The Oddness of the Current Press Moment 2

Fenster writes:

What the hell, another comment on the oddness of the current press moment.

Here are Shields and Brooks, interviewed as they are regularly by Judy Woodruff on PBS. Though staking out left field and right field respectively, the two are gentlemanly to a fault, agree with each other a lot in a charming Alphonse and Gaston sort of way, and are particularly united in their distaste of Trump and Trumpism. Mostly that has involved joint harrumphing and eye rolling, all jovial enough since they have seemed to assume, in the manner of Remainers, that our own version of Leave cannot win. But recent circumstances have resulted in the possibility of a reversal of fortune. How will the mainstream press deal with the need to cover a possible new reality in the polls, and in Trump’s prospects?

S&B provide one answer in the video. They start out cheery enough but by around minute six the clouds darken. They are compelled to provide commentary on vexing issues like Comey’s non-indictment indictment of Clinton, the impact of the Nice attack, the practical selection of Pence as VP, and recent movements in the polls. They are more or less forced to acknowledge that Trump is the beneficiary of events, and is doing  . . . . well, well.

Woodruff, hoping to help out with a return to the accepted narrative, chimes in at one point to remind Shields that while the Nice truck driver was Tunisian there has been no evidence presented of a suspect Islamic motivation. But to this Shields remarks ruefully (and accurately) that, look, Trump’s message is one of nationalism and it does not make much difference if the guy was pissed off on account of a bad divorce or whether he was bound for glory. Good for Shields that he is many cuts above the usual TV spinners, and that he, like Pat Buchanan from time to time, is willing to make observations that can be inconvenient from a purely partisan perspective.

Still and all, it can’t be easy.  Much simpler to be bought and paid for.  And so you can see the effects of the events of the week wearing on the two as they attempt a recap that is not corrupt.  The tone of the second half of the interview is . . . what is the word? . . . . elegiac? You get the feeling that all three of them, Woodruff included, sense something is slipping away.

About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
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7 Responses to The Oddness of the Current Press Moment 2

  1. Mark Shields is an old, labor-style Democrat. Its surprising that PBS still employs someone like that. He and I usually disagree, but there’s something fundamentally likeable about the old rascal. Whereas I’d like to tie David Brooks to a tree. And then chop that tree down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fenster says:

      Brooks might wish to critique your values.


    • JV says:

      I’m curious, what don’t you like about Brooks? As your basic liberal, I find him a pretty reasonable conservative, but then maybe that’s why your basic conservative would dislike him? He can be sanctimonious, so maybe that’s it? I don’t know, I’m genuinely interested though. He doesn’t tow the party line, but is also not a Trump fan. To me, that seems like a thoughtful stance. And in fact, I’d say the same about Shields. He’s quick to criticize the Democrats when he disagrees. Both guys, in fact, regularly disagree with their respective parties, and yeah, are genial and polite to each other even though they disagree politically on almost everything. Isn’t that what we should all aspire to? Am I being naive here?


      • Fenster says:

        I have observed his seeming reasonableness drives a lot of people over the edge. There’s the sanctimonious thing you mention. It is definitely in there. And for sure it drives “real” conservatives crazy that he held down the Conservative Chair at the New York Times since he is not a red meat eater but an observer. And for sure his stint at the Times has pushed him–for want of a better word at this odd moment–“left”.

        He does not have that visceral effect on me but I think I get why others would have it. Also, it helps that I really liked his wry cultural observations back in his Weekly Standard days. I was a huge fan way back then, and still admire his intelligence and the fact that he is willing to mix up politics with cultural matters. But the recent realignment of politics has caused me to go back and re-evaluate so many of my own thought processes in the crucial 90s.

        Clinton triangulated, rushing to the center on welfare reform and announcing that the era of big government was over. I liked that since I had already gone through a recovery from Kennedy liberal to Tsongas kinda moderate in the prior decade. But then I looked right and saw Brooks doing the same thing as Clinton: triangulating to the middle, showing that the right did not have to be composed of moral scolds and know-nothings. I liked that as it appealed to my own over-educated sense of the genteel. Plus Brooks was a hugely fun read and a sharp observer. Even a second-rate Tom Wolfe can make for a first-rate reading experience.

        But now, alas (as you say), events have conspired to force all of us (not just Shields and Brooks) to re-evaluate how things came down. Clinton and Brooks met in the middle, and while I liked that in the moment the clash of thesis and antithesis now suggests its own dark Hegelian synthesis: yes, we are all agreed now, aren’t we? And isn’t globalism fun? And aren’t we all doing so well by it!

        Plus, under the weight of serious pundithood Brooks’s wry commentary can often morph into its own ever so genteel moral scoldiness. For all those reasons this is not David Brooks’s moment.


  2. JV says:

    “The tone of the second half of the interview is . . . what is the word? . . . . elegiac? You get the feeling that all three of them, Woodruff included, sense something is slipping away.”

    Agreed. I have the same feeling.


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