What Professor Gardner said about ambitious youngsters: Howard Gardner is a Harvard professor of long tenure.
In Friday's Washington Post, Gardner wrote a fascinating profile of contemporary Harvard students. We strongly recommend it.
But first, consider this astonishing post by by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein.
Klein’s post appeared on August 30. It concerned Paul Ryan’s error-strewn convention address.
Showing the soul of a confused climber child, Ezra started his post with a string of incredible thoughts and admissions. (We have just read the post through a Digby link. We missed it in real time.)
In his opening sentence, Klein links to this WonkBlog fact-check of Ryan’s error-strewn address. Klein is highly self-referential; for that reason, his narrative is a bit unclear.
But we think you can get the point. In our view, this is a very strange set of confessions:
KLEIN (8/30/12): Honestly? I didn’t want us to write this piece.As best we can tell, here's what this means: Matthews suggested a "Five biggest lies" piece for WonkBlog. Klein, who's in charge, said no.
The original pitch was for “the five biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s speech.” I said no. It’s not that the speech didn’t include some lies. It’s that I wanted us to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan’s perspective, to highlight its best arguments as well as its worst. So I suggested an alternative: The true, the false, and the misleading in Ryan’s speech. (Note here that we’re talking about political claims, not personal ones. Ryan’s biography isn’t what we’re examining here though, for the record, I found his story deeply moving.)
An hour later, the draft came in—Dylan Matthews is a very fast writer. There was one item in the “true” section.
So at about 1 a.m. Thursday, having read Ryan’s speech in an advance text and having watched it on television, I sat down to read it again, this time with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the “true” category. And I did find one. He was right to say that the Obama administration has been unable to correct the housing crisis, though the force of that criticism is somewhat blunted by the fact that neither Ryan nor Mitt Romney have proposed an alternative housing policy. But I also came up with two more “false” claims. So I read the speech again. And I simply couldn’t find any other major claims or criticisms that were true.
He then began looking for ways "to bend over backwards to be fair" to Candidate Ryan.
Why is this person in journalism? Just consider the remarkable things he says, with no apparent sense of how odd his statements are:
Linking to the WonkBlog fact-check which found many errors in Ryan's address, Klein says, astoundingly, "I didn't want us to write this."
The child says he “wanted us to bend over backward to be fair” about Ryan’s speech. What kind of journalistic method is that? It’s astounding that Klein doesn’t see how odd that confession is.
Gratuitously, the child says, “for the record,” that he found “Ryan's story [his biography] incredibly moving.” We pray that Klein is just kissing ass here, gratuitously currying favor with his sources in the Ryan camp.
Good God! After Ryan delivered his error-strewn speech, Klein “sat down to read it again, this time with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the ‘true’ category.”
That is astounding in two separate ways:
To state the obvious, “fact-checking” began as a way to correct misstatements by candidates. In earlier days, it was never considered “news” if a candidate managed to say something accurate in the course of a lengthy address.
It’s bad enough that we’ve reached the place where journalists add true statements to fact-check pieces to make the pieces seem more fair-and-balanced (absent some compelling reason, of course). But Child Klein says he sat down and reread Ryan’s address “with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the ‘true’ category.”
We’re sorry, but that’s just astonishing. What’s most astounding is the fact that Klein doesn’t seem to know how odd his confession is.
Ezra Klein is (still) very young. He is very very ambitious. Gardner described his kind in Friday’s column.
In truth, it’s time for this overwrought climber to go. But ambitious people never go, and their ambitious friends all support them.
Note: We’ll have more on this general topic next week, after we have returned to our sprawling campus.