Ashley Parker rides again: How Mitt holds his hands!


The use of a useless old template: The New York Times is defiant in its dumbness. This morning, Ashley Parker is back on page one, following Romney all around and typing from an old script.

Parker describes her report as “a guide to Mr. Romney’s habits and quirks on the campaign trail.” She goes on and on—and on and on—about the type of idle chatter Romney offers to the voters he meets. Early on, we get her basic hook:
PARKER (12/28/11): Mr. Romney’s bid for president this year is a carefully crafted do-over, a chance to revise and retool a campaign that quickly fizzled out four years ago. He has lost the tie, overhauled his stump speech and hired far fewer campaign consultants.

But perhaps the trickiest part of this reinvention is changing who Mr. Romney is when he steps out from behind the lectern and wades into a roomful of voters: a cautious chief executive who is uneasy with off-the-cuff remarks, unnatural at chitchat and spare with his emotions.

At coffee shops and veterans’ halls, on sidewalks and factory tours, the reworked version, it turns out, is not all that different from the original.
As compared to four years ago, Romney has “lost the tie” and “overhauled his stump speech.” Question: Did Parker think Romney was going to give the same stump speech from 2007? Considering this newspaper’s massive dumbness, it may just be that she did!

In the past month, Parker has done front-page reports about Romney’s hair, about Romney’s patter, and about friendship patterns among GOP candidates. (Michael Barbaro did the front-page report about Romney’s marriage.) Today’s drivel helps us see a basic point: As they churn this low-IQ nonsense, reporters tend to follow templates the Times has used in the past. In this case, Parker is working from stupid old scripts applied to the last candidate defined as “stiff,” Candidate Gore in Campaign 2000.

In that campaign, Gore was endlessly said to have “lost the tie,” although he had campaigned in casual dress in the three previous White House campaigns (1988, 1992 and 1996). He was endlessly accused of “reinvention,” as Romney stands accused today. Indeed, to see the way a person like Parker works from the wisdom of the ancients, compare several parts of today’s report with Melinda Henneberger’s profile of Gore on the stump in July 1999.

At one point, Parker’s eagle eye lets her see that Romney’s posture is “ever so slightly” unusual. Henneberger noticed the same minor flaws the last time we had a stiff candidate. Like Parker, she constructed a slightly dehumanized portrait of the stiff contender:
PARKER (12/28/11): Mr. Romney, never much of a hugger or backslapper, stands with his hands straight down at his waist, tilting forward ever so slightly and turning from side to side as he searches for the next hand to shake or poster to sign.

HENNEBERGER (7/24/99): [Gore’s] perfectly erect posture held good...even fielding questions from folks sitting cross-legged on the floor of a barn on Thursday night. He seemed shy shaking hands, and noticeably low on patter, quietly saying to most prospective voters simply, "How do you do?"

...Making a little bow—from the waist, like a man wearing an invisible neck brace—Mr. Gore said: "Shucks. I sometimes benefit from low expectations."
Henneberger took note when Gore said things like, “How do you do?” This morning, Parker reports that Romney often says things like, “Good to see you.” Meanwhile, Parker follows her predecessor in another scripted observation. Some voters say they don’t care if the hopeful is stiff!
PARKER (12/28/11): "I don't mind stiff and formal," said Holly Sirois, who spoke to Mr. Romney a few days ago at a pizza shop in Newport, N.H. "I don't want the guy sitting in the backyard drinking beers with his buddies. I want my president to act presidential."

HENNEBERGER (7/24/99): At least among the Democrats who turned out to hear the Vice President, many said that they did not particularly care if the man looks like he cannot dance.
Like Henneberger before her, Parker reports that voters say they don’t care if their candidate is stiff. The templates are there to be used—and use them these empty heads will.

Parker is 28. Having served five years under Maureen Dowd, she is skillfully mindless. But rather plainly, this is the way the New York Times wants our elections reported.

Perhaps they think their readers are dumb. It may just be that they themselves are. But just so you’ll know:

Mitt Romney has lost the tie. As part of his reinvention, he has changed the speech he gave in 2007. He often says, “Good to see you”—or even, “Thanks for being here!”

And, alas, his body language is “ever so slightly” wrong.


  1. Last weekend, the Times had an excellent article about Romney's very impressive performance at Harvard.

  2. These scripts are all the dunderheads know. They would rather work off the scripts than talk about Romney's politics and policies. Romney's past politics include being a pragmatic Republican who, when governor of Massachusetts, was more liberal than many Democrats in Congress, and the policies include many boilerplate conservative programs that President Barack Obama would be likely to adopt, if he hasn't already done so, as is the case with the Affordable Care Act, which is essentially Romneycare expanded to the entire US, with somewhat better cost controls, some more effective mechanisms to hold down overhead, and so forth. Romney's current politics, at least as expressed on the campaign trail, appear to be extremely conservative, and his proposed policies are to the right of George W. Bush. Not good at all. But you won't get the New York Times to report this, because they're terrified of criticizing conservatives or the Tea Party, unless they can do so under the cloak of editorials.

    On a different note, did you see that the Times's staff is up in arms against the terrible leadership by owner Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.? It's not just mindless reportage and stenography, but strategic blunders, including pension freezes, selling off key assets for a song, and on and on. It appears that the staff have figured out what readers have known for some time: Sulzberger and his elite-obsessed gang are incompetent and "pinching" the life out of the gray lady! But note that the top management, even those on the way out, are still collecting lots of money and swag! $15 million sounds the 1% to me!

