Frequently, we're surprised: We're often puzzled by Gail Collins' columns.
Today, she does an easy-reader comparison of Candidates Sanders and Clinton, being careful not to tax her readers.
(Way back when, Collins voiced an explicit theory about journalism—if you make it really easy and fun, a whole lot of readers will come.)
Collins writes today's column in Q-and-A form. Below, you see two consecutive Q-and-A's. We're putting the questions in bold, just the way Collins does.
These Q-and-A's concern Candidate Clinton. Do the answers make sense together? The italics are ours:
So Clinton isn’t in the pocket of big special interests who paid her millions of dollars to give speeches?Do those answers make sense together? First, Collins says it was inexcusable for Clinton to give those $200,000 speeches when she knew she'd be running for president.
Many people think her Wall Street reform plan is O.K. But on a personal level, it was inexcusable of her to give those $200,000 speeches for investment bankers and the like when she knew she was going to be running for president. Not good at all.
You’d better say something positive about Hillary Clinton now or I’m going to call this quits.
She’s stupendously smart. She has a lifetime record of fighting for good causes, particularly children and women’s rights...
In her very next breath, she says Clinton's "stupendously smart!"
To us, those answers are a difficult fit. That said, let's consider that second assessment of Clinton.
For ourselves, we've never quite understood why so many people say that Clinton's "stupendously smart." It's a fairly standard line. We've never quite seen the evidence.
On the brighter side, Candidate Clinton plainly isn't dumb! What does seem slightly dumb to us is the way her recent extemporaneous comment was interpreted, her remark about President Lincoln.
Uh-oh! At the end of Monday night's CNN forum, Clinton was asked to chat about the one past president she finds most inspiring. It's the type of question candidates get asked 1) in the hope that we can finally learn what they're really like, or 2) in the hope that they'll put their foot in their mouth.
Despite being stupendously smart, Clinton quickly created a problem. We highlight the part of her rumination which got people upset:
CLINTON (1/25/16): He kept his eye on the future and he also tried to keep summoning up the better angels of our nature. You know, he was willing to reconcile and forgive. And I don't know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that might possibly have brought people back together more quickly.That answer wasn't stupendously helpful. In our view, Kevin Drum offered the smartest assessment, sagaciously saying this:
But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the re-instigation of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.
"It's not totally clear to me what Hillary meant by that."
In our view, that was a very bright comment by Drum. Here's why we say that:
People! Extemporaneous speech isn't like a written text. In extemporaneous speech, people often make slightly murky remarks, statements which can be understood more than one way.
We're often surprised by the number of people who don't seem to grasp or acknowledge that fact. Instead, they impose an interpretation on a somewhat murky remark, usually an interpretation which makes them mad. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the speaker may not have intended her remark in precisely the way they took it.
In the case of Clinton's remark, you can take it to mean that Clinton thinks that Reconstruction was a bad idea. Quite a few pundits did take it that way, at which point they began to explain why that was wrong, so wrong.
Later, her campaign said that wasn't what she meant. Essentially, they said she expressed herself a bit clumsily. We'd have to say that could be true.
For Drum's more complete assessment, you can just click here. For ourselves, we're often amazed when people formulate hard-and-fast interpretations of some extemporaneous statement which may just be a bit murky.
(For the record, we recommend applying this forgiving interpretive rule to people in both major parties.)
Is Hillary Clinton "stupendously smart?" We've never quite understood that standardized assessment. On the other hand, it seems to us that Collins possibly vegs out on a lot of low-grade TV shows.
Last year, she referred to "The Cupcake Wars" as if everyone would know what that meant. This morning, she poses this question to us the humans near the end of her piece:
"Do you ever watch those house-hunting shows where people make the list of what they want in their next home, and it’s always a place in the heart of the city that’s quiet and has green space for the dog and four bedrooms so guests can come visit, for no more than $500 a month?"
Crackers, please! For us, the answer arrived with stupendous speed:
No! We never do!
Coming soon: People who judge candidates as if they were college professors