Part 1—Also, Frank Bruni’s successor: On this Memorial Day, we’ll have the naming of points.
Our first point: The first thing about our pseudo campaign is its amazing length.
President Kennedy announced he was running in January of the election year. President Clinton’s announcement came in October the year before.
Here it is, late May of the year before, and the gang of candidates and pseudo-candidates have been tramping New Hampshire for months. It’s how we pretend to do it now.
As a system, it doesn’t work.
Journalistically, this system permits the “press corps” to waste its time on an endless series of personality-based distractions. It lets them avoid the thing they hate most—discussion of actual matters of substance which are important right now.
That leads us to our second point: Inevitably, the amazing length of the pseudo-campaign leads to amazing inanity. Just consider the campaign reports in last Friday’s New York Times.
Chris Christie is one of the hopefuls the children don’t like. As a result, we got pure piddle from Barbaro/Haberman about his relentless cursing.
In the last campaign, Barbaro established his greatness with his front-page report about Candidate Romney’s hair dresser. On Friday, he and Haberman recoiled from all the troubling language at an annual, just-for-fun New Jersey event.
Here’s how the children started:
BARBARO AND HABERMAN (5/22/15): Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger of Newark, suggesting it provided a refuge for “angry drunks.”Good lord! He ridiculed a leading newspaper; he even insulted the French! But most of all, the uncouth candidate engaged in unfiltered cursing.
He joked about a reporter who was involved in a car accident a few hours earlier, seemingly wishing that the vehicle had contained more of the journalists who cover him.
And he profanely taunted a reporter with a French surname, saying he would not pronounce it correctly—not because it was difficult, but because he could not be bothered.
The annual New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club Show is always a mischievous affair, full of off-color skits and envelope-pushing humor. But even by the standards of veteran attendees, Mr. Christie’s curse-filled speech Wednesday night was unexpectedly unplugged, unfiltered and uncensored.
The children even counted the curses in the “curse-filled speech.” In this passage, a careful reader might get a sense of what was being discussed:
BARBARO AND HABERMAN: Mr. Christie swore, gratuitously and enthusiastically, at least nine times in his speech, rendering many one-liners unprintable in this publication.Christie cursed “at least nine times,” the troubled youngsters reported. If you read that passage carefully, you can perhaps discern that “damn,” a word he used “repeatedly,” may have provided the bulk of the profanities in his curse-filled speech.
At one point, Mr. Christie joked that he was not the “heartless bastard I was portrayed as tonight,” according to the audio recording from the International Business Times.
Mr. Christie told the crowd of reporters that he would by no means return to the dinner in 2016, no matter how badly he was doing in the presidential campaign.
“Anything that gets me off this stage next year,” he said, deploying a curse to describe the stage. “I’m willing to do anything.”
He added: “Why do you think I might run for president?”
He repeatedly told the group that he did not give a darn—about them or the show—but used a more colorful expression.
The candidate also joked that he wasn’t “a heartless bastard.” It seems that was counted too.
The children built an entire report out of this inanity. On the same page, Michael Schmidt discussed the hot new set of Hillary Clinton emails, which had been leaked to the Times and didn’t seem all that hot.
How pointless was this campaign report? By paragraph 4, the fearless young reporter was informing the world that the emails in question “offer occasional glimpses into the private side of Mrs. Clinton’s life, such as her public-radio listening habits and the fact that she was complimented for how she looked in a photo that appeared on the front page of The Times.”
Schmidt never explained his pointless remark about Clinton’s NPR habit. Before long, though, he was providing a fuller sense of the way such a person gets fluffed:
SCHMIDT (5/22/15): The emails show that even those at the highest levels of government engage in occasional flattering of those above them. In March 2011, Mrs. Clinton received an email from Ann-Marie Slaughter, the director of policy planning for the State Department, who was leaving her position.Ms. Slaughter “moved on to more serious matters?” On the whole, Mr. Schmidt didn’t.
“Gorgeous pic on the front page of the NYT!” Ms. Slaughter said, referring to a photo of Mrs. Clinton. “One for the wall...” Ms. Slaughter then moved on to more serious matters, including her opposition to arming the rebels in Libya.
Schmidt did include a suggestive and misleading statement about Benghazi, the truth of which actually matters in our ongoing politics: “The emails also show that Mrs. Clinton was circulating information about the attacks in Benghazi that contradicted the Obama administration’s initial narrative of what occurred.”
Schmidt never explained what he meant by that suggestive statement. He devoted half of one sentence to that topic, two paragraphs to the photo-based fluffing which seemed to have him concerned.
This is what the children will be discussing for the next seventeen months, thanks to the pseudo-campaign’s absurd and amazing length. They’ll thrash about in piles of piddle, looking for personality-based trivia they can share and tilt.
That said, the most amazing campaign report that day appeared at the top of the page which bore the Christie/Clinton reports. This campaign report concerned Candidate Bush—and it was an obvious rerun.
The report was written by Nick Corasaniti, who's basically new to this game. In hard copy, it was bannered across the top of the page.
To an amazing degree, it told the same old story—a story the New York Times told us once before.
Corasaniti is a bright young fellow who seems to have studied Frank Bruni’s work. We say that because, sixteen years ago, Bruni—then a bright young reporter himself—wrote the exact same story about that year’s Candidate Bush!
In fact, he wrote it several times. But then, so did other Timesmen, including the late Johnny Apple. Beyond that, endless versions of this story were written about Candidate McCain.
Corasaniti graduated from [Ithaca College] in 2008. Initially, it looks like his background was in sports. But then, Bruni wrote about movies before he began his famous fluffing of that year's Candidate Bush.
Whatever! Last Friday, Corasaniti wrote the same “news report” Bruni wrote in 1999. Along with the amazing length of the pseudo-campaign and the sheer inanity of the reporting, you’re being handed the same old stories you consumed in predecessor campaigns.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at Corasaniti’s faithful rewrite of Bruni’s fatuous work. As the week proceeds, we’ll examine several other “same old stories” which popped up over the weekend in the Post and the Times.
On the whole, those stories should be rejected. So should the silly children who write them.
That process should start right now. As we all understand, it won’t.
Tomorrow: Channeling Bruni