Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2000/ 11 Adar I, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I WONDER, increasingly, if my family lived outside of New York City and I weren't employed as a journalist, whether I'd read The New York Times. I don't think so. The daily's long regime as "the paper of record" is an ancient memory, even if its editors and publisher don't realize it. The Times' worldview is so distanced from reality, so disturbingly elite and prejudiced, that it's unnecessary reading for even the most inquisitive person. The words you consume in the Times, whether in news stories, editorials or op-ed columns, are written literally (Howell Raines and his gang) and figuratively (reporters like Frank Bruni, Richard Berke and Katharine Seelye) from an ivory tower so rarefied that they cause the stomach to rumble most unpleasantly.
The Times' extreme liberal bias is not simply a complaint confined to this writer. While the mainstream commentary and reporting on the 2000 presidential election has been generally atrocious, the Times, with a few exceptions such as reporter Don Van Natta Jr., has ceased to matter. The Washington Post, for example, at least makes a pretense of neutrality, even though it's certain they'll endorse Al Gore in the fall and vilify Republicans along the way. The Times, on the other hand, may as well be tied to the Clinton/Gore permanent campaign apparatus, their support of the administration has been that blatant. During its crusade to get Sen. John McCain on the New York primary ballot, Times editorialists casually referred to the state Republican election rules as "Soviet"-like. While I agree McCain and other challengers have every right to compete in a fair election, it's the Times itself that reads like a communist newspaper. And that's why its influence diminishes each year. Sure, they rack up Pulitzer prizes that are rigged in favor of bigfoot newspapers-probably because the judges come from those dailies-but that's fairly inconsequential.
Awards handed out by friends are bogus: after all, Billy Joel was inducted into Jann Wenner's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thus forever fouling that institution.
Let's get specific: When the Times' film reviewer job became vacant, I wonder why Frank Rich wasn't chosen to fill the slot. He's on the paper's payroll, probably with an enormous salary, and if he held forth on Leo DiCaprio's muscles or Susan Sarandon's latest blast of cinematic propaganda, that would be preferable to his essays every other week on the paper's editorial page.
Rich sees politics through the prism of Judaism, homosexuality, anti-Christian slurs and Hollywood. His Feb. 12 effort, headlined "Why Pick a Winner? There's Boy George," was another paean to Sen. McCain, although with a few twists. The befuddled writer is still on New Hampshire time, so his column opens with a vignette of Rich interviewing Warren Beatty as news of McCain's landslide was reported on television. Beatty told Rich that "John is a good man." Although Rich concedes that the media's "infatuation with [McCain is] so outrageously syrupy it threatens to toss the entire nation into insulin shock," he goes on to present his own theory on why the phony "outsider" has, at least until recently, dominated the political culture.
Rich wonders why his fellow liberals have fallen for McCain. It's certainly not his politics, the columnist explains, for the Arizona Senator is pro-life and voted to convict President Clinton last year on two articles of impeachment. The following sentence is an apt illustration of what McCain is allowed to get away with. "As one of Mr. McCain's closest advisers, the former Senator Warren Rudman, put it somewhat overzealously on the Imus show this week, to call Mr. McCain a liberal is 'like accusing Hitler of founding the B'nai B'rith.'"
Well. Little imagination is necessary to know that if one of Gov. Bush's advisers, say Karl Rove, made the same remark, it would've incensed not only Rich but become a three-day news story in the media at large.
But Rudman, indemnified by the Straight Talk Express, can utter the name Hitler without being branded an anti-Semite. Even by Rich.
Rich delves into the recent past by proclaiming that not only is McCain the un-Clinton, but he's also the "un-Kenneth Starr/un-Henry Hyde." And "He's the first major G.O.P. presidential candidate in years who is not running as a pious moral scold in hock to the religious right." A few facts: I don't know what Rich's definition of "years," is, but former President Bush was hardly in "hock" to the religious right. In fact, he battled Pat Robertson in 1988's primaries. And sure, Bob Dole, in '96, courted ultraconservative Republicans, just as George W. Bush and John McCain will do this year, but the Viagra spokesman is anything but "pious." That label is certainly more appropriate for Rich himself.