  3. It's just so depressing to see this happening again. I don't care for Romney, but I feel bad for him. He's been saddled with the "stiff" narrative and if Gore's campaign is any indication there's nothing he can do to free himself--and it's only going to get worse. I especially loathe the body language stuff. It never ceases to amaze me how reporters fancy themselves experts in this area. It's all utter nonsense, of course, but on such things are elections decided. And on such writing do reporters get promoted. Robin Ghiven , the doyenne of what the candidates wear and the deeply insightful things it says about their character, won a frickin' Pulitzer. Oh well. The idiocracy grinds on.

  4. Poor Romney. Compare the tripe Parker wrote about him with this gem about the wondrous Rick Perry by Michael Leahy of the Washington Post. Both are garbage--made up crap to fit the established narratives. Does anyone really think that these two piffles really give us insight into the candidates?

    "Beaming, he waded into the throng. Sometimes, he worked the people two at a time. He gently clasped the hand of someone to his side — essentially holding the appreciative stranger until ready to turn and woo her — while looking deeply into the eyes of the person straight ahead. He lingered, making conversation" about lives, hobbies, jobs. Finally, he turned back to the person whose hand he held. Many of the previously uncommitted there pledged support on the spot to the man then regarded as the chief threat to Mitt Romney.

  5. Perhaps if Bob Somerby were nationally syndicated in a newspaper we might see
    less of this nonsense.

  6. Well, jeez -- no less than GWB touted the value of observing body language, in explaining why he wouldn't testify to the 9/11 commission without Dick Cheney present. It was so important, you see, for the commission to observe them together!

    So I say, forget policy altogether, and never put anyone under oath. Just focus on Body Language reporting! It'll tell us all we need to know!

  7. Here was my email exchange with Ashley Parker a couple of weeks ago (read from the bottom up):

    Ashley: I appreciate your taking the time to respond. The issue I'll ask you to think through is this: are you writing about silly topics like a candidate's hair for the reasons you state below, or are you rationalizing in an effort to write what you think may be funny and pleasing to some at the expense of focusing on important issues -- which frankly is a lot more difficult. You can always find "some" people somewhere who delight in the inane - a quick read through the comments to Gail Collins' and Maureen Dowd's similarly silly columns shows this clearly (e.g. there really are people who are actually awed by Gail Collins' purported uncanny ability to work her "Mitt Romney's dog was on the car roof" story into some 30 columns).

    Respectfully, my view is that the fact that "some people" ("some" voters, pundits in whose footsteps frankly you shouldn't be following, campaign memos, etc.) suggest an irrelvant topic does not mean you should follow suit. It looks like you have been given a huge opportunity to address important issues, in a serious way, in prime newspaper real estate (our so-called paper of record). I would simply ask that you re-consider what you say below, and I hope to read valuable, substantive reporting from you in the years ahead. You need look no further than writers like Paul Krugman of your own paper who uses his "real estate" wisely twice a week.

    > From:
    > Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2011 00:07:43 -0500
    > Subject: Re: READER MAIL: Ashley Parker
    > Thanks for emailing. I try to respond to all readers, whether they agree
    > with me or not, and it sounds like you don't agree with me ‹ which is
    > totally fair.
    > As my colleague and I mentioned in the story, we wrote about Mitt Romney's
    > hair because it's a subject of interest that we frequently hear about and
    > read about ‹ from voters every day on the campaign trail, from his own
    > staff who mentioned it in an internal campaign memo, from pundits (both
    > conservative and liberal), and on Twitter, Facebook and in the
    > blogosphere.
    > Sure, his hair is not necessarily as important as, say, his position on
    > entitlement programs (which we have covered extensively) but my colleague
    > and I felt it was worth one story, and our editors agreed.
    > Thanks again for reading, and for taking the time to email me.
    > Sincerely,
    > Ashley
    > Ashley Parker--
    > Ashley Parker
    > The New York Times
    > Cell: (301) 873 2372
    > Twitter: @ashleyrparker
    > On 11/28/11 6:46 PM, "Process Questions, Order"
    > wrote:
    > > >URL:
    > >Comments:You're becoming a regular subject on one of the nation's leading
    > >media writers - I realize you're young,
    > >but you're going to need to decide soon whether to use this very
    > >important space you have at the New York Times for journalism, or if
    > >instead you decide to waste everyone's time and follow in the footsteps
    > >of the Maureen Dowds and Gail Collins of the world. I hope you start
    > >making much better choices than you've shown writing about such imporatnt
    > >topics as a candidate's' hair. Time will tell . . .

  8. There is literally no hope.

    Just have a look at the mountain of adoration Ashley Parker received on Twitter for her pile of crap. The reason this 'Mitt Romney body language' stuff gets written is because that's what people like to read.

    It's depressing, but it's true.

  9. "Sure, his hair is not necessarily as important as, say, his position on entitlement programs (which we have covered extensively) but my colleague and I felt it was worth one story, and our editors agreed."

    This is priceless, one for the ages. Great to learn from Ms. Parker that Romney's hair isn't "necessarily" as important as his views on the issues of the day -- even forgetting that this newspaper has definitely *not* covered Romney's position on "entitlements".

    And "our editors agreed" that his hair was worth one(!!) story? One? This is hilarious. But hell, it's all "totally fair".

  10. Does this mean that in presidential politics an Irish Setter is 30 times more important than hair?

  11. Haha. Wonderful comments on this. Yes, Parker's response is deeply depressing. His hair isn't "necessarily" as important as his view on "entitlements," but worth a column! His hair! Good grief. Then again, Al Gore's deeply troubling bald spot disqualified him from being president, so ...

  12. And of course, Edwards was dubbed "The Breck Girl" because he had too much hair!

    There is a fine line between not enough hair and too much hair that candidates must negotiate with caution, less the New York Times deem them to be less than presidential timber.