Part 1—But does it involve the press: What did we read on our summer vacation? Citizens, thank you for asking!
This Friday, we plan to offer an excerpt from the critically well-received book we've found fascinating for months. In our view, the book—and critical reaction to same—raises a set of questions which we've been asking for years:
Are they actually human? Instead, could it be that they're malfunctioning cyborgs? Are they here from another realm, as imagined in Men in Black? Was Invasion of the Body Snatchers designed to offer us a real warning?
"The truth is out there," The X-Files said. But does it involve the press?
For us, that well-received book about apricot cocktails has called such questions to mind. But so did a succession of news reports and opinion columns which somehow found their way to us during our summer vacation.
Tomorrow, we'll look at Charles Blow's column from yesterday's New York Times. We'll look at this piece by Professor Drezner, complete with its praise for Professor Frankfurt—a piece which got sold on the Post's web site under this teaser head:
"Hillary Clinton is a bigger liar than Donald Trump. Here's why."
We may even review Andrew O'Hehir's undisguised loathing for the American people as recently seen in Florida. Meanwhile, did you read this puzzling report in the Washington Post about the Fairfax County schools?
Can the life forms producing such emanations really be human? Beyond that, what can we learn from pursuing such obvious questions? For us, Sartre's apricot cocktails, and their reception, have been calling such questions to mind. But so did Ashley Parker's news report in today's New York Times.
As you know, Parker is said to have graduated from Penn in 2005. Soon thereafter, she was employed as "Maureen Dowd's research assistant," a designation so improbable as to raise the suspicion that it was offered as a mocking hint concerning the actual truth.
Since 2011, Parker has been a political reporter for the Times. Today, she writes a 1347-word news report about Donald J. Trump's love for fast food, a lengthy, utterly silly piece which calls our questions to mind.
In fairness, Parker's inane report is par for the course, at least at the New York Times. It's hard to picture the Washington Post publishing such consummate drivel. But drivel like this is a familiar part of the New York Times' pseudo-news blend.
Indeed, as Parker drones about Trump and fast food, she tickles the keys of familiar past nonsense in this general area. In this passage, the putative human reminds Times readers of two famous faux pas from the past:
PARKER (8/9/16): [Donald J. Trump] is a lover of diner fare and fast food grub, of overcooked steaks (''It would rock on the plate, it was so well done,'' his longtime butler once observed) and the bland nourishment of Americana. He prefers burgers and meatloaf, Caesar salads and spaghetti, See's Candies and Diet Coke. And he shuns tea, coffee and alcohol.Who could ever forget the time when Bush the Elder (was said to have) "revealed his patrician upbringing by requesting 'a splash' more coffee at a truck stop in New Hampshire?" And darlings! Who could forget the time when Candidate Kerry ordered his cheese steak with Swiss?
But his highbrow, lowbrow image—of the jet-setting mogul who takes buckets of fried chicken onto his private plane with the gold-plated seatbelt buckles—is also a carefully crafted one.
If President George Bush revealed his patrician upbringing by requesting ''a splash'' more coffee at a truck stop in New Hampshire, and John Kerry helped reinforce his image as a New England blue blood by trying to order a cheese steak with Swiss in South Philadelphia, Mr. Trump's diet also telegraphs to his blue-collar base that he is one of them.
''There's nothing more American and more of-the-people than fast food,'' said Russ Schriefer, a Republican strategist and ad maker.
If you read Parker's fatuous paper, you're doomed to remember such moments.
For what it's worth, we investigated the "splash of coffee" groaner some years ago. We found no evidence that Candidate Bush the Elder ever uttered that dooming phrase in that New Hampshire truck stop.
Evidence suggested that it was one of the ten million phony "campaign quotes" which started in a Maureen Dowd work, then spread through the "press corps" from there. Years later, Dowd initiated another phony quote for Candidate Kerry:
"Who amongst us doesn't love Nascar?" People, we're just saying!
