What do big journalists worry about!


Marcus’ rules of order: The last time we looked in on Ruth Marcus, she was refusing to tell Post readers about Romney’s budget proposal.

Today, she looks back on this year’s debates. In the process, she lets us see what big major journalists actually worry about.

Some of Marcus’ observations do involve serious topics. She notes that the fiscal cliff was never mentioned, in four debates with four different moderators. She notes other topics which went unmentioned—gun control, gay rights, Supreme Court nominations.

Of course, noting the topics which didn't get mentioned lets her skip topics which were discussed. But still. Whatever!

That said, a large chunk of this morning’s column deals with Marcus’ Rules of Order. It ought to be embarrassing to see a major scribe worry so much about so many trivial points of etiquette.

From Marcus’ rules of order:
MARCUS (10/24/12): “Attacking me is not an agenda.” Point, Mitt Romney.


Letting candidates roam the stage like unleashed dogs during the town-hall debate is distracting and unnecessary. Give them chairs and make them sit.

Likewise, voters are ill-served by adolescent did not/did too interchanges.


Note to candidates: Whining to the moderator about whether it’s your turn or you’ve gotten enough time makes you look small.
Marcus wants trainers put in charge, to control the wandering dogs. “Sit!” these new moderators would say. “Sit!” “Bad boy! Sit and stay!”

Soon, the den mother shares her thoughts about sighs and grins—and peevish outbursts. When does condescension cross the line?

Marcus is able to tell us:
MARCUS: Speaking of the vice-presidential debate, how is it that Al Gore was pilloried for audibly sighing while Biden escaped relatively unscathed for far worse behavior? If this were a student council debate—interrupting, laughing, making faces while the other candidate is speaking—the principal would have intervened.


Not since Nancy Reagan has anyone so mastered the art of looking on while someone else is speaking. Romney has perfected the Debate Gaze, the indulgent smile that conveys disapproval without crossing the line into sneering.

These guys don’t like each other. Romney does a better job of hiding it, barely. To me, Obama’s condescension too often crossed the line into offensive, as when, in Monday’s debate, he elaborated on his horses and bayonets point about the changing military. “We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them,” Obama scoffed. “We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Romney had his peevish outbursts, too. “You’ll get your chance in a moment,” he lectured Obama at the second debate. “I’m still speaking.” This is a dangerous way to speak to an incumbent president.
By now, Marcus has compared presidential debates to doggy school and student council. At any rate, Obama’s condescension crossed the line. Romney’s smiles did not.

Romney had his peevish outbursts. It looks like Obama's were worse.

On August 1, the Tax Policy Center reported that Romney’s budget proposal is “not mathematically possible.” From that day forward, Marcus—who poses as a budget hawk when someone threatens not to slash benefits for seniors—has been finding various ways to avoid explaining this fact.

Life is good at the top of the pile! But the guild betrays the rot at its core when it wastes its time—and everyone else’s—with manifest bullshit like this.

This column made us recall our first axiom: You can’t run a middle-class democracy with a millionaire press corps.


  1. According to Marcus, no claim is absurd enough to be met with condescension, regardless of how well it makes the perfectly legitimate point of how stupid the claim is. If Marcus fails to recognize how preternaturally inane Romney's Navy argument is, there is no limit to the measure of condescension she deserves.

  2. Hey, look ! The President didn't put "Duh!" after that bit about the submarines, so I'm not gonna say he was "condescending". I don't know, maybe it's just that I wasn't raised in such a 'prissy' part of town - you know, looked at strictly from outside !

  3. A constant complaint is that journalists won't take on big complex issues. Maybe their training needs to be reconsidered. Not all of us can become a Nobel laureate in economics, like at least one outstanding columnist I could mention. But can't we once and for all drop Journalism as a "major" and have aspiring journalists be educated in real fields like history, politics, economics, public administration and the like? It didn't used to take a college education to write a story in "inverted pyramid" format. Oh yeah. Colleges and Universities have to attract suckers with insubstantial degree programs that produce too many candidates for too few glam jobs.

  4. Jeeves Stump is raising a very important point! If a journalists education is not rigourous enough, how will they be able to write about complex topics?

    1. Get rid of complex topics. Instead, just talk about body language and zingers.

  5. To go by the grins and smiles on David Gregory's (feel free to substitute "Brooks'" above !) face most every time I watch him, I wouldn't think much !

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