Robert Pear Overdoses On Conservatives - September 18, 2003

Times Watch for September 18, 2003

Robert Pear Overdoses On Conservatives

Thirteen House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert insisting on cost controls for any new Medicare drug benefits, giving Robert Pear another opportunity Thursday to overdose on the conservative label. Pear uses the term conservative seven times in his 742-word dispatch (its in the headline as well).

Meanwhile, Times Watchs old friend makes an appearance: Sen. Ted Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. While Pear finds no fewer than 13 conservative Republicans in the House, neither Kennedy nor Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California are labeled as liberal. Yet Rep. Stark has a lifetime rating of 4 from the American Conservative Union (out of 100), while Sen. Kennedys comes in with a 3.

Pear even lets Kennedy characterize the House Republican letter-writers as the extremists: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said, President Bush has to decide whether he's willing to say no to his right-wing House supporters.

For more of Pears story on the conservative Medicare manifesto, click here.

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

Libeskinds Designs on Democracy

Thursdays essay by architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, A Design Rethought, With Judgment Deferred, again squeezes politics out of concrete and steel. Muschamp apparently doesnt approve of Ground Zero architect Daniel Libeskinds proposed designs to replace the Twin Towers (though Muschamps slippery, art-mag style of criticism makes it hard to discern what he dislikes about Libeskinds aesthetic choices).

Muschamp is clearer on politics. He sees the proposed design as a potential danger to free speech: Conceptually, the design remains more than latently political. In his presentation, Mr. Libeskind protested that ideas like Freedom Tower and the Park of Heroes are not just rhetoric. Perhaps not just, but they are rhetorical, nonetheless, whatever else they may be, and it is contrary for a place dedicated to democracy to start telling people what to think. Thats the Times job.

For the rest of Herbert Muschamps story on the WTC project, click here.

Arts | Daniel Libeskind | Herbert Muschamp | World Trade Center

Bush Chided for Spending Too Much, Not Enough

President Bush asks Congress for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, setting off criticism from Democrats (and a Republican) that reporter David Firestone helpfully passes on in his Thursday story, Afghanistan And Iraq Tab Of $87 Billion Is Submitted.

After relaying criticism from fiscally conservative Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, Firestone said: His comments echoed those of Democrats, who accused the administration of being stingy at home and generous abroad. Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the request would mean spending $255 for each Iraqi on electric improvements, while the administration plans to spend 71 cents a person on power improvements at home. Of course, Manhattan has a bit of a head start over Mosul in the infrastructure department.

After passing on Democratic criticisms that Bush is spending too little, Firestone then passes on criticism that Bush is spending too much. Firestone writes: The entire proposed spending would be added to next year's record-setting deficit, and today the head of the General Accounting Office, in a blistering speech, warned that federal budget problems are far deeper and more entrenched than either the official numbers or the bulge in war costs suggests. David Walker, the comptroller general and head of the nonpartisan General Accounting Office, said the government would probably have to cut spending and raise taxes in coming years as baby boomers begin to retire.

Firestone tries to link Walkers speech to general criticism of the war costs. Yet Walkers speech mostly focuses not on the war costs but on structural deficits due to the retirement of the Baby Boomers. Walker himself (in an excerpt not noted by Firestone) says Iraq and the terror war arent the major budgetary issues: The current and projected deficits far exceed the costs associated with Iraq, the global war on terrorism and any incremental homeland security costs.

For the rest of David Firestones report on Bushs war-spending request, click here.

George W. Bush | Deficits | David Firestone | Iraq War