She spills with remarkable talent: Did the New York Times editorial board really do "Mayo Pete" wrong?
That's a matter of judgment! For ourselves, we were surprised by the interview snippets which aired during Sunday's hour-long TV show, in which the board pretended to clue us in on how their most recent sausage was hatched.
For ourselves, we were embarrassed by the dumbness of the "Mayo Pete" snippet. Also, we were surprised by Binyamin Applebaum's remarkably hostile tone.
Later, should we have been surprised by the board's full interview with Buttigieg? Should we have been surprised to see that the interview started off like this?
KINGSBURY (1/19/20): Thank you for coming. So, we have heard you obviously talk about health care and climate and the Middle East a lot in the debates, so we’re going to try to ask you some questions we haven’t heard you answer in the past, and you will be shocked to hear that we’d like to start with your time at McKinsey.At age 24, as he took his first job, was Pete just chasing the Benjamins? This strikes us as a very strange way to start an interview of this type.
You graduated from Oxford with sterling credentials. You could have pursued any number of career paths from there, including the choice you ultimately made to join the military. Can you walk us through why you decided to go to McKinsey from there?
BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, so the biggest thing was that I had a great academic education, but I was beginning to feel that there wasn’t as much real-world experience mixed in with it. That in particular, I was eager to do as many things as I could, touching as many fields as I could, and to understand business in particular, about how people and money and goods move around the world and how that works.
KINGSBURY: So you didn’t just want to make a lot of money?
BUTTIGIEG: What’s that?
KINGSBURY: You didn’t just want to make a lot of money?
BUTTIGIEG: I definitely noticed the paycheck and that was important, too. Yeah. I’m not going to pretend that that wasn’t on my mind, too.
That said, the board was perhaps a bit surprising again and again. This has often been the case, in the past thirty years, with the occasionally limited types who sit at the top of our press corps.
For the record, we aren't attempting to endorse the Mayonnaise Man. (He emerged from the session with a new handle: Rapmaster White 'n Bland.)
Our view? By normal standards, Buttigieg is too young, and too inexperienced, to be a viable candidate. On the brighter side, two of the other four front-runners are way too old by normal standards, and the fourth top contender spent several decades claiming to be Native American, which she plainly isn't and wasn't.
By normal standards, these top four contenders strike us as a highly beatable group. That said, the nominee, if there ever is one, will be running against the craziest person in political history. So at least there's that!
In our view, Buttigieg is way too young, but he's also transparently bright. He's so bright that he knew enough to answer The Question Posed to All The Hopefuls in the manner shown below:
KINGSBURY: We only have about half an hour left, so I want to turn to foreign policy, but before we do, I wanted to ask you one question which we are asking all of our candidates, which is, who has broken your heart?It's just as Mother always said: If you ask a silly question, you'll get a silly answer! So it went when Buttigieg had the smarts to stay away from the silly palaver the board had somehow dreamed up.
BUTTIGIEG: I mean, Boston College. I was 11 years old. We were this close to the National Championship. And they came to South Bend, we were one game away, we had beaten Florida State, become No. 1. There wasn’t a B.C.S. back then, so when you finish the season undefeated, you’re the champion. And they came into our stadium, and they broke my little heart.
Did the Times editorial board have it in for Buttigieg? The interview seemed strange from the start, but he apparently ended up as one of the board's top four choices when they took an actual vote.
(On the TV show, the top four were said to be Warren, Klobuchar, Booker and Buttigieg, though not necessarily in that order. Ain't transparency grand?)
Someone apparently liked Mayor Pete; others did seem a bit hostile. Equally striking was a Buttigieg-themed piece which had appeared in the Sunday Times the same day the TV show aired.
The sprawling report to which we refer dominated the first page of Sunday's National section. The piece was written by Emma Goldberg, who's three years out of college.
(Yale, class of 2016. After that, she got a master's degree in gender studies at the University of Cambridge.)
Goldberg's piece involved the type of gender analysis the Times has (very) recently embraced. We'd say the topic is very important, but as with so many other topics, it's often pursued in the Times in the least insightful possible way.
