EDWARDS SPEAKS! Edwards dared to talk about trivia. This morning, the punishment starts: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2007
MARC SANTORAS WET LEG: Every so often, they try to write about topics that actually matter.
When they do, you see why they prefer earth tones and haircuts—and pointless letters a college girl wrote in the 60s. And about the morals of the father of the boy friend of the daughter of one of the candidates!
We refer, of course, to Marc Santoras helpless report in this mornings New York Times—his report about Giulianis health proposals, which the Republican hopeful finally discussed yesterday, up in New Hampshire.
A few weeks ago, we marveled as the mighty Times boasted about this proposals significance (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/13/07). Today, we see what happens when one of their lads tries to explain what it is.
How many ways can a plan be obscured? With apologies, let us count the ways:
The role of the government: In paragraph 3 of his report, Santora presents the heart of Giulianis proposals (some of which may be perfectly reasonable). As usual, it seems that Rudy was thundering hard against those socialist Dems:
SANTORA (8/1/07): In his speech here, he excoriated Democrats for advocating a ''socialist'' solution to solving [sic] the problem of the nation's 44.8 million uninsured, saying the party's candidates encouraged a ''nanny government'' by proposing a greater government role in health care.Uh-oh! The Dems are encourag[ing] a 'nanny government' by proposing a greater government role in health care. But readers, so is Giuliani, a point Santora fails to note! Indeed, Santora has already told us, in paragraph 1, that Giuliani wants to move from the current employer-based system to one that would grant substantial tax benefits to people who buy their own insurance. Yep! Giuliani wants to take the burden off employers—and move it onto the federal government, which would subsidize purchase of health care! This, of course, would represent a greater government role in health care—the very thing Giuliani hates! But Santora fails to spot the contradiction as he continues to type. Here is a fuller passage:
SANTORA (pghs 3-5): In his speech here, [Giuliani] excoriated Democrats for advocating a ''socialist'' solution...by proposing a greater government role in health care.Jesus Alou! Readers, lets state the obvious: Those tax exemptions, vouchers and tax refunds all constitute the greater government role in health care Giuliani supposedly opposes. In fact, these proposals are similar to some proposals currently being made by Big Democrats! As Santora continues, its clear that he understands such facts. But for some reason, he only reports stark contrasts between the proposals.
Seeing stark contrasts: In some ways, Giulianis proposals differ from those of the current Big Dems. But in other ways, his proposals are quite similar. But Santora fails to articulate this fact—indeed, he only sees the stark contrasts that Rudy himself is pimping. Read through this fuller passage. Note the chaos of paragraph 6:
SANTORA (pghs 4-6): [Giuliani] proposed tax exemptions of up to $15,000 per family, allowing individuals to direct that money toward the purchase of health insurance and other medical spending. He also said he opposed any government mandates that would require people or businesses to buy insurance...Santora speaks grandly of Giuliani's vision; it stands in stark contrast to the plans offered by the leading Democratic candidates. But thats absurdly misleading. It some ways, its baldly untrue.
Yes, there are stark contrasts to be found in this passage. For example, Obama and Edwards would require corporations to buy insurance for employees; Giuliani would not. On the other hand, Obama and Edwards propose increas[ing] subsidies for health care for the poor—and as we see in paragraph 5, Giuliani proposes the very same thing! After failing to note this blinding fact, Santora evades the stark contrast which does exist in this part of the program; starkly speaking, Edwards and Obama have said how theyll pay for these subsidies (by raising taxes or rolling back tax cuts), and Giuliani will not. According to Santora, Giuliani gave no details about how he would pay for his vouchers (his subsidies)—but that doesnt mean that they wont bear a price tag. (Quite possibly, Giuliani would have to pay for these subsidies the same way Obama and Edwards will—by taxing somebody else.) But Santora skips quickly past that unflattering fact, seeing only stark contrasts with Dems.
In paragraph 6, Santora reports stark contrasts where there are also similarities—and he fails to articulate one stark contrast which cuts in the Democrats favor. The Democrats are telling it straight. As usual, Rudy is not.
Withholding the most basic facts: Its the law! Before he finishes, Santora has to showcase his cohorts greatest skill—the abject refusal to present basic facts, now matter how blatantly relevant. This sad press corps custom comes into play when Giuliani baldly misleads the average people in his New Hampshire audience.
Again, its not like Santora doesnt know that Rudy is treating the voters like rubes. Omigod! At one point, he even says so, ever so quickly:
SANTORA (pgh 8-10): Using explicitly partisan language, perhaps intended to stir memories of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed bid to reform health care as first lady more than a decade ago, Mr. Giuliani cited horror stories and selective statistics about health care in foreign countries that provide universal coverage. Mr. Giuliani said that a ''socialist'' model would bankrupt the government.Omigod! At one point, Santora actually says it; Giuliani presented selective statistics about health care in other countries! But, just as Giuliani misleads his audience, Santora keeps Times readers barefoot and clueless. With the Democrats, we are in for a disaster, he quotes Rudy saying. We are in for Canadian health care, French health care, British health care.'' And Santora—wet, hot liquid running down his left leg—fails to let his readers know the worlds most obvious facts:
KRUGMAN (7/9/07): [E]very available indicator says that in terms of quality, access to needed care and health outcomes, the U.S. health care system does worse, not better, than other advanced countries—even Britain, which spends only about 40 percent as much per person as we do.By one respected measure, the French provide the best health care in the world! But the weak little boy with the wet, hot leg just couldnt bring himself to type it! He just couldnt make himself note the groaning, howling problem with Giulianis presentation. Why are American voters so clueless about the basics of world health care? Because weak, weak boys—weak boys like Santora—know that mustnt ever present these obvious, elementary facts. Its Hard Pundit Law, and Santora knows it! Occasionally, Krugman will present these key facts. And nobody else ever will!
