FOR REALISM AND DIVERSITY IN LIBERAL JOURNALISM AND AT THE NEW YORK TIMES
“As one scandal after another unfolds,” ran a New York Times editorial at the start of an election year, “it is clear that (the) President…presides over one of the most corrupt administrations ever. Whether measured by the rank or the sheer numbers of officials who have come under ethical suspicion and criminal investigation, the amount of sleaze is awesome. Precise comparisons to the Grant, Harding and Nixon Administrations aren’t possible or necessary. The…Administration rivals them all for official lawlessness, contempt for law, and playing loose with the truth.”
The editorial, headlined “A Year of Shame,” rues a litany of power abuses: executive branch officials accused of perjury and not receiving their just punishment, an attorney general that refused to investigate administration wrongdoing, and a president that ordinary Americans believed was a liar. The piece concludes saying that “Americans surely want cleaner government,” and calls upon the candidates running for the presidency to turn the shame of the past into the redemption for the future.
One might think that the editorial was written in January of 2000, and referred to the administration of Bill Clinton, with Al Gore as vice president.
But in fact it was written in January of 1988, and referred to the administration of Ronald Reagan, with George Bush Sr. as vice president.
When one catalogues the reportage and editorials of The New York Times during the presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004, he or she cannot help but be struck by the absence of shame at the liberal elite’s ethical practices or the lack of genuine and lasting outrage at its abuses of power. Times reportage exhibits very poor eyesight when peering at liberal leaders’ transgressions, and editorials show very little heart for restraining their mendacity.
In 2004, in an article on September 20, the New York Times rehashed an unflattering portrait of George Bush’s National Guard service during 1972. “Portrait of George Bush in ’72: Unanchored in Turbulent Time” offered nothing new on Bush; its real purpose was to take the pressure off CBS News, which days earlier had tried to pass off forged documents critical of Bush’s service in the Texas National Guard.
“This year of inconsequence has grown increasingly consequential for President Bush,” the article stated as though the forged documents still might be real, “because of persistent, unanswered questions about his National Guard service – why he failed to take his pilot’s physical and whether he fulfilled his commitment to the Guard.”
A Times editorial on September 22 failed to call for the resignation of Dan Rather, and said the forgeries affair was only “hugely embarrassing” to CBS News.
On January 19, 2001, Mr. Clinton’s final day in office, the Times lead editorial concluded that “In spite of the disappointments and costly personal lapses of his presidency, Mr. Clinton said goodbye last night in the spirit in which many Americans can remember him, one of facing up to a world in turmoil and striving to ease hatreds abroad and at home.” The fleeting reference to the “disappointments and costly personal lapses” was as close as the editorial came to criticizing the President. Throughout the Clinton-Gore years, the tone and style of reportage and editorials was reflective of a butterball approach to journalism, one quite the opposite of that counseled by the great newsmen of the past. Joseph Pulitzer had written that:
“We are a democracy, and there is only one way to get a democracy on its feet in the matter of its individual, its social, its municipal, its state, its national conduct, and that is by keeping the public informed about what is going on. There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy. Get these things out in the open, describe them, attack them, ridicule them in the press, and sooner or later public opinion will sweep them away.”