- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Bad joke

“One could have assumed that Sen. John Kerry, who has reason enough to wake up whimpering and biting his knuckles when he reflects on past embarrassments, had learned this lesson. He’s almost spoiled for choice in the matter — from the cringe-making ‘reporting for duty’ to the sickly discovery that he had been part of a ‘band of brothers’ rather than a bunch of killers, to the phantom ‘Christmas in Cambodia.’

“Yet … last week’s clumsy appearance in Pasadena must be the most whimper-inducing of all.

“The senator’s labored defense of himself is so lame that it has to be true. He had intended … to make a truly original joke about the IQ and educational level of the chief executive. His crack team of gag-writers had toiled on the joke and combed all the bugs out of it. … And it fizzled. … And out of the syntactic chaos came the impression that Mr. Kerry thought only a dumb jerk could end up in uniform in Iraq.

“No wonder Mr. Kerry feels hard done-by: He can’t recount a joke that practically tells itself and has been road-tested to work with almost Pavlovian certainty, especially on campuses. Surely everybody … knows that it’s Mr. Bush who is supposed to have the difficulties with timing and articulation? Ah, the unfairness of it all.”

— Christopher Hitchens, writing on “The Patrician and the Grunts,” Saturday in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

Media drumbeat

“Reporters and editors today are overwhelmingly liberal politically, as studies … have repeatedly shown. …

“What has been at issue is whether media politics affects media writing. Certainly, that began to happen noticeably in the Vietnam years. …

“But in the Vietnam era, an important restraint on sectarian partisanship still operated: the mass media catered to a mass audience and hence had an economic interest in appealing to as broad a public as possible. Today, however, we are in the midst of a fierce competition among media outlets. …

“[T]elevision networks take older viewers for granted but struggle hard to attract high-spending younger ones. Regular viewers tend to be older, male, and conservative, while marginal ones are likely to be younger, female, and liberal. Thus the financial interest that radio and television stations have in attracting these marginal younger listeners and viewers reinforces their ideological interest in catering to a more liberal audience.

“Focusing ever more sharply on the mostly bicoastal, mostly liberal elites, and with their more conservative audience lost to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, mainstream outlets like the New York Times have become more nakedly partisan. And in the Iraq War, they have kept up a drumbeat of negativity that has had a big effect on elite and public opinion alike.”

— James Q. Wilson, writing on “The Press at War,” in the autumn issue of City Journal

Shocking fashion

“Marie Antoinette was not a beauty … but she was an enchantress, effortlessly wearing the wildest fashions with the utter conviction of a star. …

“Most shocking in Queen Marie Antoinette was her extravagance, well-documented in the yearly records of her clothing expenses, in dressmakers’ accounts, and in memoirs saying that the queen wore nothing twice. … The French treasury was depleted, the deficit increasing, the people protesting against unbearable taxes and shortages, but Marie Antoinette, never taught to consider the people’s troubles, had no clue.”

— Anne Hollander, writing on “The Queen’s Closet,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

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