OFF THE GRID

Why Is Frank Rich Mad as Hell?

Aug 11, 09 | 7:57 AM   byMichael Wolff
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One of the most brilliant careerists of my journalism generation is Frank Rich, who now writes a record-length column for the Sunday New York Times op-ed page. He’s pulled off his career goal: becoming as quintessentially part of the establishment as you can be. When he talks, people within the culture and media system listen. At the Times itself, he runs his own power center: You don’t lightly cross Frank Rich (indeed, if you need juice at the Times, you call Frank Rich). And his kids—we all want to help our kids’ careers, but Frank’s have had books and television shows to their credit by their early twenties.

Anyway, Frank’s column in the Sunday Times was about how much he, and all Americans, in his estimation, resent that in so many aspects of modern life the fix is in.

“What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media,” said Rich, in his best pious voice.

Rich, in his column, expresses concern that President Obama is becoming part of this great corporate media-Goldman Sachs fix—which might somehow influence his health care plan, which Rich seems sour that he can’t influence.

It’s possible that Rich no longer regards the New York Times as part of the great corporate media-Goldman Sachs fix, a position it has surely held for the last many generations. The Times' recent and precipitous fall from establishment grace and into financial disarray might be fueling Rich’s resentment.

Still, have I mentioned how last year Frank got an extra job at HBO as a “creative consultant”—a job in which he does…well, that’s far from clear. (Sort of a no-show patronage job in the media business.)

It just may be that people who are part of the fix are incapable of seeing themselves as part of it. The people at Goldman Sachs undoubtedly believe that their success and influence and power are merely the result of hard work—which, I’ll bet, is exactly what Frank Rich thinks about his success and influence and power (and what his children think about theirs).

Or, it may be that liberal people—and Rich has become ever more liberal as his columns have become ever longer—think only the illiberal, the “corporatists,” in Rich’s description, put the fix in (liberals, when they put the fix in, are, instead, contributing and adding their voice).

Or, simply, that the more you become part of the fix, the more the system confirms that you are right and others wrong.

Frank Rich is one of the great exemplars of naked ambition in the media business. And it’s paid off. He’s a go-to guy. If you need a little pull or push anywhere in Manhattan he’s a good bet. Which has turned him, perhaps like all his fellow fixers, into a most virtuous and morally certain man.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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