June 28, 2012 · 2 Comments
By Marie Burns:
In today’s New York Times, op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof posts a pop quiz asking readers to identify which presidential candidate – Obama or Romney – made a series of statements Kristof cites. In a number of cases, Kristof posts conflicting statements on the same subjects, with the idea of leading the reader into thinking President Obama made one of the two remarks. Other stand-alone statements are consistent with Obama’s policies; e.g., “As we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” All of the correct answers to Kristof’s quiz are “Romney.”
Kristof’s pop quiz inspired me to compose an “op-quiz.” The object: to guess which New York Times columnist wrote what. I have, however, tried to choose excerpts that are characteristic of the writing and views of the columnists. There are no trick questions or outlier comments in my quiz. Kristof’s point was that Romney is inconsistent; my supposition is that the Times columnists are pretty consistent – or in the case of Tom Friedman, numbingly so. All excerpts are from recent columns.
Correct answers, in some order, are David Brooks, Gail Collins, Ross Douthat. Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman. There is one excerpt from each of these New York Times columnists.
1. Poppy had to watch W. distance himself, run as the heir to Ronald Reagan and then tar the family name by governing destructively, egged on by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (41’s old nemesis). Poppy was relegated to the sidelines, an ex-president whose advice was not solicited even when his son went to war with the same Iraqi dictator whom 41 had trounced and contained. (It was President Obama who gave Poppy the Medal of Freedom, not W.)
2. Traveling in Europe last week, it seemed as if every other conversation ended with some form of this question: Why does it feel like so few leaders are capable of inspiring their people to meet the challenges of our day? There are many explanations for this global leadership deficit, but I’d focus on two: one generational, one technological…. Alexander Downer, Australia’s former foreign minister, remarked to me recently….
3. So the former governor of Massachusetts was telling the truth the first time: by opposing aid to beleaguered state and local governments, he is, in effect, calling for more layoffs of teachers, policemen and firemen. Actually, it’s kind of ironic. While Republicans love to engage in Europe-bashing, they’re actually the ones who want us to emulate European-style austerity and experience a European-style depression.
4. In 90 percent of cases, a positive test for Down syndrome leads to an abortion. It is hard to imagine that more expansive knowledge won’t lead to similar forms of prenatal selection on an ever-more-significant scale. Is this sort of ‘liberal eugenics,’ in which the agents of reproductive selection are parents rather than the state, entirely different from the eugenics of Fisher’s era, which forced sterilization on unwilling men and women? Like so many of our debates about reproductive ethics, that question hinges on what one thinks about the moral status of the fetus.
5. I was struck by what you might call the Good Person Construct and the moral calculus it implies. For the past several centuries, most Westerners would have identified themselves fundamentally as Depraved Sinners. In this construct, sin is something you fight like a recurring cancer – part of a daily battle against evil. But these days, people are more likely to believe in their essential goodness. People who live by the Good Person Construct try to balance their virtuous self-image with their selfish desires…. Next time you feel tempted by something, recite the Ten Commandments…. You really shouldn’t shoot for goodness, which is so vague and forgiving. You should shoot for rectitude.
6. I know this is not a thrilling topic. I recently wrote a book in which I tried to juice up the subject by suggesting that readers might want to imagine a privatizer as a cross between a pirate and a sanitizer – a guy with an eyepatch and a carpet steamer. This was a desperate attempt at, um, humorization. I am so ashamed. In the dreary world of the real, privatization means turning over a government function to the private sector. It has such a long history that it’s a wonder we still have any public sector left. The Ancient Greeks did it. The Han dynasty did it. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even Harvard Ph.D.’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s privatize.
A few bloggers have developed templates for how to write a Tom Friedman column. (Here’s one. And another.) Blogger Driftglass can predict the form and content of a David Brooks column just by reading the blurb. Perhaps every one of the Times‘ columnists is all too predictable.
Marie Burns blogs at RealityChex.com
Answers: 1 Dowd; 2 Friedman; 3 Krugman; 4 Douthat; 5 Brooks; 6 Collins.