A deeply inane public culture: Just a fairly obvious guess! The New York Times added Frank Bruni to the team make its op-ed page even dumber.
This morning, the scribe is back from Milan—and he’s quite upset with one of those silly-bill pols! Throwing life-style in our faces, Paul Ryan has staged “a minor masterpiece of image calibration:”
BRUNI (9/20/11): Paul Ryan may not be running for president this time around, but if you have any doubt about his ambitions for a long, prominent future in government, just look at his comments in a Q. and A. published in Sunday’s Times. They’re a minor masterpiece of image calibration.Bruni just can’t handle the phoniness of Ryan’s comments—his silly-bill musings about music and hunting. Bruni goes on to rage against the dying of the light. More specifically, he rages against the way those pols force us to listen to silly shit about their proletarian lifestyles.
In the span of two dozen sentences, Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, mentioned the Bible, or rather a beginner’s version of it, which he said he was reading aloud to his 6-year-old son. He mentioned his truck and his appetite for hard rock, thus establishing automotive and musical affinities that balance his wonkier, number-crunching bona fides. He mentioned hunting—with a bow, no less.
Then came the capper. He mentioned his talent for what I’d like to call venison charcuterie, just because he so clearly wouldn’t. “I butcher my own deer, grind the meat, stuff it in casings and then smoke it,” he said, making clear that Sarah Palin in all her moose-eviscerating glory has nothing on him.
“The relationship between lifestyle and political priorities is at best oblique,” the thoughtful fellow muses. “You really can’t judge how politicians will govern by whether they hunt or windsurf, frolic in the Texas brush or the Martha’s Vineyard sand, favor corn dogs or arugula.”
Bruni fails to note an obvious fact. In the case of Ryan, those were the silly-shit topics the New York Times asked him about! In the edited interview, he also notes that he watches CNBC—and that he is currently listening to “a series of provocative lectures by Professor J. Rufus Fears of the University of Oklahoma.”
Ryan didn’t seem to be kidding, but we don’t plan to google Professor Fears. “With the help of a Kindle, I’m reading John Mauldin’s ‘Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle,’” Ryan also throws in, though it doesn't make Bruni's column.
There’s no way to know how much dull shit got left on the cutting-room floor. Playing the fool, Bruni complainsabout what Ryan said "in the span of two dozen sentences." But the interview may have lasted for hours. It's edited. Let's say that again!
For ourselves, we recalled the hard-as-nails, just-the-facts approach Bruni brought to his own work as a campaign reporter. Here he was, following Candidate Bush on the New Hampshire trail:
BRUNI (9/14/99): When Gov. George W. Bush of Texas first hit the Presidential campaign trail in June, he wore monogrammed cowboy boots, the perfect accessory for his folksy affability and casual self-assurance.That was the start of a lengthy “news report” during Campaign 2000. Two months later, on the front page, Bruni was still pursuing his defiant, hard-news approach:
But when he visited New Hampshire early last week, he was shod in a pair of conservative, shiny black loafers that seemed to reflect more than the pants cuffs above them. They suggested an impulse by Mr. Bush to put at least a bit of a damper on his brash irreverence, which has earned him affection but is a less certain invitation for respect.
BRUNI (11/27/99): As George W. Bush loped through the headquarters of the Timberland Company here, he might have been any candidate in the hunt for votes, any pol on the path toward the presidency. He tirelessly shook hands, dutifully took questions and let a multitude of promises bloom.Bruni may be a great food critic. But when it comes to politics and policy, he is one of the emptiest suits the Times has dredged up yet.
But there was something different about Governor Bush's approach, something jazzier and jauntier. It came out in the way he praised a 20-year-old man for his "articulate" remarks, then appended the high-minded compliment with a surprising term of endearment.
"Dude," Mr. Bush called his new acquaintance.
It emerged again when Mr. Bush crossed paths with an elderly employee, and she told him that he had her support.
"I'll seal it with a kiss!" Mr. Bush proposed and, wearing a vaguely naughty expression, swooped down on the captive seamstress.
Mr. Bush's arm curled tight around the shoulders of other voters; he arched his eyebrows and threw coquettish grins and conspiratorial glances their way. It was campaigning as facial calisthenics, and Mr. Bush was its Jack LaLanne.
He is frequently that way. When Mr. Bush is not reciting memorized lines in an official speech or rendering careful answers in a formal interview, he is physically expansive and verbally irreverent, folksy and feisty, a politician more playful than most of his peers.
Then too, there’s David Brooks, self-flagellating today over the failed Obama. Brooks was so angry at his failed pal, he decided to play an old card:
BROOKS (9/20/11): It has gone back, as an appreciative Ezra Klein of The Washington Post conceded, to politics as usual. The president is sounding like the Al Gore for President campaign, but without the earth tones. Tax increases for the rich! Protect entitlements! People versus the powerful! I was hoping the president would give a cynical nation something unconventional, but, as you know, I’m a sap.You never forget your first narrative! At the Times, columnists write their own headlines. Today, this is Brooks’ boxed sub-head:
“Al Gore without the earth tones”
Through some sort of programming error, that just can’t get these themes out of their heads! For the record, Candidate Gore did not propose “tax increases for the rich.” But it feels good to pretend.
Brooks is playing the fool today. Here, he offers a rare attempt at making an actual argument:
BROOKS: [Obama] claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)“The top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes?” As almost anyone can see, that fact doesn’t refute the “half-truth” in question—and that fact is completely meaningless unless you include the percentage of income received by that top ten percent. (Even then, you have to be careful.) Of course, that next set of facts doesn’t refute Obama’s half-truth either.
For the record, a half-truth can contain a lot of truth. Brooks is semi-right about one thing today: Obama’s pledge to avoid raising taxes on the bottom 98 percent is a rather strange artifact. But in today’s New York Times editorial, the editors report that Obama’s proposed tax hikes on upper-end earners would produce $1.3 trillion over ten years.
Do Obama's tax proposals make sense? Brooks never quite finds time to say. He’s too busy flashing back on Candidate Gore's brown suit.
Today, Bruni forgets his own silly shit. Brooks flashes on his.