Supplemental: Are we able to like or respect more than one thing at a time?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders’ politics:
Many liberals very much like Bernie Sanders’ politics.

We like Sanders’ politics too. On the other hand, we were surprised to see him semi-endorse the notion of a 90 percent marginal tax rate.

Has he advanced such a position before? To us, that seems more like a position you advance as a professor, as a journalist or as a member of Congress, rather than as a White House candidate.

Just a guess. It could have the effect of “McGovernizing” a very good man—and we loved Candidate McGovern, who went on to lose 49 states.

That said, we’ll wait to see the way the campaign plays out.

We like everything we know about Bernie Sanders. We also understand one of the ways his politics has managed to stay so good—he has conducted his entire electoral career in the state of Vermont.

Also, he isn’t exactly expected to win. That’s what allowed Candidate Kucinich to advocate single-payer in 2008 when none of the other candidates would.

(We like Kucinich too. We once saw him go out of his way to do a good thing when he didn’t know that anyone was watching.)

It isn’t hard to see why liberals like Sanders’ politics. In the next few days, we’ll be asking a basic question in several different ways:

Can we like or respect more than one thing at a time?

We like the way Sanders conducts himself. We also know that the Clintons have conducted their politics in the national context, in situations where they were trying to win.

We recall how it felt after 1988, when it seemed that no Democrat would ever win the White House again. We liked and admired Candidate Dukakis—still do!—but he got left for dead in a way which was very disheartening.

We were grateful to Candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 for finding a way to win. We also agree with what he said to Cynthia McFadden in an NBC interview earlier this month:
MCFADDEN (5/4/15): Former President Bill Clinton says he has no regrets about taking millions from foreign governments for his foundation.

CLINTON: I don’t think that there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people, and countries that are seriously involved in development, to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up. I don’t think there’s anything bad with that. I think it’s good.

MCFADDEN: But even while the criticism at home rumbles, the heart-warming stories here in Africa are undeniable. At the Starkey Hearing Foundation program, a hundred and fifty people will be fitted for hearing aids. Their goal, a million people by 2020.

CLINTON: I’ve done these in Uganda and Zambia.

MCFADDEN: This boy will hear for the first time.
We’re glad that boy will hear for the first time! We don’t think “there’s anything bad with that” either. We’re willing to guess that Bernie Sanders thinks that’s a good thing too. Based on everything we know, we’re able to imagine that Bill Clinton has done this work around the world on the basis of good motives.

We’re going to repeat a few basic points. We like everything we know about Bernie Sanders. Also, we think it’s good that a little boy in Africa had his hearing restored.

We’re often amazed by the sour odor given off by the upper-end journalists who have been chasing the Clintons around for all these years. This is the way Ruth Marcus ended Sunday’s column in the Washington Post:
MARCUS (5/24/15): Now comes the news about the previously undisclosed speaking fees that went to the foundation, not the Clintons themselves. The foundation says it is disclosing these out of an abundance of transparency.

True, no law or ethics rule requires such reporting. As to Clinton’s agreement to disclose foundation donors, the position of the foundation and the Clinton campaign is that the document doesn’t include these because they’re “revenue” for services rendered, not charitable gifts.

This interpretation makes no sense. By this logic, Vladimir Putin himself could have given the foundation $2 billion to hear Bill Clinton speak while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, and it wouldn’t have to be revealed.

Was this a bookkeeping glitch? (Another one, after the failure to specify foreign-government givers on IRS forms, or the previously revealed instances in which donors weren’t reported.) Or was it a calculated end-run around the disclosure agreement? I suspect the former but understand those who tend to the more nefarious interpretation.

One explanation involves bungling; the other, shadiness. Neither is an especially attractive proposition for a presidential candidate.
Marcus has it in her heart to imagine a bookkeeping glitch. For unexplained reasons, she can also understand those who picture shadiness and nefarious motives here, even though the foundation disclosed these donations itself.

What doesn’t enter the picture here is the little boy who got the chance to hear. Beyond that, Marcus doesn’t say that she can believe that this work around the world is being done from a desire to serve.

That said, we’re often struck by the crabbed, fallen nature of our large gang of Javerts.

Earlier in her column, Marcus complained about the way Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees “invite suspicions that [companies] are seeking to curry favor with you, in your future role.” She didn’t mention the way the New York Times had to conduct a 4400-word journalistic scam to create even one “suspicious” example—the frightening scary uranium deal, which Hillary Clinton seems to have played no part in.

Marcus says that she’s concerned about possible future misconduct. She doesn’t seem to be concerned by the journalistic clown show which has already occurred.

