Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Cranky Blogging 3

Okay, look, I'll tell the truth: I skipped Frank Bruni's column yesterday, because I already know he's easily the most useless NYT columnist. And I went back to it mostly because I was having fun doing cranky blogging, and figured nothing could make me crankier than reading Bruni. So this might be a little unfair.

But, oh, Bruni. I mean, there's other stuff here (do we really want to equate a speaker at the inauguration with the Secretary of Defense?). The bit that set me off, however, was:
Democrats came out of the 2012 elections looking good, and the country’s changing demographics suggest that they could come out of 2016 and beyond looking even better, especially if Republicans don’t accomplish a pretty thorough image overhaul. And that overhaul isn’t exactly proceeding at a breakneck pace. The perseverance of far-right obstructionists in the House stands in the way, leaving the party in grave trouble. If its foes were smart and humble, they’d do what a sports team with a big lead does. They’d play error-free ball.
Well, sorry, but (1) no one plays "error-free ball"; (2) the kinds of errors he's talking about here aren't very important; and (3) the reason you run for office and win isn't to wait out the clock and keep everything exactly the same in order to assure re-election. Play error-free ball? That's the most foolish advice I've ever heard for a president beginning a second term. 

Indeed, the history of presidential appointments suggests that the kinds of errors Bruni is talking about here are massively overrated, and in fact trying to avoid them is a bigger problem than the problems themselves, most of which are forgotten within days. That's because intense vetting scares away good candidates and slows down the nomination process. 

Sure, he has every right to oppose Chuck Hagel on the merits. But to conclude from the Hagel nomination and from the cancelled Giglio gig that one should have "serious pause about the delicacy with which Obama and his allies, no longer worried about his re-election, are operating" is worse than silly.  

9 comments:

  1. I hate to ask, but does this even work as a sports analogy? Why would a team with a large lead need to play "error-free ball"? Doesn't the large lead free them up to take some risks? Isn't "error-free ball" (assuming such a thing exists) a better strategy for a team with a very narrow lead?

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    1. And I hate to answer, but I think it sometimes works in football and maybe other sports with clocks and similar ball possession: a team with a lead and the clock running down can sometimes be assured of winning as long as they avoid giving the ball away.

      People say it in baseball -- with a big lead, all you need is for the pitcher to throw strikes -- but that's mostly nonsense.

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  2. Also I don't understand why it's so important for Obama to try and please certain demographic groups that tended to vote for him in 2012. Since he will never be on the ballot again, why does this matter? It's important to keep the groups in your political coalition happy, I get that, but even if Obama does make these groups actually mad (as opposed to make some bloggers annoyed as seems to be case with Bruni's examples) it doesn't matter right? Hillary or O'Malley or whoever can just promise not to give conservative pastors the time of day and problem solved for 2016. What this looks like to me is just an example of commentators trying to come up with something to show the ole "Obama Embattled" meme and since there isn't much good stuff they have to go with this. From where I stand when your big mistakes are stuff like Giglio as opposed to the Zoe Baird fiasco or the Joycelyn Elders meltdown of 1994 you're doing pretty good.

    @SM Yeah I am confused too. This is just another reason why sports analogies are so unhelpful when writing about politics (war analogies are also pretty bad), at least he didn't use some tortured boxing metaphor.

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  3. I already know he's easily the most useless NYT columnist.

    Douthat?
    Friedman?
    Dowd?
    Brooks?!?

    Wow. I haven't read Bruni, but if he stands out EASILY in this turkey trot, I'll never need to.

    Cheers!
    JzB

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    1. Dowd is sometimes entertaining.

      Friedman does say things that most people don't say; his problem is that he repeats himself, a lot. Not everything he says is IMO correct, but I don't think that's a requirement for being useful.

      As far as Brooks and Douthat...I'm a Douthat fan, and think he does what he can within the format. Less so for Brooks, but still: I don't judge any of these folks by how often I agree with them, but by how often they say something interesting, especially things no one else says. And for the conservative slots, they're working under a pretty difficult burden these days, which is being sensible without being disowned by the mainstream GOP (because that's what the job is).

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    2. Haha, yeah also remember that the genisus at NYT high command decided to not get Ta-Nehisi Coates on board after his stint as a guest columnist. Instead we get the wit and wisdom of their chief restaurant critics' views on politics and how it compares to sports. Oh also isn't it funny that a big shot at a New York newspaper with an all white staff of columnists (I don't count Blow because he is a "visual op-ed columnist" ie chart guy) is complaining about diversity?

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    3. Yes, Dowd can be entertaining and once upon a time I liked her, but years ago I grew tired of her Herridan shrieks.

      With the others, it's not that I disagree with them, it's that they so often spout nonsense.

      Hence JB's last statement above. That difficult burden requires walking a line so fine it is nonexistent.

      Cheers!
      JzB

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  4. I agree with Jazzbumpa that Douthat never has good policy proscriptions, but I do think that his understand of how American politics is strong. Also, Douthat is an articulate mouthpiece for a seemingly large segment of American conservatives; thus, Douthat is useful for offering a window into the minds of others. Brooks is likewise good as a person to read to learn how the people Krugman calls "Very Serious People" view an issue. Even if these people are usually (always?) wrong their opinions matter and knowing their opinions is therefore important.

    I agree that Dowd and Friedman are terrible. Friedman is definitely repetitive to the point that having him write new columns is a waste of ink. I haven't been surprised by his take on an issue in a decade.

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  5. Horse-sized ducks lived in Australia 50,000 to 20,000 years ago. And if we’re going back in time, you might want to look at Hyracotherium, which was an early ancestor of modern horses. About 2 feet long and 8-14 inches tall; the size of a large duck. So we have historical evidence of both Horse-sized ducks, and Duck-sized horses

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