Can’t win

Can’t win

: Right before he engages in the time-dishonored tradition of cat-blogging, James Wolcott proves Dan Okrent’s point in his column yesterday: The NY Times can’t win when it comes to accusations of political bias in this campaign. It’s the Valley of Death: legions to the right of them, Wolcott to the left of them:

The New York Times under editor Bill Keller is a political catastrophe. He’s worse than Howell Raines, but smart enough to stay under the radar and not make Times coverage seem like his personal mission. Worth’s worthless front page article is only one example of the manure-shoveling the paper has been doing on Bush’s behalf, feeding the fury that paper’s ombudsman Daniel Okrent finds so inexplicable.

I’ll let my friends Jim and Dan duke it out.

Wolcott also tries to farm a chestnut I’d seen only in a comment on this blog, arguing that the Dean Scream and the Bush Snitfit were equivalent performances:

I was naive enough to think that Bush’s tantrum the other night at the townhall debate would get at least half of the coverage and mockery that Howard Dean’s infamous scream received, which was foolish of me. Our great editors and pundits have apparently decided to avert their eyes from a rageaholic president with presenile dementia who needs to have answers fed to him from a boxy receiver because–well, at least he’s not conceited.

That’s so much cat poop. The Dean Scream was an insane moment of overdone and staged joy in the midst of a loss. The Bush snit was about issues in a debate. Style v. substance, substance w/style. I happen to be a critic of both performers and so I’ll have to say they were nothing alike.

  • Tim

    Knowing when can be more important than knowing why.
    Bush knows when without always knowing why.

  • John

    Jeff, your enthusiasm for Wolcott’s writings seems to have cooled a touch since you first announced he would be speaking out on his own blog (my own feeling is James is proving that there are some professional writers who just really, really, really need editors to keep some of their rhetorical excesses in check).

  • luanna

    I listened to the debates on NPR. Bush’s debating style was simply Righteous Indignation. Juxtaposed against Kerry’s polished eloquence, Bush is practically daring him to get off his high horse.
    Middle America may not have perceived Bush’s speaking style as a snit since Righteous Indignation is the prevailing style of speech on cable news shows and talk radio.

  • dh

    Jeff, you’re swch a bush lover. we all know youse gonna vote for him already.

  • Dan

    I like how Wolcott just tosses in that goofy “Bush used a secret radio transmitter” rumor. Just in case you were thinking of maybe taking him seriously.

  • MWB

    Wolcott obviously is unaware that the bulge in Bush’s jacket has been identified.

  • MWB

    Hmmm. My link above doesn’t want to work.
    It’s http://www.scrappleface.com/MT/archives/001873.html

  • chuck

    Even more, it seems to me Wolcott illustrates Okrent’s point about the left exceeding the right in vileness.

  • Privacy Watch

    Oh, please…
    The so-called Dean scream was just a bit of energetic rallying to an enthusiastic crowd. It has been taken out of context played to death. The idea the people would try to campaign against Dean on this insignificant bit of footage rather than policy differences shows just how far politics have gone.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    John: I think Wolcott’s a great critic. Doesn’t mean we can’t disagree, does it? Otherwise, I’d be a member of the Wolcott cult. And that would be a scary club.

  • Privacy Watch

    I think you are showing your bias by calling the so-called Dean scream “an insane moment.” Are you really saying that Dean is insane? I think you would say “no,” yet you use pejorative hyperbole in describing Dean. Have you ever called Bush a part of an “insane moment?”

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    PW: You bet I have a bias: I couldn’t stand Dean. And, yes, I thought it was scary-crazy.

  • david

    dh shhhhhhhhhhh Jarvis need to keep pretending he’s undecided so he can get on TV like a good faux democrat mediawhore.

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    Wolcott shows us something else about Okrent’s column: left-leaning media categorize wild-eyed farcical complaints from the fringe left on the same level as reasonable complaints from the center and right.

  • Angus Jung

    “My link above doesn’t want to work.”
    That’s okay. He’s not funny.

  • http://itznewstome.blogspot.com Jim B

    Hey guys -
    Jeff has declared several times that he’s a likely Kerry voter, so enough with bashing him from the left. Not toeing the party line about Dean going over the edge doesn’t make him a Bush partisan. It’s a measure of how far the paranoia on the left has gotten that anyone who doesn’t live and breathe the DNC Talking Points is working for the other side…
    As far as Wolcott goes, it’s hard to take what he says seriously when he tries to fit every Bush conspiracy theory and canard into a single paragraph. Pre-senile dementia? That particularly idiotic line was trotted out by Alan Beam. When you replaced Bush’s name in the article with Beam’s and “pre-senile dementia” with “wife-beating” it was painfully obvious what a completely made-up hit job the entire article was. I did just that on my blog and literally changed nothing but those phrases and a few names…That Wolcott would repeat it just goes to show how little independent thought or intellectual honesty is present in his writing. So enough with that canard…
    Second, transmitter in a debate? I’m not even sure Michael Moore would dignify that particular piece of idiocy. Nuff said…
    Rageaholic? Has he not seen Al Gore lately? Bush was passionate and spoke more forcefully than Kerry did, but rage? c’mon…Even Terry McAuliffe and his truth-stretching ways wasn’t willing to go that far.
    If this is even a small taste of what Daniel Okrent’s inbox reads like on a daily basis, frankly I’m shocked he still even bothers to read through it.
    Get a grip, folks…

  • http://RuthCalvo Ruth

    luanna, nice read. It’s the element (radio talk shows, etc.) that is most likely to react positively to simplistic ‘reasoning’ and feel more comfortable voting for something understood. As to the major points of the debate itself, the fact that nuclear weapons are a recognized threat of great importance to both candidates struck me as encouraging, showing awareness of real potential for terrorism. Then I saw the CNN item that follows this a.m., and I shudder:
    “UNITED NATIONS (CNN) — Equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons have disappeared from Iraq, the chief of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency has warned.
    Satellite imagery shows entire buildings that once housed high-precision equipment that could be used to make nuclear bombs have been dismantled, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter to the Security Council.
    In the letter, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said that though some radioactive equipment taken from Iraq after the war began has shown up in other countries, none of the high-quality, dual-use equipment or materials that is missing has been found.
    The U.S. government prevented U.N. weapons inspectors from returning to Iraq — thereby blocking the IAEA from monitoring the high-tech equipment and materials — after the U.S.-led war was launched in March 2003.”
    That’s really scarey.

  • ronbo

    Wolcott’s an ass.
    He has an acute case of Krugman’s Syndrome: the irrational belief that recognized expertise in one field is evidence of expertise in other fields.
    When he writes as a critic Wolcott is usually witty and insightful. But when he ventures out of his depth he sounds like Frank Rich, only crankier and more paranoid.
    Wolcott’s all yours, Jeff, and welcome to him.
    Ron