Strange Coverage of Kim Jong Il
Two stories on North Korea, two odd references to tyrant Kim Jong Il. Saturday's story by James Brooke, "A Voice From North Korea Echoes in the White House," profiles a refugee who's written a book, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang," about his life in a labor camp under Kim Jong Il's dictatorial regime.
Brooke writes: "In late April, the president's reading of 'The Aquariums of Pyongyang' seemed to bolster his longstanding hostility toward North Korea. As American diplomats tried to revive stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Mr. Bush told reporters in Washington that Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader, was a 'dangerous person' who ran 'huge concentration camps.'"
More specifically, Bush isn't hostile toward the people of North Korea but of their dictator. And why shouldn't everyone on earth be "hostile" toward Kim Jong Il?
Also on Saturday is Norimitsu Onishi's "North Korea's Leader Says He's Ready To Resume Talks to End Nuclear Standoff," in which Bush and dictator Kim Jong Il are put on equal footing in this sentence: "In contrast to the often heated language used by both sides to describe each other's leaders, Mr. Kim said he 'has no reason to think badly' of President Bush, Mr. Chung said."
For Brooke's full story, click here:
For the rest of Onishi, click here:
Stevenson on Bush: Still In Danger of Becoming Lame Duck
Richard Stevenson's news analysis for Monday, "Bush's Road Gets Rougher - President Presses Ahead With Agenda, But Fewer on Capitol Hill Are Following" is another example of the Times' lame-duck lookout when it comes to President Bush.
Stevenson begins: "Five months after President Bush was sworn in for another four years, his political authority appears to be ebbing, both within his own party, where members of Congress are increasingly if sporadically going their own way, and among Democrats, who have discovered that they pay little or no price for defying him."
That echoes the opening of the piece Stevenson co-wrote back in January, after Bush's inauguration: "President Bush begins his second term with the Republican Party in its strongest position in over 50 years, but his clout is already being tested by Republican doubts about his domestic agenda, rising national unease about Iraq and the threat of second-term overreaching, officials in both parties say."
In today's piece, Stevenson says: "In a few instances - most notably the centerpiece of his second-term agenda, his call to reshape Social Security - he is dangerously close to a fiery wreck that could have lasting consequences for his standing and for the Republican Party."
Later: "The cumulative effect of his difficulties in the last few months has been to pierce the sense of dominance that he sought to project after his re-election and to heighten concerns among Republicans in Congress that voters will hold them, as the party in power, responsible for failure to address the issues of most concern to the public."
Stevenson takes pains to portray Bush as on the defensive: "In the last week, Mr. Bush has responded by lashing out at Democrats, casting them as obstructionists, a strategy that carries some risk given that it seems to acknowledge an inability by Republicans to carry out a governing platform. Searching as well for a more positive message, the administration, which has always been reluctant to acknowledge that events are not unfolding precisely as planned, has embarked on a public relations campaign intended to reassure Americans that Mr. Bush is attuned to their concerns."
The story begins and ends with a quote from liberal American University professor Allan Lichtman doubting whether Bush can get his groove back in his second term.
For the rest of Stevenson's analysis of Bush, click here:
No Disturbing Dick Durbin at the Times
On June 14, Sen. Dick Durbin, second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, read from the Senate floor an email from an FBI agent describing treatment of Al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba (including allegations of sleep deprivation) and added: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others - that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."
The Times trend of whitewashing embarrassing Democrats continued. First it almost ignored the anti-Republican ravings of Howard Dean. Now, it's burying Durbin's equating of U.S. soldiers to Nazis. As of Monday the paper has run a single, brief, unbylined story, and "followed up" on Saturday with an Associated Press brief titled "Regrets of a Senator" in which Durbin expressed regret for being "misunderstood."
Sunday's edition brings new Public Editor Byron Calame's first column, "The Thinking Behind a Close Look at a C.I.A. Operation." It digests a front-page May 31 article that Times Watch and others criticized for going into excessive detail about covert C.I.A. air operations involving terrorist transportation. While predecessor Daniel Okrent often criticized his reporters (and got heat from them as a result), Calame's first entry out of the box is a strong defense of the paper against "strident" conservative criticisms.
Calame explains: "A striking number of readers have denounced The New York Times for describing the Central Intelligence Agency's covert air operations for transporting suspected terrorists in a Page 1 article on May 31. The 2,900-word article focused on a C.I.A.-affiliated company, Aero Contractors Ltd., whose planes are often used when the agency wants to grab a suspected member of Al Qaeda overseas and deliver him to interrogators in another country. The legal term for this is rendition, and the practical result is interrogation in a country with looser rules on what constitutes torture. Given the heated public debate over the rendition program, the article's detailed look at the C.I.A. air operations was especially controversial."
Calame seems taken aback at the criticism: "The generally strident e-mail messages demanded to know why The Times had decided to publish information that the readers believe will aid terrorists and make life in the United States less safe for everyone - especially the people carrying out the operation. Most of them didn't seem to be aware that the once-secret air operations had been mentioned in earlier articles and broadcasts elsewhere." He singles out one "strident" letter in particular.
Indeed, the C.I.A. story has been partially reported elsewhere, but not in such excruciating detail (the Times included satellite images of the location of Aero Contractors). After all, if the Times truly added nothing to the story, why did the paper make it front-page news?
As professor CoriDauber points out: "...the defense of publishing the article (because having an aggressive press is a good thing) is not only a red herring, it's condescending as well. The real debate is over how much detail the article should have had."
Calame solicited a response from the chief reporter on the story, Scott Shane, who replied snootily in defense: "Perhaps it's the result of my having worked as a correspondent in the Soviet Union for a few years, but I think there's a strong case that excessive government secrecy leads to waste and abuse, and that an aggressive press improves the effectiveness of intelligence agencies in the long run. In this case, if reporters using public information can penetrate these air operations, I suspect foreign intelligence services, or Al Qaeda operatives, would have little difficulty doing so.In addition, a summary of the planned story was provided to the C.I.A. several days prior to publication, and no request was made to withhold any of its contents."
(Dauber thinks Shane's "response to the reader defines smarm.The gratuitous crack about the former Soviet Union is priceless. It's also no answer, since it assumes there's no middle ground: you either publish the story in the form it appeared, or no story at all.")
To read the rest of Calame's first article as public editor, click here: