Two ways to perhaps not engage: In this morning’s New York Times, columns by Collins and Kristof border the op-ed page.
The high lady’s column runs down the left border; Kristof’s piece extends down the right. We couldn’t help thinking that the pair made a weird type of matched set.
Collins’ column is waste meat, as always. Before long, we get handed this:
COLLINS (10/13/11): This is what we’ve come to. A presidential debate about the 9-9-9 plan.It has been clear, for a very long time, that Collins does indeed hang out in the wrong places. In today’s column, she can’t understand why debate organizers would feel the need to discuss a presidential frontrunner’s budget plan. Yes, the plan is utterly silly—but Collins never gets around to explaining why. She had to leave room for her grand finale—and yes, she did it again:
9-9-9 is the sine qua non of the Cain candidacy. It would scrap the tax code and give us 9 percent corporate, income and national sales taxes. He mentions it every 10 seconds. (Opening statement, he got it in by 5.)
I have never heard anybody discussing the 9-9-9 plan in the real world, but obviously I hang out in the wrong places. The organizers and the candidates felt the need to really get into this, and, as a result, Tuesday night in New Hampshire will go down in history as the 9-9-9 plan debate.
COLLINS: As things stand, the Perry camp is apparently planning to keep their guy in the background during debates and hit Romney over the head with mean commercials. That shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe they’ll include the day Mitt drove to Canada with the family dog on the car roof.Until last Wednesday, we had never heard anyone discuss Romney’s dog in the real world. Thanks to this lady’s incessant pounding, we finally heard an actual person raise this topic.
On the surface, Kristof’s column is a polar opposite. But what about the “deep grammar?”
Question: Does anyone still read Kristof’s columns about sexual assaults in the third world? (We didn't read his column this morning.) He writes about brutal misconduct, of course, and brutal misconduct does matter—a lot. Where Collins keeps revisiting Mitt Romney’s dog, Kristof keeps revisiting the world’s most disgraceful misconduct.
But on a journalistic basis, we’d have to say that the focus, in each instance, seems at least a bit odd.
In his current set of columns, Kristof actually has what he normally lacks. He has a specific legislative focus, the proposed International Violence Against Women Act. But over the years, Kristof’s focus has come to seem odd and otherworldly to us. Repetitively, he covers topics on the op-ed page that the New York Times doesn’t even cover as news in its heavily-staffed news pages.
Kristof’s columns concern the world’s most disgraceful conduct. But as he covers Sierra Leone and Collins diddles around with Seamus, another day passes with the New York Times' stable of columnists making no attempt to explore the problems of this country. Kristof’s subject matter is very important—but we aren’t sure why it isn’t being explored in this newspaper’s news sections. We can’t help thinking that this work is encouraged on the op-ed page because it adds to the page's preferred lofty profile.
If one border goes to Sierra Leone, could the other border on this page be taken away from Collins? This gruesome newspaper rarely fails to piddle all over the national interest. Could the Times possibly hire a counterpart to Kristof who won’t obsess on Mitt’s dog?