The press corps’ relentless search for Eureka!


Frank Bruni explains how it’s done: This morning, in the New York Times, Frank Bruni explains how it’s done.

He files his column from Tampa. We’re puzzled by the first part of the highlighted statement below.

But after that, Bruni tells all. This is how the press corps works:
BRUNI (8/28/12): Romney’s a strange cake. He has racked up impressive accomplishments in both the private and the public sectors, including his Massachusetts health care reforms. He’s a man of serious abilities. But he seems unable to accept that a presidential campaign demands more than a résumé. It demands an audible heartbeat, a palpable soul.

His are kept firmly under wraps. In the prelude to the convention, talented journalist after talented journalist set off in search of them, looking for the eureka anecdote, the tear-streaked epiphany. It was a quest as pointless and poignant as any I can recall. You can’t add a John Williams score to a corporate balance sheet. You can’t turn venture capital into “Terms of Endearment.”
We’re puzzled by the first part of the highlighted statement. If so many “talented journalists” are down there in Tampa, why can’t some of these people get jobs with our major newspapers?

Whatever! As he continues, Bruni coins a wonderful phrase, letting us see how the press corps works. As our journalists hunt down a candidate, they seek “the eureka anecdote!”

Plainly, that’s true; it’s also sad. The children want some simple-minded tale which will reveal a candidate to us. What happens when children think this way?

We’re happy to show you! Bruni starts his column with what he calls “my favorite Mitt Romney story.” Pitifully enough, here it is:
BRUNI: My favorite Mitt Romney story comes not from his current campaign, though it has certainly yielded a bounty of priceless Mitticisms, but from his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy.

He’s at a convenience store near Boston, pressing the flesh, when he spies a woman about a dozen feet away. She exhibits no evident interest in his advance. He hustles toward her nonetheless, fleet of step and silver of tongue.

“Don’t run away!” is his smooth come-on.

She lifts her left hand, a gesture that could be a tepid, dismissive wave or, maybe, an attempt to cover her face.

“I know,” he says, sympathizing with her standoffishness. “You haven’t got your makeup on yet.”

She corrects him: she does.

“You do! You do!” he chirps, shaking her right hand with an almost manic vigor. “Good to see you!”
That is Bruni’s favorite! It happened eighteen years ago. He wasn’t there to observe Romney's telling conduct.

That said, this is the way the children “cover” our White House campaigns. It doesn’t occur to them that Romney’s ludicrous policy proposals might provide a “eureka moment.”

The children want to tell us a story. That policy shit is dull.

As it happens, one of our favorite Bruni stories comes from 2002. In March of that year, Bruni published Ambling into History, his book about covering the Bush campaign. He started the book with a very strange story about Candidate Bush.

He described a very strange thing the candidate did in September 1999. But how odd! This very strange conduct was never reported in the New York Times, the major newspaper Bruni served as daily Bush reporter.

Bruni thought this story was so revealing that he used it to open his book. In real time, no report of Bush’s strange conduct ever appeared in the Times. (For link, see below.)

Ditto for a second anecdote from Bruni’s book. In this case, Bruni revealed that he thought Bush was blowing the election in the first Bush-Gore debate, he was performing so badly.

How strange! In real time, Bruni’s next-day profile in the Times made Candidate Gore look bad! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/18/02.

People are dead all over the world because of the coverage of Campaign 2000. (Liberals have agreed not to say so, of course.) Bruni wrote a good column a few days ago. But these would be our eureka anecdotes concerning this talented journalist.

A note on the start of that book: We’re surprised to see that we’ve never described the way Bruni opened his book here at THE DAILY HOWLER.

To read about Candidate Bush’s strange conduct, see Chapter 5 of our companion site, How He Got There. Click here, then search on Bruni.

Bruni opened his book with this eureka anecdote. For good or for ill, it never appeared in the Times.


  1. Here's one of the paragraphs:

    Remarkably, this peculiar performance by Bush was followed on September 19 by an “astonishing” bit of behavior–or so it was described, years later, by the New York Times’ Frank Bruni. According to Bruni, Bush mugged and clowned for at least twenty minutes during a solemn memorial service for seven murder victims in Waco, Texas. (A deranged gunman had shot the victims, then himself, during a church service.) “It would be hard to imagine an event more somber,” Bruni wrote, describing the large outdoor memorial gathering at Texas Christian University. But according to Bruni, Bush repeatedly turned around to make faces at the press corps during the solemn service. “As preachers preached and singers sang and a city prayed, Bush turned around from time to time to shoot us little smiles,” he wrote. “He scrunched up his forehead, as if to ask us silently what we were up to back there. He wiggled his eyebrows, a wacky and wordless hello...At one point, when someone near our seat dropped a case of plastic water bottles and caused a clatter, Bush glanced back at us with a teasing, are-you-guys-behaving-yourselves expression, and he kept his amused face pivoted in our direction for an awfully long time.” Bruni said he was “taken aback” by this repeated behavior, which lasted throughout the service. “It was astonishing that he wasn’t more concerned that one of the television or still camera might catch him,” Bruni wrote.

    * * * *

    Do you believe this characterization of Bush's behavior? Does a videotape exist?

  2. What's really astonishing is that Bruni wrote that. Between that and his take on the debate as described in the book, it seems to me he's outright admitting he was in the bag for Bush in 2000. Has anyone ever questioned him on this?

    That entire Gore/Bush debate was a thing. Its the best example of just how dedicated the press corps was to defeating Gore. They were prepared to deny the sky was blue, if need be.

  3. Whenever I see Frank Bruni's adorable little face smiling back at me from his Op Ed perch, alongside the ragged let-them-eat-cake grin of Gail Collins, the smug I-made-it-as-a-corporate-tool smirk of David Brooks, the women-parts-are-so-icky grimace of Ross Douthat, the insane-asylum-fantasy-of-liberation-circa-1969 half-giggle of Maureen Dowd, and all the other entitled, privileged sickeningly mean miens and mugs on the New York Times's editorial page, save that of Professor Paul Krugman, who always looks like the rest of this insufferable rag-tag gang is about to make him run screaming from the room, I think, there is a God, and She's a very, very, very cruel one.