WHAT BACHMANN SAID! Monica Davey refused to describe the weird things Bachmann has said: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2009
When one thing didnt change: Over the weekend, we got a chance to watch Francine Prose discuss her new book about Anne Frank (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/13/09). We got to watch Prose thanks to C-Span. To watch her presentation, click here.
This morning, in the New York Times, Prose reviews Gail Collins new book. The book sounds interestingbut then again, theres the giant irony. This is Proses nugget description:
Collins book surveys the changes in gender politics in the past fifty years. The early pages of Ms. Collinss book are peppered with accounts of incidents so outrageous they almost seem like jokes, Prose writes.
Careful, Prose! the analysts cried. With Collins, youre never quite sure!
This sounds like an interesting book, about a deeply important subject. But then, of course, theres the giant irony, concerning Collins and Dowd.
Has everything changed since the 1960s? The one thing that plainly hasnt changed is the simpering, womens page feel on the New York Times op-ed page. The Times employs two woman columnistsCollins herself, and Maureen Dowd. Were endlessly struck by how little has changed in the tone of their work. To see Dowd as she simpers today, just click here. (Sex! Booze! Gambling! The inevitable hookers!) Relentlessly, Collins and Dowd evoke the days of Mad Men, when men marched off to do the worlds workand ladies simpered and purred.
Does Collins pepper her book with accounts of incidents so outrageous they almost seem like jokes? Warning to Prose: You might want to fact-check such incidents! Other readers may want to check out the grinding irony found on the Times op-ed page.
For ourselves, we got lucky in the summer of 1960. Entering eighth grade, we moved from a Boston suburb to a San Francisco counterpartto a miraculous place where boys and girls interacted as friends, a place where a young teacher with superb good judgment sternly told a ninth-grade class that they mustnt laugh at a ninth-grade girl who was being assailed in the usual ways. (She was a very good person, we were told. And she was very smart.) God bless the late Peter Drobac! We got lucky when we made that moveand when we read Proses wonderful book about a brilliant girl.
Hiding Seamus: In her new book, how often does Collins discuss the way Mitt Romney tied his pet dog, Seamus, to the roof of his station wagon? Extending an unwarranted break to her author, Prose refuses to say.
PART 2WHAT BACHMANN SAID: Why has there been such a big giant fuss about Michele Bachmann? After reading last Thursdays New York Times, it was hard to say.
On that day, Monica Davey did a giant, front-page profile of Bachmann, the second-term Minnesota congresswoman (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/20/09). In the profile, it became fairly clear that theres a big giant fuss about Bachmann. Bachmann is under attack from the Democratic National Committee for spreading reckless lies about the [proposed health care] overhaul, Davey reported. And not only that! Democrats see Bachmann as a wacky purveyor of outrageous claims, Davey said a bit later. Bachmann is the second-most-hated Republican woman in the country, Davey quoted Sean Hannity saying. Many people loathe Bachmann, Davey said.
But why does this big fuss exist? After reading Daveys two-part profile, it was still quite hard to say.
Sadly, Davey kept using a tub of soft soap when she described the things Bachmann has saidthe statements and speeches which have been denounced as outrageous and reckless. For one example, consider a recent speech by Bachmann about the proposed health reform plan. Then consider the soft-soapy way Davey described this performance.
On September 30, Bachmann took to the floor of the House to discuss one alleged part of the House health reform bill (H.R. 3200). In great detail, and with great passion, she seemed to say that the proposed health plan would establish a wide network of school sex clinicssex clinics which would apparently be run by Planned Parenthood. She seemed to say that these school sex clinics would perform abortions on 13-year-old girlswithout telling her parents, of course. This isn't the kind of country that we grew up in, Bachmann thoughtfully said.
What follows is part of what Bachmann said on the floor of the House that eveningand on C-Span, of course. For a fuller transcript, and for the tape, just click here:
Rebuttals of these claims have been numerous and voluminousto the extent that big news orgs have bothered taking them seriously. For ourselves, we wont go into the details. To read a brief rebuttal by The Hill, click here. For a longer effort by Minnesota-based MinnPost.com, just click this. Plainly, though, this is the kind of presentation which has been denounced as outrageous and reckless by Bachmanns critics. But alas! In this passage from her profile, Monica Davey got out a big tub of soft soap in describing what Bachmann said:
That was it! Bachmann has suggested that one proposal's privacy rules for school-based clinics could open the way for young girls' getting referrals for abortions, Davey told New York Times readers. And yes, that was Daveys full description of Bachmanns remarkable speech.
Thanks to that soft soap from Davey, Times readers were left with no idea of what the big fuss is about.
But then, that was Daveys approach all through her giant, two-part profile. Another example:
Last October, three weeks before the election, Bachmann appeared for a solo interview session on Hardball. In the next few weeks, this interview was widely discussed because of Bachmanns unusual statements. During extensive questioning, Bachmann repeatedly said that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have expressed views which are very anti-American. Eventually, Chris Matthews asked Bachmann if she puts other Big Democrats in the same category:
Bachmann was generous in that exchange. But the long interview ended with a call for journalistic inquiry:
Bachmann is entitled to her views, of course. Different people will evaluate her statements and views in different ways. But did Times readers learn what the fuss is about when Davey scrubbed this Hardball session down, very late in her profile? This was Daveys full description of that remarkable interview:
That was Daveys full account of this much-discussed session, in which Bachmann called for a journalistic inquiry into the anti-American views of her colleagues in the Congress. Whatever one thinks of Bachmanns interview, were Times readers allowed to know what the big fuss is about?
But then, Daveys use of soft soap made her whole profile slide down easy. Bowing to the absurd, the analysts threw up their hands and enjoyed a good laugh when Davey included this passage in the fact check feature which accompanied her profile:
Daveys presentation can be defended as technically accurate. When PolitiFact fact-checked that statement by Bachmann, the site did restrict its focus to her narrow factual error; in fact, the flu scare of the 1970s occurred when Ford was president. But in that passage from her profile, Davey slides over the deeper lunacy driving this statement by Bachmann. What kind of crackpot parades about suggesting that flu outbreaks are somehow tied to the person who happens to be in the White House? Decades ago, Bob Dole was widely criticized for a glowering reference to Democrat wars. Bachmann had gone to a vastly crazier placeto a place where she was laying suggestions about Democrat flu outbreaks. While saying that she wasnt trying to do such a thing, of course.
It was the craziness in Bachmanns statement which made it stand outwhich might make it seem outrageous and reckless. But so what? Rubbing her profile down with soft soap, Davey restricted herself to Bachmanns narrow factual error.
Davey used several tubs of soft soap in her two-part profile of Bachmann. In the process, she raised a question:
Its been said that Fox aint a real news org. Is the New York Times?
Tomorrowpart 3: Running scared, lacking values