Him again, again.

I found the following via a three-word Metafilter post: Bob Greene returns. I don’t think it’s precisely true — as we’ve noted here a time or two, Greene has been making quiet inroads back into respectable circles for a while now. At the same time, I think it’s important that we keep stepping on this bug every time it waves a leg in the air, because it’s plain he hasn’t learned a goddamn thing.

This one worries me, though. For starters, it seems to have a standing head (“Bob Greene across America”), which suggests it’s not a one-off pity gig thrown his way by an old colleague, but an ongoing pity gig, in which case, gloves off. For any new readers here, let me say it up front again: Bob Greene should have kept his hands off the college girls, interns and other young women he hit on, pawed over and otherwise defiled. But that’s not why he should stay out of journalism. This is: He’s a big ol’ hack.

The latest is vintage. This man couldn’t change if he tried.

It starts with a windy description of, what else, something he saw in the hotel. A woman gets onto an elevator with two strangers, one of them Bob, carrying on a private conversation via her Bluetooth headset. Garden-variety rudeness, but not so small that Bob can’t draw some grand conclusions:

My traveling companions on CNN’s newsroom-on-wheels and I had stopped for the night at this Hollywood hotel in the days before the presidential primary election in California (and throughout the nation). If people are surprised by the depth and fervency of the passions being displayed by citizens, regardless of ideology, during this year’s race for the presidency, perhaps part of that surprise is because the emotions being shown for certain candidates put to the lie something that we have recently taken for granted — something emblemized, in its own small way, by the woman in the elevator.

He goes on to make his case:

There used to be a phrase utilized to sum up the insularity of presidential campaigns: “inside the cocoon.” It referred to life within the confines of the campaign jets, or the campaign press buses — it meant that those who traveled with a candidate were in peril of developing a skewed view of the outer world, because their sole points of reference were the events, and players, involved in the campaign itself.

The cocoon theory, rather than diminish, has expanded: living in a cocoon has in large measure become the American way of life. The sidewalks are filled with people looking down at tiny screens nestled in their palms, checking for messages, searching for flashing signals from people miles away, not wanting or needing to make eye contact with the living human beings in their immediate proximity. Friendship is a strictly defined commodity granted with the tap of a key: an electronic transaction on ultimately-for-profit computer sites. The cocoon, as a bedrock principle for living, offers the illusion of safety — by shutting out all that is unknown, the cocoon promises: these high walls around you are good for you.

Keep in mind this is a man who once wrote a knee-slapper about not having e-mail — he just couldn’t get into that crazy stuff — and was then told by the Chicago Tribune IT guys that of course he had e-mail, here’s how to access it, and he did, and whaddaya know there were something like 3,000 unread messages in his in-box. So excuse me for thinking he doesn’t know shit about this. So, Bob, while I’m not a text demon, let me suggest this gently: When a pretty girl on Michigan Avenue refuses to meet your gaze, it’s not necessarily because she’s lost in a cultural moment. She’s probably texting her BFF: OMG U SHD C THS D00DS RUG!!!!! 😮

So what’s emblemized, in its own small way, by the woman in the elevator? This:

So this year’s unusual campaign for the presidency — regardless of who you may or may not be supporting — is an unanticipated step in the other direction. It takes quite a leap of faith to proclaim your belief, and trust, in someone, and something, unknown. To acknowledge that you are ready for something, and someone, different is to admit that the things with which you are familiar may not, after all, be the things on which your future is best based.

I dunno, but if you asked me why the campaign has been impassioned so far, I’d think it had something to do with the public’s eagerness to get the current presidency over with. But don’t believe me. Believe the Voice of His Generation, who thinks it’s all about “proclaiming your belief, and trust, in someone, and something, unknown”? (Note how he pads almost unconsciously; belief and trust, something and someone.) Because there’s no incumbent? That happens every eight years. Who’s unknown? Obama comes as close as anyone, but he’s hardly hiding behind a cape and mask. If this is the linchpin of his connection between Rude Lady and Election 2008, I’d say it’s a stretch that would challenge Elastagirl.

This all has to do with looking up from those screens in your palms; it has to do with gazing around you and acknowledging: maybe it’s time to let the outside in. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party; the candidates in each are trumpeting the concept of change, but maybe the change the nation is beginning to hunger for has little to do with politicians or policies, and everything to do with ourselves. Maybe the change we apparently so thirst for goes well beyond matters electoral.