We like everything we know about Bernie Sanders. We also like the fact that deserving children are being helped around the world. We can’t say we’re real impressed with the crabbed, dishonest form our “journalism” has routinely taken in the decades of the endless Clinton/Gore pseudo-scandals.

For ourselves, we’re willing to like and admire more than one thing at a time. We don’t plan to hate the one if we prefer the other. We’re especially reluctant to let the crabbed memes of scribes like Marcus worm their way into our heads just because we’ve heard them repeated for so many years.

We’ll discuss versions of this idea over the next several days. We think it’s a central idea for those who will experience the machinations of our new endless campaign.

SAME OLD STORIES: Marcus and Bruni have money troubles!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2015

Part 3—These old story-lines never end:
With fans like the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, who needs an enemies list?

In her column this Sunday, Marcus identified herself as “a fan of Hillary Clinton.” Within the upper-end insider press corps, this is the way such people have reasoned all through the Clinton/Gore years:
MARCUS (5/24/15): Hillary Clinton’s unseemly speechifying

Again with the speeches. The gross excessiveness of it all,
vacuuming up six-figure checks well past the point of rational need or political seemliness. The ceaseless drip of information that ought to have already been released, now being presented with a self-serving back pat over transparency.

I wasn’t planning to write, again, about Hillary Clinton’s compulsive speechifying. I already weighed in nearly a year ago urging her to stop talking. For money, that is.

That unheeded advice came, by my accounting, some $6 million ago.
Not including Bill Clinton’s speeches. Not including any speeches that Hillary Clinton made on behalf of the family foundation, which just disclosed that, um, it neglected to disclose somewhere between $12 million and $26 million of money it made by booking the Clintons.
Again with the speeches? The gross excessiveness of it all?

In fairness, we had the exact same set of reactions! But we were reacting to Marcus’ “compulsive columnizing” about this same old subject, which also drove the way her gang wrote about Candidate Gore.

We’ve read these same old stories before, with the same old points of view and the same old double standards. Frank Bruni, who isn’t a fan of Clinton, was trundling down this same old road in his own column this Sunday.

Within the realm of Bruni and Marcus, this is the way you approach the world, whether you’re a fan of Clinton or a borderline hater. Unless you don’t care who reaches the White House after our current endless campaign, we think you should be concerned by the widespread déjà vu occasioned by these same old columns.

Almost anything can trigger these same old screeds, as Marcus proved in her piece. But before we examine the outrage which set Marcus off this time, let’s get clear on the depth of her concern.

In Sunday’s column, Marcus understated her track record in this area. By our count, this is at least the fifth column she has devoted, since last June, to Hillary Clinton’s “greed.”

It’s true! Last June, Marcus did “urge” Clinton to stop speaking for pay. More accurately, she issued a type of command:
MARCUS (6/29/14): Which gets me to the second set of issues: how you're continuing to vacuum up the money, and the aura of greediness it exudes. Madam Secretary, enough already. This behavior borders on compulsion, like refugees who once were starved and now hoard food. You're rich beyond your wildest imaginings! You don't need any more! Just. Stop. Speaking. For. Pay.
We’re often struck by the sense of entitlement these masters of the world convey as they issue their directives to the mortals who cross their path.

At any rate, when Clinton didn’t Just. Stop. Speaking. For. Pay., it seemed to set Marcus off. Though still a fan, she wrote a column last month in which she turned to the Yiddish word for “pig” to describe the woman she so admires:
MARCUS (4/26/15): Which brings us to greed, and the Yiddish word chazer. It means “pig” but has a specific connotation of piggishness and gluttony. This is a chronic affliction of the Clintons, whether it comes to campaign fundraising (remember the Lincoln Bedroom?), compulsive speechifying (another six-figure check to speak at a public university?) or assiduous vacuuming-up of foundation donations from donors of questionable character or motives.
Inside the Masonic lodge of the insider press, that’s the way a person writes about those of whom she’s “a fan.”

(Just for the record: We do remember the Lincoln Bedroom. We remember the way Marcus’ newspaper gimmicked the numbers during that heavily-flogged episode, adding Chelsea Clinton’s middle-school slumber party guests to the total number of people who slept in the sacred room—and yes, they actually did that!

(We also remember what happened when USA Today reviewed the tenure of President Bush; they found that a similar number of donors had slept in the White House while he was president. You’ve never heard about that from Marcus, or from pretty much anyone else, and the chances are good that you never will. We have no idea why that’s the case. Apparently, she only applies these same old standards to those of whom she’s a fan.)

