New York Times presents: Houses of the hopefuls!


The information never ends: Increasingly, we’ve been struck by our tribe’s tolerance for The Dumb.

We got that feeling as we read Kevin Drum’s post concerning Ashley Parker’s latest. Kevin read the whole darn piece and came away with this:
DRUM (12/28/11): The New York Times reviews Mitt Romney 2.0 today in much the same way you'd review a new version of an iPad or an update of Microsoft Word. Verdict: He's layered a slightly retooled UI onto the same old chassis, and it's an awkward fit. The man can't make small talk, tosses weird wonkery around whether it's appropriate or not, and doesn't seem to quite understand the concept of humor. Occasionally, though, I think this serves him well...
Kevin goes on to offer a chunk from Parker's “review”—an episode where Romney’s failure to understand the concept of humor supposedly served him well. This was the chunk he posted from Parker’s deathless report:
PARKER (12/28/11): A few moments later, a voter named David Rivers asked Mr. Romney whether there would be place for Mr. Paul, a Texas congressman, in a Romney White House. Mr. Romney treated the question as a joke, letting out a laugh and walking on by.

“I was actually kind of serious,” Mr. Rivers said in an interview afterward.
According to Drum, “a nervous chuckle and a quick getaway was the only decent response” in this circumstance.

Whatever. Drum’s piece was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek throwaway—and that’s what we really don’t get. The sheer stupidity of this type of “reporting” never seems to bother us libs, even though its fruits have been used to destroy our candidates in the past. But no matter how stupid the Dowdism gets, we liberals and progressives never seem to complain about its existence—its growing dominance in our daft political culture. Reading the comments to Drum’s piece, you will see readers getting into conversations about what Romney should have said.

This is very, very dumb. What makes us so blind, so tolerant?

For the record, Romney—who doesn't seem to quite understand the concept of humor—has smoked Br'er Gingrich in the past week with a punishing, highly effective joke drawn from I Love Lucy. (The gods often respond in such ways to “news reports” like Parker’s.) At any rate, there’s much, much more to learn in the Times about the various GOP candidates. This morning, to cite just one example, the Times offers this giant, sprawling report about the houses they live in.

“The hunt goes on for insights and stories to provide an unfiltered view of their true character,” Kate Zernike thoughtfully writes, referring to the GOP hopefuls. “Where better to look than their homes, to get a sense of their style, and what it might tell us about what they value and how they live?”

Good lord! And yes, she actually wrote that. Does Dowdism get more plain?

We know, we know! That grinding stupidity was in the “Home” section; in fact, it ate up the vast bulk of the section’s front page. But galloping Dowdism rules at the Times, even as its intellectual author flounces about in JFK’s former home. (Yesterday, she let her brother write her column, as she does once a year, for no known earthly reason.) Also today, Helene Cooper offers this fairly dumb piece about the way Obama spends his spare time. The piece features a giant photo of Obama boarding Air Force 1, and a second substantial photo of Obama at play in Hawaii. People! We get to see what it’s like when the president recreates! Meanwhile, for a bit of the know-nothingism which rules at the post-Dowd Times, just enjoy this bit of analysis. For whatever reason, Rep. Dennis Cardozo is enlisted to serve as Cooper’s resident “expert:”
COOPER (12/29/11): On Capitol Hill, Republicans say they rarely hear from the president, and members of his own party complain that Mr. Obama and his top aides are handicapping themselves by not reaching out enough.

“When you have relationships with individual members, you can call them up and ask a favor, and a lot of times, if it’s not objectionable, you can get things done,” said Representative Dennis A. Cardoza, Democrat of California.

The president hosts plenty of large gatherings...but they lack the intimacy of smaller events, where there is real give and take, Mr. Cardoza and others lawmakers said.
There’s no doubt about it! In the current partisan environment, Obama would get a lot more down if he’d just schmooze members more!

How deep in The Dumb at the New York Times? Today, on page one of “Thursday Styles,” we get this sprawling report: “The 75 Things New Yorkers Talked About in 2011.” According to the New York Times, these were the top five topics:
1. The G.O.P. debates. The best reality TV show not on Bravo.

2. The best moment of the debates: “Oops.”

3. The second-best moment of the debates: Ron Paul’s errant eyebrow.

4. Regis Philbin calls it quits after 28 years.

5. Kim Kardashian calls it quits after 72 days.
When Times readers discuss the debates, they talk about the time Perry said “Oops.” And about Ron Paul’s eyebrows!

We know, we know—that was just the “Thursday Styles” section. But let’s be candid—The Dumb is found all over the Times. The Dumb is truly dominant.

Question: Can you think of any major political or policy issue on which the Times has seriously informed us this year? No, Paul Krugman doesn’t count. We’re talking about this paper’s reporting.

Surely, there must be many such topics! But can you name even one?

The Dumb is everywhere in this paper. When it comes to The Dumb, why don’t we liberals complain?


