Hey, What's the Problem? The Good Guys Won!

Allen and Chait

Hey, What's the Problem? The Good Guys Won!

Allen and Chait

Hey, What's the Problem? The Good Guys Won!
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Jan. 20 1999 2:52 PM

Allen and Chait

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Oh, I see, Jodie. Some guy sends you an e-mail saying an "online publication" claims I belong to some elite foundation funded by a sinister cabal of Rockefellers. I just don't know what you're talking about. I'm not a member of any such conspiracy, I have no idea whether it exists, and the members don't drink human blood, we merely use it as a dip.

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I don't understand why a smart moderate-left policy wonk such as you wouldn't like Clinton's speech. Yes, he said way too much, and most of his promises will never happen. But the core of it was a plan to use the budget surplus to shore up Social Security and Medicare. This adds to the national savings rate and does all those sound economic things that Brookings-types have been droning on about, frequently with your editorial encouragement, for years. The Clinton administration is fundamentally a battle between extremely smart and good policy experts and evil poll-reading political advisors, and this time the good guys won. If he pulls this surplus deal off he can go ahead and have sexual relations with my unborn children for all I care.

Your long list of the groups Clinton promised to help is nothing but a cheap trick to inflate your word count. (Does this feature pay by the word?) I've used the gimmick several times myself. I'm also no stranger to editing games. Once, at my college paper, my co-editor and I recalled that it had been a while since the editorial page had used the phrase "smacks of," an old standby, as in, "the University administration's failure to immediately disband the police force smacks of racism." So we decided to find an appropriate evil to be smacked of, and we settled on corporal punishment. Lo and behold, a couple weeks later we received an unsolicited editorial about a principal who paddled his students, and we inserted the line, "This smacks of corporal punishment." Nothing makes you distrust editors more than being one yourself.

Jodie T. Allen is the Washington editor of Slate. Jonathan Chait is a fellow at the New America Foundation and an associate editor for the New Republic.