Marcus is “a fan of Hillary Clinton” even though Clinton’s a gluttonous pig! Somehow, though, she can’t stop repeating the talking-points which have long been employed by those who have tried to destroy the Clintons and their vassal, Candidate Gore.

After last month’s “gluttonous pig” fan letter, Marcus found herself compulsively columnizing on this subject again. And sure enough! Another of those same old stories was banging around in her head:
MARCUS (5/6/15): Oh, Bill. There you go again. We knew you were going to pop off, but did it have to be so soon—and so tone-deaf?

[...]

"We have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy," Bill Clinton asserted. "Knowingly inappropriate"—the 2016 version of Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority.”
Live and direct from 1997, “no controlling legal authority” still haunts Marcus’ sleep!

We won’t make you sit through a recitation of the inanity of that tired old tale, which turned on the issue of which room in the White House a person can sit in when making a fund-raising phone call. Suffice to say that stories like this never seem to leave the heads of those who are willing to tell their readers that they are Clinton’s “fans.”

Do you think it makes a difference who ends up in the White House? If you do, we advise you to be concerned about the re-emergence of the same old stories the guild has routinely told about the Clintons and Gore.

Double standards have always abounded in Clinton/Gore money stories:

In April 1999, Marcus’s own newspaper published an astounding magazine cover report about Candidate Gore’s deeply disturbing fund-raising goals. The paper already knew that Candidate Bush was planning to eschew “matching funds,” freeing him to raise much more than Candidate Gore. But so what? They ran the astounding cover report anyhoo, with its amazing cartoon visuals of the rapacious Gore.

We don’t recall the glorious Marcus raising her voice about that ridiculous scam. We get a whiff of that same old story when scribes like Marcus and Bruni complain about Clinton’s approach to fund-raising while rushing past the massive money being raised everywhere else.

Inanity has often been present in Clinton/Gore money stories:

Consider Bruni’s column last Sunday. Is Hillary Clinton a hypocrite because she plans to “round up donations” for a super PAC which “will be panhandling on her behalf...despite much high-minded talk previously about taming the influence of money in politics?”

Actually, no, she pretty much isn’t, as almost anyone should be able to discern. But this same “hypocrisy” club was endlessly used at the New York Times to beat Candidate Gore over the head, even in their “news reports,” even as he was being outraised by Candidate Bush.

(Warning to Democrats! In the Post and the Times of that ludicrous era, Gore’s fund-raising showed he was venal. Bush’s substantially larger fund-raising showed he was well-liked.)

These same old stories are floating around, pretty much as it’s ever been during the Clinton/Gore years. We liberals agreed long ago not to notice such problems, but they still exist.

Do you think it matters if Republicans take the White House? If so, we think you should be concerned by these emanations. Meanwhile, almost anything can trigger these same old stories, as Marcus proved in her latest fan letter.

What inspired Marcus to write her fifth column about the way Clinton’s a greedy pig? The fact that the Clinton Foundation just made a disclosure—a disclosure Marcus says they’re weren’t required to make!

Being a fan, she’s upset because this disclosure could have been made a few months earlier. And she is upset because Clinton scored $6 million in the past year, after the time when the Empress Marcus commanded her to stop.

Just for the record, that’s roughly the amount a mid-level infielder makes.

Money is a major problem in our American politics, as every sane person knows. But the heads of crazy people like Marcus still teem with riotous, tilted tales from the disgraceful journalistic era of the Clinton/Gore pseudo-scandals.

She still remembers the Lincoln Bedroom, but she remembers it only one way. Eighteen years later, she can quote what Gore said in the terrible scandal concerning which room you’re allowed to sit in while you make phone calls.

Would you be OK with a President Walker? If so, you shouldn’t worry about the same old stories which seem to be popping up.

If that prospect doesn’t seem OK, you might be concerned about the ease with which a fan like Marcus finds herself with her “hair on fire” about these troubling matters, which seem to grab such people in rather unbalanced ways.

In her latest column, Marcus said this: “I find myself, once again, with hair on fire” about these money matters.

No problem, one of the analysts cried. Because she’s living in Salem Village, a dunking pool must be nearby!

Tomorrow: “The lesser of two evils”


Supplemental: Bruni in spring!

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

The same old story continued:
But seriously though, folks! Do you even understand the theory behind this type of campaign reporting?
CORASANITI (5/22/15): His S.U.V.’s motor was running and an open door beckoned. But Jeb Bush, quite possibly the most media-friendly hopeful in the Republican presidential field, was not done answering questions.

A journalist tossed him an intimate inquiry, the kind usually brushed off by politicians: Who in his family was ailing with Alzheimer’s?

