We’ve all seen those supermarket tabloids and magazines, near the checkout counter, that delight in showing how some female celeb has lost her figure, complete with photos of the poor woman in a bathing suit. (Writers for The Buzz, it should be noted, don’t buy this trash but merely look at it [askance] from a distance.) Lost in this journalism is any sense of the person’s other dimensions or overall worth. This one aspect becomes defining.
In polemical writing, we see the equivalent of this approach in Jonah Goldberg’s current National Review cover story on Vice President Joe Biden. The headline: “Big &#%!ing Joker.”
The approach is to take one unfortunate aspect of the Biden persona—his tendency to blurt out unfortunate pronouncements—and hammer away at it over and over until he is reduced to a caricature. Then we can all laugh at him endlessly while ignoring whatever attributes kept him in the U.S. Senate for 36 years, elected by his state six times.
The Buzz does not carry water for Vice President Biden or any other politician. And Goldberg isn’t wrong to suggest that “Biden-speak” is characterized by the use of “the utmost superlative and the exaggeratedly hyperbolic.” But Biden’s Senate career included much more than that, and any serious profile of the man would at least nod in that direction.
Beyond that, it’s worth noting that William Buckley’s magazine used to be known for its wit. Wit in those days wasn’t defined by splashing the word “&#%!ing” on the cover or going on ad naseum about a politician’s human flaws. After all, “brevity is the soul of wit,” as Shakespeare’s voluble Polonius reminds us. Biden, true, is rather like Polonius, and so we don’t get much wit from him. Same with Goldberg.
NR once took a rapier to Chief Justice Earl Warren, the bête noir of conservatives, by writing: “Conservatives are organizing a Paean for Earl Warren. They’re going to gather at the Supreme Court and Pae on him.”
That’s wit—the kind you don’t see as much in National Review as you once did.