The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

On foreign affairs, White House meetsThe Bold and the Beautiful in the columns of the Times

There is a piece of the most ineffable bollocks in the New York Times today, from the hand of (no jokes please!) Elisabeth Bumiller.

Remember the WaPo boosting of Paul Wolfowitz that caused such ructions between the ombud and the Style managers? Bumiller does much the same - only far, far worse - for George Bush's foreign policy Girl Friday, Condoleezza Rice.

The WaPo piece on the Wolf Man was, at least, an interview, more or less.On Rice [1], Bumiller purports to give us a fly-on-the-wall docco of the woman in action, guiding the erratic Presidential hand on the Tiller of State, piloting the Free World through the choppy waters 'twixt Scylla and Charybdis into the safety of the open sea.

(If you doubt me, and have an empty stomach, read the whole thing.)

If you go back fifty years, you'll probably find a Times piece in a not wholly dissimilar style on Eisenhower's Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Oveta Culp Hobby - only, however gushing and implausible, if would at least not have suggested that the woman was a vital cog in the machinery that kept the Free World free:
To the Bushes, Ms. Rice, 49, is almost a surrogate daughter, a charming, reassuring and - in private - sardonic presence who can explain Middle East policy in five digestible bites.

Without those chicken nuggets, who knows what countries Bush might already have blasted to Kingdom Come!

It is bollocks to the power of googol - for every assertion, ask yourself how many, and how good, were the sources she has for it - but, cui bono? There's a feminist angle - and a racial angle, too: Rice may be dismissed as a house-nigger or Oreo by chisellers on the left, but, in the reductionist calculus of race in the media, a suck-up piece on her allows a box to be ticked. And, of course, the idea of her needing to be on hand to cut up Baby George's food on foreign policy has partisan attractions, for those prepared to overlook the rank implausibility of the entire piece, as over at Atrios in the comments.

In a tedious presidential election to date, maybe one should be glad for any slapstick one can get to enjoy, even if it means checking one's judgement and common sense at the door. But I think we can enjoy the belly-laughs without conceding ground to hacks like Bumiller on basic questions of journalistic soundness.

  1. This page includes a comment that Rice should be called Dr. There is, I think, a debate to be had on this: Rice has a Ph D - which is the lowest form of doctoral life. I get the sense that political Ph Ds don't tend to get called doctor.

    Howard Dean has an MD - which, if I understand it correctly, is the degree ordinarily awarded to those qualifying as doctors as the US. In the UK, I believe the usual degree is BS MB (ie, Bachelor of Surgery and Medecine): someone thus qualified who went into medical research would first go for a Ph D. In the UK, MD would only be awarded to senior people who already had a Ph D.

    In most cases, therefore, in the UK, Doctor is a courtesy title given to those registered to practice medecine: most of them will hold no doctorate of any kind.

    Here endeth the lesson...

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