INQUIRING MINDS WANTED TO KNOW! Reporters asked the darnedest questions on a great saints famous bus: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2008
THE SCRIBE FROM VERSAILLES: Weve often suggested that these life-forms arent human. And darn it! The thought came to mind again when we read the following part of Gail Collins new column. Simply put, these people cantor wontreason at all. The italics are by Collins:
Sorry, but that isnt what McCain meant. Thats what he explicitly said. But again, you see how these life-forms function. When they loved him, they pandered and fawned, telling the world what a giant he was (see below). Now, some of them see that hes really a Strangeloveand they react by refusing to tell the world the things he has actually said. Robinson did itand Collins does too. (As above, they sometimes project the thing they themselves are now doing onto Democrats-in-the-fall.)
Guess what, liberals? The mainstream press is going to be an upper-class institution for a very long time. If you let them play by these rules, it will hurt the candidates you prefer time after time after time.
And yes, this is an artefact of life inside the palace. As she starts her latest can of blather, Collins adopts her standard tonea tone that comes straight from Versailles:
Standard Collins. Dont worryif she had reported the liberation of Dachau, she would have found a way to drop a tongue-in-cheek framework around it.
Its hard to give all the worlds woes full attention? How about trying just one?
Background: In some ways, Collins strikes us as the strangest bird in the current Big Pundit collection. Understandably, many readers hear tone-of-Dowd when they fight their way through her pieces. (Its surely odd that the New York Times only female columnists adopt such similar, who gives a sh*t attitudes.) But Collins notion that humor helps the rubes choke down the news seems to have started in the Age Before Dowd, during her days at the Hartford Courant. We read some accounts of her theoretics last year. Wed guess they involve some projection.
Is Collins human? Its hard to be certain. Today, she refuses to tell the simple truth about what Saint McCain actually said. Two cycles ago, she was making it up about somebody different, of course; she was making it up about Gore. As weve said before, this punishing account of the first Gore-Bradley debate is exceptionally hard to reconcile with the actual tape of what actually happened. Beyond that, we think the highlighted statement may be the most inhuman thing weve seen in ten years at this post:
Corey was New Hampshire resident Corey Martina young mother who had a sick child. Gore asked her how old her child was (five) and if the family had insurance (they did). To Collinsand to others in her sick cohortthis could, by the rules of game, mean only one unflattering thing. And it had to involve the vile Clinton.
(In fairness to Collins, a long string of her colleagues also mocked Gore as Clintonesque for daring to ask Corey Martin that questionfor daring to ask a young woman about her sick child. You really see who the sick ones are when you fight through their palace-bred columns.)
If you watched the tape of that debate, youd see how bogus that paragraph was. But every pundit was typing it up, and Collinsplagiarizing Jacob Weisberg rather openly with that crap about Clintonesque mind-meldstyped it up with the other dukes and the duchesses. This was the novel they were writingand its how we got to Iraq.
And then, five days later, she took it all back! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/3/99, then answer our long-standing question. Are these life-forms actually human? Or are we just seeing the gruesome effects of life inside Versailles?
In part 3, we get a look at the types of questions they ask:
PART 3INQUIRING MINDS WANTED TO KNOW: We finally felt it was just a rerun when Lizza mentioned that awkward silence. Ryan Lizza had enjoyed the bracing experience of riding around on John McCains bus in the weeks before New Hampshire voted. And omigod! The great man took so many questions that he tamed the beasts of the field:
When Lizza described that awkward silence, he called to mind a string of profiles from McCains bus-capades during Campaign 2000. Back then, many scribes marveled at the way McCain would dish so much straight talk that reporters would simply run out of questions. You run out of questions to ask the guy. He's that available, Frankln Foer once said.
As a general matter, this story element was repeatedly used to portray the great mans stunning openness. But uh-oh! If you actually read the many profiles which emerged from the bus during Campaign 2000, you got to see the kinds of questions these ingenues were actually asking. Lizza hints at the problem in his New Yorker profile, in the February 25 issue (text below). But you couldnt avoid it eight years back: To all appearances, McCain was taking endless questions from a group which was endlessly daft.
On February 14, 2000Valentines Day!Foer described the scene in a U. S. News piece. As Lizza would do eight years later, he gasped at the way McCain conducted his affairs right in the open, where the horde of journoswho sat at his feetcould hear, touch, see, smell, feel them:
Foer discussed that profile on Washington Journal; on that program, he mentioned the way you run out of questions. Unfortunately, he had already given U.S. News readers a glimpse of the types of questions the journalists seemed to be running out of. Here was his published accont of the topics which were being discussed on the bus:
In this passage, Foer marveled at the way reporters ran out of questionsafter he described McCain talking about pellet guns and pet chickens. It wasnt clear that reporters had actually asked McCain about these topics. But uh-oh! Months earlier, Richard Cohen had described reporters grilling McCainand fatuous topics ran wild:
In Cohens telling, some serious topics had been discussedbut the list of trivial topics dragged on. Theyd been allowed to ask him anything they wantedbut Cohens record of the conversation turned to Marlon Brando movies, and to that dish from Rio. For now, well postpone the tales of the stripper ex-girl friends and fashion models, the tales that seemed to make every profile. Well only note that William Greider, in Rolling Stone, recorded similar fareand he seemed to dump responsibility right on his fellow reporters:
Greider seemed to describe the reporters as fans. But then, Cohen had gone out of his way to call McCain a hero.
Readers will think were cherry-picking accounts of a generally high-minded process. But in fact, a long string of profiles from Campaign 2000 recorded the pointless questions which seemed to predominate on McCains bus. In late December, Jill Lawrence profiled McCain for USA Today. Had she ridden when Greider was there? Or were these topics standard fare? Either way, she took the portrait of the questioning a bit further:
They just couldnt stump this guyeven when they asked him to reveal his favorite word!
As noted, Lizzas profile seems to hint that this chatter is currently presentbut lets attempt to complete the record from Campaign 2000. The day before New Hampshire voted, David Von Drehle profiled the bus in the Washington Post. By now, you can see that many elements of his profile were Quite Thoroughly Standard. In Von Drehles account, McCain starts out discussing policy. But its straight downhill from there:
Every word was on the record! Even the part about Donald Trump making out with his girl friend!
It was hard to miss the rolling inanity captured by these profiles. And, even as reporters kept saying that McCain would talk till they ran out of questions, a wide range of questions never seemed to get asked aboard that famous bus. During this period, McCain was openly lying about both Bush and Gore, and later about his own campaign practicesbut reporters somehow never seemed to question such things. Beyond that, his policy blunders were virtually endless, as became clear if you read all the profilesbut reporters failed to put them together. And wouldnt you know it? It seems that a childish group dynamic had been developing on the bus. Late in the game, Dana Milbank, on Reliable Sources, constructively blabbed about this:
Kill the pig! At any rate, the Chicago Tribunes Jim Warren was on this same program. Hed seen the peer pressure too:
U.S. policy toward Rwanda was for squares!
Tomorrow, well look at the sorts of topics these inquiring minds seemed to love. But part of Lizzas recent piece brought these telling old profiles to mind. Dont you get a whiff of rerun when you read this passage from his profile? Heres a quick hint about life on the bus in New Hampshire, just this year:
Huh! Stretches of banter were long, Lizza saidand policy discussions were short! Conversations werent always about substantive issues, a rising star diplomatically said.
TOMORROWPART 4: The allure of the broken screen door.