Rachel Swarns is a bit harshly reductive in her take on anti-illegal immigrant House Republicans in her Wednesday reflection billed as a “news analysis,” “Split Over Immigration Reflects Nation’s Struggle.”
“It is almost as if they are looking at two different Americas.
“The Senate Republicans who voted on Monday to legalize the nation's illegal immigrants look at the waves of immigration reshaping this country and see a powerful work force, millions of potential voters and future Americans.
“The House Republicans who backed tough border security legislation in December look at the same group of people and see a flood of invaders and lawbreakers who threaten national security and American jobs and culture.”
There’s some odd wording in Pentagon reporter Thom Shanker’s short piece Tuesday on an unusual ceremony in a Pennsylvania meadow.
“Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gazed across a rolling meadow on Monday, its grass yellow in late winter's grip, and toward the stand of hemlock trees marking the area where Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. He then bent and wordlessly placed a medallion at the base of a temporary memorial here.
“Known as the defense secretary's ‘coin,’ the medallion is an elaborately pressed memento that Mr. Rumsfeld hands out to troops he meets in combat zones overseas.
“His visit was his first to the site where passengers of Flight 93 overpowered their hijackers and sent an airliner crashing into the countryside instead of its intended target, the Capitol in Washington. His gesture was intended to link that event, through the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, to the wars started by the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
It’s a tale of two presidential campaigns on page A26 of Sunday’s New York Times.
At the top of the page, Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s “Testing Presidential Waters As Race at Home Heats Up” follows Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen around the state in preparation to running for a second term -- and possibly for president in 2008.
The text box emphasizes Allen’s conservatism:
“A Republican faces the delicate task of tacking right without alienating his base.” Stolberg also references Allen’s “conservative voting record” and the fact that “Fiscal conservatives seem to like him, but social conservatives are uneasy.”
She also notes that 2006 “is looking up for Democrats” and that Allen’s “re-election bid just got tougher than he expected” when James Webb, a Navy secretary under Reagan, got into the Democratic primary.
On March 11, the Times fronted an interviewed with what it claimed was the infamous "hooded inmate" from Abu Ghraib prison. But Ali Shalal Qaissi, the man they interviewed and pictured on the front page, was not the man in the now-iconic photo, as the Times explained in the March 18 edition.
Donna Fenton, whose alleged struggles with the FEMA bureaucracy were the subject of a sympathetic (and in retrospect, extremely gullible) March 8 profile by reporter Nicholas Confessore, was not the victim of Hurricane Katrina that she claimed to be. Yesterday she was arrested for fraud and grand larceny. The editors' note in the corrections box of the Times explains:
Hillary-hailing reporter Raymond Hernandez makes the front page of Thursday’s Metro section with a story that isn’t about Hillary but nonetheless helps Sen. Clinton reelection campaign -- an expose of her Republican opponent K.T. McFarland (“Questions Arise About Resume Of Challenger To Clinton”).
“When Kathleen Troia McFarland stepped forward as a Republican challenger to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, she was a relatively obscure figure with two intriguing claims to fame: She had worked on President Ronald Reagan's ‘Star Wars’ speech and had been the highest-ranking woman at the Reagan Pentagon.”
The Times leads Wednesday with Elisabeth Bumiller’s take on Bush’s lively White House press conference, which the Times headlines “Bush Concedes Iraq War Erodes Political Status.”
“President Bush said Tuesday that the war in Iraq was eroding his political capital, his starkest admission yet about the costs of the conflict to his presidency, and suggested that American forces would remain in the country until at least 2009. In a quick remark at a White House news conference about the reserves of political strength he earned in his 2004 re-election victory -- ‘I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war’ -- Mr. Bush in effect acknowledged that until he could convince increasingly skeptical Americans that the United States was winning the war, Iraq would overshadow everything he did.”
“Some diplomats suggest that if Hamas supports a moribund 2002 Saudi peace initiative, it will somehow ‘recognize’ Israel without having to say so; some suggest that a Hamas offer of another cease-fire may be enough to ‘forswear violence.’ But so far, Hamas is not playing along. It sees the agreements with Israel as a honey trap and recognition of Israel as impossible. In the meantime, Hamas is working on the heartstrings and sense of justice of the West, to keep aid flowing. Hamas's victory also signaled the death of the ‘peace process’ as it has been practiced.”
