DEEP THOUGHTS BY PAT HEALY! No big paper reports as poorly as the New York Times: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, AUGUST 7, 2006
AMONG THE WORLDS STRANGEST RECORDED BELIEFS: Yes, we actually think he believes what he said. That said, our analysts came out of their chairs Sunday morning when David Brooks voiced an odd claim on The Chris Matthews Show. The panel was asking itself if The Daily Show makes its viewers too cynical:
MATTHEWS (8/6/06): Is it smart to think of this as cartoons? Like, Bush: Not too bright. Cheney: Tough guy. You know—Gore: Boring. Is it OK to have these tags were basically putting on these guys?Brooks' logic is a bit weak (for example, a person can "sincerely" believe that all pols are crooks, whether that view is correct or not). But, having followed this press corps for more than eight years, were inclined to file that highlighted remark under Humankinds Strangest Known Statements.
By the way, why was the panel debating this tired old topic? Just guessing, but you can bet the house: CMS taped an early-in-the-week, evergreen show so Chris could jet to his Nantucket manse. His only Hardball appearance last week occurred on Monday night.
TOMORROW: Just asking: Could Bob Kagan really have been sincere when he wrote this ridiculous column?
DEEP THOUGHTS BY PAT HEALY: A few weeks ago, we noted a miserable trait of New York Times political reporting (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/06). That trait? The tendency to mind-read motives for a pols statement before even telling us what the pol said. But then, as we said at that time, the Times is in a class by itself when it comes to fly-weight political reporting. And uh-oh! On page one of this mornings paper, Patrick Healy proves our point once again. Oof! Heres the way he begins his report about Joe Liebermans Sunday:
HEALY (8/7/06): Senator Joseph I. Lieberman directly confronted the anger roiling the Democratic Party over Iraq yesterday, making a last-ditch attempt to explain his support for the war and to win back doubting voters in Connecticut before the state primary election tomorrow.Good God, thats awful writing! Before Healy quotes a single word Lieberman said, he provides his own sweeping view of its meaning. What was Lieberman essentially doing when he said whatever he said? (Healy begins quoting the solon in paragraph 3.) According to Healy, Lieberman was essentially offer[ing] a new set of talking points for Democratic leaders who are struggling for the right words to reconcile their support for the war initially and the fiery antiwar views of many Democratic voters today. Does anyone on earth know what that means? Does anyone know why Healy believes it? No—but this incoherent, sweeping claim leads this critical, front-page report.
But then, New York Times political reporters have written this way for years. Well take a highly speculative guess: By the time they get hired at the Times, reporters may even believe their own twaddle; by virtue of their professional standing, they may think they have Deep Things To Tell Us about the meaning of every event. (Their editors may even believe this too.) Who knows? They may even think it would be unfair to deprive us of their Vast Deep Insights. But in fact, the paper seems to go out of its way to recruit fly-weights for its political reporting. Result? We get miserable work like this Healy piece—or like the mind-reading piece by Anne Kornblut which we critiqued at the link above.
Other big papers just dont write this poorly. Again, well make the Posts Dan Balz our control group. Heres how Balz begins his own report on Liebermans day on the front page of todays Post:
BALZ (8/7/06): In a dramatic bid to stave off a potential defeat in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) on Sunday rejected charges from rival Ned Lamont that he has been one of the chief cheerleaders for President Bush's Iraq policy, but he reaffirmed his belief that a hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces would prove disastrous for Iraqis and for the United States.Balz wasnt moved to offer meandering thoughts about what Lieberman was essentially doing. He provided a big of basic context, then told us what Lieberman said.
Good God, that opening by Healy is awful! But then, New York Times political reporting has been cosmically awful for years. The paper seems to go out of its way to assemble a team of world-class fly-weights. And then, theyre instructed to share their Deep Thoughts. Disaster moves downhill from there.