Interlude—How not to quote a candidate: The New York Times rarely fails to amaze.
One example from today’s paper involves the way a famous columnist quotes a sitting president.
Maureen Dowd has never cared all that much for Obama. He keeps refusing to ask her out. He married somebody else.
This has produced an understandable pique on the columnist’s part. That pique is apparent as she starts today’s column—but then, Dear Jack and all the saints! Look at the way the Pulitzer winner “quotes” the puzzling president:
DOWD (8/12/12): Barack Obama is able to convey an impression of likability to voters. Given how private he is, an enigma even to some who are close to him, it’s an incredible performance.
The Times’s Amy Chozick wrote that the president “has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion.”
He can be thin-skinned and insecure at times, but he radiates self-sufficiency, such a clean, simple aesthetic that he could have been designed by Steve Jobs—Siri without the warmth.
(A poll by Purple Strategies asked which candidate seemed more like Apple, and it was, naturally, Obama.)
Yet voters see something genuine, and that is why Obama seems to be surviving the stalled economy and his own chuckleheaded remark: “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Because she has nothing whatever to say, Dowd examines “likability” in today’s worthless column. To review the work of another such columnist, enjoy Frank Bruni’s latest space-filler, this one about the reasons why he likes the Olympics.
If we’re reading Bruni correctly, he feels the Olympics can be inspiring. To analyze his musings, click here.
Back to Dowd: One rule of the game is quickly applied. Because Obama has criticized the press, he must be dsecribed as “thin-skinned.” (Choizik used the same term in her own piece.) But then, good lord and all the saints! Look at the way Dowd “quotes” Obama:
“If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
For starters, it’s true. In the most literal sense, Obama did say that.
Obama spoke every one of those words. All the words are in the right order. From the first quoted word to the last, no words have been omitted.
Therefore, in the most literal sense, Dowd’s quotation is anactual quotation. And yet, many HOWLER readers will know that this “quotation” is highly misleading, for reasons which have been reviewed again and again by now.
Unfortunately, most of Dowd’s sophisticated readers New York Times won’t know that. They will think that Obama meant to convey the “chuckleheaded” notion implied by that quotation. They will think he said, for some reason, that if you own a business, you didn’t build your business. Somebody else made it happen!
Dowd’s quotation is technically perfect. Obama did say every word, in the order presented. She didn’t leave any words out.
But there are many ways to quote a candidate which are misleading, bogus, unfair. As usual, the New York Times let its Pulitzer winner engage in this sort of conduct.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at Rachel Maddow, engaging in similar conduct.
Readers respond to Dowd: An early commenter to Dowd’s column offered a sensible thought:
COMMENTER FROM PITTSFIELD: I honestly cannot figure out your dislike of Obama. Is it because he won't be your soulmate and reveal all?In our view, that commenter came uncomfortably close to the truth. Instructively, a string of other readers chose to respond to the Pittsfield reader. To read those comments, click here.
We assumed our comment wouldn’t be posted. As of right now, we were wrong.