The New York Times continues to argue against spending cuts, no matter how silly or trivial the program may be. Reporter Adam Nagourney rode to the defense of Sen. Harry Reid’s beleaguered cowboy poets on Monday: “For Cowboy Poets, Unwelcome Spotlight In Battle Over Spending.” Reporting from the small Nevada town of Elko, Nagourney’s tone suggested critics who consider funding cowboy poetry a waste of tax money simply don’t know enough about the program.
This isolated town in the northeast Nevada mountains is known for gold mines, ranches, casinos, bordellos and J. M. Capriola, a destination store with two floors of saddles, boots, spurs and chaps. It is also the birthplace of the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a celebration of range song and poetry that draws thousands of cowboys and their fans every January and receives some money from the federal government.
That once-obscure gathering became a target in the budget battle a world away in Washington last week, employed by conservatives as a symbol of fiscal waste. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, a Democrat and the majority leader, invoked the event in arguing against Republican cuts in arts financing in the budget debate, setting off a conflagration of conservative scorn.
Bai talked to the elder Cuomo, whose son Andrew is governor of New York, at his office at a Midtown law firm. The profile begins with Cuomo in charmlessly pedantic mode, with a lecture on the precise meaning of the word “proud.” Bai admired him as one of the liberal “titans of the day.”
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.
In contrast, Bai’s reporting shows hostility toward conservative ideas and people, notably a July 18, 2010 story in which he conjured up a fiction of “hateful 25-year-olds” hurling racial slurs at Tea Party rallies.
Examine Calmes’s word choice: While she portrays Republican plans as involving a “shrinking of Medicare and Medicaid,” Obama “envisions a more comprehensive plan” that includes finding “savings in Medicare and Medicaid,” as if Obama was making a painless offer. Which phrase is more palatable to undecided voters nervous over the impact of budget cuts?
President Obama opened the week by calling on Democrats to embrace his re-election campaign. He closed it by praising Republicans for forging a compromise to cut spending this year and avert a government shutdown.
The juxtaposition made clearer than ever the more centrist governing style Mr. Obama has adopted since his party’s big losses in November and his recapture-the-middle strategy for winning a second term.
Actually, Zeleny has considered Obama centrist, or at least a “pragmatist,” from his first year in office, well before the 2010 election. Here's Zeleny on Obama the pragmatist in December 2009: “He delivered a mix of realism and idealism....he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.”
Coming from a writer for a magazine that pitches itself as liberalism for grownups, Chait’s argument is surprisingly unsophisticated and conspiratorial. Yet it was apparently pleasing enough to lead off this Sunday's edition of the newly revamped Times magazine.
The Republican Party’s presidential-nominating process has always been run by elites. Oh, the voters have their brief moments of triumph, hoisting up an unelectable right-winger (i.e., Pat Buchanan) or an uncontrollable moderate (John McCain, the circa-2000 version). But the establishment always wins. Meeting in their K Street offices and communicating through organs like George Will’s column and National Review, the main financers and organizers settle upon a useful frontman, a reliable vessel for the party’s agenda who -- and this is the crucial part -- is blessed with the requisite political talent. Democrats have been known to mess that last part up and nominate a dweeb, but Republicans have generally understood that an agenda tilted toward the desires of the powerful requires a skilled frontman who can pitch Middle America. Favorite character types include jocks, movie stars, folksy Texans and war heroes.
In New York Times-land, only Republicans can be ideologically motivated politicians. Michael Shear, chief writer for the paper’s political blog “The Caucus,” showed stark labeling disparity in two separate stories on the budget compromise averting a government shutdown, one focused on Democrats, the other on Republicans.
His Saturday morning post focused on Democratic disappointment about the budget deal: “Some Democrats Complain About Budget Compromise.” Yet of the six Democrats quoted (including President Obama) only one was ideologically labeled: “Representative George Miller of California, a veteran liberal member of Congress.” Neither labor secretary Robert Reich and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were called liberal.
In contrast, Shear’s pre-agreement Friday afternoon post, “Conservatives Urge Boehner to Cut a Budget Deal and Move On,” was full of ideological labels. Of the five Republicans Shear quoted, three were called “conservative” and two were called moderate, and the story opened with overuse of the C-word.
For days, the assumption has been that Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was dug into his hardened position on behalf of the conservatives in his House caucus and from socially conservative voices in the Republican Party.
GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who refuses to commit to Times-approved tax hikes, endured several stories from McKinley during his 2010 re-election battle cheering for his Democratic opponent. On Friday, McKinley again sounded more like an editorial writer than an objective reporter:
It is hard to overstate the budget-cutting furor that has gripped lawmakers in this capital, where the Republicans who control the Legislature and all statewide offices believe voters sent them an iron-clad mandate last year to shrink the size of government.
But the Texas government was already a relatively lean operation after years of conservative fiscal policies. So when the Texas House passed its budget bill last weekend, the depth of the cutbacks necessary for the Republican majority to stick to its promise of no new taxes became clearer. It was not a pretty picture.
So much for changing the tone. In the midst of the federal budget battle, Barack Obama raced up to Manhattan Wednesday night to pay tribute to the inflammatory race-baiter Rev. Al Sharpton, a clear effort to shore up the black vote as the 2012 presidential campaign kicks off in earnest. Yet New York City's biggest local paper, the New York Times, virtually ignored Obama's campaign stop alongside the controversial Reverend.
The Times’s rival dailies, the New York Post and the New York Daily News, both plastered large photos of President Obama with Sharpton on their covers, and ran stories inside that covered Obama paying tributes to Sharpton and his leftist organization, the Harlem-based National Action Network. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News.)
By contrast, Sharpton not only didn’t make the Times’s front page, the Obama-Sharpton appearance didn’t merit a single Times headline or photo. Sharpton’s very name was buried in the middle of a nine-paragraph story by Helene Cooper on page 16 of Thursday’s edition, with Cooper initially describing Obama’s speaking to “a mostly black audience.” The headline was equally opaque: “Obama Aims At Disparity in Education.” (Not that the Times is ever in any danger of insulting Sharpton by reminding its readers of his racially incendiary past.)
New York Times chief economics writer David Leonhardt argued against the deficit-reducing House Republican budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan in his Wednesday front-page Business Day column “A Lopsided Proposal for Medicare.” Instead, Leonhardt called for higher taxes on "affluent Americans"(his reasoning: All wealthy countries do it). It’s one of his favorite arguments for redistributing the wealth.
While admitting the Republican budget was “a daring one in many ways” he faulted it for not reforming Medicare, which he interestingly admits is a “welfare program,” since people generally get more out of it in care than what they paid into the program in taxes. Leonhardt again called for rationing health care in the name of cost control.
A fairer, more fiscally conservative plan would not postpone dealing with Medicare. It would leave in place the cost control measures in the health reform bill and go even further to reward the quality of care rather than the volume.Obviously, these steps would run some risk of restricting good treatments, too. But, remember, we’re facing “an existential threat.” We can’t limit ourselves to solutions without risks.
The ambitious, cost-trimming House Republican budget proposal put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan “is not going to become law anytime soon, if ever,” New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes assured us in her Wednesday “news analysis,” “A Conservative Vision, With Bipartisan Risks.” Yet it still “poses huge political risks for Republican candidates for Congress and for the White House in 2012.” A front-page, above-the-fold front-page photo teased the article, with the caption helpfully mentioning that Ryan’s budget “poses huge political risks for Republicans.”
Calmes, whose coverage is quite sympathetic to Obama’s fiscal priorities, especially his expensive “stimulus” package, immediately assured readers the conservative proposal didn’t have a snowball’s chance of becoming law:
The audacious long-term budget path that House Republicans outlined on Tuesday is not going to become law anytime soon, if ever. Senate Democrats and President Obama will see to that.
Even so, the plan rolled out by the Republican majority in the House figures to shake up this year’s already contentious budget debate as well as next year’s presidential politics. By its mix of deep cuts in taxes and domestic spending, and its shrinkage of the American safety net, the plan sets the conservative parameter of the debate over the nation’s budget priorities further to the right than at any time since the modern federal government began taking shape nearly eight decades ago.
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, newly minted war-monger. On March 24 the Iraq war dove claimed the U.S. was being welcomed as liberators in Libya. On Sunday he applauded what the column’s text box admitted was “our inconsistent intervention in Libya,” headlined with a bleeding-heart plea: “Is It Better to Save No One?” He even called for "aSWAT team of Libyans and coalition forces" to swoop down and seize Qaddafi for trial in The Hague.
