New York Times columnist Charles Blow has gotten more ill-humored about politics since the summer of 2009, when he happily opined that the GOP was doomed in the Northeast (this was less than six months before a Republican won the "Ted Kennedy" Senate seat in Massachusetts, after which Blow was considerably less happy with that geographical quadrant).
His Saturday column, "A Summer to Simmer," was full of ranting about the "callousness of conservatives" and their "unshakeable immunity to empathy."
This summer has the potential to be another turning point for the electorate, and it’s not necessarily pegged to the performance of the president. It may hinge largely on the callousness of conservatives and their seemingly inexorable desire to overplay their hand.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told President Obama on Friday that he shared his vision for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and then promptly listed a series of nonnegotiable conditions that have kept the two sides at an impasse for years.
But Brooks (or his copy editor) fell victim to the dreaded "damp squid"in his Friday column "The Big Society." The correct phrase is "damp squib," a Britishism for an event that fails to meet expectations.
The Big Society started in part as a political gadget, as a way to distinguish the current Conservatives from the more individualistic ethos of the Thatcher years. It has turned out to be something of a damp squid politically. Most voters have no idea what the phrase "Big Society" means. But, substantively, the legislative package has been a success. The British government is undergoing a fundamental transformation.
President Obama’s much-hyped speech Thursday on the Middle East called for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and endorsing Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for the negotiations. The New York Times’s lead story Thursday morning by Helene Cooper and Ethan Bronner, "Focus On Obama As Tensions Soar Across Mideast," set the table by sharpening the focus on Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s "unyielding" recalcitrance as the main "stumbling blocks" to negotiations.
Mr. Obama, who is set to address Americans -- and, more significantly, Muslims around the world -- from the State Department on Thursday morning, may yet have something surprising up his sleeve. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that would send an oratorical signal that the United States expected Israel to make concessions.
Times reporting from Jerusalem is often hostile toward the conservative security-conscious Netanyahu, while whitewashing the terrorist origin of the Palestinian militants of Hamas, and there were traces of that on Thursday’s report from Washington.
Gail Collins, the New York Times’s editorial page editor (2001-2007) turned feminist columnist, went on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show on Tuesday night to discuss the revelation that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger having a child with a long-time domestic servant. Although Schwarzenegger, the former bodybuilder and actor, hardly has a reputation as a social conservative, Collins nonetheless used him to tar the social right as hypocrites.
Maddow: But we’re sort of being confronted with the glass houses and throwing stones problem. I understand why people have glass houses. People fail. But why is throwing stones still part of, a main stream part of Republican politics?
COLLINS: Well, because there are people, a lot of people in the country who not only have very strong, you know, family values, but believe that somehow you can legislate them into other people`s families and they’re very powerful within the party. So, the poor Republican candidates, I must say, do get kind of stuck on this one because they toe this very rigid line about personal behavior when like most human beings, they’re failing to live up to it.
Senate Democrats failed to push through a proposal that would have deprived the five leading oil companies of tax breaks, New York Times reporter Carl Hulse reported Wednesday. Hulse’s headline writer, meanwhile, used the same ideologically loaded "big oil" terminology a liberal Democrat used in Hulse’s story: "Senate Refuses to End Tax Breaks for Big Oil."
The phrase "Big Oil," redolent of sophomoric liberals excoriating Republican greed, recurred deep into the story, from the mouth of a liberal Democratic senator.
New York Times political reporter Matt Bai still hasn’t forgotten the "overtly racist" Willie Horton ad and sees "a racial element" in just about every attack against President Obama, no matter what the issue. His latest "Political Times" column, "Race and Republican Attacks on Obama," posted online Tuesday, pivoted from Newt Gingrich’s latest press drubbing to the matter of racism and the G.O.P.
Newt Gingrich did his level best to appear level in his "Meet the Press" interview Sunday, maintaining a mostly subdued, thoughtful tone except for one telling moment -- when David Gregory, the host, asked him if his labeling of President Obama as the "food stamp president" might have racist connotations. "Oh, come on," the former House speaker huffed. "That’s bizarre." All he meant, Mr. Gingrich went on to explain, was that Mr. Obama’s policies would turn all of America into Detroit, which probably didn’t endear him to Eminem.
Bai turned virtually every attack hurled at Obama into a racially tinged assault.
