Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You'll notice they said nothing about the op-eds being fit to print

An unnamed friend of Jonathan Chait had some fun re-editing a recent Tom Friedman column:
A wake-up call’s mother is unfolding. At the other end is a bell, which is telling us we have built a house at the foot of a volcano. The volcano is spewing lava, which says move your house. The road will be long and rocky, but it will trigger a shift before it kicks. We can capture some of it. IF the Middle East was a collection of gas stations, Saudi Arabia would be a station. Iran, Kuwait , Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates would all be stations. Guys, here’s the deal. Don’t hassle the Jews. You are insulated from history. History is back. Fasten your seat belts. Don’t expect a joy ride because the lid is blowing off. The west turned a blind eye, but the report was prophetic, with key evidence. Societies are frozen in time. No one should have any illusions. Root for the return to history, but not in the middle.*
Which brought to mind this memorably representative passage from Maureen Dowd:
Mr. Obama called W. on Friday to give him a heads-up about the repudiation on Iraq. Robert Gibbs said the call was not at all contentious. But in the Lehrer interview, the president compared America to a big tanker that needed to "start moving in a better trajectory so that five years, 10 years down the road you can say, you know what, because of good decisions now our kids are safer, more secure, more prosperous, more unified than they were before." This analogy turns W. into the Exxon Valdez.
Dowd's attempts at analogies often go something like that, a collection of elements vaguely related to the topic at hand but without analogous relationships (like when she called Joe Biden a human lie detector because he compulsively told the truth). You could make an analogy where Bush was Captain Hazelwood or the U.S. under Bush was the Valdez, but what you have here isn't an analogy; it's just word association.

The sad part is that Dowd's plum position is based on her writing and analytic abilities. Unlike Friedman, and, for that matter, Brooks and Krugman (both of whom can actually write), Dowd brings no special expertise to her columns. All she offers are her prose and her insights, both of which are terrible. And yet the halo effect of the New York Times was strong enough to pull in a Pulitzer.

And the really sad part is that both Friedman and Dowd are better than John Tierney.

* To be fair, Friedman's main points are quite a bit better than his prose.

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