Kristof and Collins: A weirdly matched set!


Two ways to perhaps not engage: In this morning’s New York Times, columns by Collins and Kristof border the op-ed page.

The high lady’s column runs down the left border; Kristof’s piece extends down the right. We couldn’t help thinking that the pair made a weird type of matched set.

Collins’ column is waste meat, as always. Before long, we get handed this:
COLLINS (10/13/11): This is what we’ve come to. A presidential debate about the 9-9-9 plan.

9-9-9 is the sine qua non of the Cain candidacy. It would scrap the tax code and give us 9 percent corporate, income and national sales taxes. He mentions it every 10 seconds. (Opening statement, he got it in by 5.)

I have never heard anybody discussing the 9-9-9 plan in the real world, but obviously I hang out in the wrong places. The organizers and the candidates felt the need to really get into this, and, as a result, Tuesday night in New Hampshire will go down in history as the 9-9-9 plan debate.
It has been clear, for a very long time, that Collins does indeed hang out in the wrong places. In today’s column, she can’t understand why debate organizers would feel the need to discuss a presidential frontrunner’s budget plan. Yes, the plan is utterly silly—but Collins never gets around to explaining why. She had to leave room for her grand finale—and yes, she did it again:
COLLINS: As things stand, the Perry camp is apparently planning to keep their guy in the background during debates and hit Romney over the head with mean commercials. That shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe they’ll include the day Mitt drove to Canada with the family dog on the car roof.
Until last Wednesday, we had never heard anyone discuss Romney’s dog in the real world. Thanks to this lady’s incessant pounding, we finally heard an actual person raise this topic.

On the surface, Kristof’s column is a polar opposite. But what about the “deep grammar?”

Question: Does anyone still read Kristof’s columns about sexual assaults in the third world? (We didn't read his column this morning.) He writes about brutal misconduct, of course, and brutal misconduct does matter—a lot. Where Collins keeps revisiting Mitt Romney’s dog, Kristof keeps revisiting the world’s most disgraceful misconduct.

But on a journalistic basis, we’d have to say that the focus, in each instance, seems at least a bit odd.

In his current set of columns, Kristof actually has what he normally lacks. He has a specific legislative focus, the proposed International Violence Against Women Act. But over the years, Kristof’s focus has come to seem odd and otherworldly to us. Repetitively, he covers topics on the op-ed page that the New York Times doesn’t even cover as news in its heavily-staffed news pages.

Kristof’s columns concern the world’s most disgraceful conduct. But as he covers Sierra Leone and Collins diddles around with Seamus, another day passes with the New York Times' stable of columnists making no attempt to explore the problems of this country. Kristof’s subject matter is very important—but we aren’t sure why it isn’t being explored in this newspaper’s news sections. We can’t help thinking that this work is encouraged on the op-ed page because it adds to the page's preferred lofty profile.


If one border goes to Sierra Leone, could the other border on this page be taken away from Collins? This gruesome newspaper rarely fails to piddle all over the national interest. Could the Times possibly hire a counterpart to Kristof who won’t obsess on Mitt’s dog?


  1. Apparently the NY Times knows what it's doing - the comments on Collins' column are almost universally slavish in their admiration for this dimwit, and her "witty" dog references. Of course, Collins is simply to f*ing lazy to point out that the 9-9-9 plan is only Phase One for the Cain plan - Phase 2 is a 30% sales tax, apparently (or 23%, depending on whether or not you can do arithmetic.) and the abolition of the IRS. Not that you'll ever get that from a Collins column. Or that any kind of "tax simplification" scheme, no matter how stupid, tends to poll fairly well with the public.

    Things are so screwy this election that what in the past were the doomed plans of the fringe (Forbes et. al.) may yet have life. They rise to walk the earth again, while asinine typists like Collins placate the right-thinking rubes with bon-bons of "wit", and bask in slave-worship.

  2. I'm beginning to see a few commentaries about the 9-9-9 plan from the left and from the right. So far, every single one panned the 9-9-9 plan. At some point, I would expect that widespread criticism of the Plan will hurt Cain's popularity.

  3. In any other year I would agree, and it may well be that Cain will disintegrate soon. Problem is that schemes like this start putting ideas in people's heads even dumber than disasters like "trickle down" and "tax cuts raise revenue". This year's crop of GOP candidates has shown there is no depth of idiocy to which they won't pander, as it seems to pay off.

  4. I hope Cain goes far.

    The 9-9-9 plan is ridiculous, just as most of the GOP plans for the economy are, because they fail to address the basic issues of inadequate taxation, necessary and targeted fiscal stimulus, and economically sound monetary policy. Sadly we will never get a clear discussion on these issues in most mainstream newspapers, except for in Paul Krugman's column, or on TV, which is to say, the vast majority of people will not see any clear, convincing discussion of where the GOP's past policies (enabled by Democrats) and current disastrous plans will lead us.

    But as I began to say, I hope Cain goes far. His advancement underlines something that Bob Somerby suggests all the time on here; we have made tremendous racial progress in this country. There are still serious problems, a great deal of racism and ethnocentrism (and sexism, homophobia, etc.). But we are in a different place than we once were, when African Americans had to get food at the back door of restaurants, were attacked and killed without penalty simply because they were black, had no opportunities whatsoever at certain jobs, including the presidency, and so on. Whatever one may feel about Barack Obama's tenure, he has done one extraordinary thing, and that is to rationalize in the minds of millions of Americans--most? I can't say, but certainly a great deal of younger ones, of all races and ethnicities--that to become president one need not be a white male. We will one day soon have a female president; we will have a latino president; we will have another president who is mixed race and female; and so on. Cain's ascendancy underlines that race is not the hurdle, even among the scions of the Confederacy, that it once was.

    Massachusetts and Illinois, two Northern states, have been the only to elect a black US Senator since Reconstruction. Some of the Southern states, along with Northern and Western ones, could be among the first to advance the candidacy of a black Republican for the presidency, which would also be landmark. I hope it happens. I would like nothing more than to see Americans have the opportunity to choose between Obama and Cain. Millions of us would relish the opportunity to do so.

  5. There was a time when I thought Collins was being unfairly characterized here, and I defended her in an email to Bob.

    No more.

  6. Have you seen Rolling Stone on the 9-9-9 plan? At least attempts an explanation, though does nothing to put it in context with tax rates currently.