Ha. Note how he innoculates himself: It has nothing to do with the Republican Party or Democratic Party. Because Bob is above such things. He is a keen observer of the human condition, not a political hack. More pure and unadulterated b.s. But even he knows this. Because guess what the very next sentence is?

Or maybe not.

I wish I were kidding.

Bob Greene made a lot of friends in high places during his career, and I expect it’s paying off for him now. But please, if anyone in a position to hire for these gigs is listening: If what you want is some sort of Heartland Voice, a cultural commentator who lives far from the coasts, out of the MSM usual suspects, I can suggest a long list of writers a thousand times more observant, sharper-eyed, and keener with a pen than this washed-up hack. They would also leave the hotel once in a while. It would come with the thanks of a grateful nation.


So how was your weekend? Mine was fine. In honor of the Super Bowl, I bought a bag of Tostitos and a jar of queso dip, which had the consistency and color of sinus-infection snot, but I always insist on authenticity with my Super snax. Quite the game, though. My brother called at halftime to tell me he had the Patriots and 13 points, so I think it’s fair to say there won’t be any Christmas presents from him this year. Giselle will probably be dumping Tom Brady soon, too. Poor baby. Maybe he can hang out with Bob.

Big day ahead, so play nice. I’ll be back later.

Posted at 9:08 am in Current events, Media |

33 responses to “Him again, again.”

  1. Peter said on February 4, 2008 at 9:17 am

    When I hit the link it came up “Page Not Found”, which is just as well; I don’t have that strong a stomach.

    I’m not suprised; just like Dick Cheney, nothing that evil will ever die.

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  2. nancy said on February 4, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for the heads-up, Peter. For want of a snipped-off H in http, the link was lost. It’s fixed now.

    103 chars

  3. brian stouder said on February 4, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Well, on the spectrum of real journalists, if Greene represents the ‘extremely disingenuous’ end, here’s one on the other extreme –


    dead as hell; an eternal journalist (and a hoosier)

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  4. Jim said on February 4, 2008 at 10:38 am

    He lost me at “utilized.”

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  5. Dave B. said on February 4, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Nancy, Sounds like you’d like to schedule Mr. Greene for an appointment with the Huntington Castrater. Last I heard, he’s somewhere in Kentucky.

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  6. nancy said on February 4, 2008 at 11:27 am

    The only surgery that would work on Bob would be amputating his hands, and I’m not that cruel.

    Has Odd Bodkin turned up again? I know he’s been out of prison for some time; I always wondered where he went. Kentucky makes sense.

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  7. alex said on February 4, 2008 at 11:33 am

    As they say in Huntington, Bodkin got a light sentence because nobody had the balls to testify.

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  8. Connie said on February 4, 2008 at 11:57 am

    It is possible to ignore Bob Greene. Just like I ignored the Super Bowl.

    73 chars

  9. LAMary said on February 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Brian, here’s another reporter, a late friend of mine. One of the most interesting, least blowhardish, coolest people I have ever known.


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  10. Ann said on February 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    It was Bob Greene that originally led me (albeit very indirectly) to your blog and it’s always a delight to see you taking him on yet once again. More fun even than Mitch Albom. Keep up the snark!

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  11. brian stouder said on February 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    An interesting reporter, indeed. I loved the part where he immediately knew what was going down in the Dallas police station in 1963, and ran to where he knew the action would head. Definitely ‘the real deal’.

    A quibble for Nance –

    Because there’s no incumbent? That happens every eight years.

    the last time an entire presidential election cycle went off without any incumbent president or vice president in the contest was……1928.

    Even if we go to 1952, since HST got blown out at the get-go, and Alben Barkley (his VP) was disowned by the unions and folded his effort – still! – that was 56 years ago!!

    By way of saying, this presidential election really is our ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ anything-can-happen race; a humdinger that every subesequent election we experience will be compared to (and unfavorably, at that).

    I don’t think any of us will live to see another like this one

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  12. LAMary said on February 4, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Another interesting Gladwin Hill fact: when the case was being made against Clifford Irving, regarding his fake Howard Hughes biography, Glad was the person who verified that the voice on the phone denying any deal had been made with Irving was indeed Howard Hughes. He knew Howard Hughes well enough to do that.