Is there a racial element to some of the attacks on President Obama? It’s pretty hard to argue there isn’t, when a conservative writer like Dinesh D’Souza argues that Mr. Obama sees the world like an African nationalist (a theory Mr. Gingrich praised again in his interview Sunday), or when Donald J. Trump asserts that Mr. Obama isn’t smart enough to have gotten into Harvard or to have written his own books.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the downfall of the Soviet Union, the New York Times and other liberal media outlets often produced stories suggesting a bright side to the fallen dictatorships. The trend was notoriously encapsulated in a February 12, 1992 Times headline marking the release of the last political prisons of the Soviet era: "A Gulag Breeds Rage, Yes, but Also Serenity."
Similarly, the Times often latched on to the chaos of the Iraq war to suggest things had in at least some ways been better under the rulership of bloody dictator Saddam Hussein, responsible for the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of people, Kurds, Iranians, and Iraqis.
A late and particularly insensitive entry in the field came on Sunday, Michael Schmidt and Yasir Ghazi, "As Baghdad Erupts in Riot of Color, Calls to Tone It Down," suggesting that "Baghdad has weathered invasion, occupation, sectarian warfare and suicide bombers. But now it faces a new scourge: tastelessness."
Tuesday’s New York Times featured a rare excursion into print by Timothy Egan, liberal Times reporter turned leftist nytimes.com blogger, excoriating Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan and the "Tea Party political illiterates" as greed-heads for wanting to reform the bankrupt Medicare system: "The Need for Greed."
The bet was audacious from the beginning, and given the miserable, low-down tenor of contemporary politics, not unfathomable: Could you divide the country between greedy geezers and everyone else as a way to radically alter the social contract?
But in order for the Republican plan to turn Medicare, one of most popular government programs in history, into a much-diminished voucher system, the greed card had to work.
New York Times Washington reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg managed to write an entire story about the marital woes of potential Republican presidential candidates yet only vaguely glanced over President Bill Clinton, whose proven adultery and allegations of sexual harassment almost brought down his presidency and led to his impeachment.
A marital crisis in the thick of a campaign always requires an explanation. Thus did Hillary Rodham Clinton sit by her husband, Bill, for what seemed like an excruciating "60 Minutes" interview about his alleged infidelity -- an appearance that, in the eyes of many, helped save his 1992 presidential campaign (and foreshadowed unseemly aspects of his presidency).
Stolberg’s lead story for the Sunday Week in Review, "Marital Matters Of 2012," avoided the names "Paula Jones" and "Monica Lewinsky," but had plenty of details about Cheri Daniels, wife of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt. She also completely omitted the fascinating infidelities of 2004 vice presidential Democratic nominee, and 2008 contender, John Edwards.
With Sen. John McCain making conservative noises on illegal immigration, Lugar may be the best bet for the Times to foster its dream of a moderate (i.e. toothless) Republicanism to counter the Tea Party, one that accommodates Democrats and supports, as Lugar did, President Obama on issues like amnesty for illegals. In November 2010, Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer marked Lugar as a brave "maverick" who had refused to succumb to "hyper-partisanship and obduracy," like the rest of the G.O.P., presumably.
Strom focused mainly on the Koch brothers of the right, and an accompanying photo caption claimed that while David Koch gave to libertarian causes, the left-wing Soros merely "donated millions to other causes."
Big donors like David H. Koch and George Soros could owe taxes on their millions of dollars in contributions to nonprofit advocacy groups that are playing an increasing role in American politics.
"Whatever can Newt Gingrich be thinking? That’s the question a lot of political handicappers are asking now that Newt, as he is universally known in Washington, has decided to enter the 2012 campaign, with an announcement expected on Wednesday. Until recently, most of my colleagues assumed that the former speaker of the House, who flirted with running four years ago, was merely doing the same thing now, just to stay in the news. I mean, let’s be unsparing about this: Mr. Gingrich has never been elected to anything outside his old Congressional district in Georgia." – Political writer Matt Bai on former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich, May 11.
