If any more proof was needed that former NBC reporter and now NYT columnist Bob Herbert was a reliable liberal, Herbert's Thursday's column shows he firmly believes in recycling. In "Truth-Telling on Race? Not in Bush's Fantasyland," Herbert recycles a column he wrote back on May 20, 1999. Of the 16 paragraphs of Herbert's "new" column, the middle part (nine graphs) are lifted almost verbatim from 1999. Using a front-page story from Wednesday as a hook, Herbert opens today's piece: "The Bush administration has punished a Justice Department official who dared to tell even a mild truth about racial profiling by law enforcement officers in this country. In 2001 President Bush selected Lawrence Greenfeld to head the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which tracks crime patterns and police tactics, among other things. But as Eric Lichtblau of The Times reported in a front-page article yesterday, Mr. Greenfeld is being demoted because he complained that senior political officials were seeking to play down newly compiled data about the aggressive treatment of black and Hispanic drivers by police officers. My first thought when I read the story was that burying the messenger who tells uncomfortable truths has always been a favorite tactic of this administration, which seems to exist largely in a world of fantasy. (Grown-ups don't do well in the Bush playtime environment. Remember Gen. Eric Shinseki? And former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill?)"Then he segues into his recycled stuff (without acknowledging his previous column): "My second thought was of a couple of stories from several years ago that dramatically illustrated the differences in the ways that white and black drivers can be treated."Herbert again dredges up the disparate treatment given at two police stops, one from 1998 involving Rachel Ondersma, then a high school senior in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and an earlier 1998 incident involving three black men and a Hispanic on the New Jersey turnpike. (The Clinton-era, oddly enough.)Herbert plagiarizes himself down to his lame attempt at humor:From 1999: "An officer cuffed the girl's hands behind her, put her in the back seat of a police cruiser and locked the doors, leaving her alone. What happened after that was captured on a video camera mounted inside the vehicle. And while it would eventually be shown on the Fox television program 'World's Wackiest Police Videos,' it was not funny."From 2005: "An officer cuffed Ms. Ondersma's hands behind her and left her alone in the back seat of a police cruiser. What happened after that was captured on a video camera mounted inside the vehicle. And while it would eventually be shown on the Fox television program 'World's Wackiest Police Videos,' it was not funny."In 2005 he writes: "As I watched the videotape, I was amazed at the way she was treated when she was pulled from the cruiser. The police did not seem particularly upset. They were not rough with her, and no one could be heard cursing." The van of minorities was fired at when it began rolling toward the police car. The explanation of the differing reactions, according to Herbert: Ondersma was white, the men in the van weren't.But surely realiable civil libertarian Herbert isn't really angry that a senior high school girl wasn't treated more roughly by the police?
Bob Herbert Recycles 1999 Column
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.