Part 2—Rampell on the ramparts: Over at the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell is one of the so-called “new kids on the lawn.”
We’ll advise readers not to be fooled. First, a bit of background:
All across the mainstream press corps, an older generation of Sam-and-Cokies is finally leaving the stage.
They came of age during the era which gave rise to the TV political talk show. Arguably, they have been the worst generation, a possibility we’ll explore a bit more tomorrow.
All over the press corps, these mastodons are being replaced by younger, more attractive practitioners. At news orgs like the Washington Post, there seems to be a preference that such practitioners come from the finest schools.
Rampell, Princeton class of 07, is a visible part of this youth movement. She is now a twice-weekly columnist on the Post’s op-ed page.
Unlike the columns of some elders, Rampell’s pieces typically appear in the hard-copy Post. Her latest effort appears there this morning.
We’d call it a good example of a giant waste of time.
Rampell’s point of view today is extremely soft. No stylistic skill is on display—but then, why would someone of such tender years have developed a columnist’s writing skills?
To extend a famous phrase from Michael Kinsley, Rampell writes like a young person trying to sound like an older person’s idea of a young person. That said, there’s one thing you’ll never get from the Washington Post’s youth brigade:
These kids will not put up a fight. When the Post visits the finest schools, they know how to locate the trimmers.
It’s odd to think that the youngest columnists are the ones with the fewest teeth. As she starts, this is the way Rampell tiptoes into the discussion about the Clintons’ troubling speaking fees:
RAMPELL (7/22/14): Is it hypocritical for a really, really rich person to object to rising inequality?Have the Clintons been getting derided for “charging six-figure speaking fees while pontificating about...the plight of the poor?” We’d have to say, that pretty much isn’t the discussion we’ve been seeing.
I’ve been thinking about this in light of the derision the Clintons are facing for charging six-figure speaking fees while pontificating about income polarization and the plight of the poor.
Right in the midst of this jihad—a jihad which has plainly been led by Rampell’s own Post—Hillary Clinton announced an initiative designed to help the nation’s low-income children. It was part of the Clinton’s Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” program.
We’ve seen no one deriding Clinton for pontificating this way while accepting large speaking fees. We’ve seen no one say it was hypocritical for Clinton to mount this initiative.
In fact, almost no one in the mainstream press corps mentioned this announcement at all. The fact that Clinton was discussing the needs of poor children wasn’t mentioned in the hard-copy Post. Her announcement rated two paragraphs in the New York Times, at the very end of a wider news report.
In today’s column, Rampell doesn’t seem to be discussing the jihad of the past six weeks. In that discussion, the Clintons have been attacked for their “rapacious” conduct, for their “wanton acquisitiveness.” In the process, a string of extremely wealthy journalists have worried that we Americans might see Hillary Clinton as “out of touch.”
Rampell largely bypasses this discussion in today’s column. As she continues, she defines a somewhat different discussion—a long-running discussion which has been critiqued about a million times by now.
She also offers an odd assessment of Paul Krugman’s rapacity. This just isn’t good work:
RAMPELL (continuing directly): Other high-income, high-net-worth figures have been similarly mocked for expressing concerns about a growing income and wealth imbalance that benefited them. Among the targeted upper-crusters are Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, who said in a recent interview that “too much of the [gross domestic product] over the last generation has gone to too few of the people”; Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who has advocated higher tax rates on high-earners such as himself and consistently decried rising inequality; and Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist who will soon receive $25,000 a month from an institute that studies income inequality.If Rampell has any expertise, it is supposed to lie in the realm of economics. This March, she came to the Post from the New York Times, where she had been writing the Economix blog.
These economic elites aren’t alone in balking at rising inequality. A rare survey of 1 percenters found that nearly two-thirds believe “differences in income in America are too large,” according to research...
Given this background, it’s slightly odd to see her link Krugman to Buffett and Blankfein on the basis of his new job at CUNY, which will pay him $225,000 per year. Does that make Krugman an “upper-cruster” in the Buffett class?
(Note: It’s a nine-month contract.)
$225,000 would certainly be a mountain of money to us! But within the American context, it doesn’t even place Krugman anywhere near the one percent, let alone in the class of people like Buffett and Blankfein.
This is lazy construction by Rampell. But as is true with many of these so-called “New Kids on the Lawn,” her technical work is often amazingly weak.
As she continues, Rampell discusses a tired old charge—the claim that people like Buffett are “hypocritical” when they advocate policy changes which would harm their own high-income position.
As everyone knows, that is an utterly silly charge. We’ve seen it refuted a million times by various writers on line, always in more convincing fashion than Rampell is able to muster.
