Remembering R.W. Apple And His Liberal Times

At the end of Sunday’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert warmly remembered longtime New York Times reporter R. W. Apple, well known not only for his journalism, but for his love of fine food and his tendency to wear bright dress shirts (some looked like picnic table tablecloths). As he displayed an old clip of Apple in a very early 1970s long-hair-and-big-sideburns combo, Russert put it this way: "For 43 years, he wrote for The New York Times with brio and clarity...R.W. ‘Johnny’ Apple, one great writer, one very unique character."

May he rest in peace. It should come as no surprise that a famous Timesman like Apple would display a fair amount of Manhattan ultraliberalism in his public career. Here are a few examples culled from the Notable Quotables archives:

Enforcing Drug Stereotypes: "It's very interesting, Mr. Bennett, in your entire description of why people use drugs, you didn't use the word poverty; you didn't use the word underprivileged; you didn't use the word black or hispanic or poor white. Are you really such a hardnose that you don't believe this has anything to do with it?" -- New York Times reporter R.W. Apple speaking to Drug Czar William Bennett on NBC's Meet the Press, August 27, 1989.

Jimmy Carter, Hardcore Cold Warrior? "As the nation turned virulently anti-communist, socialism in all its forms was shunned like the plague. Programs such as national health care and broader trade-union rights nearly vanished from the screen of American politics. With rare exceptions, such as in 1968, almost every successful national politician stood in the center or the right. Every President from Harry Truman to George Bush -- Democrats like Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter to Republicans like Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan -- sought to toe the hard line." -- New York Times reporter R. W. Apple, February 6, 1992 front page story.

Democrats Starve Old People? "[Democrats] think the worst thing they can be is a grid-locker. It's a worse thing to be a gridlocker than it is to starve old people today in American politics." – New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R. W. Apple as Tim Russert complained about alleged Democratic spending cuts, Meet the Press, March 14, 1993.

We Need A Crippling Tax Burden! "Although most of the new taxes will be borne by the rich, as Mr. Clinton's Technicolor pie charts showed, the package comes nowhere close to undoing Ronald Reagan's tax breaks for the wealthy. It leaves the tax burden in the United States far less onerous than those in most other Western nations. If the electorate is as serious as it tells itself it is about eliminating the deficit and cutting the national debt, it will eventually have to accept far more than this modest effort to increase revenues." -- New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple, August 8, 1993 "Week in Review" section.

Hateful Bob Dole: "Dole said at the start that he was going to be very selective in his use of the filibuster...I think what's happened is that he's just gotten carried away with the sheer negative, hateful joy of the whole thing." -- New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple quoted in Rolling Stone magazine, September 30, 1993 issue.

Very Cloudy Crystal Ball: "1994 Isn't Forever: Despite Sweeping Gains for Republicans, History Suggests the Power is Temporary" -- New York Times headline over story by Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple, November 10, 1994.

Only Bad Sports Maintain an Anti-Communist Grudge: "It is never easy for the big guy to shake hands after losing the fight to the little guy, especially when he has never lost before, and so it was after the Vietnam War. The open wound of defeat was salved, for some Americans, by continuing to regard the Hanoi government as an evil, outlaw, untouchable regime." -- New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple, July 12, 1995.

Shrinking Government is Anti-Black: "Mr. Clinton has sought to keep blacks involved by standing up for at least some affirmative action programs, which is highly unpopular with many white voters. But he must also respond, to some degree, to the national passion for shrinking government, which will inevitably involve reductions in federal programs that poor blacks regard as lifelines, like Medicaid and urban subsidies. Mr. Clinton can only hope that his party is not punished further for its longstanding commitment to (and identification with) the blacks of America." -- New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple, October 17, 1995 "news analysis."

Bernie Goldberg’s a Back-Stabber: "There's no suggestion here that this man went to CBS over a period of time and said, ‘Our stuff is all one sided, we've got to do something about this'....There's no suggestion that he has done that. He has simply stabbed this guy in the back." -- New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple sticking up for biased CBS reporter Eric Engberg on CNN's Reliable Sources, February 18, 1996.

(Goldberg vs Engberg Rebuttal: "Goldberg has told friends he feels badly about hurting Engberg, but that he has complained to CBS management about a liberal tilt for several years and been consistently ignored." -- Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz in a February 15, 1996 story.)

GOP, the "Vehicle of White Supremacy": "But most important is the Republican Party's recent record as the vehicle of white supremacy in the South, beginning with the Goldwater campaign and reaching its apex in Richard M. Nixon's `Southern Strategy' in 1968 and 1972. Republicans appealed to Nixon Democrats (later Reagan Democrats) in the northern suburbs, many of them ethnic voters who had left the cities to escape from blacks, with promises to crack down on welfare cheats and to impose law and order, and they fought against affirmative action." -- New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple on why the Dole-Kemp ticket isn't attracting black support, September 19, 1996.

Yearning for Communist East Germany: "People on both sides are only now fully realizing that the disappearance of the [Berlin] wall and the withdrawal of Allied troops means less security — both physical and economic — as well as more freedom. There, as elsewhere, that is the political trade-off. During the bad old days, families were fractured and East Berliners had few civil liberties. But the Ossies [Eastern Berliners] had guaranteed employment, health care, and housing; an astonishingly low crime rate; and subsidized entertainment. West Berliners earned more than other West Germans because the government gave them tax breaks to ensure that talented and able-bodied people didn’t move to Munich or Hamburg..."

"With all that swept away, Berliners find themselves pitched into the rough-and-tumble competition of today’s Germany — a prosperous, well-organized, well-governed country, but one afflicted with all the stresses and uncertainties of modern life. These tensions are heightened by mounting inflation and record postwar unemployment." — R.W. Apple, New York Times Chief Correspondent and former Washington Bureau Chief, in a January 1998 Gourmet magazine article about dining in Berlin. (Hat tip to then-Washington Times editorialist Kenneth Smith.)

Afghanistan, Easily Our Next Vietnam: "Could Afghanistan become another Vietnam? Is the United States facing another stalemate on the other side of the world? Premature the questions may be, three weeks after the fighting began. Unreasonable they are not, given the scars scoured into the national psyche by defeat in Southeast Asia. For all the differences between the two conflicts, and there are many, echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable." – News analysis by veteran correspondent R.W. Apple in the October 30, 2001 New York Times.

Iraq, Easily Our Next Vietnam: "I’m an old bozo so I have a long memory, and I was struck by the similarity between the euphoric reaction in Washington after the elections there in 1967 and the euphoric reactions to the elections in Iraq. I’ll just read you one, the lead paragraph of a piece from that year in the Times...." — Longtime New York Times correspondent R. W. Apple, Jr. on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning, February 3, 2005.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis