Paul Krugman is understandably offended by Dana Milbank's clueless and misleading comments about Obama and the left. Milbank does get the facts very, very wrong. Sadly, that's no longer a surprise. As for me, I was particularly struck by Milbank's opening sentence: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of President Obama."
Meaning what? He was proud of Obama before, but only in the innocent days of childhood?
This is probably indirect snark directed at Michelle Obama. If I recall correctly, she made some comments about being proud of her country that used similar phrasing. It was a big controversy, remember? If you don't remember then, unlike Milbank and his ilk, you were paying attention to the country's real problems instead of focusing on content-free, Republican-fed celebrity gotcha stories.
Snark or not, this comes across as plain old-fashioned bad writing. So do tortuous paragraphs like this one:
"But rather than caving in to liberals' complaints and allowing Democrats on Capitol Hill to take the lead - as Obama did to his peril over the past two years - he has pushed back with the full force of his office. In private persuasion and in public talk, the White House has delivered to disgruntled liberals a message summed up by Vice President Biden in a private session with lawmakers on Wednesday: Take it or leave it."
Here's my problem with this paragraph, as Milbank himself might have expressed it:
Rather than stating his main theme and then elaborating on it - as writers have done to their great credit throughout the centuries - Milbank has perambulated with the twisted indirection of his prose. In public paragraphs and on-air ellipses, Milbank has continued to opine in a prolix, qualifier-before-main-statement style which displays an attitude toward his readers that might be summed up with words from this very editorial as it was published on Sunday:
Take it or leave it.
Who cares about the poor quality of Milbank's prose? Nobody, really. But clarity in language equals clarity in thought, and the same is true of its absence. Milbank is emblematic of the sloppy thinking and poor focus that has reached epidemic proportions in his profession, and which continues to confuse and misdirect millions of people every week.
Not that I think I'm perfect. Far from it. I'm never satisfied with my own writing. But Milbank's prose made my teeth hurt. And not for the first time in my adult life.