Praying the Post

Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in one hand and a rosary in the other.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005
What's in Style today

If you don't subscribe to The Washington Post, you might reasonably assume that the Post is the Post, and that a car review is as Posty, as "the other newspaper of record"y, as what appears on A-1 above the fold.

In fact, though, the "Style" section has entirely different standards than the news sections, which may be why Tina Brown's columns appear in "Style" rather than on the op-ed pages. Whatever her virtues, she is not a deep thinker, and her role for the Post seems to be to provide a sort of "You Are There" sensation for liberal readers who don't attend New York magazine cocktail parties.

So it's not a surprise, exactly, to read this in her February 3 column:
Hillary Clinton's move to a sensitive centrism on abortion has beaten everyone's expectations about how long she would wait before starting Phase Two of her Permanent Campaign. The same big Manhattan donors who vehemently wrote her off at the end of last year after all the crusading for a red-state male are grudgingly admitting that the woman is a warrior. At this rate she'll be guest-hosting "The 700 Club" by Easter.
The impression I get, though, is that the people who read Tina Brown nodding their heads and saying, "Exactly!" honestly do regard Hillary Clinton's speech the other week as a "move to a sensitive centrism on abortion." After all, if you believe abortion is an inalienable human right, anything that goes much further than a law requiring teenage girls to be told about adoption options quickly becomes, not just right-of-center, but positively evil.

I even suspect that some readers did imagine a whiff of The 700 Club in Clinton's remarks. That the Christian Right is unlikely to embrace a proposal that amounts to, "We keep killing babies, and you fund universal health care," may not occur to them. After all, if they were the Christian Right, they'd jump at it, and so would all their friends.

Sharing space with the Tina Brown column was TV critic Tom Shales's review of the State of the Union speech. Now, I hate to pick on someone who writes about television shows for a living; it's a degrading enough job as it is. But Shales will go out of his way to make his (brace yourselves) liberal political and social opinions known -- last year he wrote that Mel Gibson will surely burn in hell for making The Passion of the Christ -- and when he does, what he writes is fair game for criticism itself.

Today, he identifies one of the things in President Bush's speech that grates on his Posty nerve:
Bush soon divided the hall again when he said he supported a constitutional amendment "to protect the institution of marriage," which was a euphemism for banning same-sex marriages, though Bush didn't mention them. The man who likes to speak, as he did in this speech, of America's great "compassion" and who has been holding forth loudly of late on the sanctity of freedom apparently believes both compassion and freedom should have their limits.
From which we conclude what? Mostly that Shales was writing on deadline, I suppose, and threw the first brickbat that came to hand, however absurd it might be.

Is it possible that Tom Shales doesn't believe both compassion and freedom should have their limits? Should compassion for producer and director Gary Marshall, whom in another column today Shales calls an "obnoxious huckster," move a fan of "Happy Days" to kneecap Shales? Should Kathy Lee Gifford, whom Shales unloaded on like a Nineteenth Century Know-Nothing editor venting against the Irish when reviewing her Christmas specials, be free to unload buckshot into his hindquarters?

No, of course not. Compassion and freedom must have their limits, if a society is to have any of either. So we are left with Shales's meaning to be that he disagrees with Bush on where and how compassion and freedom should be limited regarding marriage.

Well, no kidding. Is there anyone writing for the Post (outside a few opinion columnists) who doesn't?