HERBERT HEARS A HOO! Kristol will drag down the Times, liberals say. We ask: Have they ever read Herbert? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2008
DEFEAT OF THE RUBES: Lower tax rates produce higher revenues! The rubes have been handed this flat-earth nonsense for yearsand your hard-charging press corps just sits back and watches. Last night, two rubes repeated this blather to Luntz. Tomorrow, we give you full details.
DRIVEN TO FAINTING COUCHES BY KRISTOL: The liberal world has reacted predictably to Bill Kristols hiring by the Times op-ed page. Yesterday, even Kevin Drum jumped on the pile, and so well build our comments from there. Not to get all obsessed by this, but is Bill Kristol a boring columnist, or what? Kevin asked. At the end of a short post, Kevin complained about Kristols high level of banality.
In truth, Kevins post is pretty tame stuff, compared to denunciations from other liberals during Kristols first weeks on the job. Singing from a silly old song-book, scripted liberals keened and wailed about the way this banal fellow had lowered the standards of this great op-ed page. His views are so predictable! liberals have cried. And his style is so deadly!
Were saddened to see all this liberal banality. Kristol joined an op-ed page which already featured Dowd and Collinstwo of the planets most banal humans. Meanwhile, for a look at Bob Herberts enduring genius, see our post below. Indeed, with Krugman as a notable exception, the genius of New York Times op-ed scribes is quite reliably observed in the breach. The Times op-ed page was a cosmic disaster long before Bill Kristol got there. There is no chanceno chance on earththat hell take its averages lower.
Of course, many liberals cling to the notion that Frank Rich churns brilliant copy each week. In our view, that opinion is largely held because Rich tends to say the (banal) things which liberals very much enjoy hearing. Frankly, its hard to claim that Rich presents telling analysesand hes often savaged Big Major Dems. Indeed, Rich was still trashing Gore as a big major phony in May 2006, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. (Even at that extremely late date, the big dope couldnt run fast enough to tell Don Imus what a phony Gore was.) Years earlier, Rich had spent the bulk of Campaign 2000 insisting that Bush and Gore were two peas in a pod. What difference does it make who wins? this big dumb rube kept asking.
So the Times op-ed page has long been a mess. It has frequently been a disaster for Dems. (Incredibly, Herbert trashed Goreand vouched for Bushs honestyeven after the first Bush-Gore debate!) But rather than help readers understand this, we liberals are having our jollies this month, pretending that Kristol is dragging down the pages lofty standards. In precisely this way, we blinkered liberals have failed to confront the basic realities of the past sixteen years. What keeps us locked in our mental prisons, refusing to notice whats real?
HERBERT HEARS A HOO: Will Kristol drag down the Times op-ed page? Consider Bob Herberts Saturday column, in which he discussed a critical topicthe most serious topic in our society, the critical topic called race.
As many Big Pundits have done this past week, Herbert lodged a serious charge; he claimed that the Clinton camp has been playing the race card in vicious ways against Obama. Indeed, they have engaged in slimy maneuvers and lowlife tactics, Herbert aggressively said. Few claims could possibly be more seriousbut Herbert just isnt a serious person. As noted, Herbert types on the Times op-ed page, an enduring case study in broken-souled pseudo-journalism. That said, heres one of the ways he fleshed out his charge. In this passage, he claims to be sharing the ugly results of the Clinton campaigns lowlife tactics:
With only 800 words at his disposal, Herbert chose to reprint this dim-witted post; he plainly implied that this dim-witted post could be laid at the feet of the Clinton camps slimy maneuvers and lowlife tactics. The inanity of this reasoning is surely apparentexcept to those at the Times op-ed page. (For Greg Sargents polite assessment of Herberts reasoning, you know what to dojust click here.)
Herberts analysis is straight from the sand-box. Sadly, that kind of work is commonly found on the page which Kristol is said to be sullying. But while were at it, lets review the way Herbert tried to establish his basic claimthe claim that the Clinton camp has engaged in slimy, lowlife racial tactics.
