Sunday, September 28, 2008

Todd Gitlin, Obama apologist, gets the Keller treatment

In the heated competition for the most turgid, dishonest analysis of the race for president, this LA Times op-ed piece by a deep Columbia University thinker named Todd Gitlin is an early leader in the clubhouse.

It took a Herculean effort read on past this unenticing lead, but I did: "This election campaign is about more than its issues, slogans, proposals, strategies, tactics, attacks or counterattacks. Like most presidential elections, it represents a collision of myths."

These myths are then sketched out in crayon that would be spiked by any editor or teacher at a reputable university, which Columbia once was:

"McCain, the known quantity, the maverick turned lawman, fiery when called on to fight, an icon of the old known American story of standing tall, holding firm, protecting God's country against the stealthy foe. Obama is the new kid on the block, the immigrant's child, the recruit, fervent but still preternaturally calm, embodying some complicated future that we haven't yet mapped, let alone experienced. He is impure -- the walking, talking melting pot in person. In his person, the next America is still taking shape."

Here is both execrable writing (extraneous repetition of the word "known" within a single sentence, for instance) and brain-dead analysis, riddled with cliche and unexplained bursts of rhetorical flatulence. McCain the "maverick turned lawman"? Nonsense. He went straight from the military to Congress, a life spent enforcing and shaping US policy; a context for his claims of being a rebel to be analyzed by those with the energy and intellect to weigh them. Obama "the recruit"? By whom? For what purpose?

In this pitiful "climax" to his piece, the author's preference is clear. Who wouldn't prefer the "melting pot" embodiment of "the next America" to a moldy old "icon" of some God-crazed America of the past? Still, this bias in a piece that purports to be analysis rather than advocacy might come as less of a surprise to some readers if Gitlin had bothered to disclose his prior public endorsement of Obama.

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