The Murder of a ‘NY Times’ Reporter, and Its Uses

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By: Greg Mitchell

(Opinion) You would think the senseless murder of a decent, just-retired gentleman on the streets of Washington, D.C. would never be exploited, especially by a former colleague, but never underestimate New York Times columnist John Tierney. On Saturday he joined the ranks of those identifying, and pressing, some larger political point in the killing of David E. Rosenbaum.

Earlier this week leftwing wackos floated the idea that Rosenbaum had been “assassinated” by a hit man, to keep him from exposing the nefarious background of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. The evidence: Rosenbaum?s final article as a well-respected reporter in the Times? Washington bureau examined one small facet of Alito?s past.

Not to be outdone, dozens of posters at several right-wing Web site and blogs took a different view, cackling over Rosenbaum?s death and the irony of it?he worked for an allegedly soft-on-crime newspaper. I’d repeat some of it, but it?s too vile for a family Web site.

Now, today, we have John Tierney, using Rosenbaum’s death to provoke, while denying he is doing so. Tierney might argue he can use Rosenbaum any way he wants, since he was a friend. I’d say that makes it all the more outrageous.

For those without TimesSelect, let me summarize.

Tierney opens the column recalling that, back in 2004, author/humorist Garrison Keillor wrote a book, “Homegrown Democrat,” which argued that Democrats are morally superior to Republicans. (I haven’t read the book so can’t confirm this depiction of it.) In one passage, Keillor hailed paramedics near his home in St. Paul, Minn., who arrived at his door within two minutes after his daughter had convulsions. Keillor used this example, Tierney charges, to suggest that city-dwelling Democrats are willing to pay higher taxes to save lives and strengthen the “civil contract” while Republicans in suburbs and small towns choose their pocketbooks over “human life.”

If you know anything about the Rosenbaum case, you know where this is heading. The ambulance service in “a city run by Democrats with Keillor?s views on taxes and public services,” as Tierney quickly puts it, was very slow to arrive on the crime scene, and then paramedics and hospital workers were very slow to identify Rosenbaum’s severe head injuries (he may have been hit with a club).

Indefensible, surely, but what about Tierney using the brutal slaying to make a political point? Especially since he is using crime-ridden and mismanaged Washington, D.C., as an example of anything — as typical of cities everywhere.

Tierney then has the nerve to declare, “I do not mention these facts to make a case against government-run ambulance service. That would be a disservice to David.” Actually, he mentions these facts to make a much broader point.

Rosenbaum, he relates, “abhorred argument by anecdote, especially from conservatives who used bureaucratic horror stories to justify their policies.” This doesn?t stop his friend Tierney from doing something very similar.

Then he discloses that Rosenbaum “never lost faith that public servants could do good. ‘I like paying taxes,’ he used to say.”

Tierney gets in one more exploitative shot, making his usual libertarian pitch for “privatization,” adding that he’d “like to think? that if Rosenbaum, in his usual balanced way, had researched city vs. private ambulance services, he would have seen the advantages of the latter.

For her part, fellow Times columnist Muareen Dowd also draws on Rosenbaum’s death to score points. At least she comes to it at the end of her Saturday tribute instead of, like Tierney, at the very beginning. Rosenbaum’s belief in ethics and tough questioning leads her to James Frey’s lies in his bestselling memoir, the overall fog of Washington and “the wimpification of debate.” That seems general and fair, but then she specifically targets Democrats with no backbone and a president who hates an “honest debate.”

Dowd concludes, “David’s tortoise-shell reading glasses are still hanging on his computer. That scrupulous gaze will be missed.” His former colleagues should just leave it at that. Point made, and taken.

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