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November 17, 2004

Kudos To Elisabeth Bumiller For Being A Smug, Barking Cow

Congratulations to Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, newly-crowned winner of the NY Press Wimblehack competition. My favorite part is the reference to Bumiller coming across on TV "like a smug, barking cow."

I've had a crush on Bumiller for some time, but she truly won my heart when she explained why reporters asked Bush no hard questions at his press conference just before the invasion of Iraq. You see, they're cowards:

ELISABETH BUMILLER: I think we were very deferential, because in the East Room press conference, it's live. It's very intense. It's frightening to stand up there... You are standing up on prime time live television, asking the president of the United States a question when the country is about to go to war.

There are several entertaining things about this:

1. I'm sure it's scary to ask the president a question on live national TV just before a war. But...

(a) If you can't handle it, maybe you should get another job. It's also "intense" to be an NFL quarterback and, whenever you drop back to pass, have six men weighing a collective ton trying to crush you. But if this makes you stay at home in bed on Superbowl Sunday, perhaps professional football is not for you.

(b) As scary as it may be to ask the president a question just before a war, I've heard tell it's even scarier to FIGHT IN A WAR. It may be scarier still to be in a country about to invaded by the most powerful military in human history, and know you and your family may soon be converted into scraps of red, wet flesh. Perhaps Bumiller could think of this at such times and fucking get ahold of herself.

2. The New York Times has been owned by the same family for 108 years. When they bought it, the new publisher Adolph Ochs wrote a famous front page editorial:

It will be my earnest aim that The New York Times... give the news impartially, without fear or favor...

"Without fear or favor" is so much a part of the Times self-image that it was used as the title of an authorized history of the paper. Yet Bumiller explicitly acknowledges giving the news with fear. And we can throw in favor too, because "favor" is quite close to "deference," as thesauruses will tell you.

So Bumiller very publicly whizzed all over her employers' founding credo. For this, she retains one of the New York Times' highest profile and most prestigious positions. But I guess this makes sense in a country where you can only be Attorney General if you hate the Constitution.

UPDATE: NY Press link fixed.

Posted at November 17, 2004 05:46 AM | TrackBack

I took the time to read the Democracy Now post you linked to, the interview with Helen Thomas, and no more stark contrast could be shown between her style of journalism and Bumiller's.

I guess I truly am naive. I assumed that anyone rising to the position of White House correspondence for what is referred to as the pre-eminent newspaper in our country, would have the chops to do the job. Helen Thomas was too nice to publicly criticise Bumiller, but I believe if I was to speak with her over tea, she would voice the same criticisms that you have, and I am sure, many of us have.

I am a trial lawyer and trials are stress-filled times, but I have an ethical obligation to represent my client and ask tough questions, even though I may be scared sh*tless. Besides, if I think the witness is lying, then I want to force him to lie even more, which increases his stress and the chance that either the jury will be able to tell he is lying, or he will speak a bigger lie. Personally, that is when it is fun: watching the guy squirm and making him look foolish. If a reporter thinks the President is lying, challenge him -- make him squirm or lie again. Do your frickin' job.

Sorry to repeat myself, but I just cannot comprehend that someone at that level is afraid to ask tough questions. I am not aware of her work, but is she admits to being afraid to do her job, why hasn't the Times replaced her?

Posted by: Brian at November 17, 2004 12:15 PM

A smug, barking, shrinking cow.

I like it.

Don't know the woman, never read her, but I can imagine the vibe, smell it, the stench in the East Room, like a teen's shoe locker.

Fear does it.

And the money. The lifestyle. The power. The turn on. The entire townhouse journo ennui, these simpering copywriters serving themselves up as willing dupes, stooging for the sake of a meal in the presence of the client, the man, He who has God's ear.

Excellent post.

Posted by: bmo at November 17, 2004 03:08 PM

Yes. A Very excellent post.

Posted by: Alexis at November 17, 2004 03:57 PM

The worst thing about Elisabeth Bumiller is the fact that, no matter what drivel she writes, the same people continue to scream "liberal media bias."

BTW, Very funny parody of Bumiller can be found at:

Posted by: davidrmark at April 19, 2005 02:55 PM