Chozick's instructive replies: We haven't finished Amy Chozick's instructive new book as yet. Painfully, we still have hundreds of pages to go.
That said, we thought Isaac Chotiner showed good instincts in his interview with Chozick, who covered Candidate Clinton for the New York Times for more than three years during and before the start of Campaign 2016.
Craftily, Chotiner took it easy as he began. His first question went like this:
CHOTINER (4/27/18): When did you first start reporting on Hillary Clinton?Some will say that this was a softball start. Let them come to Berlin, or at least to Slate, to peruse Chozck's reply:
CHOZICK (continuing directly): I had been a foreign correspondent in Japan for the Wall Street Journal when my editor there became Washington bureau chief—this was 2007—and he said, “How would you like to go to Iowa and cover Hillary Clinton?” I was 28. I went to Iowa. I was having as much culture shock going there as I had when I moved to Tokyo. I thought, “Oh my God, Americans are huge.” I didn’t know what a caucus was, which I admitted to Hillary Clinton’s aides a couple years later, and they said, “That’s OK. We didn’t know what a caucus was either in 2008.”Say what? Chozick, a former foreign correspodent, didn't know what a caucus was when she started covering Campaign 2008 for the Wall Street Journal?
Apparently, this claim struck Chotiner as strange. Here's his second Q-and-A with Chozick, completing the text we will discuss today:
CHOTINER (continuing directly): Do you think it’s weird that newspapers send people to cover the Iowa election without knowing what a caucus is, or is that par for the course of how reporting works?Those are the first two Q-and-A's between Chotiner and Chozick. In our view, Chozick's answers have already given us substantial reason to fear for the future of the republic, though it will take several days to flesh out this gloomy pronouncement.
CHOZICK: Actually, I don’t think that’s par for the course. I think that was an exception and I think it was a good one because I went to Japan without knowing anything about Japan. My editor’s idea was that fresh eyes would find new angles and new perspectives—things that either Japanese reporters or reporters who had lived there for decades didn’t think were strange. I thought it was a story and was interesting to readers. And I think it was the same thing getting to Iowa. I noticed things that, I think, when you cover politics and that’s all you cover—for instance, I wrote a Page 1 feature about campaign hookups. This is something that, if you have covered campaigns, of course people hook up, and that’s just a normal thing, but for me it was an interesting thing to see. Secret Service and reporters and all kinds of hookups. So I don’t know. I think you find stories with fresh perspectives and there can be a danger in the opposite way when you start getting too cynical and things just don’t start seeming like stories, and things don’t seem exciting any more. It’s like, “Yep, this is my fourth caucus, and I know everybody and know everything and I am writing just to impress my friends.”
Please understand! Chotiner actually went easy on Chozick in each of these opening questions! In his second question, he seems surprised by the idea that a 28-year-old reporter for one of our most important newspapers would be assigned to cover the Iowa caucus without knowing what a caucus actually was.
How do you get to be 28 at the Wall Street Journal without knowing such a thing? How do you get assigned to cover a major candidate if you know so little about the political process?
That's what Chotiner seems to be asking in his second question. But as we noted on Saturday, Chotiner skipped past the most amazing thing Chozick says about her mind-blowing ignorance as she headed for Iowa, where she says the people were huge. According to Chozick's mind-blowing book, she also didn't know this:
CHOZICK (page 51): I didn't know who ran John Kerry's 2004 campaign. I'd never heard of Politico or its Playbook. The name Barack Obama sounded only vaguely familiar...She didn't know what a caucus was—and "the name Barack Obama sounded only vaguely familiar!" On what planet could this have occurred?
Years later I confessed to one of The Guys that when I got to Iowa I didn't know what a caucus was.
As we noted on Saturday, Chozick was dispatched to Iowa in October 2007. Obama had been a very big deal ever since the summer of 2004, when he made an instantly famous speech at the Democratic National Convention. He'd been a monumental big deal since he announced for president in February 2007, eight months before Chozick was dispatched to Iowa.
It's very, very hard to believe that Chozick is telling the truth when she says that Obama's name "sounded only vaguely familiar" when she journeyed to Iowa, where she says the people were huge. But if she's actually telling the truth, she's describing a very strange world—a world in which we're all living.
Of course, many things Chozick says in that interview, and in her mind-blowing book, describe a very strange world. Tomorrow, we're going to look at those first two statements to Chotiner, in which she makes an array of highly peculiar statements.
We'll also show you the full paragraph from her book in which she claims that Obama's name was only vaguely familiar. In that paragraph, she fleshes out the kinds of original "stories" she found when she went to Tokyo, setting the stage for her later assignment to Iowa, where she wrote about campaign hookups and her culture shock was huge.
Of this one thing we're going to warn you—Chozick has written one of the strangest books we've ever read. As Chotiner suggests in other questions he poses, she keeps describing the deeply fatuous world of the upper-end mainstream press—the fatuous world we've lamented at this site for more than twenty years.
Again and again, she moves beyond the merely fatuous and seems to light out for the inane. That said, it isn't like Chozick's alone. Under the weight of widespread journalistic inanity, our democracy has long been imploding. Chozick merely takes the inanity to a new, higher level.
Obama's name sounded vaguely familiar! As Shelley once so thoughtfully said, "Look on [the upper-end press corps'] Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"