Friday, October 20, 2006

"I have many points, sir, I choose not to make them right now"

David Brooks - every liberal's favorite conservative, as my father would call him - wrote a rather silly article in yesterday's Times. It was about all the reasons Barack Obama should run for President. No, it wasn't silly for that, but that is pretty silly. I understand everything is so Obama-bastic right now, and I understand that he's probably the closest thing to a West Wing character come to life we're going to see in a politician in my lifetime, but maybe Barack could finish ONE TERM in the US Senate before he sets his eyes on the Big Chair. The only reason anybody really thinks Obama should run is because everyone knows who he is...and, oh yeah, the Democrats really can't field anyone else.

No, Brook's article was silly for its third paragraph, which says: "Second, he should run because of his age. Obama’s inexperience is his most obvious shortcoming. Over the next four years, the world could face a genocidal civil war in Iraq, a wave of nuclear proliferation, more Islamic extremism and a demagogues’ revolt against globalization. Do we really want a forty-something in the White House?"

If you think the rest of that paragraph is a complete non sequitur to its first sentence, you're not wrong. Brooks goes on to explain this seeming conflict in statements by asserting Obama's youth is actually a strength, since it's endowed him with a unique perspective on the global reality. But I really can't believe that paragraph got through the Times Opinion Editor without a rewrite.

This is a huge problem I have with pretty much all the Times Op-Ed writers. There seems to be a certain arrogance there. Their articles tend to be convoluted exposés that share a lot of characteristics with the Iraq War, or one of my own rants: no clear objective, and no end in sight. I rarely know what a Times Op-Ed piece is about, let alone its POINT, until I'm 2/3s of the way through. To my mind, that's just bad journalism. The Times writers seem to think that because they're writing for the New York Times I'm going to read their brilliant thoughts whether they phrase them succinctly or not, so why bother phrasing them succintly?

Nor is it a phemonenon unique to the New York Times. Over the summer I rented Girl with a Pearl Earring. A smart movie, but not a particularly good one. I found it to be pretty full of itself, a movie that made no effort to entertain me. It was a movie that said, "I'm brilliant, and you're going to watch me till the end whether you enjoy me or not, because you want to be able to say, 'I watched Girl with a Pearl Earring.'" And it was right. I did watch. Till the absolute end. Every last, boring second. You win, G witta PE. I curl in my corner.

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