The Times hack goes on to excoriate Bush for being antigay ("[in] a time when gay couples can embrace on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' without prompting complaints to ABC"), trash his tax plan and, inexplicably, ridicule his decision to hire former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed as a consultant. Reed, while unrepentant about his past, leaves no doubt that he's a politician who's interested in electing Republicans; if McCain could've nabbed him, he would have.
Gary Bauer and Pat Buchanan were/are "hard-right" candidates; Gov. Bush is not. Yet Rich smugly concludes his delusional column with this thought: "Kamikaze thinking like this should make Gore partisans jubilant, for once again the hard right is in full froth, busily transforming a potential Republican victory into a lost cause."
It Never Ends
BUT I NEEDN'T dwell on Frank Rich as an example of New York Times idiocy when there's so much other fertile ground to weed. On-his-way-out op-ed columnist Anthony Lewis, who's dirtied the Times' pages from his perch in Boston for what seems like eons, is small-fry compared to pundits who are still taken seriously, but when your eyes do glaze over his words, probably written in script while in a coma, I suppose it's worthy of comment. On Feb. 12, Lewis took to congratulating the goofy syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington for joining the good fight, after a protracted tenure as a conservative commentator, which was immediately preceded by directing her clueless (and now ex-) husband's losing campaign for U.S. Senate from California in 1994.
Huffington has excused herself from reality for the foreseeable future, at least based on her columns. There was the endorsement of actor Warren Beatty for president last year, the liberal rants against Washington insiders (this, from a former hostess in DC, a third-rate Pamela Harriman) and recently a book, How to Overthrow the Government, that Lewis fairly slobbers over. I haven't read, and probably won't read, her book. But I do find some claims that Lewis cites fairly unbelievable. Such as "[M]ore children are homeless than at any time since the Great Depression."
Lewis doesn't back that up with any statistics, but instead applauds Huffington's new stance in favor of the absurd estate tax. (Funny how Great Depression analogies are in vogue this year: Al Gore, who has difficulty with the truth, recently boasted that the current, and sustained, economic boom was a result of Clinton/Gore policies, and rescued the country from the worst recession since you-know-when.)
Lewis is so under Huffington's trance that he actually has an unkind word about unions: "The power of money prevents economic and political reform. In California the prison guards' union is so powerful that even the most sensible criminal law reform is blocked-because the union wants more prisons and more prisoners."
Huffington's column of Feb. 10 demonstrates her knowledge of American politics. She's disturbed that presidential candidates attack each other, spend money on negative advertising and then coalesce when a winner's been chosen. She writes: "What adds to our sense that American politics has degenerated into a world devoid of integrity and truth is the fact that these changes of heart, when they come, occur without any explanation. It's as if politicians think the public has the mnemonic retention of a pot-smoking gnat."
I have no idea why so many newspapers carry Huffington's column, since her grasp of political history is astonishingly slight. Does she really believe that politicians just recently started to kiss and make up during their national conventions? Has she ever read any biographies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, two men who despised each other yet put on a front of unity? Or that FDR in '44 probably couldn't have picked Harry Truman out of a police lineup? Or that Ike wanted to dump Richard Nixon as his veep in '56? This is claptrap that occurs every four years: commentators then wail about the disappearance of truth in political campaigns.
Huffington, who's led many different lives, is a liberal/populist this
year. Anthony Lewis, who possesses an unimaginative mind and has no
business allowing his thoughts to be made public, has bought her shtick.
When his endorsement of Hillary Clinton is issued, he'll no doubt write,
and, more sadly, even believe, that she really wants to be a U.S.
senator to continue her 30 years of work on behalf of