Mr. Bush, his back to the reporter and an escape within reach, nevertheless whirled around. “My mother-in-law has dementia and she’s 94 years old,” he responded. “She’s a gift from God; she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

The candid, personal detail would have gone unknown and unreported had Mr. Bush not stopped to answer a question. But that has been his hallmark throughout his two-day swing through New Hampshire: He has been open, available and engaging, in contrast with the stage-managed, tightly controlled events held by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
That’s the way the New York Times opened a recent “campaign report” about the wonderfully accessible Candidate Bush, who stands in wonderful contrast to that other person.

That said:

Do you have the slightest idea what the logic of that report might be? More specifically, why in the world would some campaign reporter toss that “intimate inquiry” to a White House contender?

“Who in his family was ailing with Alzheimer’s?” How on earth would a campaign reporter come up with a question like that?

We don’t have the slightest idea how such “journalism” works. Nor do we know why voters should care about Bush’s intimate answer, which “would have gone unknown and unreported” had he failed to respond.

Just a guess! This young reporter for the Times seems to think that campaign reporting involves an effort to learn who the candidates “really are” deep inside. When young reporters start thinking that way, we advise you to check your wallets.

(Older reporters have worked that way for several decades now. Way back when, Katherine Boo called it Creeping Dowdism.)

Young Corasaniti lavished praise on Candidate Bush for his open, available, engaging ways. As he continued, his language reminded us of the language Frank Bruni had used to praise a previous Candidate Bush, way back in 1999.

In the fall of that year, Bruni was spilling with praise for Bush’s effusive glad-handing on the campaign trail. By the spring of 2000, the “media-friendly” part of the package was there for all to see in Bruni’s fawning work.

By now, Saint John McCain had left the race for the White House. Starting in December 1999, his sudden rise in the New Hampshire polls made him the stand-alone darling of the national press corps.

(About that, all agree.)

Even Bruni’s ardor for Candidate Bush seemed to cool during this period. Now, with McCain’s campaign a thing of the past, it was safe for reporters to fawn about Candidate Bush again.

It was also safe for Candidate Bush to interact with reporters again. For several months, that had stopped as their fawning focused solely on McCain—as Bush’s occasional bungled statements were suddenly treated as news.

Now, McCain was out of the race. Bush began chumming around with reporters again. Bruni described it like this:
BRUNI (4/14/00): It did seem to take the Straight Talk Express, a perpetual group interview on wheels, to nudge Mr. Bush onto the same airplane as reporters. (Mr. Bush never opened up his bus in a similar fashion.)

But now that Mr. Bush is among his shadows, he gives every appearance of enjoying being there.

He not only slaps reporters' backs but also rubs the tops of their heads and, in a few instances, pinches their cheeks. It is the tactile equivalent of the nicknames he doles out to many of them and belongs to a teasing style of interpersonal relations that undoubtedly harks back to his fraternity days.

Last week, he turned to a reporter who grew up in the arid expanse of Australia's most famous rural region with a mock suggestion.

"Outback woman!" he said. "One of the things I'd like to do sometime is have dinner with you at the Outback steakhouse. That way, we'd have the Outback woman at the Outback steakhouse."
“During flights last week, he talked baseball with one network producer,” Bruni reported this day. “He listened sympathetically to another network producer's romantic travails. He confessed that he never saw the movie ‘Titanic’ but loved ‘Austin Powers’ and its sequel, phrases and gestures from which sometimes inform his banter.”

We’re not saying that Bruni’s report was inaccurate. In truth, it’s an important record of the unprofessional way our campaign reporters were going about their business.

Candidate Bush had been a target for several months while McCain was ascendant. Now, Bush was the children’s favorite again. Candidate Gore was now their only target.

For that reason, Candidate Gore still had to watch every syllable out of his mouth. Candidate Bush returned to his practice of rubbing journalists’ heads, pinching their cheeks and pretending he cared about their romantic endeavors.

He was also dishing those nicknames. In the Times, “Panchito” was praising Candidate Bush for being so media-friendly. And of course, he was snarking at that other person, Candidate Gore:
BRUNI: [Bush] articulated his hopes for the cows and bulls on his Texas ranch.

"You know about my abstinence program?" he asked, referring to his efforts in Texas to encourage sexual restraint among teenagers. "We have not extended that to the agricultural world."

And he talked, and talked, and talked, about the serious and frivolous, everything and nothing, for an hour during one flight and nearly 90 minutes during another, underlining a striking evolution of his methods and a new element in his identity.

