How liberals shamelessly protect their own
When liberals circle the wagons to protect one of their treasured figureheads, they typically resort to shameless insincerity. You couldn't miss that photo of Hillary Clinton on the cover of Time magazine (June 16, 2003), but you might have missed the chutzpah contained in the caption that accompanied it:
IN HER OWN WORDS: the former First Lady talks candidly about Bill, her public life and private pain.
As we know, Hillary's memoir (penned by at least three hired writers) was not "in her own words" - though she did admit to reading the book before it went to print - and even the New York Times Book Review had trouble using the word "candid" in its praise of the Times' ideological goddess.
Last week, California Gov. Gray Davis said two of the dumbest things a politician has said in years:
My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state.
It was a double gaffe of interplanetary proportions, recalling visions of Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown. To the New York Times, however, the gaffe presented just another opportunity for the journalistic party of opposition to come to the rescue of one of its own.
In "Twists and Turns of Recall Give Some Voters Cold Feet" (Sept. 21, 2003), the Times concocted a quote, an attribution and a connection of dots - not in an editorial and not in a "news analysis" piece, but in a "straight," front-page news article - to shelter the California governor in a way that would have been unthinkable had the gaffe been made by a Republican.
In the days following the decision by a renegade federal court to postpone the October 7 recall election, county officials across the Golden State noticed a reduction in the return of absentee ballots. Rather than attribute this to the confusion that follows whenever a court sticks its nose into a process it doesn't belong, the Times instead attributed the decline to what "some people" (they weren't identified) were calling "recall fatigue." Then, again without attribution, the Times jumped to the conclusion that this "recall fatigue" had beset the election's participants. And thus was the set up for the Times' defense of Davis:
Mr. Davis has kept such an exhausting schedule that he managed to deliver one of the funniest lines of the campaign the other night without even intending to.
Delivering funny lines is the stock in trade of another great comedian, Woody Allen, who is a frequent contributor of humor pieces to the New Yorker magazine. But the most recent bit of humor to appear in the New Yorker was not by the nebbish from Brooklyn, but by Calvin Trillin who wrote a profile of New York Times' veteran reporter R.W. Apple Jr. ("Newshound," Sept. 29, 2003). Meant to be a "puff piece" praising the talents of Johnny Apple, Trillin delivered what has to be one of the funniest profiles to ever to appear in the New Yorker magazine, without even intending to.
R.W. Apple Jr. was described in the article as someone who "eats prodigiously," is like "an ogre," having a "round face and a pug nose," "a very big 4 year old," someone who has been called, "Three Lunches Apple" and having "the worst body in American journalism." One journalist called him a "cape buffalo" because "it rambles through the brush. It eats what it wants to eat. It does whatever it wants to do, without knowing how much other animals resent it." Another called him "a son of a b----." Yet, according to the profile's author, "People who have known Johnny Apple over the years tend to discount whatever he says about himself and trust whatever he writes in the New York Times."
Could it be that, despite how much they despise him, they happen to agree with his political views?
From time to time, the New York Times will call upon its "cape buffalo" to express those views in what the Times calls a "news analysis" - a thinly disguised editorial reflecting the political or ideological views of the Times on some story covered by the paper that day. An analysis is an opinion, like the analysis of the day's news by Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly. The only difference between a Times "news analysis" and a Times editorial is that the former appears in the news pages, often on the front page, where people normally expect to find objective news. Thus, it is nothing more than a way of sneaking an editorial opinion onto the front page where it gains a pretense of objectivity.
You will never read a "news analysis" on the front page of the Times that runs contrary to the views expressed on the paper's editorial page. And, more troubling, when these "news analysis" pieces appear on the Internet, the label "news analysis" is often omitted - so that many online readers are fooled into believing they are reading a straight news story when in fact they are reading nothing more than a Times editorial.
On Oct. 31, 2001, shortly after hostilities began in Afghanistan, the New York Times ran on its front page a "news analysis" by R.W. Apple Jr. entitled, "A Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam." Apple's absurd comparison of the campaign in Afghanistan to the "quagmire" of Vietnam drew immediate and widespread criticism. When the Taliban collapsed a few days later, what was considered absurd became inept, and Johnny Apple was universally declared out-to-lunch.
