Man, does Rep. James Sensenbrenner rub the Times the wrong way. While the conservative Congressman does(lifetime ACU rating 88 out of a possible 100) have a prickly reputation, but so do liberal Democrats like Rep. Pete Stark. Yet Stark and others don’t have their personality traits analyzed on the front page.
Mark Leibovich, who specializes in politician profiles, did a number Tuesday on Sensenbrenner ("'Pit Bull' of the House Latches On to Immigration,") for Tuesday's front page. Sensenbrenner is an easy target of liberal journalists for leading the fight against Bush’s amnesty plan for illegal immigrants. One can hardly imagine the Times being so disrespectful to a Democratic politician embracing a liberal cause.
(Back in December 2004, Times congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg also let loose with personal insults against Sensenbrenner: "He has been described by his colleagues as obstinate, recalcitrant, difficult and even ornery.")
Accompanied by one of the least flattering photos imaginable (love that gavel mustache!), the story begins: "Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. has no tolerance for illegal immigrants, either in his political life or personal life.
"'My housekeeper in Wisconsin was born in Wisconsin,' says Mr. Sensenbrenner, the Republican congressman and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'My housekeeper here is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nicaragua.'
"Mr. Sensenbrenner is so loath to risk dealing with illegal immigrants that when his Cadillacs need cleaning, he prefers do-it-yourself car washes that require tokens. 'They don’t have Montezuma’s picture on the front of them,' Mr. Sensenbrenner says of the tokens.
"He is sitting in his Capitol Hill office dominated by two life-size portraits of himself. He looms heavily here, as he does in the thick of the national debate over immigration in which he has defied President Bush's plans for reform and arguably holds more sway than anyone else in Congress. A bipartisan irritant from a state nowhere near the Mexican border, he has outsize influence on the fate of the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.
"In each portrait in his office, Mr. Sensenbrenner appears regal and contented -- in contrast to the rumpled and fed-up image he conveys in real life. He is commonly described as 'prickly,' 'cantankerous' and 'unpleasant.' And this is by his friends….Mr. Sensenbrenner, 63, can be neutrally described as a Washington piece of work -- a big-bellied curmudgeon with a taste for old Caddies, pontoon boats and enormous cigars."
Unfortunately for the Times, it seems, this prickly pol can’t be ignored:
"One could dismiss him as something of a cartoon, except that Mr. Sensenbrenner has been a feared and vital character in some defining political dramas, like the Clinton impeachment, the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the current legislative donnybrook over immigration, an issue that he calls his toughest in nearly four decades of public life."
For more on this story and other New York TImes bias, visit TimesWatch.