The use of a useless old template: The New York Times is defiant in its dumbness. This morning, Ashley Parker is back on page one, following Romney all around and typing from an old script.
Parker describes her report as “a guide to Mr. Romney’s habits and quirks on the campaign trail.” She goes on and on—and on and on—about the type of idle chatter Romney offers to the voters he meets. Early on, we get her basic hook:
PARKER (12/28/11): Mr. Romney’s bid for president this year is a carefully crafted do-over, a chance to revise and retool a campaign that quickly fizzled out four years ago. He has lost the tie, overhauled his stump speech and hired far fewer campaign consultants.As compared to four years ago, Romney has “lost the tie” and “overhauled his stump speech.” Question: Did Parker think Romney was going to give the same stump speech from 2007? Considering this newspaper’s massive dumbness, it may just be that she did!
But perhaps the trickiest part of this reinvention is changing who Mr. Romney is when he steps out from behind the lectern and wades into a roomful of voters: a cautious chief executive who is uneasy with off-the-cuff remarks, unnatural at chitchat and spare with his emotions.
At coffee shops and veterans’ halls, on sidewalks and factory tours, the reworked version, it turns out, is not all that different from the original.
In the past month, Parker has done front-page reports about Romney’s hair, about Romney’s patter, and about friendship patterns among GOP candidates. (Michael Barbaro did the front-page report about Romney’s marriage.) Today’s drivel helps us see a basic point: As they churn this low-IQ nonsense, reporters tend to follow templates the Times has used in the past. In this case, Parker is working from stupid old scripts applied to the last candidate defined as “stiff,” Candidate Gore in Campaign 2000.
In that campaign, Gore was endlessly said to have “lost the tie,” although he had campaigned in casual dress in the three previous White House campaigns (1988, 1992 and 1996). He was endlessly accused of “reinvention,” as Romney stands accused today. Indeed, to see the way a person like Parker works from the wisdom of the ancients, compare several parts of today’s report with Melinda Henneberger’s profile of Gore on the stump in July 1999.
At one point, Parker’s eagle eye lets her see that Romney’s posture is “ever so slightly” unusual. Henneberger noticed the same minor flaws the last time we had a stiff candidate. Like Parker, she constructed a slightly dehumanized portrait of the stiff contender:
PARKER (12/28/11): Mr. Romney, never much of a hugger or backslapper, stands with his hands straight down at his waist, tilting forward ever so slightly and turning from side to side as he searches for the next hand to shake or poster to sign.Henneberger took note when Gore said things like, “How do you do?” This morning, Parker reports that Romney often says things like, “Good to see you.” Meanwhile, Parker follows her predecessor in another scripted observation. Some voters say they don’t care if the hopeful is stiff!
HENNEBERGER (7/24/99): [Gore’s] perfectly erect posture held good...even fielding questions from folks sitting cross-legged on the floor of a barn on Thursday night. He seemed shy shaking hands, and noticeably low on patter, quietly saying to most prospective voters simply, "How do you do?"
...Making a little bow—from the waist, like a man wearing an invisible neck brace—Mr. Gore said: "Shucks. I sometimes benefit from low expectations."
PARKER (12/28/11): "I don't mind stiff and formal," said Holly Sirois, who spoke to Mr. Romney a few days ago at a pizza shop in Newport, N.H. "I don't want the guy sitting in the backyard drinking beers with his buddies. I want my president to act presidential."Like Henneberger before her, Parker reports that voters say they don’t care if their candidate is stiff. The templates are there to be used—and use them these empty heads will.
HENNEBERGER (7/24/99): At least among the Democrats who turned out to hear the Vice President, many said that they did not particularly care if the man looks like he cannot dance.
Parker is 28. Having served five years under Maureen Dowd, she is skillfully mindless. But rather plainly, this is the way the New York Times wants our elections reported.
Perhaps they think their readers are dumb. It may just be that they themselves are. But just so you’ll know:
Mitt Romney has lost the tie. As part of his reinvention, he has changed the speech he gave in 2007. He often says, “Good to see you”—or even, “Thanks for being here!”
And, alas, his body language is “ever so slightly” wrong.