Times to the Pope: Happy Anniversary, You Conservative Alienator - October 17, 2003 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for October 17, 2003

Times to the Pope: Happy Anniversary, You Conservative Alienator

Frank Bruni marks the Pope's 25th anniversary in mixed fashion: "Although John Paul's words and actions over several stormy decades drew both acclaim and protest, he always loomed large, and he intersected time and again with important world events. Some historians say he played an important role in the collapse of Communism in Europe by exhorting fellow Poles and others under the grip of the Soviet Union to reject an ideology that he deemed oppressive."

"Deemed" oppressive? Is there really any argument (outside Havana, Pyongyang, or your average college campus) about the murderous nature of Soviet Communism?

For his Friday story, Bruni hammers the same theme of the Pope as hidebound alienator that he used in his previous piece on the Pope: "John Paul has won the hearts of many Catholics and alienated many others. He was boundlessly energetic and visionary in his travels but staunchly traditional in his interpretation of many church teachings.'This pope has done so much for peace and dialogue, but also for the unity of the church,' said Cardinal Cludio Hummes, the archbishop of So Paulo, Brazil. On that last point, many Catholics would disagree. John Paul repeatedly dashed the hopes of progressives who urged the ordination of women as priests and an end to the vow of celibacy for priests. He stood firm in opposition to artificial birth control and civil recognition for same-sex couples. But the focus on Thursday was on the pope's achievements."

Bruni at least leaves out his previous odd reading of church doctrine, in which he indicated Pope John Paul II had "forbade" artificial birth control. The Catholic Church has always been against artificial birth control-a teaching reemphasized by Pope Paul VI in the 19 encyclical letter Humanae Vitae.

For more of Frank Bruni on the Pope's 25th anniversary, click here.

Frank Bruni | Catholicism | Pope | Religion

Maureen Dowd's "Shameless" PR Campaign

Ever since Maureen Dowd's May 14 column (when she used an ellipses to totally reverse the plain meaning of a Bush quote) Web-watchers continue to read closely between her lines.

Dowd claims in her Thursday column: "The president has tried to shake off the curse with a P.R. push to circumvent the national media and get smaller news outlets to do sunny stories about Iraq. The P.R. campaign shamelessly included bogus cheerful form letters sent to newspapers, supposedly written by soldiers in Iraq."

As Andrew Sullivan notes: "The assertion here is that the president himself coordinated the mass-mailings from troops. From everything I have read and seen, this was a one-off idea from a commander in the field and there is no evidence that the White House had anything to do with it. Yet from the full context of the quote, Dowd is specifically making that assertion. It's untrue."

Sullivan calls for a correction, as did the Q & O website early Thursday morning (talk about rapid response): "Yet, with not even a hint of administration involvement, and evidence that the administration was not involved, Maureen Dowd makes a claim to the contrary? She blames the administration for the misleading writing of an employee?"

Then the Q&O writer really twists the knife: "Might I suggest that writers for the New York Times should be particularly sensitive to this sort of accusation?" Ouch.

For Dowd in full, click here.

George W. Bush | Columnists | Maureen Dowd | Gaffes | Iraq War

The Nixon Family Chainsaw Massacre

The Times Weekend Movie section of Friday's Times brings a little Republican-bashing into the screening room. In a review of "Runaway Jury," the latest John Grisham book turned movie, Elvis Mitchell describes Gene Hackman's role in the courtroom thriller this way: "This time he's a slick jury consultant named Rankin Fitch-apparently Lex Luthor was already taken-who employs ruthless, pre-Miranda tactics generally seen on the Fox News channel to empanel a jury favorable to his client."

In the same section, Dave Kehr has this interesting angle on "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" sequel: "Very much a product of its time, the original was a paranoid vision in which a band of hippies fell into the clutches of a monstrous family evolved from Richard Nixon's middle Americans. [Director Tobe] Hooper imagined the rotting nuclear family formed by the Sawyer clan (oddly renamed the Hewitts in the remake) exacting its final parental revenge on the flower-power generation, represented as a group of helpless children."

For those who need a refresher course, the original "Massacre" featured a murdering band of Texas cousins who possess an, um, unique recipe for barbeque. If this is the Times idea of an average Texas family, no wonder it's scared of Texans like Rep. Tom DeLay and President George W. Bush.

Arts | Dave Kehr | Elvis Mitchell | Movies | Richard Nixon | Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Times Corrects Itself On Niger

The Times catches up, sort of, with the Washington Post. The first item in Friday's Corrections box deals with an October 5 front-page story by Elisabeth Bumiller, "C.I.A. Chief Is Caught in Middle by Leak Inquiry."

Here's the Times correction, in full: "An article on Oct. 5 about tensions between the White House and George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, referred incorrectly to the comment in President Bush's State of the Union address that Mr. Tenet was blamed for not having deleted. The president said Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium in Africa. He did not specifically mention the African country of Niger, though it was identified several weeks earlier-along with Somalia and Congo-in the National Intelligence Estimate provided to members of Congress on Iraqi purchase attempts."

Kudos to the Times for correcting one false reference to Niger; that leaves just an editorial, a column, and at least one additional news story to go.

George W. Bush | Corrections | Iraq War | Niger | Washington Post