THE APEX AND ZEBULON OF IT: Perhaps we should simply thank Gail Collins. Debates have raged in recent weeks about what it means to be an elitist. Weve been struck by how many peoplemore particularly, by how many liberals and progressivesdont seem to understand the basic concept behind this potent charge.
What does it mean, then, to be an elitist? At the start of this mornings column, Collins shows us, quite capably. Rolling her eyes, she chuckles at Bill Clintons recent scheduleand at his general outlook. What does liberal elitism look like? Herelet Collins show you:
COLLINS (5/1/08): You have to give Bill Clinton credit. Sure we think he's self-involved. But on Wednesday the former president of the United States was campaigning for his wife in North Carolina, making appearances at Apex, Sanford, Lillington, Dunn, Hope Mills, Lumberton and Whiteville. Following a 7:45 a.m. event in Apex, he was scheduled to discuss ''Solutions for America'' on ''the lawn in front of McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center.''
This does not sound like the itinerary of a person who's incapable of relinquishing center stage. In a way, though, it's his idea of heaven. The man is perfectly happy to go anywhere as long as he gets to talk. Harvard, McSwain Extension Center, somebody's living room, somebody's lawn, the checkout line at Rite Aid. Just sit him next to a human being with ears and he's good to go.
Could a person possibly get any dumber? The man is perfectly happy to go anywhere as long as he gets to talk, Collins purrsand she lists the ghastly places where Clinton has recently spoken. Why, the man is even happy to speak at McSwain Extension Center! Just sit him next to a human being...and he's good to go, Collins says.
Long ago, Austen mocked the clownish pretensions of the comical Mr. Collins. Today, that clerics heir gives us a look at the soul of the upscale elitist.
Just sit him next to a human being! Truth to tell, this is one of the itches these darlings always wanted to scratch when it came to Bill Clinton. (Good lord! That ghastly mother!) Its rare, though, that anyone is so wonderfully dumb as to lay it out in this manner. Sure, we think hes self-involved, Collins purrs, perhaps in the royal weas she displays her own vast self-regard. How funny it is that he spoke at McSwain! Why, you might even catch him at Rite Aid!
Collins headline this morning is this: How Will It Play in Apex? No doubt, were all supposed to enjoy a good laugh at the comedy provided by the no-name towns name. (Luckily, Clinton didnt appear at Zebulon, another suburb of high-tech Raleigh. We were thereby spared the word-play weve placed in our own deathless head.) Is something comic about life in Apex? As noted, its a next-door neighbor to high-tech Raleigh, a place which is crawling with people who are smarter than Collins; its a town of roughly 26,000 souls. For the record, heres part of the statement which appeared on the Apex web site when Money magazine named it the 14th best place to live in the whole dad-burned country:
TOWN OF APEX WEBSITE (7/16/07): CNNMoney.com reported today that the editors of Money Magazine had ranked the Town of Apex as the 14th best in their annual list, 2007 Edition, of the 100 Best Places in America to Live. This years list had focused on smaller communities under 50,000 in population that offered the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do, and a real sense of community...
Mayor Keith H. Weatherly expressed his appreciation for this recognition as he said, We are all so pleased and proud that our Town has attracted this kind of positive national attention. Our Town Council and town employees have really worked together with our citizens, our businesses, our schools and churches to make this community one of the best places in all of America to have a home, to raise a family, to go school, to start a business, and to enjoy a safe and happy lifestyle.
As news of the national ranking of Apex spread, calls and inquiries poured into Town offices and the local Chamber of Commerce. Weve had a deluge this morning of people from everywhere wanting to know more about Apex, said Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford. We are always glad to share all we can about opportunities in Apex. This is a very welcoming community.
Did calls and inquiries pour into town offices? If so, lets guess that none of them came from Collins, a classic Manhattan provinciala consummate know-nothing know-it-all.
Might we make an obvious statement? Decent people live in all the towns at which Collins rolls her eyes in amusement. Why, decent people might even be found taking classes at McSwain Extension! If they become aware of Collins column, theyll hear its mockery, loud and clear. Dems and liberals have lost elections this way for many years.
(By the way: Its hard to picture a column like this about small towns in Wisconsin or New Hampshire. This is a quintessentially southern column. Manhattan provincials especially like to roll their eyes at the rube-ridden south.)
Which part of Apex doesnt Collins understand? The part about the schools and the churches? The pride the mayor expressed in the way the town council and town employees have worked together with our citizens, our businesses, our schools and churches to make this community one of the best places in all of America? Its hard to be a bigger provincial than Collins paints herself as today. (By the way: Dont miss her pointless take on Miley Cyrus, which she pointlessly shoe-horns into this column.) In recent weeks, weve been struck by how many liberals dont even seem to understand what the charge of elitism consists in. Luckily, rubes like Collins work for the Timesand theyre endlessly willing to show us.
Is this relevant to the current flap about Obama and Reverend Wright? Wed be inclined to say it is. We strongly recommend this fascinating, front-page report in this mornings same New York Times. Noting that Times reporters still dont seem to have read Obamas first book (see below), well plan to comment on it tomorrow. We think this article reveals some aspects of contemporary journalism of race. And we think it forms an excellent framework for discussing this recent brouhaha.
BIG JOURNOS RAIRLY SEAM TWO REED BUKS: Do big journalists ever read books? We wondered again when we read the following part of Michael Powells report. In all candor, the highlighted statement about Obamas first book just isnt accurate:
POWELL (5/1/08): Trinity was a progressive church, welcoming to gay men and lesbians, embracing of AIDS sufferers at a time when many other black churches shunned them. But the message heard from the pulpit was sometimes unyielding in its radicalism. To be provoked, if not always to agree, was the point. As he wrote in ''Dreams From My Father.''
''In his sermons, Mr. Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and the statehouse,'' Mr. Obama wrote.
Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright's church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.
Obamas embrace of Reverend Wright formed the climax of his book? In fact, the book is 442 pages longand the passage quoted by Powell is found on page 293. This may just be an editing error, but Obamas embrace of Reverend Wright plainly isnt the climax of this book. It is the climax of Part Two. But alas! The book has three parts.
We might view this as a minor misstatement. But journos have tended to read this book somewhat selectively (to the extent that theyve read it at all), leading us to the present momentand to moments which havent (yet) occurred. Tomorrow, well look at the ways this article illuminates journalistic aspects of the current discussiona discussion which may yet decide who sits in the White House next year.
Of course, Manhattan provincials will want to ignore this discussion. Apex and Zebulon may be involvedand Manhattan provincials dont go there.
In fairness: In fairness, this is a minor book-learnin error compared to that of the brilliant Chris Matthews (Rachel Maddow), who still thought, last December, that Obamas mother had been Islamic. (And his maternal grandmother! No, were not making this up; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/07.) Paid $5 million per year to discuss such matters, he still didnt seem to have gotten around to reading the actual books. (Or anything else, for that matter.) But again, well guess that this is just human nature. Thats why we offered that timeless bromide to Ron Lees students at Nebraska. We hated to say it, but its so true: Human nature being what it is, you cant run a middle-class democracy with a multimillionaire press corps.