Friday, July 18, 2003

"The truth is always revolutionary."
--Antonio Gramsci

Dog Days of Summer

You can always tell that summer is heating up when ludicrous non-stories begin to gain some traction. These silly filler items, padded into full stories, often result from two related things: distracted media people just coming off vacation or about to go, and too many sources who aren't around to answer their phones. Thus you'll get an item like this, describing a supposed movement to convince Tom Brokaw to run for president. Because it happens to be in a publication I ordinarily love, the New York Observer (in hard copy, it's that attractive salmon-colored broadsheet that looks just like the Financial Times), I skimmed it. No surprises at first--Barry Diller and his giant ego are leading the charge to convince Americans that a man who reads other people's scripts before a camera is somehow qualified to be president of the United States (then again, how different would that really be than the situation we have now?). But then one reads on to find that the normally serious writers Nora Ephron and Kurt Andersen are also aboard. Chalk it up to bored insiders chattering around the campfire in the Hamptons. But come on, Nora and especially Kurt (co-founder of that arch-enemy of BS, Spy Magazine) you really oughta know better...

This Lane is Worth Walking. On the other hand, some writers find interesting material to weave into their work in inverse proportion to how close they are to the center of all the hype and silliness. That would include the incomparable New Yorker movie critic Anthony Lane, who finds a way to write interesting pieces even about movies as otherwise meaningless as Terminator 3. Buried in this review, which I only read because his byline almost guarantees a great and stylish read, is this incredible tidbit culled from Esquire: the fact that O.J. Simpson was originally scheduled to play the lead role in the original Terminator 20 years ago, except that the director decided "people wouldn't have believed a nice guy like O.J. playing the part of a ruthless killer." As he explains in this interview, Lane lives in London, and flies into New York about monthly. He doesn't seem to suffer much from missing all the gasbaggery of his peers in the Hamptons.

Back to Bush. But the flip side of that dog days of summer media dynamic isn't being very kind to the Bush White House just now. With little else of substance for the press hounds to focus upon, the media seems to have somehow just learned that Bush and his radical crew are shameless liars! After ignoring the accumulating evidence for three years, the bad economy, a growing deficit and an Iraqi guerilla war are combining to provide an opening for reporters to actually hold the Bushies to their words. And sure enough, just today there's a new poll out that for the first time must give heart to his Democratic challengers. A new Zogby poll shows that Bush's popularity is collapsing, almost back to where it was just before 9/11. That's of course going to remind even those who don't watch politics too closely of Bush I, whose popularity collapsed from a post-Iraq-war high of 90%-plus to losing an election in all of about a year. Need more evidence of BushII's sudden collapse of support? Read this article written this week by the Washington Post's David Broder, the dean of the country's political reporters. Because of his standing among readers and especially among his peers in the business, this column immediately reminded a lot of people, myself included, of Walter Cronkite's coming out against the Vietnam war, of which Lyndon Johnson famously observed, "when we've lost Cronkite, we've lost middle America." One might just say the same of the extremely moderate, cautious Broder, who's ordinarily no bomb thrower. But sometime, even the meek feel impelled to stand up and point out that the king hasn't any clothes...


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