  1. I'm sorry that Kevin Drum bought into the allegation that Romney is robotic and the implication that this sort of reporting is valid and meaningful. Howver, I do think Drum was right to defend Romney's response to the question of whether there would be place for Mr. Paul in a Romney White House. Either a Yes answer or a No answer would have undoubtedly been the focus of news stories, like:

    Romney Slams Paul or
    Romney Praises Paul

    Either type of story would have detracted from the message Romney wants to project and would have needlessly offended some group of voters.

  2. I saw Kate Zernike's article, with the accompanying slideshow, and burst out laughing. All of the Republican candidates are wealthy people compared to the overwhelming majority of Americans. Some, like Mitt Romney, are multimillionaires. Jon Huntsman may be a billionaire. Does anyone--anyone--expect any of them to live in anything but very nice, huge, expensive homes, or, in Romney's case, not to have multiple nice, huge, expensive ones?

    You won't catch Kate Zernike asking about Romney's policies when governor of Massachusetts and how he might govern if elected to the White House. You won't catch Zernike pressing Michele Bachmann on her misstatements. You won't catch Zernike inquiring of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or any of the others how they propose to jumpstart the economy and start jobs given that the principles they have been proposing have led to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression/Global Economic Disaster of the 1930s.

    You won't see such things, because Zernike, who wrote some of the most mindless claptrap about the Tea Party and then turned it into a book, no less, does do such things. Her fellow "reporters" don't either. They don't know how to be journalists. Instead they act as eager stenographers and focus on frivolities. That's all they know, and those running The New York Times think this is the way to go.

    So much for the (long dead) Gray Lady.

  3. Strangely enough, a comparison of homes would have provided a bit of useful information eight years ago. Kerry and his wife own several mansions, with high use of energy and water. OTOH Bush's home was

    a model of environmental rectitude.

    Geothermal heat pumps located in a central closet circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees; the water heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. Systems such as the one in this "eco-friendly" dwelling use about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and cooling systems utilize.

    A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof runs; wastewater from sinks, toilets and showers goes into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is used to irrigate the landscaping surrounding the four-bedroom home. Plants and flowers native to the high prairie area blend the structure into the surrounding ecosystem.

    The fact that Bush lived greener than Kerry didn't fit the narrative, so that comparison wasn't focused on by the New York Times.

  4. How can anyone claim reports of politician's domiciles aren't fair and balanced?

    John McCain doesn't know how many houses he owns!!!

    Al Gore lives in a huge old house that wastes tons of energy and resources!!! And he travels in jet planes, too!!!

    The US Air Force spends millions of dollars flying Michelle Obama to hotels in Spain!!! And on a JET PLANE Too!!!

    A long time ago, in a writing class, the professor advised, "Write what you know."

    Our reporters are doing the best they can with what they have.

    I started reading the occasional Maureen Dowd column in the Paris Herald Tribune in 2002. I was amazed at how stupid it was. I was floored when I found out she had won a Pulitzer Prize.

    The subject? Wait for it...

    The Clinton-Lewinsky affair.

    Somehow it all makes sense.

  5. Unfortunately, a lot of bloggers have gone this route. I really like Amanda Marcotte, but the other day she had a post about (wait for it) the Romney "dog-on-roof" story as if that provides some insight into his character.
    The spreads. This political season may well be Borg-like as these artless articles take over the entire media.

    (by the way, DinC, you call them Kerry houses but, if you were honest, you'd have to admit Teresa's money had a lot more to do with that than his. That ketchup is pretty profitable)

  6. I wear the label "liberal" only as a clue to my personality and my world-view. It is such a limiting term otherwise. Also, as the past has shown us, a term that is easily co-opted or denigrated. I believe the answer to your question can be partially answered by the fact that we are slaves to our employment and to speak for what is right or true would be catastrophic to most. Fear is a powerful motivator.

  7. Comparing the Times's year-end op-ed page quiz to a similar quiz in the newsweekly The Week, I realized the dumb had spread there too. The Times's quiz (by Ben Schott) was heavy on celebrity trivia; The Week's quiz concerned a lot of things that citizens ought to actually know.

  8. TomM - I didn't exactly call them "Kerry houses." I called them houses owned by "Kerry and his wife."

    I think the Romney "dog on the roof" story does tell something about his character -- something positive. The original Boston Globe article pointed to it as an example of Romney's emotion-free crisis management style.

    Critics like Marcotte make this incident sound negative by pretending that there was something wrong with attaching the cage to the roof and by pretending that the dog's diarrhea was caused by being in a cage on the roof.

    But, Marcotte deserves more credit than Gail Collins. At least, Marcotte acknowledged that the dog was in a carrier with a special windshield built for the dog's comfort. OTOH Collins, in many of her references, allows her readers to assume that dog was directly strapped to the roof.

  9. David in Cal,

    If you think the dog on the roof thing reflects well on Romney's character --with reference to his supposed performance as president -- you're just as silly, just as tendentious, and just as mindlessly partisan as a certain Gail Collins.

    For all your misstatements, dishonest claims, backtracking a slithery ways here , and on far graver questions (SS is $21 Trillion in the hole!; it used to have 16 workers for every recipient!, etc.) this one is really the last straw. Go someplace else, bro, for the New Year, because nobody here is buying it, whoever or whatever you are.

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