To the surprise of few, the Times on Friday became the latest newspaper to endorse John McCain for president , pickingthe Arizona senatorin the Republican primary over former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. McCain is a huge favorite among liberal editorial pages as the acceptable (or in the Times' case, the barely acceptable)Republican in the race for president. The editorial also lambastedGiuliani while explaining why it didn't endorse the former mayor of the Times' hometown.
"Still, there is a choice to be made, and it is an easy one. Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe. With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.
"We have shuddered at Mr. McCain's occasional, tactical pander to the right because he has demonstrated that he has the character to stand on principle. He was an early advocate for battling global warming and risked his presidential bid to uphold fundamental American values in the immigration debate. A genuine war hero among Republicans who proclaim their zeal to be commander in chief, Mr. McCain argues passionately that a country's treatment of prisoners in the worst of times says a great deal about its character.
"Why, as a New York-based paper, are we not backing Rudolph Giuliani? Why not choose the man we endorsed for re-election in 1997 after a first term in which he showed that a dirty, dangerous, supposedly ungovernable city could become clean, safe and orderly? What about the man who stood fast on Sept. 11, when others, including President Bush, went AWOL?
"That man is not running for president.
"The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.
"Mr. Giuliani's arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn't share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.
"The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city's and the country's nightmare to promote his presidential campaign."
As the MRC's Brent Baker observed , NBC anchor and debate host Brian Williams made an issue out of the Times' endorsement near the end of Thursday night's GOP debate in Boca Raton, Fl. (somehow the Times managed to cover the debate without mentioning that it became part of the news).
"These questions are designed to speak to who you all are in terms of how you counter the attacks against you from your opponents, the weaknesses your opponents among others perceive. Mayor Giuliani, we're going to begin with you. In tomorrow morning's editions of the New York Times they are out with their endorsements in the New York primary. Senator Clinton on the Democratic side, Senator McCain on the Republican side. In tonight's lead editorial, they say, quote: 'The real Mr. Giuliani, who many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive vindictive man. His arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking.' How can you defend against that in your home town paper? How have you changed as a man since this portrait?"
Does Williams truly think that being on the bad side of the Times is a black mark in Republican circles?
Giuliani responded, to audience applause:
"Because I probably never did anything the New York Times suggested I do in eight years as Mayor of New York City. And if I did, I wouldn't be considered a conservative Republican. I changed welfare [audience applause] I changed quality of life. I took on homelessness. I did all the things that they thought make you mean, and I believe show true compassion and true love for people. I moved people from welfare to work. When I did that, when I set up workfare, the New York Times wrote nasty editorials about how mean I was, how cruel I was. I think there's a serious idea logical difference, and I worked for Ronald Reagan. And I remember once when I was in the Justice Department, the New York Times wrote a very laudatory editorial about my boss, Bill Smith, the Attorney General. And Bill was very nervous that Ronald Reagan would get upset that we were off agenda because of the good New York Times editorial. So the reality is that I think there is a serious ideological difference. That probably was some of the nicest language they've written about me in the last six months."
Indeed, the Times has been almost uniformly hostile to Giuliani in its news pages. A Times Watch count shows that of the 30 stories devoted mostly to Giuliani that have run in the Times since November 26, negative stories outnumbered positive ones by 24-3 (the other three were labeled neutral). Included in that total were seven front-page stories, all negative, with headlines like "Citing Statistics, Giuliani Misses Time and Again" and "As Extramarital Affair Began, Giuliani Billed Travel and Security Costs to City," a story the Times clarified to Giuliani's advantage three weeks later with a follow-up - buried deep inside the paper .
By contrast, media favorite John McCain has, by Times Watch's reckoning, not suffered a single negative story in the Times since tracking began in November, garnering 13 positive stories and one neutral one.