Critics from left and right are jumping all over President Obama for his Libyan intervention, arguing that we don’t have an exit plan, that he hasn’t articulated a grand strategy, that our objectives are fuzzy, that Islamists could gain strength. And those critics are all right.
But let’s back up a moment and recognize a larger point: Mr. Obama and other world leaders did something truly extraordinary, wonderful and rare: they ordered a humanitarian intervention that saved thousands of lives and that even Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s closest aides seem to think will lead to his ouster.
Respectable economist turned partisan New York Times columnist Paul Krugman weighed in at his nytimes.com blog Tuesday morning on the ambitious budget proposal for Fiscal Year '12, released by the chairman of the House Budget Committee, the formerly flim-flam-sauce-drenched Rep. Paul Ryan.
In his post, headlined “The Threat Within,” Krugman at least held off the childish insults this time, perhaps because it backfired in his face back in August 2010, when the source he used in his column to “prove” Ryan was a flim-flammer acting in bad faith actually wrote a defense of him in response.
Krugman feared Obama would not sufficiently demagogue the issue like brave Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi did when Bush tried to save Social Security through a partial privatization in 2005.
For “Secrecy in Shreds,” his latest column for the New York Times’s Sunday magazine, Executive Editor Bill Keller conducted a surprisingly affable conversation with conservative journalist Gabriel Schoenfeld of Commentary magazine, who last year published “Necessary Secrets,” a book highly critical of Keller and the Times revealing details of and thus wrecking two successful terrorist-fighting programs -- the National Security Agency’s secret eavesdropping,, and SWIFT, a Treasury Department program that screened international banking records for suspicious activity.
Last year, Gabriel Schoenfeld, a veteran of the conservative magazine Commentary, published a book that explained how The New York Times could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. The book said a lot of other things too, but you’ll understand why that particular proposition stuck in my mind. At one point Schoenfeld conjured an image of authorities “frog-marching a shackled Bill Keller into court.”
If the New York Times isn’t a liberal newspaper, then why do so many humorless liberals complain when it makes a lighthearted detour off the P.C. reservation?
The retooled letters-to-the-editor page contains an amusing revelation of the delicate liberal sensitivities of the paper’s readership.
The Times flagged a variety of complaints about a feature in the previous issue, showing nine handguns for women, “purse pistols” that writer Chee Pearlman described as “flashier, more feminine and easier to pop into a handbag.” The outcry, according to the Times:
One might not think an 8.8% unemployment rate would be cause for swagger and celebration, but you couldn't tell that from the Times's headline and lead.
The United States economy showed signs of kicking into gear in March, adding 216,000 jobs and prompting President Obama to proclaim a corner finally turned.
The president and his fellow Democrats pointed to the latest jobs report on Friday, and to an unemployment rate that fell a touch to 8.8 percent, as evidence that their policies, like stimulus spending and the payroll tax cut, were working. All of this, they made clear, could become ammunition in their showdown with House Republicans, who have spoken of cutting deeply into the federal budget and have threatened a government shutdown.
An emboldened Mr. Obama spoke of the political implications before several hundred workers at a United Parcel Service shipping center in Landover, Md.
Alvarez’s story hyped the liberal compassion factor even more than a similar story in Wednesday’s Times, on a move in Michigan that will also trim state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20.
In the year [Richard Dudenhoeffer has been collecting unemployment checks in Flagler County, where joblessness remains stubbornly high, Mr. Dudenhoeffer, 61, has not even gotten his foot in the door, despite his almost daily efforts to find a job, any job. No interviews. No phone calls. No e-mails. No flicker of hope.
Not once did the Times forward an elementary piece of information -- the state’s $10 billion deficit. The word “deficit” did not appear in the story, although the emotionally laded word “pain” appeared three times, including in the headline. One had to look to local coverage for that basic piece of fiscal information. Instead, Kaplan went around soliciting sob stories, from school teachers, to prison guards, to NYC Mayor Bloomberg.
New York Times food writer Mark Bittman’s Thursday morning nytimes.com blog post on the end of his politically motivated four-day fast, “Stating the Obvious: Hunger Is a Disease,” is a followup to his bizarre left-wing rant on Wednesday’s op-ed page, where he claimed proposed spending cuts in the new House budget plan would “quite literally cause more people to starve to death, go to bed hungry or live more miserably than are doing so now.”
