Jeff, Gail and Ashley: Distractions in zany!


The New York Times does it again: This is why you should loathe the New York Times, the dumbest of our major “news” orgs.

And it’s why we love Dan Kennedy! For Dan’s report, just click here.

As you may recall, the Times broke a big news story last week—Mitt Romney called Newt Gingrich “zany!” On Thursday morning, this was the featured report at the top of the Times front page.

Jeff Zeleny wrote the hard-hitting report, with help from the uber-fatuous Ashley Parker. (The pair had interviewed Candidate Romney just one day before.) Their hard-hitting news report started like this. We include the headlines which sat atop the front page in our hard-copy Times:


Bracing for Rough Fight, He Questions if Rival Is Credible Choice

Mitt Romney, his presidential aspirations suddenly endangered by Newt Gingrich's rapid resurgence, is employing aggressive new arguments in an effort to disqualify Mr. Gingrich as a credible choice to Republicans, calling him "zany" in an interview on Wednesday and questioning his commitment to free enterprise.
Wow! Romney had called Gingrich “zany!” There it was, right in the headlines and in the first paragraph, right at the top of page one!

On-line, the Times had broken this hard-hitting story on Wednesday afternoon. That evening, on cable, the chimps were screeching and flinging their poo, analyzing Romney’s reasons for using such a word. For especially stupid excerpts from Hardball, see below.

Here at THE HOWLER, we noted the inanity of this focus (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/15/11). Now, thanks to Kennedy’s report, we know that this focus was even dumber than we knew. In fact, Romney didn’t call Gingrich “zany,” unless you want to stretch the facts in the way pseudo-journalists skillfully do. In that interview with Romney, this was the actual Q-and-A from which this hot story emerged:
ZELENY (12/14/11): [Gingrich] has big ideas sometimes, and it seems that he is sort of rapid fire with his thought. Do you think that the American voters are getting enough of a sense of what he might do? Or is there some worry that as president, should he win, that there might be some zany things coming from the Oval Office?

ROMNEY: Well, zany is not what we need in a president. Zany is great in a campaign. It's great on talk radio, it's great in the print. It makes for fun reading. But in terms of a president, we need a leader. And a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together. A leader needs to be someone of sobriety and stability.
In fact, it was Zeleny who applied the word “zany” to Gingrich. When Romney didn’t scold him for doing this terrible thing, the New York Times had its hook.

Did Romney call Gingrich “zany?” In his report, Kennedy says this claim “is barely half true.” We would say he’s being generous to the clowns at the Times.

Can we talk? Only at the New York Times would a pointless exchange of that type form the basis for the next day’s featured, front-page report. And Kennedy reminds us that Thursday’s clowning was even worse. That same morning, the utterly fatuous Lady Collins built her column around Romney’s troubling choice of words.

Collins burned roughly half her column with this stupenagel nonsense. Kennedy asks a good question here:
KENNEDY (12/16/11): And it gets worse, as columnist Gail Collins says of Romney, "Zany really is a pretty unusual word. Why do you think he chose it?" Well, gee, Gail—he didn't. You only write two columns a week. Would it be too much to ask that you at least watch the edited version of your own paper's interview?
With all due respect to Kennedy, asking Collins to exhibit that level of care is like asking a roof-strapped hound to jump over the moon.

One criticism: At several points, Kennedy criticizes Romney for this consummate piffle, suggesting that a savvier candidate would have avoided this mess. We think Dan is way off base on this point. The empty heads at the New York Times have been doing this sort of thing to candidates for several decades—interpreting obvious jokes as serious statements; accidentally misquoting the things people say; finding endless creative ways to stuff preferred words in a candidate’s mouth.

This is not the fault of the candidates. This is the fault and the doing of the Times alone. We have to stop shifting the blame.

The Times is our dumbest news organ. It’s run by a small, unintelligent mafia, intermarried stumblebums who take comfort in each other’s dumbness. They wouldn’t know a real news story if it hit them over the head; in the face of their manifest boredom, they just keep creating silly hooks—imitations of life—which keep the tired blood coursing. We strongly suggest you read Collins’ Thursday column to see how much space she wasted on this. Or just read to this morning’s piece, in which she reminds us of this:
COLLINS (12/17/11): People, you may remember that when Romney ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy, he grew practically teary when discussing the relative who had died from an illegal abortion. “He used to come to Planned Parenthood events,” recalled Richards. “He asked for our endorsement.”

Is this the same person? Romney 2012 makes it sound as if he came into office and found abortion rights sitting in a dusty cardboard box in the closet and was chagrined when he remembered he had promised not to throw anything out.

It would be as if he explained that trip to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the station wagon by saying: “I had the experience of going to get into the car and there was already a dog on the roof. So I turned on the ignition and I was effectively driving.”
We’re well past thirty columns now! She can’t get past that roof-strapped dog. Maybe she likes the number of words poor Seamus lets her burn up.

The chimps were screeching and flinging their poo: On Hardball, the chimps were flinging their poo Wednesday night. Mitt Romney had said that Newt Gingrich was zany! A very, very silly boy made it his opening hook:
MATTHEWS (12/14/11): Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: Mitt hits the panic button! When a candidate refers to his opponent as zany, you know he’s in trouble.
It was the stupid man’s opening topic! Needless to say, Joan was there to help her darling think his way through this key point:
WALSH: First of all, I’m less shocked than you guys by the word. I had a different reaction. I thought it was a silly word. It just shows Mitt is sort of stuck in the 50s. "Zany"—what does that mean? It’s so inadequate for what he’s saying.