As Tim Graham noted this weekend, the Times "messed up in its attempt at yet another juicy Abu Ghraib story."
Reporter Hassan Fattah’s interview with Ali Shalal Qaissi, who claimed to be the subject of an infamous Abu Ghraib photo, made the front page of the March 11 Times, complete with a picture of Qaissi holding a photograph of “himself” -- that archetypal image of a hooded man standing on a box attached to wires.
The headline trumpeted: "Symbol of Abu Ghraib Seeks to Spare Others His Nightmare."
“Mr. Qaissi, 43, was prisoner 151716 of Cellblock 1A. The picture of him standing hooded atop a cardboard box, attached to electrical wires with his arms stretched wide in an eerily prophetic pose, became the indelible symbol of the torture at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.”
A new book by veteran New York Times economics reporter Louis Uchitelle calls for a doubling of the minimum wage. “The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences" goes on sale next week, but judging by the early reviews and official description, it will be faithful to Uchitelle’s liberal reporting on economics and business:
“The award-winning New York Times economics writer Louis Uchitelle explains how, in the mid-1970s, the first major layoffs, initiated as a limited response to the inroads of foreign competition, spread and multiplied, in time destroying the notion of job security and the dignity of work.”
....unless it involves feminists protesting Augusta National Golf Club, of course.
New York Times sportswriter Jack Curry is covering the World Baseball Classic in San Juan, and the highlight of the day didn’t happen on the field between Cuba and the Dominican Republic, he explains in Tuesday’s “Politics Intrude, Again, and Cubans Falter, Again.”
“As the Cuban baseball team prepared to bat in the fourth inning Monday, 10 fans in Section 2, Row P, stood in unison behind the plate and removed their shirts. Underneath, all 10 wore white T-shirts, and each one bore a red letter. The T-shirts spelled out A-B-A-J-O F-I-D-E-L, which translated means ‘Down With Fidel.’
The New York Times Sunday magazine examines Democratic aspirations to take back the House and Senate this year in liberal contributing writer James Traub’s “Party Like It’s 1994.” But 12 years after the fact, the Times and Traub still see the 1994 watershed through the conventional liberal wisdom of the time, as an anti-incumbent blast of anger that didn’t augur a nationwide shift to conservatism.
“Nineteen ninety-four was arguably the most consequential nonpresidential election of the 20th century. The Republicans shocked political professionals, including President Bill Clinton, by gaining 52 seats in the House, giving them a majority there for the first time in 40 years. (They picked up eight seats in the Senate to wrest control there as well.) What immense forces suddenly burst through the earth's crust that fall? Anger, for one. Pollsters found an electorate utterly disgusted with politics and politicians. In 1992, 80 percent of poll respondents said they believed that government favored the rich and powerful, while two-thirds agreed that ‘quite a few’ national politicians were corrupt. Neither party had anything like a Jack Abramoff scandal; but the sense of drift, of futility, was very deep.”
A new law in South Dakota outlawing most abortions is the apparent trigger for Friday’s laudatory New York Times “Public Lives” profile by Robin Finn of new Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards (“Anti-Abortion Advocates? Bring ‘Em On, Texan Says”).
Adhering to common practice for the liberally slanted “Public Lives,” Finn portrays Richards as a heroine battling ruthless and vindictive forces.
Is only positive news about American Muslims fit to highlight?
After issuing this week a massive three-part series with a glowing portrait of the imam of a Brooklyn mosque (while glossing over his sympathies for the terrorist group Hamas), Wednesday's Times buries on page 18 attempted murder by a radical Islamist looking for revenge against Americans.
Brenda Goodman’s “Defendant Offers Details Of Jeep Attack at University,” details what happened on the campus of the University of North Carolina but, like the headline, leaves off some pertinent data.
“Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in Its Public Relations Campaign," by Michael Barbaro in Tuesday's New York Times, concerns the discount giant feeding newsbits to bloggers to help its public relations. It tops Tuesday’s business pages, complete with the banner of a pro-Wal-Mart blog that's Barbaro’s main target. Yet Barbaro himself cowrote a story last month based on tips from an anti-Wal-Mart website.
“Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
The editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine used an AP story on Bush allegedly being warned about levees being breached in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina touched down as a jumping off point to seethe with wrath against Bush, calling him stupid and a liar and his conservative supporters “sociopaths.”
The next day, the AP story was “clarified” in a way that completely undermined both its and editor Michael Tomasky’s point.
(Update: A reprint of Tomasky's piece tops CBS's Opinion page today, which is even less excusable, given that the underlying AP story was knocked down two days ago.)
Have a great weekend, Democrats: Sen. Hillary Clinton has a “widely respected record,” Republican “attacks” are backfiring, and she’s still no liberal.
Friday’s front page is dominated by Patrick Healy’s “Clinton Challenger Pulled From Reagan-Era Hat,” on the newest Republican candidate challenging Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Senate this year.
Sen. Clinton’s opponent, whoever it turns out to be, is in for an uphill battle. But the Times doesn’t give Kathleen T. McFarland any shot at all (check out that dismissive headline, which seethes with a sense of Republican flop-sweat). Her name isn’t even mentioned until the fifth paragraph.
What issue will doom Congressional Republicans in 2006? In February, it was Abramoff, while the month of March is shaping up as the UAE ports controversy.
This morning, the Times once again insists that the Republicans will face trouble in the 2006 elections. Last month it was ethics scandals and Jack Abramoff. This month’s Times-selected Republican killer is shaping up to be the ports deal with United Arab Emirates.
A story by Carl Hulse and Scott Shane, “Doubts Back Home Fuel G.O.P. Worries About Ports Deal,” drives that idea hard.
“Senator Jon Kyl, a staunch supporter of President Bush who faces a potentially difficult re-election fight this year, is hearing a lot from constituents in Arizona about the plan to allow a Dubai company to operate shipping terminals at Eastern ports. Most think the deal should be stopped.”
Or, to be accurate, the “right-wing bias” that the Los Angeles Times apparently held before the “provincial” paper moved to the left and garnered “respect.”
NY Times Obituary writer Jonathan Kandell remembers Los Angeles Times Publisher Otis Chandler in Tuesday's edition.
“Otis Chandler, who inherited The Los Angeles Times from his parents and then, as its publisher, transformed it into one of the most respected, widely read and profitable newspapers in the United States, died yesterday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 78 years old.”
Kandell discovers political bias in the media, as Chandler guided the paper from "right-wing bias" to respectability.
Last Wednesday, sports columnist Harvey Araton wrote about the Olympian feud between U.S. speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, with Hedrick starring as Bush and Davis as John Kerry:
“…at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”
Araton, of course, took Davis’s side.
Araton, who posts his email address with his column, relies on an unexpected surge in reader feedback to fill his Saturday follow-up on the Hedrick-Davis imbroglio.
Sports columnist Harvey Araton ventured onto thin ice with an anti-Bush metaphor on Wednesday while relaying the simmering feud between Olympic speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis:
“And at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”
To translate Araton's esoteric comparison: Hedrick is President Bush (they both hail from Texas, you see), and Davis is a stand-in for John Kerry, unfairly attacked by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. We think.
The Times finds the burgeoning property rights movement (set in motion by the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo vs. New London upholding a broad interpretation of eminent domain) worthy of a Tuesday front-page story by John Broder, “States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes.”
That negative headline reads as if the paper takes for granted that overturning property rights is something a government has a right to do, a “right” that’s now at risk of being “curbed.”
As Matt Welch noted in Reason Magazine after the eminent domain decision was handed down, the Times editorial page was one of the few and definitely the most enthusiastic supporters of the 5-4 decision upholding a Connecticut town’s right to condemn private homes to make way for private development. The chilly title of the Times editorial: “The Limits of Property Rights.”
The front page of the Times Sunday Business section is dominated by reporter Landon Thomas Jr.’s profile of conspiracy-mongering author John Perkins (“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man).”
