A fellow journalist sent me an e-mail praising the nail-on-the-head accuracy of my slam on Gerson, a writer who has dullness down to a science. In reply to my friend I wrote:
Did you *try* to read that mess? To whom could it possibly be interesting? JPod screwed the pooch in agreeing to publish it.The revolving door in Washington, which gives employment to fraudulent "journalists" like ex-Dem operatives George Stephanopoulos and Chris Matthews, probably doesn't mind a GOP hack like Gerson pretending to be a journalist. But even this system of dubious ethics is subverted when, while masquerading as a WaPo columnist, Gerson so transparently pitches himself as a Republican "strategist," which is what this Commentary article with Wehner really was, a pitch. It's enough to make you throw up a little in your mouth.
Of course, I despise the whole "How to Fix the GOP/Revive Conservatism/Save the World" genre of big-picture political writing, where the writer pompously prescribes his own 12-point plan. Has any such endeavor ever actually resulted in anything useful? It's basically just an excuse for policy wonks to market themselves to potential clients, and is a disservice to readers of whatever publication issues it.
And, naturally, the same themes in suspiciously similar language will crop up next fall in a book with a prominent Republican's name and photo on the cover, and somewhere in the acknowledgements Gerson and Wehner will be mentioned for their "generous assistance."
This phony racket becomes so predictable after a while you get sick of it.
Most journalists who write about politics will sooner or later be asked to engage more directly in the political process. It happens, but that's not what I'm complaining about, per se. Jim Pinkerton worked for the 2008 Huckabee campaign and, so far as I can see, emerged from the experience unscathed.
However, there are times when the informed reader can detect in the "journalism" of ex-administration officials the whiff of career marketing, and it rankles.
When Jeanne Kirkpatrick wrote "Dictatorships & Double Standards" for Commentary she did not do so in order to seek the U.N. ambassadorship from Ronald Reagan. Indeed, Kirkpatrick was a Democrat and couldn't possibly have imagined such an outcome.
Thirty years later, however, we've seen how political professionals have learned to game the system, and whenever you see a magazine publish something as awful as this -- really, can anyone reasonably claim that "The Path to Republican Revival" has any merit as journalism? as literature? -- you should trust your instinctive Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reaction.
What bothers me most is that these two former helmsmen from Team Bush, who helped steer the S.S. Republican into the iceberg, now propose to offer sailing lessons to others. These miserable failures had their chance and blew it. They should slink away in shame, rather than being permitted to insult the readers of Commentary with 5,000 tedious words of wrongheaded political/policy analysis.
But, dear God, what wretched writing! I've just attempted, for about the third or fourth time, to read this damned thing -- I printed it out for that purpose -- and keep bursting out in hysterical laughter at the combination of obviousness and leaden phrasing:
Obama’s overreach has created a measure of opportunity for Republicans. The question is whether that opportunity will be grasped. Can Republicans overcome their manifest problems and succeed in preparing themselves for a restoration of public trust, and can they do so not only by appealing to new groups but also by offering compelling answers to pressing public needs?"Herewith, a brief primer"? Were I the magazine editor to whom a freelancer made the mistake of submitting a piece containing that sentence, I'd be fighting the urge to hunt down that miserable son of bitch and strangle him with my bare hands. In a case like this, a good editor would respond with a curt rejection notice:
Herewith, a brief primer. . . .
There may be a shortage of good writers in America, but the editor who agrees to pay for a sentence like "Herewith, a brief primer" is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
You thieving scoundrel:
We pay writers by the word. I've consulted our lawyers, who agree that your effort to get me to pay you for the sentence, "Herewith, a brief primer," constitutes attempted petty larceny by the laws of this state and may also be prosecuted as a federal felony under the mail fraud statutes.
I'm cutting you a break this time, but if you ever again try to swindle me with a cheap scam like this, you'll be buying yourself a one-way ticket to Leavenworth.
Please find another career for which you are suited, as journalism is clearly beyond your abilities.