"If you were a kid in the Northeast during the 1980s, as I was, there is something awesome -- in the literal sense -- about sitting across a desk from Mario Cuomo, even if he now misplaces names and occasionally grasps for the point of an anecdote that has fluttered just out of reach. He was, at that time, the anti-Reagan, a powerful and resonant voice of dissent in the age of "Top Gun" and Alex P. Keaton. Cuomo, Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson were the three titans of the day who seemed to possess the defiance needed to rescue liberalism from obsolescence." – Bai in an April 10 Sunday Magazine profile of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
While Times stories involving conservative complaints are invariably overloaded with "conservative" labels, Goodnough included only one mention of the obvious ideological tilt of the opponents of Lockheed Martin, the military contractor proposing a clean energy project with the town. The leftists were balanced only by wishy-washy local officials and corporate boilerplate from a Lockheed spokesman.
The top half of the page was dominated by a picture of someone strumming a protest song on an acoustic guitar, and the Times also reprinted what looks like a pair of old-style woodcuts ("eye-catching") from a local artist comparing Lockheed Martin to both the Devil and the Trojan Horse.
Obama’s "deliberate, almost scholarly" approach to foreign policy may be obtaining mixed results at best, but New York Times reporter Mark Landler trumpeted the White House line that the killing of Osama bin Laden would enable Obama to "reset" American policy in the Arab world: "Obama Seeks Reset in Arab World – Speech Likely to Put Bin Laden’s Death in Context of Uprisings." After years of falsely deriding President Bush as an incurious cowboy set on "going it alone" in foreign policy, the Times finds Obama's "immersion" in liberal journo-think (like Times columnist Tom Friedman) a welcome sign of "scholarly" pragmatism.
For President Obama, the killing of Osama bin Laden is more than a milestone in America’s decade-long battle against terrorism. It is a chance to recast his response to the upheaval in the Arab world after a frustrating stretch in which the stalemate in Libya, the murky power struggle in Yemen and the brutal crackdown in Syria have dimmed the glow of the Egyptian revolution.
Speaker John Boehner will deliver the commencement address at the Catholic University of America on Saturday, inspiring a letter of protest from Catholic professors claiming the Republican budget resolution for 2012 "will hurt the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable, and that he therefore has failed to uphold basic Catholic moral teachings." New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein filed a respectful story that made the front of Thursday’s National section, "Critical Letter By Catholics Cites Boehner on Policies."
Yet when President Obama delivered the commencement address at Notre Dame in May 2009 amid protests that the preeminent Catholic university shouldn't be honoring a president who supports partial-birth abortion, the Times' response was snippy and dismissive. And abortion is a clear-cut issue for the Catholic Church in a way that budget levels for government welfare programs are not – even under Republican budget constraints, those programs are not going away.
Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican who grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Ohio [note: The initial online version read "devout Roman Catholic family"] is scheduled to give the commencement address on Saturday at the Catholic University of America in Washington, a prestigious setting in church circles for its affiliation with the nation’s bishops.
But now Mr. Boehner is coming in for a dose of the same kind of harsh criticism previously leveled at some Democrats -- including President Obama -- who have been honored by Catholic universities: the accusation that his policies violate basic teachings of the Catholic Church.
New York Times political writer Matt Bai’s "Political Memo" Wednesday was pretty hostile to the battle-scared Republican leader considering a 2012 run for president: "Gingrich’s Run Reflects His Sense of History." Bai led off by asking"Whatever can Newt Gingrich be thinking?" given that he "has never been elected to anything outside his old Congressional district in Georgia." (And, by the way, rose to Speaker of the House.)
But back on April 10 Bai confessed to being awestruck with his proximity to a liberal lion, former New York Gov. Cuomo: "...there is something awesome - in the literal sense - about sitting across a desk from Mario Cuomo."
Judging from his opening lines Wednesday, Bai was not nearly as impressed with the conservative Newt.
New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes was with the president in El Paso, Texas, inspiring Latino voters for his 2012 reelection by pushing Congress to hack a "path to citizenship for illegal immigrants." It’s a long shot in a Republican-controlled Congress, on an issue Obama did not press when the Democrats had big majorities in the House and Senate, but those points were buried in her 1,100-word story Wednesday, "In Border City Talk, Obama Urges G.O.P. to Help Overhaul Immigration Law."
President Obama came to this border city on Tuesday to argue that he is doing his part to crack down on illegal immigration, and that Republicans must now join him in overhauling the nation’s immigration laws for the millions of workers already here illegally.
Quirky liberal California Gov. Jerry Brown (elected to the post for the second time) was glorified in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine story by reporter Adam Nagourney in "Jerry Brown’s Last Stand."
Brown proceeded to answer the reporters’ questions with a display of self-confident humor and a command of facts, history and language that befits a man in the eighth decade of his life, as he likes to describe himself. The news conference ended, 22 minutes after it began, only when a reporter signaled the close with a clipped, "Thank you, governor." Brown wandered down the terminal, trailed by two television reporters who wanted to book him for studio interviews. One handed him a business card, which Brown slipped into his shirt pocket. When the governor arrived at his waiting car, he laid a garment bag straight and neat in the trunk and climbed into the passenger seat.
New York Rangers hockey player and team "enforcer" Sean Avery is speaking out in support of gay marriage in New York State as part of an ad series sponsored by the left-wing Human Rights Campaign. He was profiled in glowing terms in a New York Times news story by John Branch in Sunday's sports section, "In Rarity, a Player Speaks Out for Gay Rights." But how have the paper's columnists treated athletes who take conservative stands?
Until now, supporters have come mostly from the worlds of politics, entertainment, theater and fashion. One type of New York celebrity was conspicuously absent: the athlete.
Enter Rangers forward Sean Avery.
He recently recorded a video, becoming one of only a few active athletes in American team sports to voice support for gay rights, and is believed to be the first in New York to publicly advocate for same-sex marriage. No active male player in a major American team sport has declared his homosexuality, and homosexual slurs remain in use to insult opponents and officials.
Avery, a 31-year-old from Pickering, Ontario, has played nine seasons in the N.H.L. Known as a fashion-conscious, on-ice agitator, he has never been afraid of what others think of him.
Hulse pushed Democratic enthusiasm over the party's latest talking points attempting to place Republicans on the defensive, this time managing to find Democratic optimism in a story about high gas prices and the deficit, without sparing a word of blame against President Obama for either problem.
Democrats are targeting "the five largest and most profitable oil companies: BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips."
Michael Moore and others on the far left have taken to moral preening over the killing of Osama bin Laden, finding it unseemly to celebrate the death of a man that killed 3,000 American citizens. (Of course, people would have cheered if Osama had been merely captured and not killed.) Friday's New York Times story by Benedict Carey validated that left-wing trend under the headline "Celebrating a Death: Ugly, Maybe, but Only Human."
Some Americans celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden loudly, with chanting and frat-party revelry in the streets. Others were appalled -- not by the killing, but by the celebrations.
“It was appropriate to go after Bin Laden, just to try to cut the head off that serpent, but I don’t think it’s decent to celebrate a killing like that,” said George Horwitz, a retired meat cutter and Army veteran in Bynum, N.C.
Others were much more critical. “The worst kind of jingoistic hubris,” a University of Virginia student wrote in the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. In blogs and online forums, some people asked: Doesn’t taking revenge and glorying in it make us look just like the terrorists?
As the headline proves, the Times has made itself quite comfortable with using the loaded word "torture" to describe broad interrogation methods like water-boarding and sleep deprivation that inflict temporary physical panic but not permanent damage.
The killing of Osama bin Laden provoked a host of reactions from Americans: celebration, triumph, relief, closure and renewed grief. One reaction, however, was both cynical and disturbing: crowing by the apologists and practitioners of torture that Bin Laden’s death vindicated their immoral and illegal behavior after the Sept. 11 attacks.
President Bush received a short-term boost in a New York Times poll when Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003, his job approval rating rising to 58% from 50%, while the assassination of Osama bin Laden similarly benefitted President Obama in yesterday's NYT/CBS poll, 57% to 46%. Yet it was Obama who got the warmer initial greeting on the New York Times's front page.
Support for President Obama rose sharply after the killing of Osama bin Laden, with a majority now approving of his overall job performance, as well as his handling of foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The glow of national pride seemed to rise above partisan politics, as support for the president rose significantly among both Republicans and independents. In all, 57 percent said they now approved of the president’s job performance, up from 46 percent last month.
In Wednesday’s “Good Feeling Gone, In Congress, Anyway,“ New York Times reporters Jennifer Steinhauer and Carl Hulse suggested it was unseemly for Republicans to not accede to President Obama on domestic issues, after the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALS in Pakistan.