With Senator John McCain out of the running and the Straight Talk Express at least temporarily out of gas, Mr. Bush has reached boldly for the mantle of Chattiest Candidate. And he has pretty well grabbed hold of it.

That gesture is self-serving and not necessarily permanent, obviously designed to build rapport with reporters in a more relaxed phase of the campaign, erase any impressions that he is lost without a script and highlight the approachable demeanor that his aides consider one of his political strengths.

It is also a clear effort to put his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, to shame. Not only does Mr. Gore keep mostly to himself on his airplane; he has not held a news conference since Feb. 19. (Mr. Bush typically holds several a week.)
The pattern which Bruni described and enacted in this piece dates at least to Kennedy/Nixon. The basic rules were already clear in Theodore White’s iconic book, The Making of the President 1960:

The targeted candidate must hold himself apart from the traveling press corps. The preferred candidate would be well advised to clown around with the kids on the bus.

He should pretend to enjoy their company. He should pretend to seek their advice, as White described Candidate Kennedy doing.

Flattered by the rubbing of heads, they’ll write good things about this media-friendly fellow. They’ll aim jibes at the other candidate—at the one who won’t discuss his plans for the cows and bulls on his ranch.

Will some such pattern obtain in the reporting of our latest endless White House campaign? Unless you think it doesn’t matter who goes to the White House two years from now, we think you should already be concerned by this possibility.

For quotes from White’s iconic book, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/14/03. It seems it was ever thus!

SAME OLD STORIES: The openness of Candidate Bush!

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

Part 2—As pioneered by the younger Frank Bruni:
Viewed as a system, our system of endless White House campaigns has its pros and its cons.

On the plus side, the system is good for hotel and restaurant interests in Iowa and New Hampshire. It lets partisan channels burn oodles of time snarking at the other party’s three hundred early contenders.

There’s also a down side to the endlessness of these campaigns. On the down side, our endless campaigns can lead to silly “campaign reporting” of the kind we found in Friday’s New York Times.

Candidate Christie was swearing too much! Candidate Clinton got fluffed! These utterly trivial news reports sat together on a page which featured an utterly trivial “campaign report” about the remarkably outgoing, candid, intimate and friendly Candidate Bush.

As part of a long tradition, Nick Corasaniti is the latest young reporter the Times has turned loose on the trail. His report was bannered across the top of the page which bore the other reports.

Hopeful-affirming headline included, this is the way it began:

CORASANITI (5/22/15): Jeb Bush Opens His Campaign Playbook by Opening Himself

BEDFORD, N.H.—His S.U.V.’s motor was running and an open door beckoned. But Jeb Bush, quite possibly the most media-friendly hopeful in the Republican presidential field, was not done answering questions.

A journalist tossed him an intimate inquiry, the kind usually brushed off by politicians:
Who in his family was ailing with Alzheimer’s?

Mr. Bush, his back to the reporter and an escape within reach, nevertheless whirled around. “My mother-in-law has dementia and she’s 94 years old,” he responded. “She’s a gift from God; she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

The candid, personal detail would have gone unknown and unreported had Mr. Bush not stopped to answer a question. But that has been his hallmark throughout his two-day swing through New Hampshire: He has been open, available and engaging, in contrast with the stage-managed, tightly controlled events held by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Candidly, that’s just sad.

By paragraph 4, the young reporter was pounding away at the hopeful who hasn’t been open, available and media-friendly. This is one of the same old stories you’ve read a million times as newspapers like the New York Times pretend to cover campaigns.

Candidate Bush has been most media-friendly! In contrast to Candidate Clinton! That said, please note the boon the public received as a result of that open and friendly behavior:

The public learned that Candidate Bush’s 94-year-old grandmother has dementia. Also, that she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met!

“The candid, personal detail would have gone unknown and unreported had Mr. Bush not stopped to answer a question,” the young reporter said. He failed to note that this “candid detail” provides nothing useful to any voter. The excited young scribe was drowning the public in useless distraction again!

Alas! When our campaigns drag on for two years, this is the way they get covered. On the one hand, campaign reporters pound away at the candidates who aren’t sufficiently “media-friendly.” At the same time, when they put their news judgment on display, they help us see why certain candidates might be well advised to steer away from the filters they will provide.

Corasaniti seemed to be blown away by the openness of Candidate Bush. As he continued, he continued hailing the hopeful for his media-friendly behavior.

