Supplemental: The New York Times discusses he-coons!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2015

The silliest children on earth:
We often find ourselves asking this question:

What do people think they’re reading when they read the political coverage in the New York Times?

We found ourselves asking that question again this morning. It came to us as we read a front-page report about Candidate Bush’s “cerebral debate style.”

The piece was written by Michael Barbaro, one of the Times’ endless stable of sillies. His name always triggers alarm bells here. But crackers, please!

Above the fold, on the Times’ front page, Barbaro started like this:
BARBARO (9/14/15): On the debate stage, Jeb Bush has committed the sin of over-explanation, answering a pithy 1994 attack on his business career with so many details about leases and debts that a baffled crowd erupted into boos.

He has delivered high-minded put-downs, promising in a 1998 face-off to establish a charter school “for people that distort the facts” and mischievously guaranteeing admission to his opponent.

And he has mangled seemingly simple sentences, vowing in a 2002 confrontation that “we can make Florida a bright—have a brighter future for—for all Floridians.”
We always wonder: What do subscribers think they’re reading when they read foofaw like that?

Consider that allegedly “mangled sentence”—the one which appears above the fold on the front page of today’s Times.

Later in his report, Barbaro says that Bush has “participated in about a dozen official debates since first running for public office.” If that’s the most badly “mangled” sentence Barbaro found in those dozen debates, then it’s fairly clear that Candidate Bush actually doesn’t mangle his sentences much.

Still, there it was in paragraph 3! Why did Times readers think it was there? What did they think they were reading?

All in all, Barbaro’s 1400-word report is a typical piece of mainstream debate “fictition.” Most absurdly, it’s filled with standard exciting tales about the ways Bush allegedly lost his first election in 1994 on the basis of foolish blunders and perfect squelches during that year’s debates.

(In truth, there was only one debate that year. That basic fact might be hard to discern from Barbaro’s report.)

Barbaro graduated from Hamden Hall Country Day, then from Yale in the class of 2002. Today, he toys with Times readers, producing piffle like the anecdote we’ve posted below—the anecdote with which he closed this morning’s report.

It's a standard variation on a treasured press corps theme: “The Perfect Squelch Which Won an Election.” Full disclosure! Incumbent governor Lawton Chiles is slightly misquoted here:
BARBARO: As Mr. Bush prepares for a televised brawl with Mr. Trump, that 1994 debate against the wily Mr. Chiles looms larger than ever, a searing lesson about the dangers of taking on an unpredictable opponent.

Midway through that face-off, which seemed like an agonizing draw, Mr. Bush, the newcomer, suggested that Mr. Chiles, the incumbent, had lied to “strike fear in the hearts of the voters.”

Mr. Chiles stood silently, resting an elbow on the lectern and taking it all in. Then, peering over at Mr. Bush and jabbing his finger, Mr. Chiles delivered an unscripted line about himself that changed the course of the campaign.

“I want to call attention to this old, liberal liar,” Mr. Chiles said self-mockingly, pausing for effect. “The old he-coon walks just before the light of day.”

The camera captured a seemingly baffled Mr. Bush looking around the room and then toward the moderator, NBC's Tim Russert. Neither candidate's aides had any idea what Mr. Chiles meant. But across the state, an entire generation of native Floridians understood.

The he-coon is the oldest and wisest member of a raccoon pack, a cunning hunter who knows exactly when to strike. Mr. Chiles used the old Southernism to make it clear: He was not done being governor yet.

“Jeb was speechless,” Mr. Stipanovich recalled. “He didn't know how to respond.”

“At that moment,” he said, “Lawton Chiles defeated Jeb Bush.”
Did Lawton Chiles really defeat Jeb Bush with his wonderful “he-coon” remark? Did that line really “change the course of an election?”

There’s absolutely no evidence that Chiles’ remark swayed votes one way or the other. Still, typists like Barbaro simply love debate tales of that type.

How much do mainstream “reporters” love such simple-minded stories? Earlier in his report, Barbaro had seemed to describe another way Bush lost that same election!
BARBARO: Theatrics have failed Mr. Bush at times. During a dramatic 1994 exchange in Tampa, he dared the sitting governor of Florida, Lawton Chiles, to look into the eyes of Mr. Bush's business partner, who sat a few feet away in the audience, and repeat an attack on the two men's ethics.

''I know you don't respect me, but I know you respect Armando Codina,'' Mr. Bush said. ''Can you look him in the eye and say that we've done anything wrong?”

Mr. Chiles, deploying his Southern drawl and a gift for outmaneuvering opponents, looked toward Mr. Codina, smiled and reflected on the businessman's wisdom in hiring the son of an American president.

“I think,” Mr. Chiles declared, “he made a good business decision when he took you on as a partner.”

