Call me one of the people who love reading Gail Collins. For someone who used to be in charge of opinion at The New York Times, which I imagine requires sobriety and seriousness of purpose 247/7, she's wonderfully funny. She's great on non-policy pointers like Rick Perry's big hair (and grin -- he cocked his head during debates with a smile that looked like he was "seeing the waiter entering the room with a large dessert") or the politicization of breast cancer ("... breast cancer would seem like the last thing to go. Everybody hates cancer and everybody likes breasts -- infants, adults, women, men. Really, it's America's most popular body part"). And she's terrific at using startling asides to help us imagine the implications of, say, Mitt Romney as president: "Does anybody truly believe that Romney is planning to spend any presidential time dreaming up ways to fix the safety net for the benefit of the very poor? Be real. This is the guy who drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof."
On that last one though, the dog-on-roof story surfaces every few columns now, and lost its startle effect ages ago. The image of Seamus, the Romney's Irish Setter, on the roof back in the day can't seriously still keep her up at night, but Collins retells it as if performing an exorcism. She told NPR that it's the kind of story that reveals character and helps keep average citizens engaged in the political narrative. The Atlantic Wire reported that she'll stick to it until the election's over, even though she sometimes finds it a challenge to work it in. So why keep trying? I worry that instead of revealing character it's diminishing her sly impact, so necessary in this election season.
It's certainly true that the Romneys going on vacation with a dog on the roof is more arresting than the candidate's views on fiscal policy, if not particularly useful for understanding how he'd direct the economy. And it was super-fun to hear it the first time. It was still amusing the second time, while fortifying my gut feeling -- or did I get it from Gail Collins? -- that the guy is an efficiency expert who misses the heart of an operation. But a third telling? A thirtieth? Where's her editor?
Well, Times executive editor Jill Abramson came out with a book about raising her puppy in October, based on a blog she'd written about it the previous year, so perhaps it's unrealistic to expect her to knuckle down on the doggie-doings of her clever columnist.(By the way, keeping the free world on point -- a role Abramson assumed in September -- while coming out with a new book must set a new standard for multitasking.)
Anyway, here's hoping she moves onto Rick Santorum. A man who gets nauseated at the idea of a strict separation of church and state is, for starters, living in the wrong country, and should be driven from the same village square that makes him want to "throw up" for having to share it with those without faith. Gail Collins, help!