Now, when he spells it out and we know what he's saying, it's a debilitating, it's a devastating insult. But the way he phrases it, it's just so, "Golly, gee whiz, he's kind of a zany guy." Mitt–he’s tone deaf in a certain way. So there's that.
Joan should go tell it to Zeleny. As for herself, she seems to be stuck in the 90s, the decade when this selective, manufactured nonsense seized control of our world.

Of course, Chris was attacking our side back then, thus sending George W. Bush to the White House. Dearest Joan has never seemed to care a great deal about this.

Darlings! Joan’s career has been at stake! What’s a cheap hustler to do?

Final point: Your lizard brain will tell you the Times was basically right. After all, it’s Mitt Romney!

When that occurs, remember this: It's your lizard talking.


  1. What this might indicate is that, far from harboring an unique animus against Al Gore, corporate media (i.e., reporters beholden to huge conglomerates which make money by selling ads) will play these games with *any* candidate who is perceived to be weak -- one who won't or can't fight back, or whose surrogates won't fight back.

    Gail Collins knows she can mention that damned dog forever, there's no way Romney can effectively counter, and the story doesn't involve the inconvenience of learning anything about policy -- that trip was made to order for her. She's much less likely to do the equivalent to Newt Gingrich, because he's far more likely to strike back with ridicule.

    The idea is, pick a "story" that can't easily be defended without making the target look ridiculous, or a candidate disinclined to go on the counter attack. This procedure is largely non-partisan, though the balance of attacks traditionally hits Democrats, as the more spineless and disinclined to counter-attack, of the two.

  2. I don't think it has anything to do with how corporate Zeleny and Collins are, or whether they perceive a candidate might fight back. It's a combination of sheer laziness, and the irrepressible urge to be snarky and cute. Collins, Dowd, and all the other columnists in that mold see being cute and snarky as their duty. They know their readers have come to expect it from them. They know a snarky column will shoot to the top of the most emailed list.

    It's pathetic. It's gross and shameful. Seeing a false narrative being created right before your eyes, like sausage, turns the stomach. Repulsive. I don't even like Romney, and I find it repulsive.

    I'll wait for the correction appended to Collins's column.

  3. "It's a combination of sheer laziness, and the irrepressible urge to be snarky and cute."

    No doubt, but they pick their targets carefully - you won't hear this kind of nonsense about anyone who's likely to repay them in kind. As the most inane of Times' columnists (which is saying something), you'd think Collins would have a lot to fear. But she won't hear a word from Romney and she knows it.

  4. I once read a short story about a small town newspaper editor. When there was no news, he'd go out and murder someone, so he'd have something dramatic to write about.

    I have the feeling that Zeleny purposely introduced the word "zany" so he'd have something dramatic to write about. He may have figured that Romney would give a pretty boring interview.

  5. Collins' readers share the blame for beign idiots who don't fact check things. The useless Collins has over 17,000 twitter friends.

  6. Whether Romney picked the term "zany" himself, or ran with it after he heard the term in a reporter's question is a distinction without a difference.
    --Bob Gardner

  7. As Bill Maher might say (If he weren't on a Frenchman's vacances),

    New Rule: You can put any words you want into Mitt Romney's mouth, regardless of their origin or context, as long as he actually uttered them.

    How fair is that?

  8. This past Friday Jeff Zeleny was on that weekly Gwen Ifill-hosted blabfest, Washington Week (i.e., Versailles Week), spewing mindless tripe, but joining him were the usual New York and Washington media insiders (Dan Balz, Jeanne Cummings, Laura Meckler, and the mindless Ifill herself), moving their lips and saying nothing. The GOP horse race, the end of the Iraq War, you name it, they managed to chatter on excitedly without any substance whatsoever. Week in, week out, they do the same thing.

    These people may way too much money for causing the damage they do. They, and the right-leaning incompetents like David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and all the rest out to be turned out from their comfy Aeron chairs, as soon as is humanly possible, and dumped onto the street with tin cups, to beg for coins and apologize to all passersby for helping to destroy this country.

  9. I think we in the left should push for the disclosure of the salaries of these journalists to see how equal or different their interests are, as oompared to the ordinary American.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. "Mitt Romney, his presidential aspirations suddenly endangered by Newt Gingrich's rapid resurgence, is employing aggressive new arguments in an effort to disqualify Mr. Gingrich as a credible choice to Republicans, calling him "zany" in an interview on Wednesday and questioning his commitment to free enterprise."

    Woe woe woe hang on there! What was the man wearing, Ashley?! You call yourself a journalist?

  12. Even before I knew that it wasn't Romney who offered the word "zany," I didn't understand the hubbub. "Zany" is kind of the go-to word for politely implying that someone is eccentric. Leave it to the media to pretend it's some kind of antiquated term.

    It's simply all the more pathetic to learn that it wasn't even Romney's term. More pathetic still, the Times' writers can't be bothered to check their own reporter's work. Zeleny, of coursed, could have squashed all this; I guess, though, that that'd make his idiotic peers look silly. Darlings! We can't have that!

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