The audience broke into loud laughter. A few days later, Mr. Bush lost the election.
There was only one debate between Chiles and Bush that year, a point which won’t be clear to most of Barbaro’s readers. Keeping that point in mind, let's review Barbaro’s work:

First, Barbaro implied that Bush lost the election that year due to that exchange about Codina. Then, he quoted an adviser flatly saying that he lost the same election when Chiles made his “he-coon” remark.

There’s absolutely no reason to think that either claim is true. Meanwhile, did the audience “break into loud laughter” when Chiles delivered that first perfect squelch?

One part of the audience certainly did! But seconds later, another part of the same audience tried to shout Chiles down as he continued talking.

In short, the audience was rather unruly that evening, with partisans cheering for and against each candidate. Barbaro gives a false impression with that remark about the “loud laughter.” But then, what else is new?

(To watch that entire debate, you can just click here. The Codina exchange starts around 13:30. The “he-coon” remark comes around 33:00. There’s no reason to think that either exchange won the debate, decided the election or changed a single vote, except in the New York Times’ endless novels.)

This morning’s front-page report is basically silly piddle. How silly was Barbaro willing to be? Go ahead—fathom this:
BARBARO: Interviews with current and former advisers to Mr. Bush and reviews of video footage from his debates as a candidate for governor reveal him to be a debater with as many deficits as strengths. On stage, his mastery of policy is almost unrivaled, but he struggles to synthesize it in compelling ways. He is capable of telegraphing deep compassion in one moment, but can convey unmistakable peevishness in the next. He defaults to analytical earnestness, rarely offering flashes of humor.

For better or worse, advisers acknowledge, his brand is self-seriousness.

“His style,” said Sally Bradshaw, a top Bush campaign adviser, “is substance.”

“His candidacy,” she added, “is not based on theatrics.”
To state the obvious, interviews with advisers can’t “reveal” anything of this type. Meanwhile, is Bush’s “mastery of policy almost unrivaled?” He has made constant policy misstatements this year which he has had to walk back.

Final point—did any adviser really say that Bush’s brand “is self-seriousness?” Bradshaw certainly doesn’t do so. Does Barbaro know what that means and implies?

Barbaro is a constant silly embarrassment. In fairness, that’s the only type of reporter the New York Times seems willing to hire to cover domestic politics.

If it isn’t silly, embellished or soap-operatic, the Times is unlikely to run it. Routinely, this leads us to ask the question we posed at the start of our piece.

What did subscribers think they were reading when they read today’s third paragraph? It was above the fold on the Times front page—and it didn’t make much sense.

Why was that “mangled” sentence there? What do subscribers think they’re reading when they read foofaw like that?

31 comments:

  1. Reporters used to just correct grammatical errors made during extemporaneous speech.

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  2. ISTM that we got better candidates in the days when they were selected by party pro's in smoke-filled rooms. Think back to Eisenhower vs. Stevenson, Truman vs Dewey, and Kennedy vs. Nixon. Setting aside which tribe you belong to, all these men were well-qualified be President.

    I think one reason for the decline is TV. Today it's vital to look good and sound good. A bald man like Ike would have trouble getting nominated today, as would a bad speaker like Rick Perry. But, I think the media also deserves some blame. The cited article here provides very little information that would help a reader decide just how qualified Jeb Bush is handle the job or President. That's all too typical.

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    Replies
    1. JFK wasn't selected in a smoke-filled room. He was nominated in a coup on the convention floor. Stevenson was supposed to be the nominee. JFK was not considered as well qualified, partly because of his youth. Truman was the nominee mainly because FDR died, making him president. You don't switch during a war.

      I agree with your last two sentences. The press should be examining Jeb Bush's business dealings and his activities as governor. For example, his role in defeating Al Gore and the conflict of interest when your brother is running for president and you are in charge of counting the ballots in a key state. There's a lot of better history that could have been dredged up than superficialities of speaking style in a debate. I think the whole column was written around that he-coon remark, because it is so colorful.

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    2. When you talk about not switching during a war, were you talking about the Cold War, 4:41? WW2 had been over for 3 years when Truman was nominated.

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    3. @4:41

      FDR replaced Henry Wallace with Truman because he knew he was not going to live through his fourth term and that Wallace was way too chummy with Stalin. Had Wallace become POTUS after FDR's death he would have lost to Dewey in 1948.

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    4. The war was over but not the aftermath.

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    5. There was no coup at the 1960 Democratic convention. Kennedy campaigned for months. Stevenson didn't. He tried to snatch the nomination from Kennedy at the convention, but Kennedy won on the first ballot.

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    6. Delegates pledged to Stevenson voted for Kennedy on the first ballot. That's dirty pool.

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    7. 6:59 has to be the ultimate "OK, so I made a fool of myself and somebody pointed it out. Let me make a bigger fool of myself." Then, in less than half an hour he/she decides to double down.

      Is this the person who stalks HuffPo looking for bad photos of Hillary Clinton?

