Adam Nagourney's recent piece: What to make of it? Titled "2008 Already Settled? Not by a Long Shot" seems to want to be a sort of "the story so far" election year recap - and seeing as it comes on Election Day, one-year-before the Election Day everyone cares about, chances are good that Ad Nags put this story on his calendar months ago. Still, do Times subscribers enjoy being led by the nose through the sparse terrain of stuff-that-everybody-already knows? Readers of the nation's finer cereal boxes are likely to glean more insight into the current state of electoral play.
Nagourney sets the stage by noting the optimism of the Democratic Party, and then proceeds to ask the sixty-four stamp question: "But does this necessarily mean the script for the 2008 campaign is set, with a happy ending already written for the Democrats?" Hedging all possible bets, Nagourney answers: "Not necessarily." Trenchant!
But check out the amazing array of ground level limbs that Nagourney is willing to shimmy halfway out on:
- "But for all the indisputable Democratic advantages, strategists in both parties say it is too early to hand the White House keys over to the Democratic Party." Let me guess...is it a year too early?
- "Reason No. 1 was on display in Philadelphia last Tuesday, where Mrs. Clinton...endured nearly two hours of attacks by her opponents, setting off one of the roughest weeks of her campaign." OH! So that was why the press has spent eleventy kabillion hours talking about that very subject over the past week!
- "That is not likely to end any time soon." This will definitely come as a shock to the zero people who thought Clinton would waltz entirely unchallenged to the White House. Nagourney goes on to quote Obama's David Axelrod: "She's a habitual evader...It's become a recurrent theme...I would suspect you guys are now going to be looking for it." Well, I'd imagine so, since the press worked so hard to engineer that story line in the first place!
- "The challenge for any candidate in Mrs. Clinton's position -- the perceived front-runner and thus the biggest target for attack -- is to escape the primaries with as few scars as possible." Um...if you say so!
- "But is there any reason to think that Mr. Obama or Mr. Edwards would be stronger in a general election?" You're not going to believe this, but two Republican candidates say...maybe not!
- "One of the central questions of this election -- whether the American public is prepared to elect an African-American as president -- is not going to be answered by his winning the nomination of the Democratic Party, given that Democratic primary voters are not representative of all voters in the general election. And what can I say, Nagourney couldn't be more right about this!
- "...Mr. Edwards by now is fairly well known to much of America; this is his second time running for president, and he was his party's vice presidential nominee in 2004." If he's "fairly well-known," why are we pretending we've never heard of him before?
It goes on and on like that, raising questions without answers (What if Elizabeth Edwards health fails? What if the state of the Iraq War somehow changes over the next ten months? These things COULD HAPPEN!), finally concluding by noting that the Republicans are--gasp!--uncertain about what the future holds as well!
It is, without a doubt, an almost perfectly dumbed-down piece, calibrated to avoid any sort of bold pronouncements--or, really, saying anything that isn't stupendously conventional. In that sense, the article is a great success. But when the suits at the New York Times get together to cluck despairingly at their declining circulation, before they finger their recent price increase as the culprit, they might want to entertain the possibility that pieces like these, that presume their readership has the intellectual grasp of a toddler, are no way to sell newsprint.