As we read this passage which follows, we were struck by the way it repeated a story the New York Times told the last time a Candidate Bush hit the trail in pursuit of the White House. To our well-trained ear, this had the unmistakable sound of a “same old story:”
CORASANITI (continuing directly): But the openness carries risks, too, as shown when he engaged in a debate last week with a college student in Nevada who told him before a pack of reporters that “your brother created ISIS.” It was an instant viral moment, one that put Mr. Bush on the defensive.

Still, that encounter did not seem to deter him in New Hampshire this week. At a press gathering in Portsmouth, he shouted over his shoulder while being shoved toward an S.U.V. when asked about the troop levels in Iraq. He stopped to speak in Spanish with a voter after an event in Concord. And he playfully grabbed at a boom microphone dangling over his car in Salem, before apologizing and saying he didn’t know they could break. (The microphone was fine.)

“I really like campaigning,” Mr. Bush said as he began his two-day swing in Portsmouth, before quickly adding, “I’m not a candidate.”

Mr. Bush has even alluded to the contrast with Mrs. Clinton, who finally answered questions from the news media this week after coming under increasing criticism for failing to engage reporters. Mr. Bush regularly mentions how many questions he has fielded, and at one point was counting the number of questions Mrs. Clinton had taken.
Corasaniti sailed past the various problems this candidate had with his openness last week. He said a college student’s question “didn’t seem to deter him in New Hampshire,” then went back to marveling at the open, honest and “playful” way the candidate conducted himself on the trail in that state.

Reporting like this is highly subjective. It’s highly subject to being tilted, depending on a reporter’s point of view, or that of his superiors.

It also seems to be highly subject to repetition. This is precisely the way the New York Times portrayed the previous Candidate Bush when he was on the trail in New Hampshire in 1999.

We refer to the upbeat campaign reporting of Frank Bruni, who was then a young, inexperienced political reporter himself. Starting in September 1999, Bruni’s treatment of Candidate Bush was so fawning that it has even been mentioned by people other than us. In late November of that year, he delivered the same upbeat, subjective portrait Corasaniti delivered last Friday.

On November 4 of that year, Bruni had told the world that Candidate Bush “wrapped up a feverishly busy visit to New Hampshire that saw him log hundreds of road miles, lunge for every hand in his path and, above all, look less like a carefree front-runner than a scrappy contender who had indeed broken a sweat.”

That was a down payment on what was to come. Three weeks later, Bruni delivered the same portrait we read in the Times last week.

Shakespearean headline included, this is the way he started, though the profile went on and on:
BRUNI (11/27/99): Levity the Soul Of Bush, a Puck Among the Pols

As George W. Bush loped through the headquarters of the Timberland Company here, he might have been any candidate in the hunt for votes,
any pol on the path toward the presidency. He tirelessly shook hands, dutifully took questions and let a multitude of promises bloom.

But there was something different about Governor Bush's approach, something jazzier and jauntier. It came out in the way he praised a 20-year-old man for his "articulate" remarks, then appended the high-minded compliment with a surprising term of endearment.

"Dude," Mr. Bush called his new acquaintance.

It emerged again when Mr. Bush crossed paths with an elderly employee, and she told him that he had her support.

"I'll seal it with a kiss!" Mr. Bush proposed
and, wearing a vaguely naughty expression, swooped down on the captive seamstress.
On and on the description went. We aren’t saying that Bruni’s description of Bush was “wrong.” We’re saying that, to a weird degree, it’s the same old story Corsaniti just told:
BRUNI: Mr. Bush's arm curled tight around the shoulders of other voters; he arched his eyebrows and threw coquettish grins and conspiratorial glances their way. It was campaigning as facial calisthenics, and Mr. Bush was its Jack LaLanne.

He is frequently that way.
When Mr. Bush is not reciting memorized lines in an official speech or rendering careful answers in a formal interview, he is physically expansive and verbally irreverent, folksy and feisty, a politician more playful than most of his peers.

This disarming demeanor goes a long way toward explaining the commitment and confidence of Mr. Bush's core Republican supporters. They clearly see in the two-term Texas governor a warmth and affability that provide a sharp, necessary contrast to the brooding of a Bob Dole or the belligerence of a Newt Gingrich.
“Interestingly, it is sometimes Mr. Bush's most mischievous moments that demonstrate how astute he can be,” Bruni wrote before he finished the day’s sponge bath. He went on and on and on this day, presenting the highly subjective portrait which we almost thought we were reading again, in shortened form, in last Friday’s Times.

Candidate Bush went on to lose New Hampshire by 19 points. Bruni’s sense that he was watching a political genius may have been somewhat inaccurate.

That said, he wasn’t the first Timesman to offer that portrait of Bush that year. In August, the dean of the Times political staff had painted the same picture in yet another over-the-top affirmative profile of the “loosy-goosey, laughter-punctuated” style of the talented hopeful.

