The Rittenhouse Review

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

Friday, February 06, 2004  

The Columnist and the Class

“Tina’s column is in. Would someone please call fact-checking? Now we’re going to be staying late down here. We get dinner for this, right?”

Welcome, readers, to another edition of “Tina Brown Thursday.”

I know, it’s Friday, but I was busy yesterday and last night, and it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want with it.

In her latest “phone it in” column for the once-great Washington Post,Tina Brown surprises readers, at Rittenhouse and elsewhere, with her failure to mention even a single “Manhattan dinner party” or “glittering New York fundraiser.”

Strange, but true. With her social calendar bereft of buzzing conclaves of the rich, famous, and inveterately stupid, Brown was forced to try her hand at something, for her, entirely new: a little dabbling in something other than chit-chat over white wine, namely facts, figures, numbers, or more accurately, “facts, figures, numbers.”

Ensconced as she is, and seemingly will be forever, in New York (Has anyone checked her green card lately?), Brown yesterday demonstrated a modicum of awareness of life beyond Fifth and Madison (I know, I know, they don’t intersect, I’m making a point), to say this (“Stress Test: The Candidates with Staying Power”):

The moment when Sen. John Kerry began to win may well have been the day just before Christmas when the man married to money felt obliged to take out a $6.4 million mortgage on his house. It was an act of commitment, like renewing your wedding vows. Until then, running was just a career move. (Everyone else in his Senate class had done it.)

How clever. How smart. How witty. How snide. How Coulter-Sullivan-Kaus-esque.

How ignorant.

Did you catch that subtle yet pernicious lie, the one that apparently went unchallenged at the beautiful ivory tower drab edifice in which is housed the Post?

I’m referring here to this Brownishism: “Everyone else in his Senate class had done it.”

As most readers are fully aware, Sen. Kerry was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984.

That puts Sen. Kerry in what is known, at least among the cognoscenti, a group in which I would have thought someone like Brown would have included herself whether she were invited to do so or not, as the body’s “Class II.” (Class II of III, if you’re keeping score at home.)

This bears repeating under a pair of differing formulations:

Sen. Kerry is a member of “Class II” of the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Kerry’s Senate class is that which is known as “Class II.”

According to the most reliable information I was able to find quickly this evening, Sen. Kerry’s Senate class of 33 lawmakers includes such non-presidential-aspirants as:

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).

That makes 28 members of Sen. Kerry’s Senate class, “Class II,” who, contrary to Brown’s “I’m speaking totally off the top of my head here because isn’t this just an editorial meeting -- Paul L., please call your office. -- and I was out late last night at a smart Manhattan dinner party but I’ll expound upon that later in excruciating detail” assertion, have not sought the presidency.

Sure, a small, a very small, handful of Sen. Kerry’s classmates, acting with varying degrees of enthusiasm, seriousness, realism, and success, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), have been presidential candidates, at least once.

That puts the count of the presidential hopefuls among Sen. Kerry’s classmates at 28-to-4, a tally in which those who never attempted a run at the White House are far outbalanced by those who did, a count that moves to 28-to-5 if we include subject Sen. Kerry.

It’s possible Brown, expert as she purports to be on American politics and culture, and that despite the oh-so-obvious (on so many levels) fact of her being a Briton who lives and “works” not in Washington but in New York, was speaking more narrowly.

Sen. Kerry first won election to the U.S. Senate in 1984, as did presidential candidates Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), former Vice President Al Gore (previously Democratic senator from Tennessee), and former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas).

Perhaps Tina is wiser than I thought. Possibly her more narrow, and thus presumably more astute, though less conventional, definition of “Senate class” puts her in the right?

Sorry, no.

Because even using her narrow definition, we find two gentlemen, also first elected that year, who have not, at least yet, sought to become president of the United States: the aforementioned Sen. McConnell and Sen. Rockefeller. So Brown is wrong on that count as well.

I ask again: Does anyone at the Washington Post read Brown’s columns before they are published?

I know it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

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