CAPUTO ON CONSTRUCT! Lisa Caputo fleshed out a key point about that latest construct: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 2008
TOMORROW: Brian Williams speaks! So does alleged “sc*m-bag” Purdum.
ENDLESS BUMMER: Earlier this week, we said that, while sports writers actually seem to like sports, the political press corps often seems to hate politics. One e-mailing journalist–a name so big it would rock your world!–disagreed with us in minor degree, drawing a few fine distinctions. But the passage below, from Gail Collins’ new column, represents the essence of what we meant. This is such an odd part of upscale press culture that it must be captured, for later study. We offer a chunk from the end of the column, but it was Collins’ closing paragraph that caught our analysts’ eyes:
In this passage, Gail gives us the slightly creepy feeling that, for her, “Hillary” and “Barack” really are imaginary friends. But note that trademark closing paragraph. In her columns of the past year or so, Collins has endlessly complained that there were 1) too many debates and 2) too many primaries. At one point, she voiced the somewhat novel complaint that there were 3) too many issues being discussed. Today, she looks ahead to the general election–and pre-complains that there will be too many town meetings, featuring John and Barack. And of course, we’ve all seen the howling from David (Broder), when major Dems like Gore and Clinton have made him sit through policy speeches. We’ve never seen people who so seemed to hate so many aspects of the subject they chose to cover.
Or who knows? Maybe someone is kidnaping English majors and making them write about politics!
Collins hated all those debates; now, she’s planning to hate the town meetings. The one thing these people seem to love is the novels they endlessly type–novels endlessly driven along by their insipid stock characters. And make no mistake: This is the mark of an upper-class press corps–a group that doesn’t have to worry or care about the matters discussed at those tedious debates.
In this post, Paul Krugman asks if the coverage of this year’s campaign will be more substantive than in the past. Commenters widely answered him: No! And sure enough! The very next day, there was Collins, pre-complaining about those town meetings.
Our analysis? They seem to hate covering things that matter–and they seem to love tired old novels. This morning, Collins employs one of her cohort’s most tired old tropes. There’s a key on their keyboards for it:
Snore! It’s the tiredest trope in the book, typed at a time when the GOP has virtually destroyed its public standing. Collins pre-hates those boring town meetings–and adores tired scripts, snarks and sneers.
CAPUTO ON CONSTRUCT: We’re in a bit of a rush today. But we thought Lisa Caputo fleshed out a basic point on last evening’s Verdict with Dan Abrams. In yesterday’s HOWLER, what did we mean when we said that the modern pundit corps tend to hand you “constructs?” As has long been obvious, most modern pundits are only happy when they’re All Saying The Exact Same Things. On Tuesday evening, they stood in line to marvel at the fact that Clinton didn’t concede to Obama; they marveled at this, even though they’d been told that she wasn’t going to do so. Below, we’ll offer some thoughts on why she didn’t. But here was Caputo, fleshing out more of the background we offered yesterday:
Why is there a different standard for Clinton? Putting Congressman Rangel to the side, the answer to that is obvious. But Caputo adds to the brief capsule history we offered yesterday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/4/08). In Campaign 2000, Bradley waited several months to endorse. There was nothing especially “wrong” with that–and the pundit corps didn’t bellow and howl, in One Loud Voice, berating his vile, ugly conduct.
Should Clinton have given a different speech? That is a matter of judgment. But why didn’t she endorse? We can think of several obvious possible answers. But let’s stick with one.
Here it is: Candidates often don’t endorse for a while because they’re extremely competitive people. It has long been clear that, barring some sort of disaster, Obama was going to win the nomination. But it wasn’t clear to Hillary Clinton, to judge from today’s report by the Post’s Kornblut and Balz. In this passage, they walk us through the weeks before North Carolina:
People who compete and achieve on this level tend to be highly competitive. Obviously, that was true of Bradley, a famous, world-class athlete (although the press corps, through its Official Script, kept insisting on the opposite). People who compete and achieve on this level have a strong tendency not to give up. We have an anecdote about the last NFL years of Johnny Unitas which reflects this matter quite nicely. But people who compete on the Bradley/Clinton level are trying very hard to win. Historically, they haven’t instantly turned around and endorsed their beloved opponents. Indeed, some of our most famous, pundit-honored pols have fought it out right to the end.
For the most part, that isn’t a good idea–and Clinton isn’t going to do it. Personally, we hope she busts her keister helping Obama win.
We can think of other reasons for Tuesday’s non-endorsement. But Caputo fleshed out the obvious history–history that was widely ignored on Tuesday night, when pundits churned a Group Story. When pundits agree to Speak With One Voice, they behave like the fraternal order which, in many ways, they are. You get handed a heavily tilted view–a “construct.” But because you see Every Pundit Assert It, it seems that it must be The Truth.
Uh-oh! As Richard Cohen noted this week, sometimes that whole gang-of-his is just faking! Quick rule of thumb: Whenever pundits All Say The Same Thing, it most likely isn’t quite truthful.