By: E&P Staff
The intra-mural press battle between The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal continued Tuesday with a few digs delivered by Pulitzer-winning Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof.
The Journal editorial page had blasted the Times Friday for publishing its bank records surveillance scoop — even thought the Journal published a similar story at the same time. It added a few gratuitous slaps at the paper as well. Times’ publisher Arthur Sulzberger replied, as has executive editor Bill Keller, and now Kristof.
First, he noted, “the one thing worse than a press that is ‘out of control’ is one that is under control. Anybody who has lived in a Communist country knows that. Just consider what would happen if the news media as a whole were as docile to the administration as Fox News or The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
“When I was covering the war in Iraq, we reporters would sometimes tune to Fox News and watch, mystified, as it purported to describe how Iraqis loved Americans. Such coverage (backed by delusional Journal editorials baffling to anyone who was actually in Iraq) misled conservatives about Iraq from the beginning. In retrospect, the real victims of Fox News weren’t the liberals it attacked but the conservatives who believed it….
“So be very wary of Mr. Bush’s effort to tame the press. Watchdogs can be mean, dumb and obnoxious, but it would be even more dangerous to trade them in for lap dogs. “
Elsewhere in his column, Kristof admitted that he “might have made that decision differently” on the bank records story. Unlike the Times’ earlier “NSA spying” revelations, the program in this case is probably “sensible” and not illegal. But Kristof added that “so far there is no evidence that the banking story harmed national security, and I’m sure that editors of this newspaper, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal weighed their responsibilities seriously, for they have repeatedly held back information when necessary. In contrast, the press-bashers have much less credibility.”
But Kristof does blame his own newspaper for bungling the Iraq WMD case, noting “there are secrets we should have found, but didn’t: in the run-up to the Iraq war, the press ? particularly this newspaper ? was too credulous about claims that Iraq possessed large amounts of W.M.D….
We failed in our watchdog role, and we failed our country.”