The modern Times is rarely without a piece of this general type. Headline included, Goldberg started by repeating a Klobuchar complaint:
GOLDBERG (1/19/20): Would a 37-Year-Old Woman Be Where Pete Buttigieg Is?Klobuchar runs as a sensible centrist. In the instance cited by Goldberg, she was bellyaching hard.
Amy Klobuchar was 37 when she ran for Hennepin County district attorney. Her opponent, in a 1998 debate, labeled her “nothing but a street fighter”—to which Ms. Klobuchar responded, “thank you.” The image of a tough competitor is one that Ms. Klobuchar, who is now a Democratic senator from Minnesota and presidential candidate, has come to embrace. She swung a punch at a rival in her moderate ring during November’s Democratic debate, taking aim at Pete Buttigieg, then the mayor of South Bend, Ind.
“Do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had?” Ms. Klobuchar said, speaking for her fellow female contenders. “No, I don’t. Maybe we’re held to a different standard.”
Ms. Klobuchar’s comment touched off conversations about whether a female version of Mr. Buttigieg—elected by fewer than 10,000 votes, with under a decade of experience—could have advanced so quickly in a crowded presidential field.
Goldberg took the complaint and ran with it. By implication, sexism and misogyny were working against the female contenders again!
That said, we're able to answer Klobuchar's question, and the answer is largely no. In most cases, a 37-year-old woman would not have risen as fast as Buttigieg has. That said, the same is true of most 37-year-old men as well.
However Buttigieg might be judged overall, he's plainly a cut above the average political player in a type of pure intelligence. That said, has he only been permitted to rise because he's a talented man?
We'd have to say that the answer is no. Consider another rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
AOC is eight years younger than The Mayonnaise Man. Her rise to national prominence as a 29-year-old first-term member of the House was perhaps more remarkable than the rise of Mayo Pete.
Question: Would a 30-year-old man be where AOC is today? It's hard to imagine such a thing, but that's because it's hard to picture talent like hers until it comes along.
AOC has risen to prominence because she spills with political talent and appeal. In our view, her appeal may exceed that of Candidate Buttigieg—but he has plainly visible talent too, and so did Barack Obama in The Summer of '04.
Barack Obama was 43 in The Summer of '04. He was a little-known back-bencher in the Illinois state legislature—but the Democratic Party had already seen that he was massively talented.
(Back in 1991, both parties knew the same thing about the little-known Bill Clinton.)
Obama was chosen to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention—and when he did, he rocked the world. Less than three years later, he was was running for president, with major elements of the party and the upper-end press corps supporting him all along.
At the time, it was sometime asked: Could a very young, little-known white guy have risen as fast as Obama?
The answer, of course, was yes! But it's hard to picture such an unusually talented person until he comes along.
We like Candidate Klobuchar. We respect the type of person who comes up the traditional way, demonstrating that she can win local, then statewide, elections.
That said, Klobuchar doesn't have the kind of shooting-star political appeal of an AOC or an Obama. (She lacks "charisma," someone said on the TV show.) In our view, Buttigieg isn't on their level either—but he does possess a highly visible type of smarts which sets him apart from the field.
Goldberg may have been taught her critical theory well. Also, she's now at the New York Times, where a topic which isn't explored in a way which is perhaps somewhat scripted won't be examined at all.
Also, Goldberg is very young! Is it wise for the liberal world to cast its lot with such remarkably young and inexperienced journalistic leaders? It may save news orgs a couple of bucks, but is it a good idea?
The New York Times, an upper-class paper, has gone all in on race and gender in the past few years. The topics are very important, but the work may sometimes seem to tilt toward the scripted and the possibly somewhat dumb.
AOC has risen because she possesses highly unusual talent, as did Barack Obama. Speculation has already started about a White House race by AOC, once she's old enough to run.
Could a 30-year-old man be where AOC is? As a matter of fact, the answer is yes—if he had remarkable talent of the type she has.
If he had remarkable talent! Buttigieg is white and bland, the Times board thoughtfully told him. But he does possesses a type of visible talent. Just check out the smarts he displayed when asked who broke his heart!
Next week: Grievance Culture and Its (Scripted) Discontents