When you interview a politician, you have some options about how to report their quotes. You can clean them up; you can leave them messy. And you're more likely to leave them messy if the messiness says something about the candidate. When Caroline Kennedy briefly put herself out as a New York U.S. Senate candidate, newspapers recorded how many times she used the phrase "you know?" (More than 200 times in 30 minutes, according to the Daily News.) When Joshua Miller profiled David Weprin for Roll Call, he noted that the fumbling candidate "uttered the phrase 'you know' more than 40 times" in five minutes.
Jason Zengerle's big profile of Elizabeth Warren gives her a version of the Kennedy-Weprin hammerlock to make a point about how much of a political naif she can be.
When I recently asked her to make the case against Brown, the sure-footedness she’s displayed on so many occasions suddenly deserted her. “This race is about America’s future, it’s about a choice,” she began confidently, before settling into a long, uncomfortable pause. She eventually continued, “Uh, uh, gosh, I know candidates are always supposed to have the great ten-second clip on how this works. Kyle”—she said, referring to her spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, who was sitting in on the interview—“is probably gnashing his teeth right at this moment. But”—she paused again—“it’s about whose side you stand on. Scott Brown is one of Wall Street’s favorite senators. Um, that’s not what I—I want to go to Washington—let me say it differently. Scott Brown’s one of Wall Street’s favorite senators. I want to go to the United States—I want to go to Washington to be the middle class’s favorite senator. Or the favorite senator of the middle class. Maybe that’s easier without the possessive.”
This is revealing! Had Zengerle put it all on camera, it might have had the same corrosive, viral impact on Warren that Herman Cain's bumbling chat with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had on him. The Warren campaign, not offering extra comment, isn't bothered by the way this appears in print. But there's something about Warren that encourage a reporter's ooh-how-to-make-this-look-raw instinct. See also: The Newsweek interview in which Warren's praise of Occupy Wall Street was squished into a headline about her claiming she created the movement.
TODAY IN SLATE
Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case
The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race
How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster
The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented
Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada
You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney
Or at least trade it for something.
- Texas Lab Worker on Cruise Tests Negative for Ebola as Dallas Hospital Apologizes
- Police Use Tear Gas to Break Up College Pumpkin Festival Turned Violent
- Racist Rancher Cliven Bundy Challenges Eric Holder in Bizarre Campaign Ad
- Supreme Court Allows Texas Law That Accepts Handgun Permits but not College IDs to Vote
An All-Female Mission to Mars
As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.