Tom Friedman delicately corrects the Washington Post on 'The Pottery Barn' rule
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Journalists love revealing, damning metaphors — even if they’re clueless about their origins and full meaning. Using one can suggest worldliness and sophistication, supplanting the image of a mere media hack.
"Trump poised to learn the Pottery Barn Rule of governing," declares The Washington Post, quickly given to a handy, even clickbaity generalization about a guy on the precipice of actually governing.
"The big idea: The metaphor of the moment is that Donald Trump is the dog that caught up with the car. Multiple members of his own transition team have used this analogy when explaining their scramble to catch up. The truth is that almost no one on his own team thought he could win. They planned, or didn’t plan, accordingly."
"A more apt reference, especially after Trump’s inauguration, might be the Pottery Barn Rule. Colin Powell popularized this doctrine in the foreign policy context. The then-Secretary of State warned George W. Bush about the consequences of invading Iraq: 'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.' As Bob Woodward recounted in a 2004 book, 'Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn Rule: You break it, you own it.'"
OK, guys, the actual origin of the phrase: Tom Friedman of The New York Times.
"Jim, yes I coined that phrase and not just in whisper. I wrote a column about it," he told Poynter. That was Feb. 12, 2003.
"I happened to see Powell and Armitage in their office at State a few days later and used it with them. Powell then went over to the White House and said it to Bush."
"Then he later told the story to Woodward but did not tell him where he got it from. I called it the pottery store rule in my column but the 'Pottery Barn Rule’ in my speeches because I was afraid the Pottery Barn might sue the NYT!) My colleague Bill Safire even wrote a language column about it.. I suspect Powell rather enjoyed getting credit for it after a while, especially after Iraq went bad, so I got conveniently erased."
Yes, Safire did write a language column about it, giving due credit, on Oct. 17, 2004. And Larry King, then the star of CNN's prime time, broached it in an interview that year with Powell. It turns out Pottery Barn was upset and Powell apologized.
"We now know that your corporate policy is that if you break it accidentally, then you don't have to pay for it." He added that "it came from Tom Friedman, the columnist. So it's Tom Friedman's fault."
Facebook "fake news" bulletin
"Mark Zuckerberg — Dead At 32 — Denies Facebook Has Problem With Fake News" (The Shovel)
"Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — who died of heart complications at his California home today — says the proliferation of fake news stories on the site he built is over exaggerated. He was 32."
"The technical whiz-kid, who was not showing any signs of ill health in the days before his death, said the idea that there were made up stories on Facebook was ‘crazy’. His funeral will be held next week."
"As tributes flowed from around the world, Zuckerberg said hoaxes were a very small part of news shared on the site. His family has released a statement asking for privacy."
Has Madison Avenue misjudged America, too?
The self-flagellation continues among the media after covering the candidates but not the country as well as they might have. Now comes the hand-wringing among advertisers that perhaps could help beleaguered in Heartland and rural America:
"Advertisers are grappling with a stark realization: After spending years courting U.S. consumers with aspirational images of upscale urban living, they may have misjudged the yearnings of much of their audience." (The Wall Street Journal)
"In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president with a wave of support from middle American voters, advertisers are reflecting on whether they are out of touch with the same people — rural, economically frustrated, elite-distrusting, anti-globalization voters — who propelled the businessman into the White House. Mr. Trump’s rise has them rethinking the way they collect data about consumers, recruit staff and pitch products."
Recruit staff? Says one big executive: "A diversity hire 'can be a farm girl from Indiana as much as a Cuban immigrant who lives in Pensacola.'"
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" went heavy with the latest shootings of police officers in San Antonio and St. Louis, while underscoring chagrin with ridicule of their guy, Trump, at what it called the "UN-American Music Awards" last night, leaving special score for model Gigi Hadid's (lame) imitation of Melania Trump.
Ditto on the cop shootings at CNN "New Day," where thoughtful, if speculative musings on what might have played out were given center stage. Then it was on to Trump's transition.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mika Brzezinski referred to Trump's "speed dating" with job candidates over the weekend, was dispirited at the mere notion of Rudy Giuliani as Secretary of State and nonplussed as to why he met with Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood super agent. "Secretary of Entrainment?" wondered Mark Halperin.