In fairness, Parker skips other famous past moments. She doesn't remind us of the times when Candidates Shriver, Gore and Obama embarrassed themselves by ordering the wrong beverages in bars in the campaigns of 1972, 1988 and 2008, to cite just three examples. Nor do pork rinds appear.
She doesn't remind us that her fellow reporter, Amy Chozick, wrote a lengthy piece in the Wall Street Journal in 2008 asking if Candidate Obama was too skinny to be elected president. You can't include all the past piddle of this guild in a 1347-word piece.
That said, Parker alertly tells us that Trump's love for fast food is "a carefully crafted image" in which he "telegraphs to his blue-collar base that he is one of them," but that "still, Mr. Trump seems to come by his appetite for fast food genuinely."
She misses the apparent contradiction lurking in the passage below, in which she cites one of the many sources she has researched for her important portrayal. It happened fourteen years back:
PARKER: A man always prone to distraction and uninterested in small details, [Trump] has never approached food as anything other than a problem to be solved, quickly, as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, an occasional dining partner, once told The Washington Examiner.The connoisseur of fast food had eaten at Jean-Georges twice in a week! But uh-oh! According to the leading authority, the shi-shi eat place was recently "ranked number 3 in the United States and 51st in the world by La Liste in the inaugural edition of the list of the 1,000 best restaurants in the world sanctioned by France’s Foreign Ministry."
As the two men ate at Jean-Georges in Manhattan in 2002, Mr. Trump ordered briskly and imperiously from the head chef and owner, Mr. Christie recalled. ''Jean-Georges, remember the appetizer you made for me last week when I was here?'' Mr. Trump asked the owner. ''We'll take two of those. And remember that main course you made, the special thing you made for me? We'll take two of those, too.''
Mr. Christie watched with confusion and a bit of awe, he recalled in the interview. Mr. Trump looked at him and said, ''Don't worry, you'll love it.''
That was then and this is now. Clearly, though, Jean-Georges had surpassed Wendy's by 2002, when Trump and Christie memorably dined there.
In Campaign 2012, Parker penned a front-page profile of Candidate Romney's hair stylist. Today, she's helping us understand Candidate Trump's relationship to fast food. In this memorable, tightly-researched passage, she shares some of his complex reasoning:
PARKER: While junk food has long been a staple of campaign trail life—Mitt Romney's 2012 press corps coined the term ''slunch'' to refer to the unhealthy phenomenon of the ''second lunch''—Mr. Trump's reliance on high-calorie fare is driven more by a combination of speed, efficiency and, above all else, cleanliness.If we've followed the logic correctly, Trump once said he eats fast food because fast food is quick.
Though he often orders from the Trump Grill when working out of Trump Tower in Manhattan, he eats fast food several times a week while on the road because ''it's quick,'' as he told The Daily Mail last year while munching on Burger King on his Boeing 757-200.
In fairness, today's report doesn't appear on the Times' front page. It is on the front page of the National section, a page it shares with only one other report.
The endless silliness of such work raises our ultimate questions. For what it's worth, it also suggests the apparent gender throwback culture of the odd and peculiar Times.
Long ago and far away, low-calorie fare of this type appeared in newspapers' "women's pages." It's never been clear that the New York Times has fully abandoned the mindset behind that mid-century practice.
In recent years, the Times has employed two women as opinion columnists. One deals in snark and snide, the other in jests and jibes. The New York Times employs no woman who simply sits down and writes a column, as Ruth Marcus and Kathleen Parker somehow manage to do at the Washington Post. The paper then sends poor Parker out to assemble this flyweight fare.
Did Bush the Elder ever ask for a splash of coffee? Did Kerry bare his patrician soul when he ordered Swiss?
People are dying all over the world and the New York Times won't stop selling such swill. The questions we've been asking are strong, however much subscribers may hate to ponder their obvious greatness.
Tomorrow: Classic Blow