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    8. Many American troops were still in Europe in 1947. The occupation of Japan was ended in 1951. You can consider the end of active hostilities to be the end of the war, but the country was still experiencing turmoil until later. Eisenhower was the first post-war president, and then Korea started. Truman saw the job through, after finishing FDR's term. He wasn't perceived as a change but a continuation.

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    9. It took you twelve minutes to come up with that for a triple play?

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  3. Michael Barbaro comes from the New York Times "stable of sillies."

    Remember Bob introducing him?" "Seems to be identifying as the younger Frank Bruni; Michael Barbaro seems to have started identifying as the younger Frank Bruni! Today, Barbaro’s fawning....."

    Of course here was Bob's recollection of that Bruni fellow: "It started in the fall of 1999. For reasons we’ve never seen explained, the inexperienced youngish scribe was assigned to cover Candidate Bush for the New York Times.

    Quickly, the fawning appeared."

    Bob went on to use the word "fawn" five more times in various forms.

    Today Barbaro isn't exactly fawning, the silly boy. So he is feeding us "foofaw." Silly, silly, silly, silly foofaw. Piffle. A typist in love with piddle. The silliest.

    For the record, both Barbaro and Bruni are gay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How low do you trolls stoop? You didn't manage to paint Somerby as a sexist so now you are trying homophobe? Don't you get it that Somerby doesn't like any of the NY Times columnists except Krugman? Are you going to call him a Jew lover for that? For the record, this is why people hate trolls. It is NOT OK to appropriate liberal values in order to attack liberal targets and it makes you the kind of person who doesn't care about respecting others when you borrow outrage and apply it in situations where it not only doesn't apply, but is intended to further your own selfish aims.

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    2. @4:46

      Being simpatico with only Krugman is probably more to do with B.S.'s support for those who defend the welfare state rather than whether the columnist is or isn't a goy.

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    3. Don't call people goys. It isn't nice.

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    4. The old he-goy pees just before the light of day.

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  4. For the record, silly Bob Somerby pointed out where Mr. Barbaro went to school. Is he fawning or does that demonstrate outrage? Is that silly, or simply piddle and piffle to fill this post? What do Howler readers think when they read foofaw like this. What the Sandhill is foofaw anyway?

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    Replies
    1. Isn't foofaw what PeePaw laughed at on Hee Haw?

      BTW, Pee Paw is the county seat of Van Buren County. But not Van Buren County, Arkansas, featured in Bob's last post. The county seat of Van Buren County, Arkansas is Clinton.

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    2. Maybe Bob was happy to point out that the reporter he criticized went to Yale, the traditional rival of Bob's alma mater. Or, maybe he wanted to point out that a graduate of so impressive a school as Yale could still write silliness.

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  5. Off topic but I must say, "Today, he toys etc., producing piffle."
    I lost my corporate job in 2001, as the neo-con wave washed through the defense industries, because I was actually doing the job. I should have been producing piffle. I would still be working.

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  6. "Earlier in his report, Barbaro had seemed to describe another way Bush lost that same election!
    -------

    First, Barbaro implied that Bush lost the election that year due to that exchange about Codina."

    No, Bob. He implied nothing. He stated a fact.

    You, sir, are the he-coon of added "implications" which simply are not there.

    Now, if you want to see someone talk about causes of lost elections I can think of a half dozen things you state implicitly cost Gore an election. And Gore actually won the election. He lost the Florida count in court. Thanks in part to Jeb!

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  7. "(In truth, there was only one debate that year. That basic fact might be hard to discern from Barbaro’s report.)"

    "There was only one debate between Chiles and Bush that year, a point which won’t be clear to most of Barbaro’s readers."


    Any Bob readers want to guess why the same thought needed to be repeated? Anyone want to guess why one is in parenthesis? Anybody up for picking the least correct thing said in the two sentences?

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    Replies
    1. We all know that the answer to your questions is always "because you hate Bob Somerby."

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    2. "We all know ..."

      That would be you and the little cartoon birds that flutter around your head.

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  8. Is that the best the Bob Somerby readership can do?

    If you can't figure out why Bob repeats himself or why he put one statement in parenthesis and left the other to stand free, try figureing out why he lied with such self righteous assurance. Why did he claim Barbaro did something the reporter did not do but which, if he had done it, would have been true.

    In our view, the least correct thing was: "In truth"

    The second least correct thing was: "That basic fact.."

    The third was: "there was only one debate that year."

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1994-09-22/news/9409210956_1_mortham-florida-chiles

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1994-09-30/news/9409300092_1_past-campaigns-herald-beacon-council

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1994-10-18/news/9410170497_1_radio-today-university-in-tallahassee-florida

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/19/us/1994-campaign-florida-governor-jeb-bush-debate-exchanging-taunts-claims.html

    ReplyDelete


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