Howard Kurtz takes his online lamentations of criticism of the breathtaking arrogance of the New York Times into the paper today. The headline is "Piling On the New York Times With a Scoop." From there, you can see Problem Numero Uno. Kurtz, like other media people with blinders on, pretends that the Times is merely an honest broker of information that is "piled on," but can never "pile on" the White House or other conservative targets. If Kurtz wrote about the Times "piling on" Bush again, wouldn't it look tilted? It certainly looks like the media circling the wagons for media buddies on this story.
"Even by modern standards of media-bashing, the volume of vitriol being heaped upon on the editors on Manhattan's West 43rd Street is remarkable," Kurtz writes. But the wildest quote Kurtz runs is Tammy Bruce comparing the Times to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Bush and Cheney were stern, but hardly unsparing.
Times editor Bill Keller is annoying once again in his interview with Kurtz, suggesting conservatives have their brains programmed by the White House. "The Bush administration's reaction roused their base, but also roused the anti-Bush base." Isn't it possible that Bush and Cheney were reacting to the furor that certainly came before their Monday remarks? Keller does not acknowledge that he belongs to the anti-Bush base.
Kurtz explains that the conservative blogosphere is "on fire" over this story, while liberals are laying low. But he really blows it, in my opinion, by claiming presidential sparring with the press isn't new, "But rarely if ever has any White House mounted such a sustained public campaign against a single news organization." How can one day of fairly mild and canned remarks be defined as a "sustained public campaign"? If there is one, Kurtz doesn't prove it.
Kurtz does go to Stephen Spruiell of National Review (a regular Kurtz stop) and to Bill Bennett for interviews. Bennett was spot on in saying conservatives now wonder: "Gosh, it there a secret operation we're running that won't be disclosed by the press?" He also interviewed liberal media advocate Lucy Dalglish and Terence Smith, the former CBS and PBS man -- and New York Times man. For a guy who specialized in reporting on the media for PBS, Smith plays incredibly dumb on this subject (or incredibly loyal to his liberal friends at the Times). He told Kurtz the Times is a lightning rod "when it's critics are playing politics, and that's what's happening here. An institution like the Times is a God-given target, because it's seen by the conservative base as a liberal newspaper critical of the Bush administration." Seen as? Come off it.
Bill Keller strikes this pose to Kurtz: "I always start with the premise that the question is, why should we not publish? Publishing information is our job. What you really need is a reason to withhold information." Tell it to Paula Jones, pal.