In a post primarily about opening paragraphs, it would be disingenuous to simply erase the original without explanation. It read [before this post was updated on June 6]:
I’ve never heard of Gary Hart, but he was recently published in the Huffington Post – joining such luminaries as (checking the website) James Franco, Nick Offerman, and Gilah Kletenik – so he must be kind of a big deal.
Turns out, I was right: Gary Hart is kind of a big deal.
When Hart declared his candidacy for President of the United States in 1987, he was an early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. But almost immediately, Hart found himself facing charges of infidelity. In an interview with The New York Times, Hart dared the media:
Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.
Five days and one photograph of the candidate aboard the yacht Monkey Business – with a nice piece of tail (oh, the irony) in his lap – later, Hart pulled out of the race (but, one imagines, not out of anything else).
I relate this story because Hart’s piece – Is Progress Possible? – reads like it was written by an intern (if you know what I mean) who didn’t pay attention in high school English (you’ll find out what I mean). In particular, the article’s opening paragraphs read like a parody of Michael Scott’s toast at Phyllis’ wedding (two choices: one, watch the clip,* two, cliff notes:** Michael Scott likes to try 3-4 opening lines):
Progress, according to Oxford, is: forward movement, advance, development, improvement; and progressive is: moving forward, proceeding step by step, rapid reform, modern, efficient. Not too bad in describing Emerson’s party of hope.
Everybody knows that dictionary definitions are the worst kind of cliche opening. Wait, that was Hart’s second paragraph? His first attempt was even worse:
He who controls the meaning of words defines the debate. George Orwell, among others, understood this very well.
This is a topic George Orwell wrote about. How is this in any way worse? Oh. Go on:
He who controls the meaning of words defines the debate. George Orwell, among others, understood this very well. ‘All animals are equal. Some are more equal than others,” for example.
I mean, Yes: George Orwell is your man. But if you’re looking for an example of ‘the meaning of words defines the debate’, you don’t go with Animal Farm. The example – literally, the archetypal example – just so happens to have also been created by Orwell, but it was newspeak, and it was in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Now you know what I meant about high school English.
His byline tells me that Gary Hart is the President of Hart International (haha, ‘Intern’ – admittedly, these jokes make more sense with Bill, but they were both Democrats who aspired to the Presidency and couldn’t keep it in their pants, so). I think we can all be thankful that Gary left the far superior name to Hart(zl).
That said, it’s only fair: Gary Hart did more thinking with his… other parts of his body than with his heart.
*Highly recommended – it’s not long, and it is Michael Scott
**Turns out they are ‘Cliffs Notes’; why does anyone trust a guy who can’t use an apostrophe?
Special thanks to Joan and Rachel’s mom for helping me get the story right