The "we" are dozens of members of the House and Senate that they interviewed; in a perfect Esquire touch, they reveal that they actually started off trying to get tough with politicians, who they generally can't help but love, and not even generally in a purely partisan way. But:

I had initially planned to ask for no more than ten minutes of their time, basically just to ask them why they were so bad at their job, but fairly quickly it became obvious that these were going to be richer and deeper conversations than I had bargained for. And along the way, something unexpected happened: I became less angry and more sympathetic to the thresher that all of these people find themselves caught in. They are not whining. They are crying for help. After only a few interviews, I stopped asking, "Why are you so bad at your job?" because it occurred to me that it was a cheap question, the kind of question that's not interested in an answer, which is just the sort of cultural deformity that got us into this mess. It's a terrible job, being in Congress in 2014.

And so the story became, for thousands of words, with lots of different politicians' voices across party lines, a lament about how politicians can't get things done. The story is surprisingly lacking in any discussion of what must or should be done; perhaps they think that all right-thinking, watch-wearing Esquire readers all agree, but it's a little disconcerting to have a often thoughtful magazine write thousands of words about our alleged political crisis with so little content. (Except they seem to agree with politicians that it's sad they have to raise money all the time, and sad that other people are permitted to raise money against them, apparently thinking it a given that all incumbents should be re-elected all the time with no effort, which would tend to be the result of a moneyless politics.)

You learn a lot about some specific other congresspeople their colleagues are willing to go on record slamming—Harry Reid and Ted Cruz most prominent—and how the filibuster is obstructionist, and how people holding up votes is bad, and how it's bad that some congressmen don't move their families to D.C. because it cuts their time to GOVERN!!!

But there's no real hint of why any of it matters or why it's an unalloyed good that our legislators need to legislate more, or longer, or more successfully (except that some executive or judicial branch appointments aren't being made efficiently enough).

It's an annoying but all too prevalent centrist view of government: c'mon, let's get over partisanship, ideology, what people might want, what is just or efficient or affordable–we've got this really big, enormous, cool, expensive government—it needs to govern more!

And do so with what Warren calls "humility and civility" but it's clear he doesn't mean humility about their power, but merely humility in dealing with their colleagues, who, claims Sen. Patrick Leahy with little credibility, in the old days would never have "dreamed of giving your word and not keeping it" which apparently certain villains now do, though he doesn't say who or about what.

And all reasonable people are supposed to nod, and purse their lips, and say, dammit, they may be Republican, they may be Democrat, they may be from the north or the south, but they are legislators and it's a damn shame they don't legislate more. 

NEXT: David Harsayni on the U.S.-China Climate Change Deal

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  1. The more they legislate, the more they risk losing their seats. Thank God.

  2. I think America needs more Penelope Cruz. Lots more Penelope Cruz.

    1. I never thought of America as having too few horses.

      1. I don’t even know what to say to that other than, its okay you don’t like women. NTAWWT and all of that.

        1. Well, I’m not Kim Jong Un, if that’s what you mean.

      2. If wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steak.

        That said, even I would love more Cruz. What’s wrong with you?!

        1. She’s not attractive.

          I don’t know about her acting talent, but…yeesh.

          1. What’s the saying…I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers?

          2. yeah, she is a dog. What is attractive about a woman who is thin, has great curves, nearly perfect C cup breasts, clear tanned skin, and high cheek bones.

            I mean my God who would want that? Its not like she is Melissa McCarthy or something.

            Wow. There really is no accounting for taste.

              1. I wouldn’t kick her out of bed either. There is an enormous supply of hot Latin women.

              2. Must be good; it’s forbidden!

    2. I think we have enough anti-Semites as it is.

  3. Unfortunately, not enough people with the mindset that “less governing is the best” are getting access to media. If more people who get a camera and mic pointed at them were going on record saying that gridlock is good and we should more of it, it might actually be a real challenge to the Esquire mindset.

    1. If you defend gridlock, people are going to project the political views of whoever is causing the gridlock onto you. That’s what happened to me when Ted Cruz was filibustering last year.

      I defended Ted Cruz’s right to filibuster – he wasn’t breaking the rules or anything. I’m not a huge Ted Cruz fan, but people automatically assumed I was supporting Cruz’s politics.

  4. I didn’t make it all the way through the bullfight/Cruz article, but wow were you right. That was some truly bizarre stuff. Almost like it was an assignment from an editor: “Cover the city while you are there – maybe you can mix in something against bullfighting.”

  5. The truth is that regarding any issue more Americans want something done than only want something done if it will be constructive. If a politician said they were going to burn a pile of money in order to combat global warming there would be applause from some citizens just because the politician was at least doing something. It doesn’t matter that it has no affect on the actual issue, it can even have a negative affect and make matters worse, what really matters is that the politician is doing something about it. Heck, it doesn’t even actually have to be a problem, as long as a politician presents his actions as an attempt to solve a problem he’s in like Flint.

  6. but they are legislators and it’s a damn shame they don’t legislate more!

    To be fair, repealing laws might also count as legislating, but I don’t think that’s what they have in mind.

  7. On my drive to TX today I heard another Gruber clip where he said that Obumblecare is the result of exactly this. They didn’t know how to solve the problem but they had to do something, so they did something. Gruber thinks he is a brilliant guy. How does the saying go again? When you are dead you don’t know you are dead, but everyone else knows it. It’s the same when you are stupid.

    Obumblecare is becoming a more and more appropriate name for that pile of shit.

    1. “Gruber thinks he is a brilliant guy”

      Not only is he brilliant, everybody else it not.
      I’m reminded of the characterization of another prof by a friend; it wasn’t enough for him to win, somebody else had to lose.

  8. Something something PENELOPE TITS something something.

    You know that rule about the sideline reporter looking so hot because she’s the only female among a bunch of athletes and announcers? Same thing applies to half-naked chics on HnR. Hell, it even made Kennedy hot when they ran her naked pic on every other post a while back.

    But yeah, expecting anything more from Esquire politics is begging to be disappointed.

    1. When they ran her what? Do you have a link?

  9. Cruz signed that public statement supporing Roman Polanski, and for that she became unattractive to me.

  10. Magazines frequently confuse “sexy” with smokin hot. A woman can be smokin hot and quite unsexy. In fact, smokin hot women can be at a disadvantage because they don’t need to TRY. Everyone adores them whether they are sexy, funny, smart, charming, boring, mean, or stupid. Smokin hot woman often have to overcome their smokin hotness in order to develop the personality traits required to be “sexy”. Or I’m wrong and this is all just semantics.

  11. Meh, Esquire employs Charles Pierce, the epitome of smug, progderp.

    He’s ok when writing on sports on Grantland once in a while, but the smugness is always there even when I agree with him. Talented wordsmith and insufferable douchebag in one package.

  12. Man thats one pretty hot babe right there.

  13. it’s a little disconcerting to have a often thoughtful magazine write thousands of words about our alleged political crisis with so little content.

    *checks author of post, laughs uproariously*

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