The New York Times kicks off the same old year: At the nation's dumbest newspaper, the silliness never sleeps.
Today, the nation starts its allegedly "new" year. But at the top of the New York Times front page, the silliness announces itself through these silly-bill, hard-copy headlines:
Punch Lines Versus Polish On Iowa Trail"Punch Lines Versus Polish?" Screaming, the analysts recalled Newsweek's headline from Campaign 1996: "Saxophone Vs. Sacrifice."
An Informal Christie and a Lofty Rubio
Below that headline, Newsweek compared Candidate Dole's masterful service in World War II to President Clinton louche demeanor in high school. More on that journalistic monster below. For now, let's consider the Times' latest masterwork.
This morning's "Punch Lines Versus Polish" report was written by Michael Barbaro. Fresh from his 2011 front-page profile of Candidate Romney's hair stylist, America's silliest boy started today's piece as shown below.
In this way, our most fatuous newspaper started the country's new year:
BARBARO (1/1/16): It was the same question, on the same topic, asked on the same day to two different candidates: How, as president, would you hold down the crushing cost of a college education?Long story short: The "punch lines" came from Candidate Christie, the "polish" from Rubio.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey gave an operatic, eight-minute answer in which he derided rock-climbing walls as an extravagant campus fad, disclosed in minute detail his children’s tuition bill for the year ($120,500), poked fun at his weight and imagined a hypothetical showdown in which he told his 19-year-old daughter she could not return to the University of Notre Dame because of the price tag.
At a campaign stop 70 miles away, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida gave an answer half as long. Mr. Rubio efficiently, almost mechanically, ticked through his three-point plan to allow students to use work experience for class credit (in his words, “competency-based learning”), let private investors pay for tuition and make colleges divulge which majors yield the best-paying jobs. He concluded with a dark assessment of liberal arts colleges as “indoctrination camps” protected by the political left “because all their friends work there.”
As the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination enters a crucial stretch, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Christie, two political thoroughbreds who are among their generation’s most naturally gifted politicians, are circling each other in Iowa and New Hampshire, determined to use the intimate, grip-and-grin style of town hall meetings to persuade voters to support them.
As he continued, Barbaro revealed he had conducted "a close-in study of their approach over 48 hours" in Iowa. According to Barbaro, his close-in study has "reveal[ed] the strikingly different styles of the rivals."
In short, this report—which appears at the top of page one—is another entertaining description of two candidates' "style." Adding to the entertainment, we're quickly told that the two candidates have "traded unexpectedly stinging insults over the past few days."
In fact, the "stinging insults" in question turn out to be thoroughly standard campaign fare. But so what? As he continues, America's silliest boy is letting us feel that We Are There.
We also get some key statistics:
BARBARO: Mr. Christie’s town-hall-style meetings here are stripped-down, unfussy affairs, so determinedly casual that his staff picks coffeehouses, bowling alleys and even bars as sites. (Bars are inexpensive, staff members say, and the setting all but guarantees a crowd.) He uses no stage or barriers, just a microphone and a bottle of water with the label ripped off. He plops himself down in the middle of the room and wanders into the crowd and plays for laughs at almost every turn: The audience at a cafe here broke into laughter 21 times.Our silly boy is providing us with the facts. Candidate Christie's audience broke into laughter 21 times. By way of contrast, Candidate Rubio's crowd produced 15 bursts of applause! It was punch lines versus polish!
Mr. Rubio’s events are much more meticulously planned, so formal that cloth-covered fencing is set up around the perimeter of the room. (Aides said it made the young lawmaker seem more presidential.) He speaks the entire time atop a raised platform, flanked by enormous red-white-and-blue campaign posters lit by spotlights. Polished applause lines tumble from his mouth: In Clinton, Iowa, the crowd interrupted him at least 15 times with bursts of clapping.
Our silliest lad keeps this up for 1439 words today. Along with his riveting text, two large photographs show the two candidates speaking. Truth to tell, we never really learn very much about their plans to combat the rise in college costs, or if they have any such plans at all.
Instead, we get bullshit like this:
BARBARO: Mr. Rubio favors lofty, patriotic, high-minded narration to make his points; Mr. Christie relies on emotional, sometimes borscht-belt-style storytelling that can drag his events to two hours, twice as long as Mr. Rubio’s.Are the voters highly attuned to the candidates' stagecraft? Barbaro isn't willing to say. But that's sure how it seems!
Asked about the funding shortfall for Social Security, Mr. Christie zeroed in on a few older women in a cafe, walking up to them and delivering his proposal to raise the retirement age with a side of marital humor. Male life expectancy, he said, has risen to 79, closing in on 83 for women. “That four-year vacation you were hoping for at the end of your life from us, you may not get it,” Mr. Christie told them as laughs erupted across the room. “We may be hanging with you the entire trip.”
Voters seem highly attuned to the stagecraft (or lack of it) in the candidates’ dueling town halls. In Clinton, in the northeast corner of the state, about a dozen people were left standing at a Rubio event despite ample space in the room: Using an old campaign trick, his staff had subdivided a large banquet hall to create the illusion of a packed room, but that also meant there was insufficient seating.
“I’m surprised they didn’t use this whole room,” said Laurie Kuehl, a 72-year-old woman who arrived after all the seats were filled.
By the way, is there a "funding shortfall for Social Security?" And if there is, how serious is the shortfall?
Silly boys like Barbaro will never, ever go there! His "news report" from Muscatine is in fact an entertainment feature. It appears at the top of the Times' front page, kicking off our latest "same old" year.
We got the key statistic on Candidate Christie's laugh breaks. We also got the key statistic on Candidate Rubio's bursts of applause.
But what will happen to federal deficits under Candidate Trump's formal budget proposal? As we noted on Wednesday, those statistics have never appeared in the New York Times! As it pretends to provide campaign coverage, the New York Times, our smartest newspaper, is pure piddle all the way down.
Newsweek in 1996: "Saxophone vs. Sacrifice?" Back in March 1996, what did that alliterative headline mean?
Alas! The headline sat above a piece by Joe Klein. The report compared the moral greatness of Candidate Dole's "greatest generation" to the moral squishiness of President Clinton's affluent, spoiled "baby boomers."
The photos to which the headline referred were journalistic porn. One photo showed the pudgy, spoiled President Clinton at age 16 in his high school band uniform. The other photo showed Candidate Dole in his World War II military garb.
We can't find the photos on line, but you can read the article here. It's horrible, terrible work. (Nothing in Klein's text refers to the headline, which makes no sense in the absence of the photos.)
To this day, the analysts writhe when they recall that entertaining old headline. This morning, at the start of a very old year, they were triggered by a similar headline at the top of the Times front page.
No safe space can protect us from this upper-class post-journalism! This morning's headline and pseudo-news report help define the Potemkin "national discourse" which has long undermined our world.
(For the record, the young Bob Dole was a draft-avoider too. Even during World War II, he stayed out as long as he could, preferring life as a student-athlete at the University of Kansas. We wouldn't and don't criticize him for that. We'll only note that press corps scripting kept you from learning such facts.)