One would think that this was a serious claima claim one would make very carefully. One would think thatuntil one watched the way a big pundit like Herbert advanced it. How did Herbert try to establish his case? How did he prove this most serious charge? After a bit of high-minded blather, he offered his first bit of evidence:
Thats coming from the Clinton camp, Herbert storms, after quoting Youngs foolish comments. Youngs conduct is flat-out reprehensible, Herbert says. But given the weirdness of Youngs statements, does anybody seriously think that Bill or Hillary Clinton told Young to make them? And if they didnt, what exactly is the point of this big chunk of this column?
In this passage, we see Classic Herbertclassic New York Times Op-ed Writing. The gentleman starts by insulting Bill Clinton for sound[ing] like a man who's gone off his medication. But readers! Instead of quoting something Clinton has said, Herbert quickly slips away, quoting Andrew Young insteadand implying that Youngs oddball statements are somehow the fault of the Clintons. (Andrew Young is described as a surrogatea slippery word which has proven quite useful for slippery pundits in the past month.) And then, we reach the more interesting passagethe passage about Bob Kerrey.
In truth, Herberts passage about Young doesnt make much sense. Ditto his work with that on-line comment. Therefore, his passage about Kerrey is the bulk of his case. And heres what Herbert tell us:
Clearly, Herbert implies that Kerrey said these things to damage Obamas candidacy. But on what basis are we asked to believe this? Here at THE HOWLER, were not big Kerrey fans ourselves, but wed be astoundedwe would be stunnedif Kerrey said these things for the race-baiting reasons Herbert implies here. But Herbert makes no attempt to prove that Kerrey had an improper motive; he simply asserts this claim. Meanwhile, was Kerrey told to say these things by the Clinton camp, which knows what its doing? Herbert broadly implies that he wasbut again, he offers no evidence. Because Kerrey has never been close with Bill Clintonand because hes always been a bit of a loose cannonthat idea strikes us as highly implausible. But on what basis does Herbert suggest it? No basis is ever stated. Herbert simply says this occurredor rather, he implies that it did.
Todays Times includes a letter from Kerrey, in which he reasserts his view about Obama. If [Obama] becomes president of the United States, Kerrey says, his experience will give him the capacity to undo much of the damage we have done to our standing in Muslim communities without weakening our resolve to keep ourselves safe from terrorist Islamic groups. Meanwhile, Kerrey expresses surprise at the way Herbert trashed him for his bad motives. But we dont know why Kerrey should be so surprised. The op-ed page of the New York Times has been a bad joke for years.
How did Herbert argue his case? He started by hurling an insult at Bill Clinton. But then, he didnt quote anything Clinton had said; instead, he quoted other people, and simply asserted bad motives all around. He implies that this has all been a plotbut he never argues the case. And of course, he throws in that dim-witted on-line comment. He only has 800 words for his pieceand he wastes our time typing that.
But this is the way this page has long functioned. Even after the first Bush-Gore debate, this same brilliant fellow was trashing Goreand vouching for Darling Bushs integrity. And thats why weve marveled, in recent weeks, as liberals complain about new hire Kristol, who will supposedly drag this page down. Beyond that, its why we ask our new question each Friday: When will our greatest logicians and thinkers descend from their mountain aeries and help us mortals, writhing here, down on this Times-ridden plain?
WHERE IT CAME FROM: That on-line message, misspellings and all, was a response to this December 16 post by ABCs Jake Tappera post in which Tapper offered a thoughtful assessment of Kerreys actual motives. (He even interviewed Kerrey!) Apparently, Herbert read the things that Kerrey told Tapperthen simply asserted his own conclusion, sharing his mind-reading brilliance with readers. Herbert just knew what Kerrey was doingand the Times op-ed page let him know it.
But then, this page has been a cosmic disaster for years. Its the type of fact we blinkered liberals still refuse to express.