Thursday, August 20, 2009

Unspeakably wretched

Yesterday, I slammed as spectacularly boring -- to say nothing of its sheer wrongheadedness -- a 5,000-word "Path to Republican Revival" article by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner published in the September issue of Commentary.

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.
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.
-- RSM
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.

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. . . .
"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:

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.
The Editor

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.


  1. See, this is why I write only for my blog and my own business.
    I can be as wordy a bastard as I like, and not come in for such savage (but valuable) corrective advice as this!
    Now I have to go find something to write about where I can work in "Herewith, a brief primer" so I can laugh at myself (and these idiots).

  2. When I think of Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, I am reminded of Tory Leo Amery's words to Tory Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on 07 May 1940:

    You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

    Quoted from and linked to at:

    PS: Stacy I would like to thank you for posting a quote from my posting on this subject last night over at the Greenroom. You're a [Georgia] peach [and the hedgehog says 'Dinsdale'].

  3. Gawd, more disguising "creativity and forward thinking" in being just like Democrats.

    I think Home Depot needs a paint department clerk.

    No, that would be cruel to the good folks who work there.

  4. Fabulous rejection letter. I've bookmarked it for future use. You don't mind do you? I'll give credit... =)

  5. RS,

    Have you read the Republican Encyclicals at my Blog?

    As a street kid from Queens, sometimes you have to fight dirty to do the right thing.

    The Left understands this. Conservatives and Republican activits understand this after the attacks on Bush and Palin.

    It seems Our Elitists want us to be whipping boys (and girls).

    The Revlolution coming. Either they join US or get the hell out of the way. Yes, I'm talking about Frum, Gerson and the NRO crowd.

    Here, the people matter.

  6. Perfect! Great writing, Mr.Other McCain! Sometimes I'd like to throttle these "conservative" writers that think, like the dems do, that they know what is best for us. Pitiful.

  7. With sincere apologies rendered...