Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reeling in the Fears

The consistent problem with journalism is that the stories are more reflective of the opinions of the reporters, editors and producers involved than the objective facts at issue. This is no more true than as it concerns political reportage, which is often little more than a compilation of the journalist's thinly veiled hopes for electoral outcomes. Today's "un-endorsement" of Hillary Clinton by the New York Times is prima facie evidence of this dynamic.

Scarcely three months after the Times gave Clinton a (perhaps) less-than enthusiastic recommendation, citing her "[capabilities] of both uniting and leading," they now suggest that "she is mostly responsible" for the negative tone of the Democratic contest. The Times' editorial board is particularly incensed that Sen. Clinton raised the specter of terrorism in her most recent campaign ad.

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove's playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," the narrator intoned.
For my part, I am actually encouraged that someone on the Democratic side invoked bin Laden; that it was done to score political points is hardly a concern, seeing that Sen. Clinton is indeed a politician in the political fight of her life. I'm more concerned that acknowledging the existence of evil people with destructive intentions towards America is seen by the Times as waving a "bloody shirt."

The NYT's original sin was to disavow its own knowledge of Ms. Clinton's history of negativity and pugnacity in making its initial endorsement. Every petty accusation against Barack Obama, each act of mendacity and every insult against the intelligence and judgment of the electorate finds its doppelganger in Ms. Clinton's behavior towards Monica Lewinsky and the "vast Right-wing conspiracy," the White House Travel Office staffers and Southern whites, as well as her questionable conduct as it regards Rose Law Firm billing records, FBI files and unscrupulous campaign fundraising.

All of this was part of the public record, with much of it reported by the Times itself. Nevertheless,
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and company were willing to pretend that they were oblivious to this history, ignoring the stench emanating from this pile of excrement in order to commend Clinton to its readers in the first place. (Perhaps karma has seen to it that the Times' has paid a significant cost for this and other acts of dereliction.)

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