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Reading Between the Lines

October 10, 2014

Two recent articles provide great examples of writing that say more between the lines than in the lead.

The New York Times reviewed Governor Cuomo’s new book. Reporters Sue Craig and Tom Kaplan were polite enough, but it was clear they didn’t think much of the work. In fact, what comes through in their review is that the book is too self-serving and often trite. The quotes they lifted from the book make that clear.

Now it’s possible that Craig and Kaplan were being a little mischievous here.  Out of 500-plus pages, there’s sure to be an awkward passage or two.  Maybe they picked the clunkers, and maybe they did so to mess with Cuomo on some level.

It is possible that the balance of the book is well-written and insightful. It’s possible that the book explains the logic and consistency of new Cuomo-ism in a way that will resonate nationally.

And then again, everyone has always known Andrew wasn’t given to the same level of introspection and reflection as his father.  Everyone knows that he’s a transactional guy focused on getting quick results. Everyone knows that in his public comments, especially with regard to accomplishments, can be over the top at times. Given these facts, it simply wasn’t likely that he’d sit down with pen and paper and be Jeffersonian.

Actually, this book was probably written by committee of people who are long-time Cuomo associates.  That would explain why the quotes aren’t in his voice. It could also explain the rah-rah tone. These are people who walk around with lapel pins that say: “I work for the people.”

We can imagine Cuomo complaining about the Craig and Kaplan piece, but he might have caught a break here. If the Times had given the book to its legendarily harsh reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, it’s entirely possible that she would have found it sorely lacking in terms of its prose and intellectual depth. She would have said so in brutal fashion. That wouldn’t have done much for sales, or for his image nationally.

The other article is by Jimmy Vielkind. It’s a great piece, required reading, about Howie Hawkins.

Jimmy captures appealing aspects of Mr. Hawkins’ personality, while also letting people know a few things, including the fact that Howie is a socialist.  Don’t get us wrong, we’re not alarmed by that concept. He’s entitled.

It’s just that Howie is a mish-mash of ideologies and philosophies and populist sentiments. And whereas Andrew Cuomo may have trouble explaining and reconciling his overall governing approach, Howie has trouble talking about simpler things, such as his upbringing.

In this regard, Jimmy includes a long, rambling quote from Howie about his youth. The quote shows that Howie is rather … well … non-linear.

Was Jimmy saying something between the lines in his selection of quotes? Yes and no.

The rationale for writing the piece was to bring a minimum level of scrutiny to a candidate on the ballot who might get ten percent of the vote.

Was Jimmy going to clean up his quotes? Or was he going to pick a quote that would have portrayed Hawkins as being conventional?  No to both, and that’s to Jimmy’s credit. It was an accurate portrayal of the man. We have no doubt of that.

Ironically, the fact that the unvarnished Hawkins has been revealed probably won’t change his level of support. That’s because nobody is voting for him to lead the state.  They are voting for him to send a message to Cuomo, just like they did with Zephyr Teachout.  No need to read between the lines on that.

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