The Hometown Paper Sulks
The official boosters of New York City couldn't be happier that the Republican Party brought their show to the city that never sleeps. It's too bad we can't say the same for the New York Times, which greeted the convention with about as much as enthusiasm as a first-grader greets the measles.
Anyone turning on the TV for news two weeks ago was greeted with the blockbuster news that the New York Times had uncovered devastating links between the Bush campaign and the avowedly independent Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But if you read the article, you had to laugh. The 'evidence'? Why, the same firm producing the Swift Boat ads produced an anti-Dukakis commercial in 1988 - yup, 16 years ago. A publicist for the Swift Vets once helped prepare George Bush 41 for a vice-presidential debate - 20 years ago. On and on the foolishness went.
Tuesday morning, it was another utterly misleading headline. President Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer that "can't win it," suggesting right there that the enemy couldn't be vanquished in the next four years, but eventually we'll be successful. The Times headline? "Bush Cites Doubt America Can Win War on Terror."
A day seemingly doesn't go by when the Times isn't showing its desire to shed the president in a negative light. One Monday headline was "The G.O.P. Arrives, Putting Sept. 11 Into August." Reporters Adam Nagourney and Robin Toner warned that Republican leaders said "they would repeatedly remind the nation of the Sept. 11 attacks," beginning a week in which the GOP "seeks to pivot to the center and seize on street demonstrations to portray Democrats as extremist." Democrats told the Times the Republicans are exploiting tragedy for political points. That's a line of thinking that escaped the Times when Kerry was pushing his service in Vietnam using home-movie footage he once promised - to the New York Times, no less! - he'd never use in a campaign commercial.
Obviously the Times won't find any extremists in street demonstrations as long as the hate object is Bush. Robert McFadden's front-page story, "March Raucous but Largely Peaceful," began lyrically: "A roaring two-mile river of demonstrators surged through the canyons of Manhattan yesterday in the city's largest political protest in decades, a raucous but peaceful spectacle that pilloried George W. Bush and demanded regime change in Washington." What a nice subtle dig, comparing Bush to Saddam Hussein.
McFadden relayed the wildest crowd estimates (half a million) from the organizers rather than the official number from the police (200,000) and stated in all seriousness that "The faces appeared to be a cross-section of the American experience." The diversity happy talk crowded out any mention of the fact the protest's leader, a woman named Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice, thinks Fidel Castro is a better political role model than George W. Bush.
Todd Purdum's front-page news analysis Monday, "Upstaging Before the Show," began by noting that "the Republican convention's calculated claims to patriotism and the presidency met elaborately planned and heavily Democratic street protests...the demonstrators doused a good bit of Mr. Bush's intended message with television images of dissent." What a perfect liberal media cartoon: Calculated - read: cynical, scripted - Patriotism upstaged by Street Dissent.
Where the Swift Vet ads and the New York Times are concerned, it's all Republican dirty tricks, and a discussion of dirty tricks would not be complete unless they could drag out, you guessed it, one Willie Horton, the man who stabbed a gas station attendant 19 times to make extra sure he was dead. Reporter Robin Toner complained that the Dukakis team "was slow to react when the charges started coming that he was soft on crime and insufficiently patriotic."
The Times recapped how the meanies at the Bush-Quayle campaign portrayed Dukakis as a Massachusetts liberal who let violent criminals out on weekend furloughs and refused to require schoolchildren to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Never mind that all this was true. For the whining Times, the Democrats' "legalistic responses were no match for the powerful imagery and rough attacks of the Republicans."
In the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, Times writer James Traub offered a story titled "Going to Extremes," with the subhead: "Both the president and the protesters prefer certainty to complexity. Is there room for nuance in a time of war?" Traub then described what a nuance-filled moderate he was in his youth: "I was almost exactly Alex's age in 1968. At the time, I was an avowed moderate: I was a Hubert Humphrey Democrat."
That matches the level of delusion that Bernard Goldberg describes when he tells the story that Dan Rather thought the New York Times was a "moderate" newspaper. "All the news that's fit to print"? Only if it savages the Republican Party and its nominee.