Upbeat headline included, Johnny Apple started like this:

APPLE (8/21/99): A Gregarious Bush Warms to Politicking

Former President George Bush's biggest problem, an old friend of his once suggested, was that he liked policy a lot more than politics.

Nobody who has watched him would ever say that about Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, who plunges into crowds—a crowd of 10 at an airport late at night, a crowd of hundreds at a fund-raiser, a crowd of thousands at a rally—with all the enthusiasm of Bill Clinton or Nelson A. Rockefeller or that formidable flesh-pressing Texan of yesteryear, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Nobody would ever mistake him for Vice President Al Gore.
Last Friday, Corasaniti waited until paragraph 4 before he named the candidate you’re supposed to dislike. Perhaps due to his seniority, Apple had unsheathed the knives by just his third paragraph.

Apple went on and on, for 1600 words, about Bush’s unparalleled greatness. He marveled at Bush’s joke-telling skill with 6-year-olds and at his skill with adults as well:
APPLE: Nothing seemed to faze Mr. Bush in the slightest as he moved slowly past market stalls stacked high with peaches, pole beans, Japanese eggplants and Silver Queen corn, the bounty of late summer in the Virginia Piedmont. After he had spent more than an hour shaking hands, posing for photographs, chatting about the military and the local museum and the weather, kissing a baby swathed in pink (and a grandmother or two as well), complimenting Gina Thomas on her "good-looking" family of four children and signing a lot of autographs, a man handed him a $100 bill and asked him to sign that.

"You must be doing pretty darn well," Mr. Bush said.

"Not as well as you and your father," the man replied, and the Governor, laughing, gave him a chummy punch on the upper arm.


Where did this come from, a campaign visitor asked, this knack for putting people at ease, this common touch? Well, Mr. Bush said pointedly, he grew up in Midland, Tex., and not in Greenwich, Conn., like his father. Then he thought a minute and added, "I must get it from my mother."
That Candidate Bush cited his mother, not his grandmother. For ourselves, we’d say that Apple gave Candidate Bush a “chummy punch on the arm” this day. When he did his profile of Candidate Gore, it was a poisonous mess.

This is the kind of piddle we get when our pseudo-campaigns go on forever. Hotels in New Hampshire make a killing. The public gets stuck with this.

When we read Corasaniti’s report, we had a strong sense of déjà vu. A young reporter was gushing about the openness of a Candidate Bush! Just where had we read that story before?

We knew where we had read it, of course. We think Dems and liberals should be concerned by this style of “campaign reporting,” even if they prefer the politics of Bernie Sanders to that of the hopeful we’re being encouraged to dislike this time around.

Tomorrow: Bruni’s latest column inspires a same old story

This afternoon: Bruni expands that same old portrait in April 2000

SAME OLD STORIES: Christie curses, Clinton gets fluffed!

MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015

Part 1—Also, Frank Bruni’s successor:
On this Memorial Day, we’ll have the naming of points.

Our first point: The first thing about our pseudo campaign is its amazing length.

President Kennedy announced he was running in January of the election year. President Clinton’s announcement came in October the year before.

Here it is, late May of the year before, and the gang of candidates and pseudo-candidates have been tramping New Hampshire for months. It’s how we pretend to do it now.

As a system, it doesn’t work.

Journalistically, this system permits the “press corps” to waste its time on an endless series of personality-based distractions. It lets them avoid the thing they hate most—discussion of actual matters of substance which are important right now.

That leads us to our second point: Inevitably, the amazing length of the pseudo-campaign leads to amazing inanity. Just consider the campaign reports in last Friday’s New York Times.

Chris Christie is one of the hopefuls the children don’t like. As a result, we got pure piddle from Barbaro/Haberman about his relentless cursing.

In the last campaign, Barbaro established his greatness with his front-page report about Candidate Romney’s hair dresser. On Friday, he and Haberman recoiled from all the troubling language at an annual, just-for-fun New Jersey event.

Here’s how the children started:
BARBARO AND HABERMAN (5/22/15): Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger of Newark, suggesting it provided a refuge for “angry drunks.”

He joked about a reporter who was involved in a car accident a few hours earlier, seemingly wishing that the vehicle had contained more of the journalists who cover him.

And he profanely taunted a reporter with a French surname, saying he would not pronounce it correctly—not because it was difficult, but because he could not be bothered.

