As Gabriel blows horn again: On Tuesday night, Bernie Sanders told the press corps to drop the incessant scandal crap and talk about substance for once.
The focus on emails is too damn high, the candidate more or less said.
The audience applauded. It was an instant iconic moment.
Alas! In her new column, Gail Collins has a strange take on the incident:
COLLINS (10/15/15): [Candidate Clinton] had a great debate Tuesday night. Her main opponent, Bernie Sanders, said America was sick and tired of the damned email thing! This is actually classic Sanders, who combines persistent truth-telling with extreme crankiness. But convenient as all get-out for Clinton, who did an excellent job herself on most of the questions. In a perfect world she wouldn’t have said “I represented Wall Street,” but all in all, a home run.To Collins, Sanders’ statement seems to have been a manifestation of “extreme crankiness.” Later, she said that Clinton had been “surrounded by four crabby-looking men.”
This is the way they approach these things; nothing will ever change that. For a note on an “unlikeable” White House candidate, see below.
Meanwhile, reporter Trip Gabriel was at it in Iowa once again, pretending to evaluate voter response to this latest debate.
We last looked in on Gabriel after the second Republican debate. As we noted in this post, he had exhausted himself gathering voter reactions:
GABRIEL (9/19/15): A sampling of a dozen Iowans on Thursday who watched the second Republican debate—all of them close followers of the presidential race who are uncommitted—did not vary from the emerging national consensus about Mrs. Fiorina’s performance.At the time, we suggested that a dozen Iowans may not be much of a sampling—that the sampling may be too damn small. It became clear this morning that the sensitive Times reporter took our critique to heart.
The headline above his new report says this: “Hillary Clinton Wins Iowa Fans With Debate Performance.” How big was his sample size this time?
This time around, nothing was left to chance:
GABRIEL (10/15/15): In Iowa, where Bernie Sanders’s call for “political revolution” has lit a prairie fire, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s insistence at Tuesday night’s debate that she, too, is a progressive but one who “likes to get things done,” brought her new respect and support.This time, Gabriel was careful about sample size. This time, he spoke to more than a dozen voters. We’ll guess that means thirteen.
Mrs. Clinton’s self-assurance, command of issues and ease in parrying Mr. Sanders at the forum in Las Vegas drew praise from Iowa Democrats, who will cast the first nominating votes on Feb. 1.
A third candidate, Martin O’Malley, a former Maryland governor, was also cited as impressive in interviews with more than a dozen debate-watchers who had not previously committed to a candidate.
We’re puzzled by work of this type. No one could fail to understand the problem with speaking to so few people, then drawing large conclusions about the way “Iowa Democrats” reacted to this event.
That said, the Times keeps publishing work of this type. It strikes us as an imitation of journalism. It seems to be based on the assumption that New York Times readers won’t notice.
To how many “Iowa Democrats” did Gabriel actually speak? He names ten people in his report. In theory, that means at least three missed the cut.
How representative was this small sample? According to Gabriel’s report, he spoke to a farmer, a mayor, a social worker and a waiter.
This suggests that he had perhaps been involved in a “Reimagine the Village People” drinking game, according to one of the analysts.
Fair enough, we thoughtfully said. The analyst's theory was reinforced by this:
GABRIEL: Sarah and Bryan Vanderpool, professional folk singers who recently moved from Los Angeles, began the debate as Sanders supporters. Mr. Vanderpool was still one afterward. “He really spoke to the issues and I’m really excited about him,” he said.Should a representative sample that small involve two folk singers? Let alone two professional singers who have just moved away from Los Angeles?
But Ms. Vanderpool found herself unexpectedly drawn to the gravitational field of Mrs. Clinton. “I came in really, really supporting Bernie, and now I like them both,” she said. “She really handled herself well: she has a history of working on the stuff she’s going to be dealing with if she’s president.”
Gabriel’s sample was very small. At the Times, it was close enough for journalistic work.
That said, a reporter can’t really learn squat or squadoosh from speaking to thirteen Iowa Democrats.
“Please tell us that the Times knows that,” one of the analysts sighed.
Unlikable, the columnist said: Collins’ reference to the cranky crabby candidate made us think of something we recently read about the late Mary McGrory, the long-time columnist at the Washington Post.
John Norris has written a biography of McGrory. In Sunday’s Outlook section, Carlos Lozada broke the hearts of the world with a bygone quote:
LOZADA (10/11/15): Norris captures a bygone era of Washington journalism, yet reveals McGrory as a precursor to its current forms. Clickbait and harsh comments would not have been alien to her. Nor would conflicts between reporting and opinion, between personal and professional loyalties. “If I wanted to be fair and objective,” she explained, “I wouldn't be writing.”“The unlikable and the unprepared?” After reading Collins today, we remembered to look up the quote.
That writing could eviscerate in single lines. Of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, she observed: “I had seen his likes all my life, at wakes, at weddings, at the junior prom. He was an Irish bully boy.” Robert F. Kennedy: “His tragedy was not only that he had not achieved his full potential, but that uncertainties and pressures had prevented him from seeing what it was.” Nixon: “A sense of grievance is not a good paramount quality in a president.” Carter vs. Reagan: “a choice between a Democrat who can't govern and a Republican who won't.” Gore vs. Bush: “a battle between the unlikable and the unprepared.” She would've been great on Twitter.
The quote appeared in the Washington Post five days before the 2000 election. It came with a reference to Gore’s “bad manners” at the first Bush-Gore debate.
We don’t recommend looking it up. As for the crabby Sanders, he crafted an important, iconic moment—an iconic debate moment for the ages.
The endless distractions are too damn high, the hopeful incomparably said.