info 01.2.08

The Times Rubs Its Eyes

The Times ran an editorial on Monday (Looking at America) that began this way: "There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country," followed by a spin through the high crimes and low points of the Bush administration. The Times wrote, "[T]here is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked—how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed." It's a variation on Benjamin Franklin's point that "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." And that's a point that always bears repeating.

The editorial, however, would have been much improved in two ways. First, it should have run several years ago. Surely the Times can not be rubbing its eyes only now in disbelief at what has happened to our country, our Constitution, and our reputation around the world under this regime.

More troubling, though, is the Times' amnesia about its own role in failing its two crucial obligations of accuracy—embodied most egregiously in reporting by Judith Miller—and skepticism, a pervasive reluctance by the paper to examine the claims by the Bush administration in its rush to war.

Yes, the Times has previously, openly, even vigorously discussed these failures. But to look at what the world has come to in the past seven years without including the systemic failure of the mainstream press gives the impression that the Times would like what happened on 43rd Street to stay on 43rd Street. That impression is reinforced by the paper's decision to hire William Kristol as an editorial writer. No, it's not as appalling as hiring Karl Rove, which Time magazine has done. But it's another in a string of serious misjudgments by the Times that have us fearing not only that they just don't get it but that they may never get it back. Proof of this comes from Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal, quoted by Media Matters, who said he doesn't understand "this weird fear of opposing views."

That is a defense so disingenuous or so clueless as to be itself suggestive of a pathology. It's not an opposing view that's the problem. It's not simply that Kristol has been a narrow-minded proponent of the neocon viewpoint. It is that he has been so demonstrably, disastrously wrong in so many of his arguments and nearly as many of his assertions. Give us an opposing view, but not one so manifestly discredited here and around the world.

Moreover, some of us feel the country has been injured so grievously in the past seven years that being asked to listen to any of them—the captain, the team, or the cheerleaders—is an insufferable affront, particularly coming from a once-unassailable newspaper, reduced by the worst administration in the country's history to the role of enabler.


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