Thursday, June 19, 2003

Jim Lehrer Wakes Up

I used to like Jim Lehrer but at some point he decided his job was simply to let his guests say what they want without challenging them. Howler catches him in rare moment:

BROOKS (6/13/03): The frustrating thing about the book to me is that like many politicians, including Ronald Reagan, she is incapable of having an interesting insight or an original thought. All these people who have these positions where they could really see something and say something interesting are just incapable of thinking in that way and the person who has the high power and also can write interestingly like a Winston Churchill or Teddy Roosevelt is so rare. So the book is kind of frustrating because it is frankly a little dull.

Sadly, Brooks announced that the book was dull. But then, we think we’ve mentioned the Hard Pundit Law—pundits must say that this book is no good. Every pundit knows what to say. Mrs. Clinton is lying. Or the book is quite dull. Or she just blames all the mess on her enemies.
But now, Lehrer turned back to Shields, and the crafty host had a trick question. Of course, as Hard Pundit Law requires, he received a Belittling Group Reply:

LEHRER (continuing directly): Have you read it?
SHIELDS: I haven’t, Jim.

LEHRER: Are you going to?

SHIELDS: It’s right behind the—

BROOKS: The Spanish-English dictionary.

SHIELDS: The Spanish-English dictionary or “The Franco I Knew.” No, I don’t. Jim, I really don’t. I don’t plan to.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Left and right mean nothing here; Shields and Brooks amused the rubes with their witty putdown. But now a thought occurred to Lehrer. The host turned back to David Brooks. And he asked Brooks if he’d read the book:

LEHRER (continuing directly): Have you read it? You talk like you you’ve read it.
“You talk like you’ve read it,” Lehrer said. But guess what? David Brooks had been faking:
LEHRER: Have you read it? You talk like you you’ve read it.
BROOKS: I read parts. I stood in the bookstore for about an hour looking at it; I did not buy it.

LEHRER: You went into the bookstore and picked it up and, what, skimmed it?

BROOKS: Simon & Schuster is now canceling my book contract but I have to tell the truth.