Friday, January 19, 2007

The Sun-Times Chimera Column

If I had edited Debra Pickett's column in your Chicago Sun-Times:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was testifying before a Senate panel, doing what she does best: keeping to the official line.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was trying to get a rise out of the frighteningly unflappable Rice, so, in a rhetorical flourish, she asked, "Who pays the price [for the administration's deadly policy blunders in Iraq]?"

Boxer continued, alluding to the fact that very few of the soldiers in harm's way happen to have senators or White House officials in their families, and said, "I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young."

Then, addressing Rice, she added, "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family." ***

Would Condoleezza Rice have a different view of the situation in Iraq if she had a son (or a daughter or a sister or a brother) serving in uniform there? Would President Bush be more inclined to bring the troops home now if his twin daughters had gone to West Point?

Probably not.

But the very fact that such scenarios are virtually inconceivable should give us some pause. Whose loved ones are fighting this war? And who speaks for them?

Those are the questions that Rice and the administration spin-meisters didn't want you to be thinking about this week.

My wife is a big fan of Debra Pickett's columns -- I am less so.

Although Ms. Pickett is sharp and a fine writer, I think her columns suffer from... hmm... Let's call it "a lack of editorial direction."

By that, I mean that even the folks running the Sun-Times don't seem to know what kind of column Ms. Pickett is supposed to be writing. For example, her column appears on the "Lifestyle" pages of the print edition of the paper, but on the ST website it is listed under "News and Views."

"Who cares?" you ask.

"Besides me?" I reply. "Probably no one."

But I do think that it is emblematic of the "neither fish nor fowl" nature of Ms. Pickett's columns that does not suit my taste. Maybe it is a function of writing a column just once a week, but it seems that Ms. Pickett's columns often try to do too many things -- baby talk and a foreign policy discussion in the same column -- all in the same column.

Or maybe this is the product of a well-reasoned plan to create a column that simply does not appeal to me.

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