George W. Bush at an NCAA college basketball game on Dec. 17 in Dallas. A piece in the New Yorker said Bush “is widely considered the worst President of the modern era.” (Brandon Wade/Associated Press)
By Barton Swaim January 1
Barton Swaim is author of “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics.”
When I was young, my friends and I would support our more improbable factual claims by following them with the words “ask anyone.” One of us would make a preposterous statement, another would say it wasn’t true, and the response would be something like: “Sure it is. Ask anyone.” In time, we would learn that the rules for corroborating assertions were more stringent and that disputable claims required either reasoned argument or reference to a reputable source.
Lately, though, I’ve wondered whether some journalists are relying too much on the “ask anyone” method of citation. Its more sophisticated form appears