Nevertheless, when President Bush launched the military campaign against Iraq, who do you think the Times turned to for a fresh, informative, front-page "news analysis"? Just a few days after the Iraq war began, R.W. Apple Jr. took up the challenge: to write another "news analysis" that was perfectly aligned with the Times' crusade against how Bush was waging the war against terrorism. And so he did.
In "Bush Peril: Shifting Sand and Fickle Opinion" (March 30, 2003), the New York Times gave Apple the real estate of its front page to suggest that the failure to obtain permission from Turkey was a diplomatic debacle, that in launching its military campaign the allies made gross military misjudgments, that "street by street fighting in the rubble of Baghdad ... now looks more likely," and that the war was going to last "so long that the American public would lose patience."
Never has so much prognostication on the front page of a major newspaper been later proven so false: The war ended nine days later, the lack of a northern front turned out to be inconsequential, and the American military waged the most successful and decisive military campaigns since the Battle of Marathon. If the American public was losing any patience, it was with the nattering nabobs of negativism writing for the New York Times.
Three weeks later, Apple reflected on the U.S. victory (in "A New Way of Warfare Leaves an Abundance of Loose Ends," April 20, 2003):
Nobody got it quite right. The war in Iraq, now in its final military stages after only a month of fighting, was neither as painful as its opponents predicted nor as painless as its proponents suggested.
Some analysis! Since when did Bush, or anyone, say the war was going to be "painless"? It seemed more like Johnny Apple could not fully own up to his own incompetence. Not surprisingly, that was the very last article that Three Lunches Apple has written for the Times on any subject other than food. Clearly, if the ogre (not my word) were to write again on any subject of world importance again he would either have to redeem himself or have someone else rehabilitate his credibility.
Perhaps because Apple was too busy writing about a crow he recently ate, the liberal establishment chose to gin up a formal rehabilitation on his behalf. And so, it seems, the pages of the New Yorker magazine were chosen to provide us with both an excuse for inept journalism and to prepare us for the return of Johnny Apple to the front page of the Times. Yet, for the pages of the New Yorker magazine, Woody Allen himself could not have come up with the hysterical one-liners that Apple's apologist, Calvin Trillin, delivered:
If I had to categorize [Apple's] politics in American terms, I'd say he might be a Rockefeller Republican.
Instead of blatantly manipulating Apple's credibility by bashfully categorizing him as - oh my - a Republican, how about just asking Apple what his politics are? If he really answered Republican, would anyone believe that a Republican, any Republican, would so blindly bash the Bush administration's national security policy during a time of war?
The next laugh riot arose from the following line, which suggested that Apple - like other reporters who cover politics for the Times - is unbiased, objective, impartial, a centrist, in other words, non-ideological:
Like a lot of people who have spent many years reporting politics, he is engaged by the game but not by the ideology.
Trillin praised Apple's "historical perspective," a trait he suggests made Apple particularly suited to writing "news analysis" pieces. On the heels of that observation came this howler in defense of Apple's war analysis:
A [news analysis] piece is not necessarily a profound or blindingly original piece of work. Two or three days after it's written, it can look dated or even wrong, particularly in a constantly changing situation like war.
Oh, so "news analysis" pieces appearing on the front page of the New York Times really don't require a historical perspective and its value, questionable to begin with, should not be expected to survive the week.
Finally, when a liberal really can't explain away ineptitude any other way, he resorts to pure gibberish:
You could argue that some ["news analysis" pieces], when all is said and done, amount to conventional wisdom, since they reflect the observations of people asked to assess the situation in terms of what happens, conventionally, when such situations occur.
Don't try to parse that last clause. The only sense you can make of it is that it was part of an all-too obvious attempt - with fresh quotes of praise from executive editor Bill Keller - to prepare the public for a "born again" Johnny Apple, ready to resume his front-page erudition on the events of the day.
Thus, with a laughable defense of Apple's dismal record at news analysis, the article, on the whole, portrays the portly Apple as "a lovable old Labrador," "enormously generous," and "so damn good."
If history is any indication, however, Mr. Apple's satisfaction with the "puff piece" he just received in the New Yorker could be as short-lived as his war analysis. The last time the New Yorker wrote admiringly about a New York Times staffer ("The Howell Doctrine," June 10, 2002), the subject of the profile resigned in disgrace within a year.
Bob Kohn is the author of "Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted." Available from ShopNetDaily.