After describing the symptoms of his fast, Bittman, a best-selling cookbook author, cooking-show host, and continent-hopping gourmand who has made a very good living selling his wares to other privileged foodies, nonetheless attacked “unregulated capitalism and greed” as the cause of the world’s problems.
What causes the lack? Imprisonment, torture, being stranded on a desert island, anorexia, crop failure....and both a lack of aid and bad distribution of nutrients. Some (or much) of both of these last two stem from unregulated capitalism and greed. Bad distribution is causing roughly 15 percent of the world to be overweight and 15 percent of the world to be hungry. The amount of grain being fed to industrially raised livestock in the United States alone is enough to alleviate much if not all of world hunger.
Thursday’s front-page story by New York Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire, “Odd Alliance: Business Lobby And Tea Party.” accused a Tea Party group, the Institute for Liberty, of pushing the agenda of Asia Pulp & Paper, an Indonesian corporation fighting U.S. tariffs.
Whatever the merits of this particular complaint, this sort of prominently placed, hostile investigation of a conservative-friendly group is a specialty of McIntire’s. In a front-page article from September 2010 he went after the group Americans for Job Security, one of a flurry of McIntire exposes on the eve of the 2010 Congressional election cycle on groups with Tea Party ties.
His colleague Michael Luo went further, writing stories about “anonymous donors” trying to help Republicans “buy an election” and hinting the IRS and the Federal Election Commission should take a look at some of the Republican-friendly groups. By contrast, similar stories on Democratic groups were sporadic and belated.
McIntire’s latest story was accompanied by a fanciful flow chart showing the alleged close links between the Institute for Liberty, Frontiers of Freedom, and various other free-market lobbying firms and activist groups, headlined, “A Hidden Lobby For Indonesian Paper?” In Times land, there are no coincidences and everything is connected, at least when it comes to conservative activism.
The Tea Party does not have a presence in Indonesia, where the term evokes cups of orange pekoe and sweet cakes rather than angry citizens in “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirts.
Rampell’s word choice sent the message (perhaps unconsciously) that income isn’t earned through hard work or talent but is instead passively and undeservedly “received,” distributed by some nameless but powerful entity.
Typically, comments about rising inequality refer to the stark disparities in incomes of the very highest-paid Americans and everyone. We have observed in several posts, for example, that most of the income gains over the last few decades have gone to the very richest Americans. That means the highest-paid Americans have been claiming a larger and larger share of earnings.
Rampell even composed a chart “showing what percentage of all of America’s income (including capital gains) is going to each of several income classes, today versus previous years.”
In the past several weeks, events outside the United States have commanded as much of Mr. Obama’s attention as the nation’s domestic concerns. The upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa have provided a fresh reminder that the Oval Office is occupied by the nation’s commander in chief.
That alone might not be enough to displace the economy as the No. 1 issue for Mr. Obama. But as the president’s top advisers survey the field of potential Republican rivals in 2012, one other fact is glaring: Almost none of them have any serious foreign policy credentials.
Puritanical New York Times food writer Mark Bittman made a rare appearance on the op-ed page Wednesday to call attention to his latest liberal project: “Why We’re Fasting.”
Bittman, food columnist for the Times Sunday magazine, has also written news stories for the paper from his perch as resident food scold. He made the front page of the Sunday Week in Review in February 2010 with his nanny-state call to treat soda like cigarette smoking. The text box captured Bittman’s puritanical flavor: “To help dam the river of sugared drinks that Americans pour into ever-fatter bodies each year, some suggest a soda tax and warning labels.” His attack on meat-eating also made the front page of The Week in Review. On Wednesday he wrote:
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry.
More New York Times' s crusading against state spending cuts in Tuesday's edition. Reporter Michael Cooper’s “Michigan, With Persistent Unemployment, Cuts Jobless Benefit by Six Weeks” raised quite a grand commotion out of a small cut in Michigan’s unemployment benefit plan: The state will now pay only 20 weeks of benefits to the jobless, instead of the standard 26 weeks (and even those come before federal unemployment benefits kick in, which now run for up to 99 weeks).
The story’s text box implied bad faith on the part of new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. “A surprise inside a bill whose purpose was to extend federal benefits.”
Michigan, whose unemployment rate has topped 10 percent longer than that of any other state, is about to set another record: its new Republican governor, Rick Snyder, signed a law Monday that will lead the state to pay fewer weeks of unemployment benefits next year than any other state.
