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?)"
Pat Robertson is predictably lambasted in the New York Times for suggesting the U.S. "go ahead" and assassinate Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez
Reporter Laurie Goodstein opens with a loaded rundown of Robertson's greatest hits before getting to the newest controversy: "Pat Robertson, the conservative Christian broadcaster, has attracted attention over the ears for lambasting feminists, 'activist' judges, the United Nations and Disneyland."
She helpfully reminds us: "Mr. Robertson, who is 75, ran for president as a Republican in 1988. He has often used his show and the political advocacy group he founded, the Christian Coalition, to support President Bush."
Goodstein is trying to tie Robertson to Bush. But how close are they? A Google search of "Pat Robertson" and "Bush" finds that the story involving the two men that last interested the media was pre-election controversy between them over casualties in Iraq.
In an eyebrow-raiser, New York Times head editor Bill Keller writes a letter to his own paper, lambasting a recent Sunday Book Review by U.S. Court of Appeals judge and law professor Richard Posner, a catch-all review of several books positing media bias on both left and right (including a favorable nod to ''Weapons of Mass Distortion" by MRC President Brent Bozell).
Keller claims Posner's "market determinism" ignores the dynamics that make papers like his great, such as "the competitive gratification of being first to discover a buried story," which no doubt explains the Times' wall-to-wall-coverage of the Air America scandal (where it's been beaten locally by the New York Post, the New York Sun, and the New York Daily News).
Surprise: Barney Calame wakes up and smells the scandal at the left-wing radio network.
Yes, the Times ombudsman and loyal company man (who to date has made his predecessor Daniel Okrent look like a profile in courage) finally finds something to criticize his paper about in his latest web journal entry: The paper's almost nonexistent Air America coverage.
Calame admits: "Readers of The Times were poorly served by the paper's slowness to cover official investigations into questionable financial transactions involving Air America, the liberal radio network. The Times's first article on the investigations finally appeared last Friday after weeks of articles by other newspapers in New York and elsewhere. The Times's recent slowness stands in contrast to its flurry of articles about Air America in the spring of 2004, when the network was launched."
Calame makes the same points on double-standards in coverage that conservatives have made: "Yet The Times was silent as other publications reported that city and state investigators were looking into whether the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx had made improper loans of as much as $875,000 to Air America."
Two generally anti-Bush intelligence reporters, Eric Lichtblau and Philip Shenon, have important scoops in Wednesday's paper about anti-terrorist inaction on Clinton's watch. But will network news notice?
First up is Lichtblau's "State Dept. Says It Warned About bin Laden in 1996," buried on A12: "State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden's move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam 'well beyond the Middle East,' but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show."
Lichtblau explains: "The declassified documents, obtained by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to The New York Times, shed light on a murky and controversial chapter in Mr. bin Laden's history: his relocation from Sudan to Afghanistan as the Clinton administration was striving to understand the threat he posed and explore ways of confronting him. Before 1996, Mr. bin Laden was regarded more as a financier of terrorism than a mastermind. But the State Department assessment, which came a year before he publicly urged Muslims to attack the United States, indicated that officials suspected he was taking a more active role, including in the bombings in June 1996 that killed 19 members American soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia."
Safely tucked away on Page 2 of Monday's Business section is Katharine Seelye's "Editors Ponder How to Present a Broad Picture of Iraq," in which some newspaper editors admit they are hamstrung from covering good news in Iraq:
"Some editors expressed concern that a kind of bunker mentality was preventing reporters in Iraq from getting out and explaining the bigger picture beyond the daily death tolls." Associated Press Managing Editor Mike Silverman confesses something the Times and other media organizations have been reluctant to make: Their readership isn't getting the whole story about Iraq.
According to the AP's Silverman, "The main obstacle we face is the severe limitation on our movement and our ability to get out and report. It's very confining for our staff to go into Baghdad and have to spend most of their time on the fifth floor of the Palestine Hotel."
Current Washington Post Metro columnist (and former reporter) Marc Fisher was featured on a live chat last Thursday and was asked about the Post's participation in Freedom Walk, a September 11 rally for the troops sponsored by the Pentagon.
Fisher is apparently not a Clint Black fan: "The tone of the promotions for the event is, to use the technical term, yucky. If it's really supposed to honor the 9/11 dead, I don't see why you'd have a country concert on the Mall, and given the population and preferences of people who live in this region, the choice of country music is polarizing and bizarre."
Buried on page 3 of today's Metro section (and apparently absent from the national edition entirely) is the NYT's first whisper of the financial scandal at left-wing radio network Air America. The crack NYT staff got to the story less than three weeks after the New York Daily News first picked up on it July 26.
Not that the headline or subhead of the Times' story actually mention "Air America." Instead it reads: "Bronx Boys Club's Finances Investigated -- Officials Look Into Loans Made to a Liberal Radio Network." The two words "Air America" presumably couldn't fit into that 15-word space.
With a little nudge from the White House, Sheryl Gay Stolberg partially corrects her faulty story from yesterday on the John Roberts' nomination.
Congressional reporter Stolberg took quite a bit heat from Rush Limbaugh and others for letting liberal Sen. Rob Wyden of Oregon put words in Robert's mouth regarding the Terri Schiavo case. Stolberg's story on Wednesday let Wyden characterize a private discussion between he and Roberts about the congressional intervention to save the brain-damaged Florida woman, but didn't bother getting the other side's perspective.
Today Stolberg provides the other half of the conversation: "On Wednesday, Ed Gillespie, the chief White House lobbyist for Judge Roberts's Senate confirmation, sent a letter to The New York Times, saying that notes taken by a White House aide during the session reflected a different response: 'I am aware of court precedents which say Congress can overstep when it prescribes particular outcomes in particular cases.'"
Chutzpah defined, as the most influential newspaper in America criticizes the Bush administration for -- get this -- insufficiently publicizing Iraqi war heroes.
Damien Cave's Sunday piece "Missing in Action: The War Heroes" opens (italics added): "One soldier fought off scores of elite Iraqi troops in a fierce defense of his outnumbered Army unit, saving dozens of American lives before he himself was killed. Another soldier helped lead a team that killed 27 insurgents who had ambushed her convoy. And then there was the marine who, after being shot, managed to tuck an enemy grenade under his stomach to save the men in his unit, dying in the process. Their names are Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Sgt. Rafael Peralta. If you have never heard of them, even in a week when more than 20 marines were killed in Iraq by insurgents, that might be because the military, the White House and the culture at large have not publicized their actions with the zeal that was lavished on the heroes of World War I and World War II."
And just what might that "culture at large" consist of? Professor Cori Dauber has a lot to say about the hypocrisy of the Times: "It is beyond nerve for the New York Times to come along at this point in the war and publish a piece tsk-tsking the White House and the military for not publicizing these men and women sufficiently. I love that out, that it's 'the culture at large,' you know, 'the zeitgeist,' no names please. Well which media outlet is more important to defining the zeitgeist than any other? Which media outlet has 650 or so subscribers to its wire service? Which media outlet is read by every television producer in the country before they decide which stories are 'newsworthy?' How many articles did the Times run on Sgt. Smith? On Leigh Ann Hester? On Rafael Peralta I found none."
In her Monday White House Letter on Bush's long August vacations in Texas, White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller remembers a very special anniversary -- one so special that, as Slate's Mickey Kaus notes, only she and a few anti-Bush bloggers remember it:
"One reason for the activity might be the desire to be in purposeful motion on another anniversary of the now-infamous C.I.A. briefing that Mr. Bush received at the ranch on Aug. 6, 2001. That briefing, which informed the new president that the terrorist network Al Qaeda had maintained an active presence in the United States for years and could be preparing for hijackings here, created a political uproar when its contents were eventually made public."
Kaus writes: "Maybe I'm out of touch with the American people, but what I've seen on several recent trips to the 7-11 leads me to doubt that that the anniversary of the August 6, 2001 PDB is on everyone's lips, or anyone's lips, outside of a few diligent anti-Bush bloggers. And even they seem to be on vacation! Is this really a salient memory that that the Bush PR operation needed to counter (as opposed to the general perception that Bush spends an awful lot of time on vacation)? Or is Bumiller so in tune with the fine points of anti-Bush culture that she has mistaken it for reality?"
He goes on to say "it's as painful to read Bumiller trying to pretend to be chummily respectful of the Bushies while sniping passive-aggressively as it is to listen to...NPR anchors try to fake patriotic sincerity on July 4."
The Times also filed several misleading stories about the briefing last year, exaggerating its specificity and significance.
American freelance journalist Steven Vincent has become the first American journalist to be attacked and killed in the Iraq War.
Unlike many (most?) journos covering the war in Iraq, Vincent supported the invasion, calling it part of a much larger campaign against "Islamo-fascism."
Also, unlike many big-time journalists who report from the relative security of Baghdad's "Green Zone" (without mentioning those security precautions in their filings, leaving a false impression of gritty, down-in-the-trenches reporting), Vincent walked the streets of Basra for months, with a translator and without a bodyguard, gathering material for a book, a follow-up to In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq. His reporting from Iraq appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and National Review Online.
NRO's Katherine Lopez had this to say in her tribute: " We would not know about the good that men and women do -- courageous Iraqis, Americans, and other members of the Coalition in this case -- without good men like Steven Vincent willing to find out about it in the first place, on frontlines crawling with evildoers."
Last year Times Watch linked to a Vincent story from Iraq in which he employed his art-critic expertise to show how many Iraqi artists actually favored Saddam Hussein because the dictator kept the commissions rolling: "Because of the despot’s beneficence to artists--advocates of government arts funding, take note--support for the tyrant runs deep there."
NYT reporter Hassan Fattah touts a left-wing anti-war report on civilian casualties in Iraq, a Wednesday story topped with a headline that betrays none of the politicized controversy over the report. Instead the head lends the hodge-podge "report" (basically a collection of news clippings) a false sense of authority: "Civilian Toll in Iraq Is Placed at Nearly 25,000." As if it's the authorative word on the matter. Yet the researchers are affiliated with far-left outfits like Counterpunch and Peace UK (and, strangely, a lot of music departments all over England). Hardly a scholarly "report."