As Krugman continued his column that day, he asked a very important question. Sadly, the passage which closed his column describes Santoras report to a T:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): All of which raises the question Mr. Moore asks at the beginning of ''Sicko'': who are we?''Who are we? the columnist (like the film-maker) asked. Just what kind of people are we? Sadly, Santoras news report helps us answer that question.
Among other things, were a deeply uninformed people. Were kept clueless by the fear-mongering and influence-buying of interest groups—and by people like Giuliani, calling the world;s bets health care a disaster. And oh yes! Were kept clueless by weak little boys at the Times—weak lads with hot, sticky legs.
THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND NARRATIVES: Gag us! Later, Santora typed heroically. This is impossibly bad:
SANTORA: The ideas he outlined, steeped in a bedrock conservative faith in the ability of the free, unfettered market to solve problems, are similar to those advocated by President Bush.Omigod! How bad is that? Before he can list some shortcomings of Giulianis presentation, he has to say that Giulianis ideas are steeped in a bedrock faith.
Really? How does Santora know that Giulianis proposals arent driven by the desire to keep paying off big insurance companies? Steeped in a bedrock conservative faith! At the pinnacle of American journalism, does Santora fail to know that hes typing the language of endless GOP pamphleteers?
Special report: Edwards speaks!
PART 1—EDWARDS SPEAKS: Its intriguing to see that Edwards spoke just as the great New York Times was correcting.
On Sunday—only eight years too late!—the Times rewrote some treasured old trivia. The paper had pimped this sh*t for eight years. And then—just like that!—it was gone:
NEW YORK TIMES CORRECTION (7/29/07): An article last Sunday about politicians' choice of clothing while campaigning referred incorrectly to the role of Naomi Wolf in Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. She was a consultant on women's issues and outreach to young voters; she was not Mr. Gore's image consultant and was not involved in his decision to wear earth-toned clothing.Omigod! How funny is that? With a single stroke of the pen, the history of modern trivia changed! For eight long years, this gruesome newspaper told us that tale about Wolf and Gore. Now, were told to forget all about it! How sad that we cant just forget something else—the way world history got changed in the process, as this most gruesome American paper conducted its War Against Gore. (Note: We still dont know why the Times still says that Gore made a decision to wear earth-tones.)
Readers, how funny was that? To see the greatest American paper rewrite what it had said for eight years, with just a stroke of the pen! But of course, the Times has moved on to new treasured trivia! And thats why John Edwards was speaking.
Then, it was earth tones; today, its those haircuts. And that big house. And that speech, at that college. (And necklines; and letters from the 1960s; and the moral failings of the father of the boy friend of the daughter of one of the candidates.) And this time, theyve gone after Edwards quite hard. Which is why the gentleman spoke; just click here to watch the tape. Its also why the press corps lads and lassies soon began crying:
EDWARDS: This is all—just to be clear about this. You remember the Swift Boat stuff in the 2004 election? This stuff's not an accident. Nobody in this room should think this is an accident. You know, I'm out there speaking up for universal healthcare, ending this war in Iraq, speaking up for the poor. They want to shut me up. They want—that's what this is about.As we said just a few weeks ago: If we could wave a magic wand and tell the voters just one thing, it would be this: Ignore them when they come at you bearing trivia (this silly, frivolous, nothing stuff). When they come at you bearing trivia, every alarm bell in your head should go off. You should instantly ask yourself: Why are they selling me trivia? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/20/07.
Whatever motives may be involved in their love of trivial nonsense, Edwards gave a very clear picture of the shape of modern journalism. As with the earth tones, so with the haircuts; for whatever reason, the group we still describe as a press corps just luvvs to zero in on this silly, frivolous, nothing stuff. In 1999 and 2000, they talked about earth tones—and about the string of silly quotations they themselves had invented. As a result, the U.S. Army is bogged down in Iraq. And yet, these idiots talk about haircuts—and play the fool about health care plans.
But uh-oh! The weak-minded boys and girls of the press dont like it when theyre described so clearly. This morning, Adam Nagourney writes one of the saddest news reports weve ever seen in a newspaper. According to Nagourney, Edwards was unsmiling when he said those bad things! At one point, he even types this:
NAGOURNEY (8/1/07): These days the Edwards campaign has taken on the appearance of Dean 2.0, and listening to Mr. Edwards is often akin to reading the postings on an angry blog.Good. God. Almighty. If that appeared in an op-ed column, youd grimace at the lack of discipline. But today, this appears in a news report! This is now the New York Times idea of reporting the facts.
But then, Nagourney and Santora appear side-by-side today, taking up most of page A12. If you purchased your countrys greatest newspaper, you got a helpless report about health care—and an angry rant about alleged ranting. (Note Nagourneys description of Joe Trippi: a college dropout with chronic diabetes. So there! Take that, beyotch!) But make no mistake—Edwards gave a perfect description of modern American upper-end journalism. Eight years ago, they talked about tones. As of Sunday, they were no longer there!
Just how perfect was Edwards portrait? Tomorrow, well return to that Gail Collins column, the one last week about tangerine day. Whatever their actual motives might be, this press corps simply revels in trivia—and in a handful of mindless narratives. Eight years ago, they reveled in earth tones—the earth tones theyve suddenly disappeared. Today, they talk about haircuts—and fruit. And Collins—loathsome then, as now—knows all about silly and frivolous.
THURSDAY—EDWARDS SPEAKS, PART 2: Gail Collins knows silly! (And sneering. And snide.)
FRIDAY—EDWARDS SPEAKS, PART 3: No one (but Krugman) knows health care.