By: Dave Astor
As many conservatives pillory The New York Times for its revelations about Bush administration snooping into phone calls and bank records, the newspaper must be wondering why it’s not getting a little more love from the right.
After all, the Times helped the Bush administration “sell” the Iraq War with those bogus Judith Miller stories about alleged weapons of mass destruction. The Times’s Op-Ed page includes two conservative columnists (David Brooks and John Tierney) when right-wing opinion pages like The Wall Street Journal’s and The New York Post’s feature no regular liberal voices.
The Times recently published a lengthy and invasive front-page story about the Hillary-Bill Clinton marriage while not doing a similar story about the state of any prominent GOP couple’s marriage. Just this Sunday, the Times offered a sympathetic front-page profile of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Bush administration’s favorite Democrat. Other examples abound of the Times periodically cozying up to America’s
Yet the Times is called “treasonous” by a number of prominent conservatives, some of whom also disgustingly “joke” about what method should be used to kill Executive Editor Bill Keller. And the newspaper Friday received an envelope containing an Xed-out Times editorial defending the bank-surveillance story and a mysterious white powder (that turned out to be harmless).
As discovered by Rep. John Murtha — the longtime military hawk who turned against the Iraq War — being conservative some of the time doesn’t cut it when it comes to avoiding right-wing attacks. Total, or near-total, loyalty to conservative doctrine is required. So here’s some unsolicited advice for the paper that says it offers “All the News That’s Fit to Print”:
— When the Bush administration or the next conservative White House tries to browbeat America into another unnecessary war, the Times should listen to the skeptics on its editorial board. (Times Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins, in an E&P interview last week, said she wished she had done that during the run-up to the Iraq War.)
— When the Brooks or Tierney slot opens up again, the Times should get the best columnist it can find — not necessarily a conservative one. (Another woman, in addition to Maureen Dowd, would be nice.)
— The Times should do a story about the state of the Bush, McCain, or other leading Republican marriages that resembles its article about the Clintons. How much time do George and Laura, for example, spend together? How is the marriage affected by Laura being so much more popular than George? What do Laura and others think about George’s close relationship with Condoleezza Rice?
— The next time the Times writes about Lieberman, perhaps it should focus on this contrast: The Connecticut senator deservedly criticized President Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But Lieberman has barely criticized President Bush for infinitely worse behavior — including the disastrous invasion of Iraq that has resulted in thousands of innocent people dead and maimed.
Overall, the Times is an establishment newspaper that leans liberal. (It’s indicative of the success conservatives have had shoving America’s “center” rightward that some consider the Times left-wing.) The Times — and any other newspaper — should offer coverage and commentary without periodically pandering to the far right in an effort to retain access and appear more “patriotic.” If a paper wants to be conservative, it should be conservative. But it should do that out of sincere belief, not to counter the myth of liberal media bias. Because, as we’ve seen, playing ball with the Bush administration only provides immunity from right-wing attacks if you play ball 24/7/365.