Anyone who wants to know how seriously The Politico has disturbed the MSM principalities and powers need only click here and read the massive (go get a beverage) New York Times Magazine profile of the cyberscribe Mike "Playbook" Allen, the human alarm clock who helps drive life here inside the Beltway. This intensely personal piece is written by Mark Leibovich, who makes it clear that he respects Allen and considers him a friend.
This is interesting since the basic message of the piece is that The Politico is very, very dangerous and that Allen is one very, very strange man who must be hiding secrets. This is relevant to GetReligion because the implication is that some of the secrets are religious in nature. You know how much the Washington establishment trusts public people who are seriously religious. Here is a crucial piece of the puzzle:
Allen was the first reporter hired by Politico's founding editors, John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei, when they left The Washington Post to start the Web site and newspaper in 2006. He is considered a Politico "founding father," in the words of Harris, who, like VandeHei, tends to place great weight and mission onto the organization. Another construct (originating outside Politico) is that Harris and VandeHei are God and Jesus -- it's unclear who is who -- and that Allen is the Holy Ghost. When I mentioned this to Allen recently, he was adamant that it is meant to be facetious and that no one at Politico really believes that. Allen, an observant Christian, said the line could be misconstrued. But "Holy Ghost" does seem a particularly apt description of Allen's ubiquity and inscrutability. "I get that what I do is a little elusive, ambiguous," Allen told me. "I try to be a force for good. And I try to be everywhere."
Later, at his 45th birthday party, Allen adds:
"I'd like to thank the Lord for the many blessings he brings me," Allen said at the party. "VandeHei thinks that's a reference to him."
I'd like to know more, how about you?
Now, the story stresses that Allen is fiercely independent and has a giant network of friends-sources in both parties, including people in the Obama administration who help him achieve the daily "West Wing Mindmeld" that is a crucial part of the reporter's early, early a.m. email missive that helps define life here in America's most powerful small town.
Allen is so idealistic about his work that he refuses to vote. Then again, people at the Politico have been known to refer to their work as a "calling," while others accuse them of running a "page-view sweatshop."
And then there is this other religious reference, which adds an additional blurred detail or two. You can just feel the journalistic threat level rising:
No shortage of friends will testify to Mikey's thoughtful gestures, some in the extreme. They involve showing up at a friend's son's baseball game (in South Carolina) or driving from Richmond to New York to visit a fraternity brother and heading back the same night (dropping off the morning New York tabloids to friends in Richmond). When Watkins lost his grandfather, Allen appeared at the funeral in Kaysville, Utah, and filed a "pool report" for Watkins's friends and family.
He attends a nondenominational Protestant church and a Bible-study group. During the George W. Bush presidency, which Allen covered for The Post, he drew closer to some people in the administration through worship. "He is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met," Josh Deckard, a former White House press aide, says. "Philippians 2:3 said, 'In humility, consider others better than yourselves,' and I think Mike exemplifies that better than anyone."
Now, some people are interpreting one reference here -- "he drew closer to some people in the administration through worship" -- as a statement that Allen, you know, actually prayed with these Republican leaders (perhaps even kneeling in the Oval Office). That probably means that they attended the same unnamed church. And that Bible study? There are many in the city and some are completely bipartisan. But, you know, prayer is prayer and the Bible is the Bible.
Thus, some folks are worried. Here is Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches:
A "nondenominational Protestant church" is often known to religion reporters as an evangelical church. If it is important to mention Allen's church attendance, why do we not learn which church he attends? Given the politicization of church, and particularly a church that someone politically connected might attend, and particularly an evangelical church that someone politically connected might attend, we should be told which church Allen attends. ...
There are churches around Washington -- evangelical and not -- that have a particular political point of view, a particular worldview, shall we say. Allen very well might attend an apolitical church. But shouldn't we know more? If Allen presents himself as politically neutral, would it not the job of the reporter reporting on Allen's supposed neutrality to dig a little deeper?
Actually, I also wondered why the church wasn't named in the piece. This could be a favor to a friend. It also seems that the vague reference may be more of a threat to some people in this city than the name of an actual church. We don't know, do we? Still, why hint that religion is a major factor in this powerful man's life, then drop it?
So, more information please. However, you have to ask if mainstream media folks would be as upset if Allen attended a local Episcopal congregation. No, wait, that might be even worse. We'd have to know if he attended an Episcopal congregation (which would be fine) or an Anglican congregation (which would represent the end of the world). Nevermind.