The annual New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club Show is always a mischievous affair, full of off-color skits and envelope-pushing humor. But even by the standards of veteran attendees, Mr. Christie’s curse-filled speech Wednesday night was unexpectedly unplugged, unfiltered and uncensored.
Good lord! He ridiculed a leading newspaper; he even insulted the French! But most of all, the uncouth candidate engaged in unfiltered cursing.

The children even counted the curses in the “curse-filled speech.” In this passage, a careful reader might get a sense of what was being discussed:
BARBARO AND HABERMAN: Mr. Christie swore, gratuitously and enthusiastically, at least nine times in his speech, rendering many one-liners unprintable in this publication.

At one point, Mr. Christie joked that he was not the “heartless bastard I was portrayed as tonight,” according to the audio recording from the International Business Times.

Mr. Christie told the crowd of reporters that he would by no means return to the dinner in 2016, no matter how badly he was doing in the presidential campaign.

“Anything that gets me off this stage next year,” he said, deploying a curse to describe the stage. “I’m willing to do anything.”

He added: “Why do you think I might run for president?”

He repeatedly told the group that he did not give a darn—about them or the show—but used a more colorful expression.
Christie cursed “at least nine times,” the troubled youngsters reported. If you read that passage carefully, you can perhaps discern that “damn,” a word he used “repeatedly,” may have provided the bulk of the profanities in his curse-filled speech.

The candidate also joked that he wasn’t “a heartless bastard.” It seems that was counted too.

The children built an entire report out of this inanity. On the same page, Michael Schmidt discussed the hot new set of Hillary Clinton emails, which had been leaked to the Times and didn’t seem all that hot.

How pointless was this campaign report? By paragraph 4, the fearless young reporter was informing the world that the emails in question “offer occasional glimpses into the private side of Mrs. Clinton’s life, such as her public-radio listening habits and the fact that she was complimented for how she looked in a photo that appeared on the front page of The Times.”

Schmidt never explained his pointless remark about Clinton’s NPR habit. Before long, though, he was providing a fuller sense of the way such a person gets fluffed:
SCHMIDT (5/22/15): The emails show that even those at the highest levels of government engage in occasional flattering of those above them. In March 2011, Mrs. Clinton received an email from Ann-Marie Slaughter, the director of policy planning for the State Department, who was leaving her position.

“Gorgeous pic on the front page of the NYT!” Ms. Slaughter said, referring to a photo of Mrs. Clinton. “One for the wall...” Ms. Slaughter then moved on to more serious matters, including her opposition to arming the rebels in Libya.
Ms. Slaughter “moved on to more serious matters?” On the whole, Mr. Schmidt didn’t.

Schmidt did include a suggestive and misleading statement about Benghazi, the truth of which actually matters in our ongoing politics: “The emails also show that Mrs. Clinton was circulating information about the attacks in Benghazi that contradicted the Obama administration’s initial narrative of what occurred.”

Schmidt never explained what he meant by that suggestive statement. He devoted half of one sentence to that topic, two paragraphs to the photo-based fluffing which seemed to have him concerned.

This is what the children will be discussing for the next seventeen months, thanks to the pseudo-campaign’s absurd and amazing length. They’ll thrash about in piles of piddle, looking for personality-based trivia they can share and tilt.

That said, the most amazing campaign report that day appeared at the top of the page which bore the Christie/Clinton reports. This campaign report concerned Candidate Bush—and it was an obvious rerun.

The report was written by Nick Corasaniti, who's basically new to this game. In hard copy, it was bannered across the top of the page.

To an amazing degree, it told the same old story—a story the New York Times told us once before.

Corasaniti is a bright young fellow who seems to have studied Frank Bruni’s work. We say that because, sixteen years ago, Bruni—then a bright young reporter himself—wrote the exact same story about that year’s Candidate Bush!

In fact, he wrote it several times. But then, so did other Timesmen, including the late Johnny Apple. Beyond that, endless versions of this story were written about Candidate McCain.

Corasaniti graduated from [Ithaca College] in 2008.
Initially, it looks like his background was in sports. But then, Bruni wrote about movies before he began his famous fluffing of that year's Candidate Bush.

Whatever! Last Friday, Corasaniti wrote the same “news report” Bruni wrote in 1999. Along with the amazing length of the pseudo-campaign and the sheer inanity of the reporting, you’re being handed the same old stories you consumed in predecessor campaigns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Corasaniti’s faithful rewrite of Bruni’s fatuous work. As the week proceeds, we’ll examine several other “same old stories” which popped up over the weekend in the Post and the Times.

On the whole, those stories should be rejected. So should the silly children who write them.

That process should start right now. As we all understand, it won’t.

Tomorrow: Channeling Bruni