New York Times: If We Stop Talking About Government as an Exercise in Brand Management, the Terrorists Will Have Won

That was a confusing not-quite-attack the world went through on Friday, wasn’t it? Al Qaeda is trying to blow up UPS now? Or synagogues in Chicago? Ten years after they blew up the USS Cole, have we just not done anything about the Yemenis? Is this why there were so many cops on the subway?

And so for the reader trying to make sense of the latest round of Our War on Terror, or Terror’s War on Us, the New York Times offered the following bit of incisive contextual analysis wrapping around Saturday’s front page jump:

News of the terrorist plot came as Mr. Obama was barreling into the last four days of campaigning before midterm elections on Tuesday, and White House officials appeared determined to project the appearance of a commander in chief who was on top of the developments.

News of the terrorist plot came as the midterm elections were approaching. News of the terrorist plot also came as the Texas Rangers were trying to figure out how to rally from two games down in the World Series. It came as a cold front was driving down temperatures through the New York region, displacing unseasonably warm weather. Context!

The New York Times will not let a mere international bombing plot distract it from the all-important duty of speculating about how the news of the event positioned the political class with respect to political positioning. Officials appeared determined to project an appearance! OK, let’s rewind that once more and play it back in slow motion, looking for a single verifiable, objectively existing fact:

officials appeared determined to project the appearance

Yes? No. This is the sound of a reporter (or an editor) flapping a finger up and down across his or her own lips and transcribing the blapping sound. As in its gloss on the Chilean mine rescue , the Times could not accept that the president of the country was somehow, if you will, as it were, simply busy running the country.

(Also, yes, some jets were scrambled, but the use of “commander in chief” here, apparently to mean “leader dealing with life-and-death matters,” is a witlessly fascistophillic and grating cliche. The president is the president. The job includes commanding the armed forces. But a crisis does not transform the president from a civilian into a generalissimo. Cut it out.)