The article superficially appears to be an even-handed “pox on both houses“ story, but the text provided a tableaux of Democrats fuming over Republican actions or lack of same, as if Republicans had reacted to the unifying national moment of Obama’s capture with stubborn partisan obstruction. Two photo captions demonstrated Democrats seeing a "spirit of unity" dashed by the GOP:
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, complained about the “excessive regulation” of business.
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said he hoped a “spirit of unity” would prevail, but there was little sign of it Tuesday.
The New York Times quickly moved to quash suggestions that “enhanced interrogation” like waterboarding may have yielded useful intelligence in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Moving to protect the paper’s ideologicalinvestment that such methods are both brutal and ineffective was Wednesday’s front-page defense by Scott Shane and Charlie Savage, “Harsh Methods Of Questioning Debated Again.”
The reporters seems awfully assured, based on vague and contradictory information, in their attempt to discredit the idea that "brutal interrogations" (a phrase at the top of the article's first sentence) and "torture" like waterboarding may have yielded useful intelligence. They also ignored C.I.A. director Leon Panetta's admission to anchor Brian Williams on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News after the anchor asked him if waterboarding helped obtain information that led to bin Laden: "I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know-they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees."
Did brutal interrogations produce the crucial intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden?
Tuesday’s lead New York Times editorial thumped President Obama on the back for the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden, calling the president “a strong and measured leader.” In contrast, the two mentions of President Bush, who pursued Bin Laden aggressively, were both negative. The editors also tried to shoo away the pesky fact that the tip that led to Osama bin Laden’s killing came from a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, the island prison the paper has worked so hard to close down over the years, contradicting its own reporting in the process.
Leadership matters enormously, and President Obama has shown that he is a strong and measured leader. His declaration on Sunday night that “justice has been done” was devoid of triumphalism. His vow that the country will “remain vigilant at home and abroad” was an important reminder that the danger has not passed. His affirmation that the “United States is not and never will be at war with Islam” sent an essential message to the Muslim world, where hopes for democracy are rising but old hatreds, and leaders who exploit them, are still powerful.
Mr. Obama rightly affirmed that this country will be “relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies” — but “true to the values that make us who we are.” Maintaining that balance is never easy, and this administration has strayed, but not as often or as damagingly as the Bush team did. Much will be made of the fact that the original tip came from detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There is no evidence that good intelligence like this was the result of secret detentions or abuse and torture. Everything suggests the opposite.
The problem is more than perception. As Julia Seymour of the Business and Media Institute reported, on April 25 the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline hit $3.86, less than 25 cents away from the record high price of gasoline set in July 2008.
Congress returns next week to a flaring brawl over oil industry profits and tax breaks, with both parties hoping to capitalize on growing public ire at high gasoline prices.
"When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right," President Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday. But in the Republican response, Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma countered: "For more than two years, his administration has knowingly increased energy prices by choking off new sources of traditional American energy and smothering our economy in new energy regulations.
The first argument related by Broder shrugged off the problem, saying the rise in gas prices was simply a matter of supply and demand.
New York Times movie critics Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott spray the new crop of summer flicks with a dose of liberal guilt in Sunday’s “Gosh, Sweetie, That’s a Big Gun.” Dargis in particular just can’t be pleased with how women are portrayed by Hollywood. Three years ago she greeted the summer season with "Is There a Real Woman in This Multiplex?” On Sunday she lamented that the women on screen today are the wrong kind of women, criticizing a scene from "Meek's Cutoff" in embarrassing feminist/Freudian academic language, circa 1968: "I just don’t believe that scene where her character pulls out a rifle to protect the wagon train’s Indian prisoner -- or should I say when she takes possession of the symbolic phallus."
The introductory paragraph set the tone:
The summer season brings the usual cavalcade of testosterone-fueled action heroes, including Thor, the Green Lantern, Captain America and Conan the Barbarian. But action-movie derring-do is not always an exclusively male preserve, and in the last year some women and girls -- Evelyn Salt, Lisbeth Salander and the lingerie-clad avengers of “Sucker Punch,” among others -- have been shooting and not just clawing their way into macho territory. Is this empowerment or exploitation? Feminism or fetishism?