You can tell that this Bret guy never tried driving on the George Washington Bridge on rush hour

From the local paper:

“Pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a hater,” huh? OK, whatever you say, Bret. If that whole presidential run thing fails, maybe Christie has a shot at Secretary of Transportation.

In all seriousness, I guess the game in the takes industry nowadays is to hold the most ridiculous position possible and then just watch the clicks roll in. So maybe the columnist made that asinine statement just to get some notice. All publicity is good publicity, right? In which case, I played right into his hands . . .

P.S. Just to clarify, my objection to the above quote is that it’s ridiculous to refer to Christie as “Pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a hater,” given that he has a clear rep of being a non-pragmatic, incompetent, hater. I’m not saying you can’t make the argument that Christie is “pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a hater”; Chrstie’s done a lot of things, and I’m sure you can put together some occasions where he’s been pragmatic, some times he’s been competent, and some times when he’s not been a hater. But referring to Christie as “pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a hater” is at the very least a hot take, and so if you’re going to describe him that way, you’d want to supply some evidence for such a counterintuitive claim.

Also, I don’t really think that Bret was trolling for clicks when he gave the above quote. My best guess of what happened—a guess I base not on any knowledge of Bret but rather on my general impression of newspaper columnists—is that he writes what sounds good, not what’s factual. He started by wanting to say something nice about Christie, and he came up with “Pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a hater.” That sounds nice, so mission accomplished. Who cares if it makes any sense? It’s not like anyone’s reading these things for content.

15 thoughts on “You can tell that this Bret guy never tried driving on the George Washington Bridge on rush hour

  1. In my view, Andrew is being too esoteric–too upper West Side, NYC–when he writes,

    “Pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a huh? OK, whatever you say, Bret. If that whole presidential run thing fails, maybe Christie has a shot at Secretary of Transportation.”

    I wager that very few of his bloggers know about Christie who, in a fit of pique, closed the George Washington Bridge

    “It has been suggested that the lanes had been closed to cause the massive traffic problem for political reasons, and especially theorized that they were a retributive attack against Mayor of Fort Lee Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who had not supported Christie as a candidate in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election. The ensuing investigations centered on several of Christie’s appointees and staff, including[8][9] David Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed,[10] and Bill Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures were for a traffic study.[11]”

    Andrew failed to suggest that Christie should be in charge of the NJ shoreline

    “Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey provoked widespread ridicule as pictures emerged of him and his family sunning themselves on an empty beach that had been closed during the holiday weekend because of a state government shutdown.”

    The picture which accompanies this article is devastating to his chances for much of anything.

    • Paul:

      The article in question was about Christie and published in a New York newspaper so it doesn’t seem like too much to hope that the author would know something about the history of Christie regarding one of the major NYC traffic arteries. What’s the point of having a columnist who is so ignorant about the topic he’s writing about?

      • Of course he knew. Stephens has a long history of leaving messy details out of his arguments going back to his WSJ days. Five months ago the NYT was still deep into the denial stage, trying desperately to convince us (and, trying even more desperately to convince themselves) that Trump didn’t have a lock on the nomination.

  2. Favorite Brett Stephens fact: his grandmother was a painter who was married to the great avant-garde composer Conlon Nancarrow, who wrote super complex, mathematical music for player piano.

    There are so many great seat-of-the-pants, Brett-Stephens-type columns to be written about this connection … like, maybe Brett’s father was driven away from the left when the grandmother left Brett’s grandfather? Or, maybe Brett’s fact-free NYT columns are a twenty-first century form of avant-gardism, carrying on the family tradition! Who knows?

    • Dmitri:

      Wikipedia says that Nancarrow moved to New York City in 1947. So it seems likely that he drove on the George Washington Bridge. In which case, if he were alive today, I’m guessing he would disagree with the claim that the former governor was “Pragmatic, competent . . . most definitely not a hater.”

      Perhaps this will be the subject of a future NYT column.

      P.S. I went to youtube, searched Conlon Nancarrow, and listened to the first piece that appeared (“Conlon Nancarrow, Study for Player Piano No. 37”). I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t unpleasant either, so that’s something. Call me conventional, but I still prefer Stravinsky. Or Moondog.

        • OK, I googled 3a. It was ok but I found the Bang on a Can version (also there on youtube) to be far more listenable. I guess that makes sense, given that I also enjoyed their performance of Music for Airports which I listened to on CD awhile back.

          Maybe we’ve discussed this in other comment threads, but my whole approach to music listening has changed over the years, perhaps in the same way as many others. I used to listen to music and pay attention to it, whereas now almost always when I’m listening to music it’s as background. On one hand, this means that I’ll tolerate a lot more, because I can kinda tune out the boring parts. For example, a few months ago we were on a family car trip, and I played Elton John’s greatest hits. I was like, hey, Elton John, that’s always fun. Somebody else said, What is this boring music, anyway? And I realized, yeah, it’s pretty boring stuff, but I’d usually listen in the background and just hear the pleasant hooks.

          Now filter all the above through the important piece of information that I love listening to music but I can’t play music, I’m basically tone-deaf, and I have essentially no reconstructive memory of music. That is, I can recognize lots and lots of pieces of music, but I can’t hum more than about 4 bars of anything, even including pieces that I’m very familiar with.

  3. Does anyone read the opinion section expecting ‘content’ or anything other than hot takes? Especially the regular columnists. There’s no intent to inform like the rest of the paper, the only point is to watch the clicks roll in.

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