Democrats and advocates for the unemployed expressed outrage that such a hard-hit state will become the most miserly when it comes to how long it pays benefits to those who have lost their jobs. All states currently pay 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, before extended benefits paid by the federal government kick in. Michigan’s new law means that starting next year, when the federal benefits are now set to end, the state will stop paying benefits to the jobless after just 20 weeks. The shape of future extensions is unclear.
They are a constant if unlikely pair these days: the oldest man elected governor of California and the woman who is its youngest budget director, shuttling from office to office as they meet with lawmakers, confer quietly in the Capitol hallways and fend off reporters and lobbyists.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, lived through another fiscal crisis when he was governor 30 years ago. The budget director, Ana Matosantos, 35, was barely able to do addition back then, but she has the experience that comes with having served under the last governor and through three years of California fiscal crises.
Medina painted Matosantos as a budgetary whiz (who, conveniently, is also opposed to Republican spending cuts):
A New York Times reporter who came under fire from the paper’s executive editor for his “cringe-making” and “ham-handed” reporting on a young rape victim in Texas returned to the story for Tuesday's front page: “3-Month Nightmare Emerges in Rape Inquiry.”
Keller criticized Houston Bureau Chief James McKinley’s March 9 story in his March 27 column for the Times Sunday magazine, giving it special place among various Times embarrassments “Between Ivana’s brassieres and W.M.D.’s are cringe-making one-offs like the ham-handed article that led some readers to think we were blaming the 11-year-old victim of a monstrous gang rape in Texas (the only way to make amends was to order up a whole new story)....”
McKinley’s initial story generated some reader outrage for seemingly being more concerned over the future of the young men being accused then of the rape victim herself, and with insensitive comments like this: “Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands – known as the Quarters - said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.” Well, one cheer for editorial transparency on the part of Keller.
Sunday’s New York Times's National section led off with Kirk Johnson's “Inundated With News, Many Find It Difficult To Keep Up on Libya,” which dug up some novel excuses for the public’s resistance to Obama’s war in Libya (a Gallup poll shows only 47% approve of the bombing strikes): Information “overload,” “compassion fatigue,” and the NCAA basketball tournament.
Denver Bureau Chief Johnson, whose reporting has a pro-Democratic slant, blamed the findings in part on “compassion fatigue.” That itself is a leading description -- would the Times have ever suggested Bush’s involvement in Iraq was borne out of “compassion” for innocent Iraqis?
In the case of a war waged by Obama, the Times ignores other reasons why the public could be skeptical: Fears of mission creep, questions about exit strategies, and concerns about the wisdom of choosing sides in a civil war. Instead, Johnson faults information overload. The inference? The public would be showing more support Obama’s war if they weren’t so distracted by the Japan earthquake and the NCAA basketball tournament.
Intriguingly, Keller went further than he usually does to meet his critics, confessing that his paper could be rightfully accused of a liberal outlook in a cultural sense, though he managed to make this particular brand of urban cultural liberalism sound appealing: “[Former Public Editor Daniel] Okrent went on to explain that The Times’s outlook, steeped in the mores of a big, rambunctious city, tends to be culturally liberal: open-minded, skeptical of dogma, secular, cosmopolitan....Okrent rightly scolded us for sometimes seeming to look down our urban noses at the churchgoing, the gun-owning and the unlettered.”
President Obama arrived home to the White House on Wednesday from his five-day trip to Latin America and found himself locked out of the French doors to the Oval Office, as captured by several news organizations.
My Media Research Center colleague Tim Graham reminded me that back on Nov. 21, 2005, the New York Times published on its front page a photo of President George W. Bush making a face after trying to leave a press conference in Beijing through a locked door, accompanied by an article that mentioned the gaffe. Former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg wrote a letter to the editor at the time to complain:
The Times has been pushing the “moderate” (actually left-wing) group J Street since its 2008 founding, to little result so far. But the paper keeps trying, usually by tarring its pro-Israel opponents as “slavish,” stubborn, unreasonable, or “extreme.” The text box implied supporters were knee-jerk: “Questioning whether support must be unconditional.”
On one side were members of the Israeli Parliament and advocates who argued that there was only one legitimate way to support Israel from abroad -- unconditionally. On the other were those who insisted that love and devotion did not mean withholding criticism.