Joe Scarborough went as far as to say this: "...you talk to anybody in New York City who knows Rudy Giuliani through the years...I'm going to tell it to you on camera...even people close to Trump say Rudy Giuliani mentally is a few steps slower than he was a few years ago. Everybody who knows the guy says he's not up to the job of Secretary of State....He's not qualified for this position. It would be a disastrous pick.”
"Trump's transition — the only 'chaos' is the media coverage." (The Weekly Standard podcast)
Noonan on the press
Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal:
"Much of the mainstream, legacy media continues its self-disgrace. Having failed to kill Donald Trump’s candidacy they will now aim at his transition. Soon they will try to kill his presidency. Any journalists who are judicious toward Trump, who treat him fairly or even as a human being, are now accused of 'normalizing' him. This is a manipulation: It is a way of warning your colleagues to approach the president-elect with the proper hostility or be scorned. None of this will do our country any good.” (The Wall Street Journal)
"Hamilton" and Pence, Trump
The somewhat hyperbolic response to the "Hamilton" cast member pretty understatedly challenging Mike Pence Friday night in New York City is rather vivid. But the incident is still revealing, as underscored in a Washington Post headline: "Trump and Pence vs. ‘Hamilton’ cast: A collision of two Americas."
Yes, the press conventional wisdom is by and large on the market the election was in no small measure a window onto frustration driven by economics. But not far beneath the surface is culture, as very concisely and aptly caricatured on "Saturday Night Live" in a scene about the East-West coast elitist "Bubble" at times divorced from reality. (The Washington Post)
Says Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia political scientist: "Trump didn't just run against illegal immigration and Obamacare. He said he would tame or destroy political correctness. His overwhelmingly middle class/working class white constituency loves it. They associate PC with the intellectual elite they detest."
"Plus, how did a thrice-married, Howard Stern associate who spent many a night at Studio 54 win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote — more than Bush, McCain or Romney? It certainly wasn't for his religious devotion, though he did know a couple of Corinthians. Trump took the right side in the culture wars, and he'll use this cluster of issues to keep conservatives cheering."
And, from Israel, comes a defense of putting Pence on the spot: "Real theater is meant to challenge, to make you think, to make you uncomfortable. It revels in complexity. It exposes the manifold defense mechanisms and masks and self-deceptions and justifications we deploy to avoid facing unpleasant truths." (Haaretz)
Don't expect Bannon on cable TV soon
Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News executive, apparently will eschew dueling with Chris Matthews or being fawned over by Sean Hannity:
"People say get out there. But I see no purpose in trying to convince a bunch of media elites who only ever talk to themselves. I never went on TV one time during the campaign. Not once. You know why? Because politics is war. General Sherman would never have gone on TV to tell everyone his plans. I'd never tip my hand to the other side. And right now we've got work to do." (The Wall Street Journal)
Finger-pointing run amok
Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune, a terrific former colleague, unfortunately dispenses with equivocation in a column, "White women, own up to it: You're the reason Hillary Clinton lost." There's the notion of being provocative, but there are also facts.
Her rhetoric concludes, "And as far as Black women are concerned, you can be sure of this: We're going to think long and hard the next time White women ask us to follow them up a ladder so they can leave us out on a ledge." (Chicago Tribune)
Was it White females who sunk Clinton? Or millennials, whose turnout was lousy (5 percent below Obama's in 2012)? Or huge unexpected rural turnout? Or uninspired Black turnout in some swing areas? Was it the Democratic Party's need for "better organization" and "a stronger message," as President Obama himself put it at his Lima, Peru press conference last night?
Was it a "Stronger Together" mantra that was muddled for many. Or Clinton's inherent flaws? And, finally, in citing one specific factor, one might not forget that, as Sabato noted Sunday, "a mere 107,000 more Clinton votes scattered throughout Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would have elected her."
Clinton's Blue Wall disintegrated, but for a bunch of reasons, not just Caucasian women with doubts.
"60 Minutes" did a nice job on the women's national soccer team's grievance against U.S. Soccer for allegedly discriminatory treatment, notably pay, compared to the men's team. ("60 Minutes")
When it was done, I was curious if the federation website mentioned the piece. No surprise, it didn't. But what was revealing was how the site is dominated by the recent achievements of the women's team. (U.S. Soccer) It makes their point: they're better and far more successful than the men's team. As a soccer crazy, I can attest to the fact that the men suck.
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