Meanwhile, readers must tolerate Rampell’s latest insistence on cramming Kim Kardashian (and even Snooki) into this discussion. Perhaps that’s designed to makes her prose read “young.”
Rampell has now devoted two columns to the jihad concerning the speaking fees of Chelsea Clinton and her better-known parents. Today’s column strikes us as hopelessly fuzzy and largely off-point.
In last week’s effort, Rampell wasted inordinate amounts of time on the appearance fees of Kardashian and Snooki. In the process, she failed to detail the basic facts about Chelsea Clinton’s appearances.
We’re sorry for showing you this:
RAMPELL (7/15/14): Likewise, upon learning that Clinton Fille pulls in $75,000 per speaking engagement, the New York Times's Maureen Dowd asked, "Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?"Has Chelsea Clinton ever keynoted a college lecture series? We know of no such reporting.
To which my reaction is: Since when do you need talent or skills to be a well-paid celebrity?
Lest there be any confusion, most compensation—but especially compensation that's accompanied by a flock of flashbulbs—is determined not by some intrinsic measure of worldly achievement or moral worth but by what the market will bear.
Witness famous-for-being-famous reality star Kim Kardashian.
Kardashian vastly out-earns Clinton and more accomplished public figures such as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The new Mrs. Kanye West charges $100,000 per appearance, according to the fine celebrity journalists at OK! Magazine, and at those gigs no one even expects her to deliver prepared remarks on eradicating waterborne illnesses or racial tensions. (In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if her contracts explicitly forbid such pontification.) On some occasions, Kardashian has commanded as much as $500,000, her reported payout for attending the recent Vienna Opera Ball. It's not clear what talents Kardashian possesses that make her "worth" $500,000 per appearance, except maybe a talent for identifying people willing to pay her $500,000 per appearance.
It's more than that, of course. Hollywood celebrities like Kardashian—and political personalities like Clinton or Sarah Palin—can command big appearance fees because the organizations hiring them derive some value from the appearance, too.
Several years ago, I did a back-of- the-envelope calculation to determine why nightclubs might be paying "Jersey Shore" starlet Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi the head-scratchingly high fee of $25,000 merely to drink, dance and socialize for a few hours. It turned out that once you took into account the extra revenue streams that Snooki's name brought in - from cover charges, bottle service and publicity in glossy magazines—her attendance might actually have been worth several multiples of what she charged clubs.
The exact numbers probably no longer hold up today, since in recent years Snooki's star, if not her tan, has faded. But the same principles apply to other celebrities and political scions getting big bucks for appearances on TV and red-carpet events.
After all, having a brand name like Chelsea Clinton keynote your conference or college lecture series can attract better attendance, bigger donations and more press coverage.
Flights of fancy to the side, Rampell took a peculiar approach in this column. Rather than report the fact that several philanthropic organizations had detailed the way that Chelsea Clinton is a draw, she went on and on about the star power of Kardashian and Snooki.
As she wasted everyone’s time in this manner, Rampell failed to mention basic facts about Chelsea Clinton’s speaking appearances. And she ended her column with her heart in her throat.
It all comes out the same in the end! This is the way the obedient child closed her wandering column:
RAMPELL: If there is any objection I have to Clinton's speaking gigs, it's not the size of her paycheck. It's the possibility that her hosts and employers are hiring her in order to buy influence with a possible future president (Clinton Mere), an aspect of Chelsea Clinton's lucrative speaking career that for some reason has not been emphasized in most media reports. This possibility is particularly troubling given the family's resistance during the 2008 primaries to releasing information about donations to the Clinton Foundation, where Clinton's speaking fees reportedly go. When it comes to the Clintons, exposure is easy to come by; transparency, less so.According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton hasn’t kept a single dollar from her “lucrative speaking career.” According to the Clinton Foundation, most of her speeches are given for free, a fact Rampell didn’t cite.
According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton only speaks to do-gooder groups, another fact that got cast aside so we could learn more about the past economix of Snooki.
Rampell did report that Chelsea Clinton donates all her speaking fees. Question: Did you even realize that Rampell said that?
Rampell’s statement is buried inside her discussion of her fear that Chelsea Clinton’s fees are being paid to drive future corrupt bargains. What tricks might The Jewish Federation have up its sleeve? Rampell is concerned!
All across the mainstream press, the so-called “worst generation” is hobbling toward the door. At news orgs like the Washington Post, they are being replaced by obedient younger models who arrive from the finest schools with a sorry collection of skills and a genuine lack of fight.
These safe young replacements seem inclined to say the same sorts of things the worst generation has always said. On-line, their headshots suggest the dawning of a new day.
In the process, an older regime continues to motor along.
Tomorrow: The new kids at partisan orgs