Of all the redesigns of late, the Wall Street Journal’s hasn’t defaced the quality look of its predecessor. The beloved editorial page, however, even with wider columns, looks a bit bare without the rule bars that used to separate its entries. But the biggest shock is the disappearance of “Leisure & Arts” from the page immediately preceding the editorials. It’s been moved from the “A” section to the back of “D.” It’s as if the fellow you shared an office with had been transferred for good to the other end of the globe.
Why couldn’t it have been Al Hunt instead, who no doubt will be back in his usual spot tomorrow describing yet again how George W. Bush is about to implode. Last week’s Hunt column was a beaut, predicting a collapse in Bush’s high poll numbers comparable to Bush Sr.’s. But my favorite moment was this ageist comment by Al: “Septuagenarians Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat never will negotiate a peace” — as if a 40-year-old Arafat would have been a more likely Gandhi. Or as if Ronald Reagan at Reykjavik wasn’t the greatest septuagenarian since Eisenhower.
After predicting Democratic gains in this year’s elections, Hunt ends by making much of a “small indicator”: At the Baltimore Orioles’ opening game last week, President Bush appeared on the centerfield JumboTron to deliver a message. “The crowd,” Hunt says, “ignored him.” A few minutes later, however, it gave a “tremendous ovation” to Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, whose team that night would win the NCAA championship. Hope always springs eternal on opening day.
Incidentally, the Prowler tells the Grind that his sources who attended the Orioles opener detected lots of applause for Bush. The president wasn’t ignored — he just wasn’t on the verge of winning an NCAA crown for the home state.
So far as I can tell, Joshua Marshall, the successful liberal blogger, has never chided Hunt for his loose ways. But he does go after Robert Bartley, the Journal’s longtime editor, for his Clinton column of the other day. Marshall, a steely defender of Bill Clinton who it seemed had learned to hold his tongue, for a moment loses it completely. He calls Bartley “a notorious babbler of reaction” and his critical column on Clinton “a hash of condescension, hubris, and pitiful special pleading.” Yet he goes on reluctantly to agree with David Frum’s characterization of Bartley as probably “the single most powerful man in American journalism since the death of Walter Lippmann.” Later he even notes that Bartley’s important 1995 book, “Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again,” is “sadly-out-of-print.” That’s nicer than anything Hunt has ever written about Bartley — and Bartley is probably the one responsible for Hunt’s having a weekly column on the Journal’s edit page. Which only goes to show the Journal has been right to argue that welfare breeds resentment.