Part 1—The wages of sloth: Quite plainly, Gail Collins cares about dogs. And the New York Times acres about horses! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/28/12.)
But does Gail Collins care about low-income kids? Consider the column she wrote last weekend about Mitt Romney’s “bold proposals” for the public schools.
Last Wednesday, Romney spoke to the Latino Coalition of the Chamber of Commerce about his proposals for public schools. Did he present a bold plan for the schools? We wouldn’t say that ourselves—but then, we aren’t the parent of a low-income kid whose situation might be improved by certain of his proposals.
For our money, Romney’s proposals are underwhelming. But when Gail Collins wrote a column about Romney’s plan, her work was substantially worse.
It’s hard for liberals to see who Collins is because she’s reliably tribal. She reliably takes the stand which is designed to make liberals feel good, as she did in her low-wattage piece about the Romney proposals.
In our view, Collins is about as lazy and uncaring as it gets. Consider some of the standards ways she clowned around in this column.
First, of course, she killed some time apologizing for the boredom to follow. This time-killing snark is a regular part of her columns:
COLLINS (5/26/12): Today, we’re going to talk about Mitt Romney’s education speech.There! Collins killed 126 words before she even pretended to talk about schools! As always, she apologized for the boredom to follow; this is an insult to her readers which her readers never quite get. And soon, Old Faithful exploded again! She cited Mitt Romney’s abused and dead dog, the one from the mid-1980s:
Whoa! Calm down. Of course, it’s exciting—policy, Mitt Romney, education, speeches. That’s why I brought it up at the start of a long weekend, so there would be plenty of pondering time.
This was Romney’s first foray into education since he became the presumptive nominee, but it had a quality of mushiness seldom seen outside of a six-week-old pumpkin. At one point, in a tribute to American entrepreneurs, Romney announced that “if every one of our small businesses added just two employees, Americans could pay more mortgages and buy more groceries and fill their gas tanks.”
Or, you know, if they each added one. Or if the guys in the third row each hired 46.
But about the schools...
COLLINS: The Tea Party folk hatehatehate No Child Left Behind as a federal intrusion on states’ rights to screw up their schools in whatever way they see fit. Romney vaguely referred to it as not being “without some weaknesses,” then promised to end “that political logjam that has prevented successful reform of that law.” Are you with me so far? I kind of like the logjam. I am seeing Mitt, in lumberjack garb, in the middle of a river full of downed trees and the occasional committee chairman. Perhaps the Romney boys are along, singing family songs. Maybe the dog is strapped to a fallen sycamore.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That paragraph turns on two important points: 1) The fact that Romney used the term “logjam” in his speech, and 2) the fact that Romney once drove to Canada with his dog “strapped to the roof of his car.”
“In a cage,” as it turns out!
Collins cites Romney’s allegedly abused dog in roughly half her columns. In comments, readers then praise the brilliant way she worked the dog into the column. In return for this blind devotion, Collins treats her readers like fools, as she did in this passage:
COLLINS: Mitt is going for “bold policy changes.” He said “bold” almost as many times as “education crisis,” even though the Romney verbiage was un-bold in the extreme. Did he want vouchers so kids could use public money for private school tuition? The one brief mention in the prepared text of “private school where permitted” vanished in Mitt-speak.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! But did Romney really say “bold” almost as many times as “education crisis?” Did he use these tiring phrases too much? Uh-oh! The word “bold” appeared in his speech only three times, though Collins knew enough not to use numbers. The term “education crisis” appeared only twice, though Romney did cite “the crisis in education” two more times beyond that.
If someone says the word “bold” three times, is that cause for comment? Only if you’re a tribal hack—a tribal hack who is killing more time in ways designed to please readers. And by the way, is that other claim true?
Is it true? Did “the one brief mention in the prepared text of ‘private school where permitted’ vanish” when Romney gave his speech? Yes, it did—but the proposal remains in Romney’s formal education plan. Though there is no sign that Collins bothered to read through this long, boring document, the way real analysts did.
Does Gail Collins care about low-income kids? Given 800 words to discuss a topic of towering concern, she clowned and dissembled in typical ways, making us liberals feel extra good about the other side's bad breath. But omigod! On this bright shining Saturday morning, the truly unthinkable happened!
Unheard of! One of her readers, a fellow from Boston, left a comment asking why Collins seemed to have so little to say! In a world where readers praise Collins for pap, this is a rare occurrence:
COMMENTER: Missing for me from this piece are any pragmatic suggestions for reform by the author other than a vague mention of throwing more money at the problem. You justifiably dump all over the empty suit for his disingenuous [claims] but then come up just as empty.Good God! With his use of the phrase “throwing more money at the problem,” the commenter may have self-identified as a conservative-leaner. (Although he seemed to agree with Collins’ dismissal of Romney.) But good God! Quite correctly, this commenter noticed the lack of substance, knowledge or real concern in Collins’ waste-of-time effort.
Gail, if you're going to write on a topic as ubiquitous as education to an audience as wide as you realize as a New York Times' correspondent, you might want to consider offering some solutions of your own, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. Our nation turns it lonely eyes to you, woo, woo, woo; woo, woo, woo, or to Fish, or Dowd, or Blow, or Friedman, or Bruni, or Brooks, etc.
If the politicians have no great ideas, surely someone at the New York Times should have something credible to offer.
Plainly, Collins cares about dogs. But does she care about low-income kids? For our money, this was a very lazy column—a fact we can see when Collins pretends to explain the shape of our “education crisis.” Her explanation is lazy and soft, like everything else in this waste-of-time piece. Does Collins know what she’s talking about? We find little sign that she does—or that she cares about any of this, one way or another.
For our money, that reader from Boston was basically right. Collins pretends to be disturbed by Romney’s disingenuous ways—but she is quite disingenuous too. And uh-oh:
Occasional insights to the side, Collins’ uninsightful commenters show us the wages of this sloth—a sloth which does pervade the Times, much as that reader suggested.
Tomorrow—part 2: Lady Collins (and her readers) explain the shape of the crisis