Dowd hates, loves high school blather: Here at The Daily Howler, we’re opposed to killing the pig.
We strongly favor conducting skilled investigations of the pig. That said, the press corps tends to open the killing fields while we wait for such probes to mature.
At present, the pig in question is Chris Christie. This has produced several complaints in the past few days.
One complaint concerns his ongoing formulation about the possible role of the alleged traffic study. To Kevin Drum, what follows was absurd. Except for one word in Christie’s text, we’re inclined to be more understanding:
CHRISTIE (2/3/14): As I said at the time of January 9th when I did my press conference, I still don’t know whether there was a traffic study that morphed into–“Shenanigans?” If we assume the lane closings weren’t done in good faith, the misconduct involved was heinous. Replace that one ridiculous word and we’re prepared to listen to what Christie means by that formulation.
INTERVIEWER: You still don’t know at this point whether there was a traffic study?
CHRISTIE: Well, what I’m saying, Eric--did this start as a traffic study that morphed into some political shenanigans, or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study?
(For the record, we don’t see the word “legitimate” in his presentation.)
Earlier, killers of pigs spilled with rage about a ridiculous set of talking points from some part of Christie World. In describing the problems with David Wildstein, the talking points went all the way back to the fellow’s behavior in high school.
We think that sort of thing’s pretty silly, as we’ve been saying for years. Suddenly, so does Maureen Dowd, who seemed to spot a way to kill a pig and a column:
DOWD (2/5/14): High school never ends.Dowd was off to the races. We’re not entirely sure that Christie prepared the talking points in question. But we couldn’t help chuckling at Dowd’s reaction to the absurdity they contained.
Chris Christie has given us proof of that, as though we needed it.
Still, anyone who clings to high school the way the 51-year-old governor of New Jersey does makes me nervous.
In his hilariously lame attempt to demonize his old schoolmate and handpicked point man at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, by dredging up stuff Wildstein did as a teenager 35 years ago at Livingston High, Christie has confirmed the biographical, metaphysical and psychological primacy of high school.
People! Dowd and her guild have been profiling pols in precisely this way for years. By the end of her piece, she even acknowledged that such conduct by her own guild has become “a cliché.”
Journalists love to waste time visiting high school! Let us count the ways:
As Dowd continued, she absent-mindedly revealed where the piddle about Wildstein’s high school days came from. For better or worse, Shawn Boburg of the Bergen County Record had reported the high school incidents in a profile of Wildstein back in 2012.
Team Christie had copied from that. Meanwhile, even as The Team was trashing Wildstein for his misadventures in high school, the Washington Post was rummaging through Christie’s high school years:
DOWD: The Washington Post reported [on Sunday’s front page] that Christie wasn’t always so scornful of silly adolescent litigation. When Christie was a senior, he and his family considered suing to stop a transfer student from co-opting his role as catcher—even if it meant that the team, which went on to win the state championship, would have to forfeit the spring season. But he thought better of it.What’s sauce for the Post isn’t sauce for the pol, a point Dowd was now making clear.
At this point, it was time to complain about the way Christie revealed the fact that he and Wildstein actually weren’t childhood friends. In this passage, Dowd forgets to explain why Christie engaged in such conduct:
DOWD: The Record compared the yearbook profiles of Christie with the not-so-wild Wildstein: “Christie, a year younger, was a perennial class president and baseball player who wrote in his senior yearbook in 1980 about high school sweethearts and going to concerts. There are no remembrances, school clubs or sports teams next to Wildstein’s 1979 senior picture. The space is blank.”Perfect! Just like that, Dowd is imagining what Christie must have been like in high school! Meanwhile, why did Christie say at that presser that he and Wildstein actually weren’t “childhood friends?”
It’s risible but sort of alarming that, decades later, Christie is boasting that he was more of a big shot than Wildstein in high school, putting down the guy he created a job for, and going out of his way to say they were not even friends back when they were both connected to the Livingston Lancers—Christie as an ebullient, trim catcher; Wildstein as a quiet, bespectacled statistician.
“Well, let me just clear something up, O.K., about my childhood friend David Wildstein,” Christie said at his marathon press conference in January, a month after Wildstein had fallen on his sword for the governor. “It is true that I met David in 1977 in high school. He’s a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school.”
Bristling with narcissism and punitive aggression, he drove his point home: “We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.”
This display makes you think that Christie must have liked lording it over peons even back then, an uncomfortable echo of his office contemptuously impressing its will on the mayor of Fort Lee.
Simple! In the question to which he responded, a journalist had falsely described Wildstein as Christie’s “childhood friend,” thus advancing a rather obvious insinuation. In this passage, by the way, Dowd engages in classic behavior:
She complains when a politician makes an accurate factual statement. She doesn’t mention the dozens of journalists who had been making inaccurate statements for an obvious narrative purpose.
Pols aren’t allowed to correct the record! When will they ever learn?
(At the Times, Kate Zernike was still asserting the high school friendship last Friday, even though she surely knew the claim was false. Make no mistake—many scribes have been asserting this childhood friendship while knowing that their presentation was false. That is the way they roll.)
In our view, Team Christie was pretty silly with its complaints about Wildstein’s high school years. But so was Dowd’s low-IQ guild when it spent a month in 2012 frisking Mitt Romney’s high school misconduct—and when they examined various aspects of Candidate Gore’s behavior in high school.
Remember the time Gore tattletaled on his high school football teammates? Thanks to the Washington Post, we do!
Remember when “John C. Davis, who taught Gore in 11th-grade sacred studies,” was quoted in the Post saying this: "He was a wooden Apollo?"
Even more risibly, remember what a “pest” Gore was at the age of 6 when his sister and her friend had to babysit him? We recall that one too—and yes, it fit right into a narrative being formed around Candidate Gore.
This is the kind of perfect bullshit Dowd and her pals have been peddling for decades. To her credit, Dowd is aware of that fact:
“It has become a cliché to portray candidates in their “Breakfast Club” cliques,” she correctly writes in her column, perhaps not seeing the way this admission interacts with her complaint about the current pig.
We agree that Team Christie was stupid this weekend. That said, the guild has been moronic about a wide range of similar matters for a good many years.
We’re hoping to see a good solid probe. In the meantime, much bullroar will flow.
You’ll be misled a thousand times. It will be hard to tell.