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  13. nancy said on February 4, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    the last time an entire presidential election cycle went off without any incumbent president or vice president in the contest was……1928.

    I wasn’t counting veeps, Brian. By my recollection, the last no-incumbent race we had was in 2000. But I see what you’re saying, and yes, this year is unusual.

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  14. brian stouder said on February 4, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    well indeed – it was only a ‘quibble’!

    Say – Mary – isn’t this article about John Ritter’s widdow an outrage?


    She’s going to court again, for $60,000,000 – and she’s already collected “…more than $14 million in previous settlements, including $9.4 million from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Ca., where Ritter died.

    This cannot possibly be right

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  15. Danny said on February 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Speaking of health care, Hillary had to brush back a single tear today. It is well known that her tears can cure cancer.

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  16. LAMary said on February 4, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Brian, no one here who would know how much the settlement was talks about it. It’s the forbidden subject.

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  17. nancy said on February 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Danny: Snork.

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  18. brian stouder said on February 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    HRC has miracle tears, but Obama has the young God Father, Robert DeNiro. When the Heat is coming around the corner, I would want the Raging Bull warming up the Taxi like a Good Fellow for me

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  19. Sue said on February 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    No, no, no, Danny! It’s not Hillary’s tears that cure cancer, it’s Chuck Norris’s, and he’s with Huckabee! It is getting hard to tell which miraculous behavior is connected with which candidate, that’s for sure, or which one wears the magic underwear. Which one is the water-into-wine candidate, can anyone remember?

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  20. Danny said on February 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Brian, next we want a limerick.

    And then, a Haiku.

    Only then will your devotion be complete, young jedi.

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  21. Danny said on February 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I’ll get the ball rolling.

    Weepy eyed lady
    Impossible to defeat
    For young Obama

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  22. brian stouder said on February 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    for the haiku –

    Who likes Obama?
    Oprah and DeNiro do.
    Good enough for me!

    and for the limmerick –

    Barrack Obama stands six feet-two;
    and his stature leaves Hillary blue;
    Because try as she might,
    She can’t match his height,
    but she’s still tall for a shrew!

    No No No!! – skip that last line (couldn’t resist the easy joke)

    For the closer, how’s about

    but her husband will bite and chew

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  23. Danny said on February 4, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Heehaw! I like both limmericks.

    Obama is young
    But oh the cut of his jib
    Genuine, honest

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  24. Danny said on February 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    And a lovely Haiku from the conservative base to McCain:

    Hey, Curmudgeon
    Septagenerian loon
    You are liberal

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  25. Danny said on February 4, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    but her husband will bite and chew

    Or…and would interns be safe from you-know-who?

    Ba-dum-bah. You’ve been a lovely audience! I’ll be here all week.

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  26. del said on February 4, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Sue, that’s what I was gonna say about Chuck Norris’s tears. For fun check out http://www.chucknorrisfacts.com/

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  27. Dorothy said on February 4, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    The Chuck Norris facts slay me every time, especially when my son delivers them in rat-tat-tat fashion.

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  28. joodyb said on February 4, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    HA! thanks, d & d, for the chuck norris facts! made my day!

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  29. michael heaton said on February 4, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    from your first sentence i was thinking, she’s going for the roadkill rug. like a heat-seeking missile. she has to. you did. I was vindicated. Is he still wearing that thing? did he at least lose the chin strap?

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  30. Jeff said on February 4, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Campaigning leaves rough
    ragged voices, promises
    equally threadbare

    We all saw a surge
    of candidates who promised
    the moon and some stars

    Voting is a right
    while each vote a privilege
    perhaps to be wrong

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  31. Jeff said on February 4, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Chuck Norris’ tears
    are rarely seen, still valued
    far beyond their worth

    Hillary’s got tears
    not seen during impeachment
    held back until now

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  32. Kirk said on February 5, 2008 at 8:27 am

    I’m guessing that your brother had the Patriots and was giving 13 points. I doubt anyone was dumb enough to give him the Patriots and points.

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  33. nancy said on February 5, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Yep. That was indeed the figure. Sorry for the mixup. I’m not a gambler.

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