The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, January 20, 2004  

Two Requests

Okay, now that the Iowa caucus is over and conventional wisdom has been revealed as the palimpsest it always was, can we ask two things of the (possibly slightly) humbled media?

First, enough with the sports metaphors. Sure, it’s a race, and politics remains, to a large degree, a man’s world. As such, the propensity to compare standings and who’s up and who’s down and who’s surging and who’s not -- all of which point to another guy-thing metaphor that I will leave alone -- is inevitable. But enough already. There are reasons why candidates are up or down and surging or not. That is your story.

Even today the lead article in the Washington Post is far beyond replete with such language. In “Kerry Scores Comeback Iowa Victory,” by John F. Harris, we read: “[r]iding a late surge of support,” “scored a commanding come-from-behind victory,” “Kerry’s sprint of campaigning” (compounded by Sen. John F. Kerry’s own remarks, “Last night, the New England Patriots won. Tonight this New Englander won, and you’ve sent me on the way to the Super Bowl,” and “I have only just begun to fight.”), “[a] dramatic home stretch,” “reshuffled the political deck,” “Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) did not mount a stand here,” and “the energy of his final sprint.”

Second, keep in mind, we all know what the candidates look like. Guess what? We have television sets too.

On this subject the latest of the nauseatingly lengthy string of offenders is, appropriately, the emetic Peggy Noonan, who last week thought it necessary to inform readers that “[s]omeone said of Mr. Gephardt recently that he always looks like he has a fever” and “Mr. Kerry continues to look like a sad tree.” Thanks, Peggy, now go cash your check before I start giving you the same treatment.

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