In “Confessing to the Converted -- How a Book Tries to Tap Into Fears of ‘Corporatocracy,” Thomas begins:
“It is standing room only in Transitions, a New Age bookstore in Chicago, and John M. Perkins, the author of ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,’ is describing to his audience the quandary that faces Evo Morales, the recently elected president of Bolivia. Leaning low into the microphone, Mr. Perkins affects a deep conspiratorial whisper as he sets the scene for the imagined encounter between the new president and the representative of the multinational corporate interests Mr. Morales had vilified during his campaign.”
Last week, the New York Times haughtily washed its hands of the controversial Mohammad cartoons, saying it had no intention of printing them because it was the paper’s policy to avoid “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols.” (Though that didn't prevent the paper from running a photo of "The Virgin Mary" painting clotted with elephant dung). Besides, the editorial sniffed, “the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
But while the Times may have passed on defending free expression in order to avoid protests from Muslims, it’s apparently not concerned about stoking Muslim opinion against the United States and the war in Iraq, judging by its decision today to run a three-year-old photo of a prisoner at Abu Ghraib.
In David Sanger’s “Political Memo” for the New York Times on Wednesday, “Handling of Accident Creates Tension Between White House Staffs,” Sanger predictably uses the incident to symbolize what he sees as the unprecedented secrecy of Vice President Cheney.
“When the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, came to the press room just before 10 a.m. Tuesday and suggested he was wearing an orange tie to avoid a stray shot from Vice President Dick Cheney, it seemed to signal an effort to defuse the accidental-shooting story with a laugh.
“But by midday, it was clear that the staffs of the president and the vice president had failed to communicate. Just after arriving at work around 7:45 a.m., Mr. Cheney learned that the man he had shot, Harry M. Whittington, was about to undergo a medical procedure on his heart because his injuries were more serious than earlier believed, Mr. Cheney's spokeswoman said.
Former NY Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld lovingly profiles “staunch conservative” Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in a cover story for the Sunday magazine. If Hagel, a frequent critic of Bush and the Iraq war, does run for president in 2008, he may give media favorite Sen. John McCain a run for the cherished “maverick” label.
On the cover of the magazine, Hagel is called a “war-criticizing, anti-abortion, slash-the-deficit, multilateralist conservative.” In the table of contents, he’s “A war hero and staunch conservative.” (Incidentally, Sen. Hillary Clinton has never been called a “staunch liberal” in the Times.)
Lelyveld insists on Hagel’s strong conservatism in the text itself:
Lizette Alvarez reports from Denver Thursday on the Army’s drive to recruit more Hispanics in “With Charm and Enticements, Army Is Drawing Hispanic Recruits, and Criticism.”
She paints the drive in a negative light:
“In Denver and other cities where the Hispanic population is growing, recruiting Latinos has become one of the Army's top priorities. From 2001 to 2005, the number of Latino enlistments in the Army rose 26 percent, and in the military as a whole, the increase was 18 percent. The increase comes at a time when the Army is struggling to recruit new soldiers and when the enlistment of African-Americans, a group particularly disillusioned with the war in Iraq, has dropped off sharply, to 14.5 percent from 22.3 percent over the past four years.
But the Mohammad cartoons are “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols” and won’t be run by the paper.
Just yesterday, the Times wrote, in an editorial on the Danish cartoons of Mohammad, that “The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
Apparently the Arts pages didn’t get the memo, because it runs a photo of Chris Ofili’s dung-clotted “Holy Virgin Mary” painting in Wednesday’s Arts section story by Michael Kimmelman, who also calls the Danish cartoons “callous and feeble.”
Although the Times didn’t join the Philadelphia Inquirer in actually publishing the most controversial cartoon (Mohammad with a bomb for a turban), its tentative stand for free speech is nonetheless braver than the editorial page of the NYT Co.’s subsidiary paper, The Boston Globe.
One would hope and expect a liberal newspaper like the New York Times to have the meager virtue of consistency on matters of freedom of expression, particularly in defense of another newspaper. As the world now knows, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad last September, considered taboo (though not always recognized as such) by Muslims.
But Times reporter Craig Smith apparently found the cartoons themselves far more inflammatory than he did the actual rioting of Muslims burning embassies in Syria and Lebanon. Even the headline to his Sunday Week in Review story suggests the Danish newspaper's exercise of free speech was somehow irresponsible, likening it to pouring fuel on a flame: “Adding Newsprint to the Fire.”