Bush, Panderer to the Panhandle - November 13, 2003 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for November 13, 2003

Bush, Panderer to the Panhandle

Could Bush actually favor the travel ban on American travel to Communist Cuba on principle? After all, when the measure passed the Senate in October, the White House issued a statement saying: "The administration believes that it is essential to maintain sanctions and travel restrictions to deny economic resources to the brutal Castro regime."

Yet the idea doesn't even occur to Christopher Marquis, judging by Thursday's story, "Bush's Allies Plan to Block Effort to Ease Ban on Cuban Travel." His first sentence portrays Bush's wish to retain the ban as cynical Florida pandering to anti-Castro Cuban-Americans: "President Bush's allies in Congress quietly eliminated a widely supported provision easing restrictions on American travel to Cuba from a major appropriations bill to save him from embarrassment over his political designs in Florida, officials from both parties said Wednesday evening."

After painting Bush as a panderer, Marquis provides another Times example of "conservatives vs. Democrats." He quotes a staff member for a liberal Representative: "The fact that it could be undermined is mind-blowing, and more reminiscent of the Politburo than Congress," said Steven C. Schwadron, the chief of staff of Representative Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, who has been a driving force behind lifting the travel ban." (What goes unmentioned by Marquis is that this newfound anti-Communist scourge works for a Congressman with a lifetime rating of 3 from the American Conservative Union.)

Although Delahunt and his staff typically aren't labeled as liberal, rest assured the Heritage Foundation is: "Some conservatives were troubled as well. Steven Johnson, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said the administration was missing an opportunity to fine-tune tough sanctions that have failed to bring change in Cuba."

For the rest of Marquis' story on Cuba, click here.

George W. Bush | Fidel Castro | Cuba | Florida | Labeling Bias | Christopher Marquis

Pear Continues Heavy Lifting On Labeling Bias

For months Robert Pear has been writing the same Sisyphean story on the eternal embattled (and quite costly) Medicare drug benefit bill. Thursday's piece is par for the course, with "conservative" Republicans pitted against plain old "Democrats" like unlabeled liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Pear scans both the House and Senate and doesn't see a single liberal, but does find "Conservative House Republicans." He makes three mentions of conservatives, including this starkly unbalanced bit: "Conservative House Republicans said they believed the private plans would save money for Medicare in the long run. But Mr. Kennedy said the competition could disrupt health care and increase premiums for more than 10 million of the 40 million Medicare beneficiaries." That would be Ted Kennedy, known to the Times as "Democrat of Massachusetts," but by nearly everyone else as the Senate's leading liberal.

For the rest of Robert Pear on Medicare, click here.

Sen. Ted Kennedy | Labeling Bias | Medicare | Robert Pear

Times Publisher Criticized By Own Hired Historian

The last entry in Thursday's Letters to the Editor section comes from Mark Von Hagen, professor of history at Columbia University, who takes issue with Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. As Von Hagen puts it, Sulzberger suggested to the Pulitzer Prize Board "that revoking Walter Duranty's 1932 prize recalled the 'Stalinist practice to airbrush purged figures out of official records and histories.'"

Von Hagen is no mere professor, but was hired by the Times to make an independent assessment of Stalinist supporter and 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Duranty's reporting, so his criticism of Sulzberger is significant. He continues discussing the horrors of Soviet Stalinism, and suggests Sulzberger irresponsibly compared those horrors to the possible revocation of Duranty's Pulitzer: "Those targeted for 'airbrushing' were already murdered, languishing in the gulag or forced into exile after having been falsely accused of espionage, treason, sabotage and other 'crimes.'.Revoking Mr. Duranty's prize is another matter altogether. He was never prosecuted for any crimes. His articles remain available in the archives of The New York Times, and his books on the shelves of major libraries. Airbrushing was intended to suppress the truth about what was happening under Stalin. The aim of revoking Walter Duranty's prize is the opposite: to bring greater awareness of the potential long-term damage that his reporting did for our understanding of the Soviet Union."

Oddly, though Von Hagen sent his letter October 29, six days after the Times October 23 story on Duranty's stained Pulitzer (note: Thursday's Letters section erroneously dates its Duranty story October 29), the paper waited two full weeks before publishing Von Hagen's letter, making it the only letter on the page dated from October.

For Von Hagen's letter in full, click here.

Walter Duranty | Mark Von Hagen | Pulitzer Prize | Arthur Sulzberger