3 September 1999
Smile-a-while: Creative writing
Synopsis: The tomfoolery simply never stops with the Washington Posts puzzling Ceci Connolly.
Gore Is Double-Teamed in N.Y.
Ceci Connolly, The Washington Post, 8/21/99
The tomfoolery simply never stops with the Washington Post's
Ceci Connolly. Two weeks ago, we were lounging in the sumptuous
editor's wing at THE DAILY HOWLER's much-admired World Headquarters,
enjoying the amenities that make our compound state-of-the-art
among press-critique web-site campuses. Saturday mornings are
quiet time, with the analysts instructed to read from their classics.
But there came a timorous knock on our doors, as we read aloud
from Professor Fagles' Homer, and Connolly's latest puzzling article
was soon placed on our giant oak desk.
Remind us to tell you another time about the tree the desk
was carved from. The analysts pointed to Connolly's lead, in which
things were looking bleak for Al Gore:
CONNOLLY (paragraph 2): Faced with first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton's headline-grabbing Senate bid, the near-native son status
of Democratic rival Bill Bradley, and the ghost of Gore's abysmal
1988 primary finish in the state, the vice president finds
himself battling unusually long odds in the March 7 primary.
Apparently it isn't just in Faulkner's world that the past
isn't even the past. Imagine! Gore's third-place finish in 1988
had him in big trouble against Bradley! And that first lady! "Hillary
is larger than life," said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf
in paragraph three. And then it was Bradley again in Gore's face,
just one paragraph later:
CONNOLLY (4): Bradley's advisers and several neutral analysts
say Gore is playing catch-up in a state he grossly misread
the last time he ran for president.
Paragraph five? More bad news for Gore. "There were a
number of missteps early in the Gore campaign that they're
trying to overcome," one unnamed "Democratic leader"
Wow! Gore was really struggling against Bradley, at least in
the Empire State! But then we realized the analysts must have
another point to make. They would never have suspended their quiet
time, unless a giant error had happened. And, suspecting Connolly
was up to old tricks, our eye began scanning down her page, and
sure enough, a few paragraphs later, we endured our first taste
of hard data:
CONNOLLY (8): In a Quinnipiac College poll earlier this month,
Bradley closed the primary gap to 9 percentage points. Perhaps
more significant, he led Republican George W. Bush by 7 percentage
points, whereas Gore led the Texas governor by just 2 points.
Take as long as you need to deconstruct that first sentence;
we presume it was penned to mislead. Because yes, what that sentence
says when it's translated to English is this: Gore is currently
ahead of Bradley by nine points in the latest New York
polls. Those are the "unusually long odds" the vice
president is "battling" as he "plays catch-up"
in the state, "trying to overcome" his mistakes. You
knowin the state he so grossly misread the last time he war-lorded
We're not even going to waste our time wondering how this nonsense
got written. We aren't going to ask how an editor could have allowed
this to go into print. A reader is clearly given the impression
that Gore is trailing Bradley in New Yorkand he has to fight
through a jumbled construction to learn that Gore leads
by nine points.
The question we will ask is simple: why does the Post keep
permitting this mess? Connolly's repeated spinning on the Gore
campaign has been the most puzzling work of the year. In April,
her Post magazine piece on Gore fund-raising was the single worst
example of election writing this year. (See links below.) Later,
her bogus presentation on Gore's lavish spending set new standards
for withholding key data. Nothing much will turn on this new piece,
in which she creates an impression she plainly knows to be false.
But why in the world does the Washington Post keep putting work
like this in print?
We consoled the analysts as they left our chambers and returned
to their spartan study carrels. We knew this kind of disappointing
experience can kill the faith in a young person's heart. The analysts
often thumb their Thoreau in the fall; we hoped they just might
turn there a bit early. In Walden's third chapter, "Reading,"
our countryman said: "I aspired to be acquainted with wiser
men than this our Concord soil has produced." It's an aspiration
one sometimes is forced to recall when thumbing strange work in
Visit our incomparable archives: In April, Connolly
produced a Post magazine piece on Gore fund-raising that we think
is the worst election piece written this year. See THE DAILY HOWLER,
4/20/99, 4/21/99, 4/22/99, and 4/23/99.
In May, Connolly tried to keep the pathetic farm chores nonsense
alive. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/99.
In July, Connolly and Susan Glasser wrote two misleading articles
on Gore's alleged lavish spending. The articles set a new standard
for withholding key data. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/16/99 and 7/19/99.
Again, we ask our basic question. Why in the world does the
Washington Post keep putting this nonsense in print?