Times Watch for October 1, 2003
Tony Blair, Slavering Lapdog
Tony Blair Fights to Regain Traction at Party Meeting is Warren Hoges Tuesday dispatch from Britains Labor Party conference in the coastal city of Bournemouth. Hoge sees bad tidings for Blair: Mr. Blair's close alliance with an American president who is deeply unpopular in Britain has left him appearing the way cartoonists see him-as the slavering lapdog of George W. Bush. A Buckingham Palace announcement last week-that Mr. Bush will be making a state visit to Britain in November-was greeted with groans from Labor politicians about its untimeliness and predictions by antiwar activists of mass street demonstrations.
Hoge doesnt even qualify his description of Blair as slavering lapdog with a perfunctory, critics say Hoge simply states matter-of-factly that Blair looks like Bushs slavering lapdog.
Hoge continues: Most importantly, the failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq has undermined the principal rationale Mr. Blair put forward to justify the war. That, coupled with the suspicion that his government manipulated intelligence to make the case for war, have seriously undermined his credibility.
But those suspicions of intelligence manipulation (raised again by Hoge in a Wednesday piece from Bournemouth) rest on a BBC report from reporter Andrew Gilligan that the Times London-based correspondent Sarah Lyall describes as the now-discredited report on the Today radio program accusing the government of sexing up the dossier it gave to Parliament as justification for an attack on Iraq. Hoge fails to mention that Gilligans reporting was publicly criticized as flawed by the BBC itself, and that Blairs government was subsequently cleared by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee on the charge of manipulating intelligence.
For the rest of Hoges story on Tony Blairs political problems, click here.
Picking On Racially Insensitive Judge Pickering
After having him rejected by the Senate earlier this year, the Bush administration has resubmitted the name of Charles Pickering to fill a federal judgeship, displeasing the Times immensely. In a Wednesday editorial, Judge Pickering, Again, the Times questions whether he would be the kind of judge the Fifth Circuit-one of the most heavily minority circuits in the country-needs. His record strongly suggests he would not. Judge Pickering's actions in a cross-burning case alone should disqualify him. He took up the cause of a man convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple. He badgered prosecutors into dropping a key charge even after the man was convicted and called a prosecutor to lobby him, an unusual and improper move. That Judge Pickering, who has a record of being tough on criminals, was so passionate in this case shows, at the least, racial insensitivity. How he undertook the battle showed a lack of judicial ethics.
Byron York, White House correspondent for National Review, unpacked the convoluted cross-burning case when Pickerings nomination was before the Senate in January. York found that the truth was a bit more complicated than the Times sotto-voce accusation of racism implies: Pickering questioned whether it made sense that the most-guilty defendant got off with a misdemeanor and no jail time, while a less-guilty defendant would be sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. The recommendation of the government in this instance is clearly the most egregious instance of disproportionate sentencing recommended by the government in any case pending before this court, Pickering wrote.
For the rest of the Times editorial on Charles Pickering, click here.
Is Bush Nominee Too Extreme? Lets Ask Tom Lantos
Elaine Sciolinos Tuesday story on Laura Bushs trip to Paris criticizes President Bushs choice for ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which the U.S. has rejoined after a 19-year boycott. The choice of [Louise] Oliver, a staunch conservative, as ambassador may indicate the direction the Bush administration wants Unesco to take. She is the former president of Gopac, the Republican political advocacy organization, worked in the White House personnel office in the Reagan administration, and was the first President Bush's commissioner of the National Council on Children. Despite concerns among some Democratic lawmakers that she may be too politically extreme for the post, she is expected to win easy Senate confirmation.
Is Oliver really too extreme? In the next sentence Sciolino seeks an answer to that question from Rep. Tom Lantos, a fellow member of the visiting delegation and a liberal Democrat: Asked about the wisdom of her appointment, [Rep. Tom] Lantos declined public comment.
Notice how Sciolino softens the Democratic slur of extremism into the more diplomatic expression of concern. And what makes the liberal Rep. Tom Lantos (with a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 8 out of 100) an objective expert on judging extremism in the first place?
For the rest of Elaine Sciolinos story on the U.S. rejoining UNESCO, click here.