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Daily Howler: Kerry's contractions are coming more frequently, Wilgoren inanely says
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COUNTING CONTRACTIONS! Kerry’s contractions are coming more frequently, Wilgoren inanely reports: // link // print // previous // next //

COUNTING CONTRACTIONS: John Kerry’s contractions are coming more frequently—and in this morning’s Times, Jodi Wilgoren offers one of her periodic classics. She describes a set of formal speeches by Kerry—speeches “filled with four-point plans” (code below). After that, she examines the girlie-man candidate’s verbal tics, helping you spot the fact that he’s phony:
WILGOREN (10/22/04): But after these formal sessions in front of the teleprompter, Mr. Kerry has been doing what he can to seem more down to earth. He uses more contractions and drops G's, T's, and N's, making “does not” sound like “dudnt,” and “government” come out, as it might have in the Old West, “guvmint.” As his beloved Boston Red Sox made history this week by coming back from a three-game deficit to clinch the American League championship, Mr. Kerry made several rare appearances in the press cabin of his plane to chitchat about baseball.
Kerry has been using more contractions! And when he says “doesn’t,” it sounds just like “dudnt!” Why, he’s even been mispronouncing “government!” In a word, Wilgoren is a consummate flyweight—she’s insane. But then, so is the New York Times editor who waved this steaming idiocy into print.

Wilgoren’s work would be hard to believe—except for the fact that she works at the Times. How inane does the New York Times get? Let’s pause for a pair of quick flash-backs.

In December 1999, John McCain gained traction in New Hampshire polls. Instantly, New York Times reporter Frank Bruni abandoned his fawning coverage of Bush and began to slam the troubling candidate for his deeply disturbing malaprops. Here he was on January 8, 2000 as McCain’s surge was taking hold:

BRUNI (1/8/00): Away from the printed page, Mr. Bush was having a little trouble with eloquence—or at least pronunciation—this week.

Television viewers who watched the Republican debate on Thursday night probably noticed this when Mr. Bush, wearing an expression of apparent satisfaction with the big word he was about to unleash, promised that he would never “obsfucate” as president of the United States.

This is a good thing, because the verb is "obfuscate," and this was the third time in two days that Mr. Bush seemed to mangle it.

Yes, that mocking coverage of Bush’s slip was part of a New York Times news report (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/18/00). Incredibly, Bruni continued for four more paragraphs, detailing Bush’s mispronunciation. “He had the consonants mixed up,” the insightful sage finally revealed, "the letter ‘s’ in the wrong place.” Bruni kept trashing Bush on this score right through New Hampshire’s February 1 primary. But when McCain was eliminated from the race in March, the scribe returned to his fawning coverage of Bush. Bruni maintained his pandering tone right through November’s election.

But Bruni wasn’t the only Timesman prepared to punish an unloved hopeful for minor verbal sins. In March 2000, reporters were upset with Candidate Gore for failing to provide enough news avails. At the Times, Katharine Seelye—the unmatched “Spinner One”—found a way to punish her man. Yes, the Times actually published this, in a “news report:”

SEELYE (3/2/00): [Gore] then was asked what message he had for Mr. Bradley. "Uh, well, I don't, uh, have any, uh, message, uh, for, uh, for Senator Bradley," he responded slowly. "Uh, I, I, my message is for the, the voters of the country. Uh, I ask for their support. I'm not taking a single vote for, for granted.”
Yes, the Times really did publish that steaming nonsense (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/00). Angrily, Seelye stamped her feet—and brilliantly punished her man.

So Wilgoren’s silly clowning today is not without institutional precedent. And it’s just as we have told you: No one engages in work this inane except our greatest paper, the Times. When Wilgoren counted Kerry’s contractions and puzzled over his pronunciations, she was extending a Times tradition. No one—no one—is half so inane as the posers who type for the Times.

Of course, Wilgoren’s passage about Kerry’s speech patterns was only one part of her comedy. Wilgoren has a matchless ability to work mindless spin-points into her prose. Here is today’s final paragraph:

WILGOREN (10/22/04): “We want people to have a better sense of John Kerry the guy," explained Mike McCurry, a senior campaign spokesman, saying the coming days would bring more outdoor activities that "show people the kinds of things he likes," like baseball and hockey.

Asked whether final-stretch photo opportunities might include windsurfing, the hobby that has helped tag Mr. Kerry with an elitist's image, Mr. McCurry said, "It's too cold this time of year.”

Wind-surfing “has helped tag Mr. Kerry with an elitist's image.” And Wilgoren, queen of the “Kerry’s valet” front-page imagery, was happy to tag him again.

WHERE TO BEGIN: Where to begin with a piece so daft, so hopeless, so inane, so ill-advised?

First: Discussions of candidate speech patterns are hopelessly subjective and trivial. Candidate Bush, for example, has been getting so “country” in recent speeches that, if the campaign had a month to go, he’d be sounding like Gabby Hayes by the time it was finally over. But we searched for “Bush AND Gabby Hayes,” and it turns out that the Times hasn’t reported this troubling fact. In short, contraction-counting is inane and highly subjective. It takes a fool to put such work into print—and only the New York Times does.

Next: Candidates constantly do photo-ops, trying to craft their public image. But this morning’s headline is plainly designed to tell you that Kerry’s a phony. Why doesn’t the Times pay someone to come to your home and hit you on the head with a hammer?

TIMES HEADLINE: Kerry on Hunting Photo-Op to Help Image
Go ahead and enjoy a mordant chuckle as you scan that comical head. How easy does the Times make it? In case you didn’t get the message from the word “photo-op,” the headline writer cued you again, typing the phrase “to help image.”

Third: No, Wilgoren didn’t write that headline. She did, alas, write this:

WILGOREN (10/22/04): “I understand he bought a new camouflage jacket for the occasion, which did make me wonder how regularly he does go goose hunting," Mr. Cheney said to a chorus of boos. “My personal opinion is his new camo jacket is an October disguise, an effort he's making to hide the fact that he votes against gun-owner rights at every turn.”

In fact, the outfit was borrowed, along with the shotgun, from the farm's owner, and within hours Mr. Kerry was back in tailored suit and rose-colored tie for another photo-op, hugging the widow of the actor Christopher Reeve, who endorsed him because of his backing embryonic stem-cell research.

Is it normal journalistic practice to do what Wilgoren does—to repeat a factually false bit of mockery by a candidate (Cheney) before mentioning, in passing, that the statement is false? Wilgoren devotes a full paragraph to Cheney’s mocking statement, then spends only half a sentence noting that his statement was bogus—invented, false, made up. Meanwhile, what turns Dana Reeve’s appearance into just “another photo-op?” Surely, everyone understands what that phrase connotes. But Reeve endorsed Kerry for a perfectly valid reason—so what led Wilgoren to pre-trash her appearance? And do we ever see such groaning work anywhere else but the Times?

Yes, Wilgoren has been a periodic flyweight all through the year, but today, her piece is a joke for the ages. But this is the heart and soul of the Times! Go back and see Bruni mocking Bush for his deeply troubling speech (after and before long periods of fawning). Go back and see Seelye mocking Gore for daring to say “uh-uh-uh” in her presence (Seelye’s mocking of Gore never stopped). Only the Times is this daft and transparent. Counting Kerry’s mounting contractions, Wilgoren the flyweight is buzzing again as the voters prepare to deliver.

JODI-CODE: What a shock! Kerry’s speeches were “filled with four-point plans!” This has been a recent joke about Kerry, and Wilgoren was eager to pimp it.

THAT HOPEFUL WON’T HUNT: The Post’s Lois Romano is no Jodi Wilgoren. But alas! She also lavishes space on Cheney’s remarks—although she provides a bit more space to the fact that his statement was fake:

ROMANO (10/22/04): Vice President Cheney, also campaigning in Ohio, mocked Kerry. "The senator who gets a grade of 'F' from the National Rifle Association went hunting this morning," Cheney said to a crowd in a soccer arena outside Toledo.

"I understand he bought a new camouflage jacket for the occasion, which did make me wonder how regularly he does go goose hunting." Waiting for the howls to recede, the vice president continued, "My personal opinion is that his new camo jacket is an October disguise, an effort he's making to hide the fact that he votes against gun-owner rights at every turn."

In fact, Kerry borrowed a jacket from one of the other hunters, said a Kerry spokesman, adding that the candidate has three similar jackets at home.

As they discuss this trivial matter, Romano and Wilgoren display the puzzling values of the press corps. The fact that Kerry borrowed a jacket somehow seems more significant than the fact that Cheney makes up phony insults—insults which result in “a chorus of boos.” Meanwhile, Romano is more obsessed than Wilgoren with the fact that Kerry didn’t lug out his own murdered bird. She turns to the troubling fact two times. Here is the first iteration:
ROMANO (10/22/04): Thursday morning, he happily emerged from the duck blind toting a Mossberg 835 Ulti Mag-pump action 12-gauge shotgun, but someone else was carrying his dead prey. “I'm too lazy,” Kerry joked, adding that he was still "giddy" over the pennant victory Wednesday night of his beloved Boston Red Sox, catapulting the team into the World Series.
Romano returned to this troubling point at the end of her piece. Here are her closing paragraphs:
ROMANO (10/22/04): Kerry was joined by Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), Bob Bellino of the local Ducks Unlimited chapter and Neal Brady, assistant manager of Indian Lake State Park.

The hunting party bagged four geese. The other three men carried their own dead birds.

Hmmm. Reading between the pointless lines, we would guess that Romano may have been troubled by a nagging suspicion—the thought that Kerry didn’t shoot any birds. The scribe was careful to nail down the facts about this important matter:
ROMANO (10/22/04): Twenty-five reporters and cameramen were taken on the carefully staged event, but none saw Kerry shoot anything. They were kept quite a distance away.
Did John Kerry really shoot his own bird? Lois Romano is plainly suspicious. Right on the same page this morning, the Post devotes slightly more space to a long-overdue attempt to explain Bush and Kerry’s rival health plans.

No, Lois Romano is no Wilgoren. Her treatment of the hunting trip is a slightly tongue-in-cheek, boxed side-story appended to a more serious piece; by contrast, the Times makes Kerry’s fake photo-op the focus of the day’s reporting. But readers! If scribes had only been this suspicious about an earlier hunting trip, the large hunting trip that was staged in Iraq! Oh, sorry! They “weren’t smart enough” to be suspicious then, Jim Lehrer once told Chris Matthews, as he promoted his latest novel and listened to Matthews pander and fawn about his demanding party schedule. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/17/04, to ponder your press corps’ odd values.