Part 1—Ben Bradlee’s important address: Yesterday morning, the New York Times and the Washington Post put on quite a show.
In the New York Times Sunday Review, Frank Bruni donned Maureen Dowd’s familiar raiment, ruminating about recent presidents’ various “Daddy issues.”
In his own piece in that high-profile section, Nicholas Kristof said, once again, that we must “provide great schools” for “inner-city children who desperately need a helping and”—that “we owe all children a fair start in life in the form of access to an education escalator.”
We agree! But what can we do to create such great schools? Kristof didn’t say.
Nina Burleigh is best known for her reaction to the Clinton/Lewinsky excitement, during which she quoted herself saying this: “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.”
Yesterday, the Sunday Review dragged Burleigh out for an introspective think piece, “Why I Lose All My Jewelry.” It joined a gaggle of navel-gazing columns which pondered “The Dangers of Eating Late at Night,” “My Mother’s Psychotherapy—and Mine,” “The Problem With Positive Thinking” and “The Meaning of Fulfillment.”
Another piece explored the reasons we’re afraid of the things we’re afraid of. Meanwhile, on the Sunday Review’s front page, the featured piece started like this:
SUELLENTROP (10/26/14): For more than five years, almost every word that I’ve written professionally has been about video games. I used to cover things like presidential campaigns and prison reform. But at some point, video games began to seem as consequential as those subjects, if not more so.Chris Suellentrop ended up writing about an important topic, if in a curious way. Burleigh built a feel-good framework around her lament for her missing jewelry.
That said, a serious person might ask an obvious question:
How can it be? How is it possible that a journalist at the New York Times could have formed the crazy thoughts described in Suellentrop’s opening passage?
At some point, video games began to seem as consequential as White House campaigns? A person might wonder how a journalist ever came to believe such a thing. For one possible answer, keep reading this week's posts.
All in all, this week’s Sunday Review was crammed with upper-class foppishness. Increasingly, this is the trademark of the upper-class publication with will be running The New York Times International Luxury Conference at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental hotel—a paper which published a special section, Wealth, as part of last Thursday’s edition.
If yesterday’s Times was a thing to behold, the Post may have been worse.
For unknown reasons, Glenn Kessler’s weekly Fact Checker piece displayed the text of a political ad by Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky senate candidate. As he started his fact check of the text, Kessler made this odd assertion:
KESSLER (10/26/14): This ad has not been publicly released by the Grimes campaign. In The Fact Checker’s experience, the most fact-challenged ads are those that fly under the radar, as campaigns hope that reporters don’t notice the content—but voters do.Let’s assume the text in question is false and misleading, as Kessler went on to judge. If the “ad” in question “has not been publicly released by the Grimes campaign,” then why was the ad being fact-checked? How would voters “notice the content” of the ad?
In what sense was the “ad” an actual “ad” at all?
Kessler still hasn’t answered these questions, which quickly appeared in comments. There may be perfectly sensible answers, of course. But at this point, can anyone here play this game?
Kessler’s piece was puzzling; we assume explanation will follow. But we didn’t decide that yesterday was Sunday, muddy Sunday until we went to Outlook, the Post’s counterpart to the Times’ increasingly foppish Sunday Review.
Outlook isn’t especially foppish; its characteristic errors head off in other directions. Yesterday, we were struck by this egregious piece, the latest “education reform” agitprop this newspaper sells by the barrel.
For the specifics, see our next post. Most of all, we were struck by Ben Bradlee’s address from January 1997.
Ben Bradlee died last week at the age of 93. He seems to be loved and revered at the Washington Post, where he had a long and very important career.
Yesterday, the Post honored Bradlee on the front page of Outlook, running excerpts from an address he delivered in January 1997. We thought it was the muddiest piece on a very muddy Sunday.
(Warning! The Post provides an apparent link to the full text of Bradley’s address, the Press-Enterprise Lecture. Yesterday, the link wasn’t working. Today, it takes us to an eight-minute video tribute to a different journalist. We ask our thoughtful question again: Can anyone here play this game?)
Bradlee will always be remembered for the work he supervised concerning President Nixon and Watergate. He also invented the Post’s Style section, where journalists were encouraged to let their “New Journalistic” muses take hold.
Decades later, Bruni is writing about various candidates’ various “Daddy issues.” A second journalist is saying that he came to feel that video games were as consequential as White House campaigns—and he didn’t seem to see how odd that statement is.
Let’s assume that Bradlee’s Watergate work was flawless, important, brilliant. A person could argue that terrible trends resulted when the successful pursuit of President Nixon was twinned with the invention of Style.
All week, we’ll look at the silly tales about White House campaigns which came to dominate our political discourse in the era following Watergate. Spoiler alert:
By our count, those silly tales have hurt major Democrats far more than major Republicans. Those silly tales, which we liberals love, have badly harmed progressive interests.
Yesterday, Bruni was typing from the game preserve which surrounds the invention of Style. Back in 1997, Bradlee showed no sign of knowing—possibly even of caring—what it was he had wrought.
Was outing Watergate really worth it? Along the way, it seems to have left us with earth tones, blow jobs, invented quotations—and with those “Daddy issues.”
We liberals refuse to oppose this game. It has badly hurt liberal interests. Does anyone actually care?
Tomorrow: Bradlee’s address