“News” We Could Have Done Without

January 21, 2004

Deep into his otherwise solid front-page New York Times analysis of last night’s State of the Union speech, Todd Purdum stops to craft a proposition that is so evident as to be pointless. But he manages to do so in prose so convoluted that at first it leaves the impression that something important is being said. It isn’t.

Purdum writes, “The president’s very prominence also makes him a target, and the closely contested Iowa caucuses on Monday and next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary show widespread sentiment for unseating Mr. Bush in a both (sic) Midwestern swing state that Al Gore barely carried in 2000, and a New England one that Mr. Bush narrowly won.” He continues, “If this is a moment of some triumph for the president, it is also a time of potential peril.”

If you can follow the dizzying clauses in that first sentence, it appears that Purdum is telling us that voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses — hold your breath now — want to unseat Bush.

Well, yes — and the sun rises every morning.

Or perhaps that head-spinning sentence is Purdum’s tortured way of saying that the high turnout in Iowa suggests that Democrats are particularly motivated? Maybe . . . but in fact only 20 percent of Iowa Democrats voted in the caucuses. Or maybe he’s referring to the fact that a lot of Iowa voters said that finding a candidate who could beat Bush was a priority? Your guess is as good as ours.

— Z.R.

Sign up for CJR's daily email
Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.