Jewish World Review May 22, 2002/ 11 Sivan 5762


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What did The Times know ...? | I no longer waste time reading Paul Krugman's op-ed columns in The New York Times. The former Enron consultant repeats his anti-Bush/-big-business fantasies twice a week, with an occasional holiday to Never-Never Land when the Princeton prof imagines, a la Sidney Blumenthal, that he's a victim of a conservative conspiracy. Vanity has no ceiling. Besides, Andrew Sullivan summarizes Krugman's ravings on his invaluable-if notoriously self-aggrandizing-website (, and for that alone the prolific weblogger atones for his sins.

The former New Republic/Times contributor does have one tic that's enormously grating: whether Sullivan's musing about friend or foe (with the exception of Michelangelo Signorile), he almost always refers to the person in familiar terms. So, we read about Tom Friedman, Hitch, Jake Weisberg, Jon Chait, Johnny Apple, Bob Reich, Bill McGowan, "Rummy," Tim Noah, Howie Kurtz and Doug Coupland. The onus of a Beltway insider, punishment enough I suppose.

Still, it's toss-off lines like this one that keep me checking Sullivan twice a day: "When I see Jimmy Carter kissing up to Fidel Castro, I realize once again why I wore a 'Reagan '80' button in my English high school. Yes, my teachers were appalled. They probably still are."

I've long advocated lifting the Cuba embargo and smothering Castro with American commerce, a strategic move that'd not only improve the quality of life on the island, but lead to a new generation of power there, leaving Fidel to stew about in an undisclosed location, listening to long-forgotten speeches and rereading correspondence with Che. President Bush can't undertake this mission until after his brother Jeb's reelection campaign in November, but, Karl Rove notwithstanding, he ought to normalize relations early next year, despite the Floridian consequences for the 2004 campaign. And then the Montreal Expos can move to Havana.

Nicholas D. Kristof, also a Times columnist, is next in line for the scrap heap. The Harvard/Oxford-educated writer earned his propaganda stripes with Howell Raines in the 2000 presidential contest with a series of front-page profiles of Bush and Al Gore. The stories about the then-Texas governor were so distorted it's possible even Paul Begala and Jonathan Alter blushed upon reading them. Kristof now covers the world for the Times. He's distinguished himself by making Thomas Friedman, the wishy-washy buddy of every leader in the Middle East, look like Charles Krauthammer in comparison.

On May 17, for example, Kristof confessed that at one time he believed Yasir Arafat was a fool for refusing to accept that give-away-the-store deal offered by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton two years ago. But now, thanks to "various readers" (one assumes they would include James Zogby and any number of university professors), he's reevaluated his position, and thinks the Palestinian mass-murderer is misunderstood.

His column concludes: "All in all, it is fair to fault Mr. Arafat for lacking the courage to strike a deal in Taba; for being a maddening, vacillating and passive negotiator; for condoning violence that unseated the best Israeli peace partner the Palestinians could have had. But the common view in the West that Mr. Arafat flatly rejected a reasonable peace deal, and that it is thus pointless to attempt a strategy of negotiation, is a myth."

I'm sure the residents of Netanya would agree.


Kristof, born in 1959 (growing up "on a cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon," according to his Times bio), and therefore a graduate of colleges whose curriculum requirements were rather loose, is what most commoners would call a sucker. This is speculation, but after reading Kristof's "We Are the World" columns since Sept. 11, I'll bet his favorite pop groups in the 70s were Bread, America and Three Dog Night.

Arafat, who's correctly considered irrelevant not only by Ariel Sharon but also by a growing number of his subjects, is capable of little more than posing as a martyr for a recent Time cover and allowing arrested criminals to slip out the back door of jails. The day after Kristof's endorsement of Arafat as a worthy negotiator, the aging thug reneged on a promise to clean up his stables.

According to John Kifner's May 18 Times dispatch: "Only hours after two of his top aides said he was ready to run for election within six months, Yasir Arafat said today that Palestinians could not hold elections until Israeli forces pulled back from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Arafat's brief remarks cast some confusion on the drive for reform in his Palestinian Authority, which has increasingly been viewed by many Palestinians as inefficient, corrupt and autocratic."

While prompt execution ought to be Arafat's fate, he'd be a fortunate man indeed if a one-way ticket to Baghdad, Saudi Arabia or Paris were his reward for causing so much destruction and death, not only for the Israelis but his own lemmings as well.


It's galling enough that The New York Times-along with other elite media institutions-has won a temporary victory on the bogus issue of campaign finance reform. But the paper-which stands to gain advertising and even more political clout if the hole-ridden legislation survives legal battles-isn't satisfied. In a May 16 editorial, "Campaign Reform's Slow Arrival," the insulated powerbrokers once again insult readers by promoting their own narrow agenda on behalf of this country's citizens.

The writer began: "Cockeyed optimists who were hoping that the nation's new campaign finance reform law would remove the influence of big-money donors overnight should have been brought down to earth on Tuesday when President Bush played host at a record-breaking $30 million fund-raiser. The reforms, alas, do not even take effect until after November-but it would be nice if some party decided to abide by their spirit this election cycle... At the president's fund-raiser, Republicans admitted that such galas would soon be obsolete. Very few Americans will be sorry to see them go." Says who?

The vast majority of Americans weren't even aware of the GOP fundraiser, and are ignorant of the similar bucks-raking events that Democrats hold, mostly because they're too busy with work, family and recreation. That the Times perpetuates the myth that voters are in a snit over "soft money" is-considering its anti-Israel bias and opposition to toppling Saddam Hussein-not currently the worst of its excesses. But since the daily continues to publish editorials, columns and "news" stories on the subject, it's worth noting, once again, that just as in the 2000 presidential campaign, in every major poll taken today citizens rank campaign finance "reform" near the bottom of issues they're concerned about.

While the Four Knights in Congress-John McCain, Russell Feingold, Martin Meehan and Christopher Shays-are, in the elite media's eyes, candidates for an update of Theodore Sorensen's, oops, I mean John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage, some questions ought to be asked of these First Amendment busters. Why, for example, if "reform" was so necessary, wasn't the legislation enacted immediately so it would take effect before the midterm elections?

On this point, I agree with the Times. However, given the daily's crusade, doesn't it seem odd, just for the sake of consistency, that the bill's sponsors and proponents (like Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle) would be spared criticism for postponing the new law until November?

Silly me. Without the benefit of "soft money" and advocacy advertising, the Democrats would have a much harder time in their attempt to recapture the House and retain their slim Senate majority. And, given the GOP's far superior ability to collect small, "hard money" donations, Daschle and Terry McAuliffe need the time to rejigger the entire concept of donation shakedowns.

When the moon is full, however, the Times can surprise readers who justifiably consider the paper an integral part of the Democratic National Committee. On May 13, an editorial that proposed mild tort reform threw me for such a loop that I almost started rooting for the Yankees.

Could the following words be code for the Times' disapproval of former trial lawyer John Edwards, the first-term North Carolina senator who's been shameless in seeking the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination? Probably not, but the Times can on occasion deviate from the monolithic liberal dogma it preaches. I still can't figure out what the beef is with Sen. Robert Torricelli-although I suspect he's the "wrong" kind of Italian politician-and the paper's endorsement of Republican Robert Franks over Jon Corzine in the 2000 New Jersey Senate election remains a mystery. Yes, Corzine's self-financed campaign rubbed the not-as-wealthy Times owners the wrong way, but he's still the kind of paleoliberal who's always welcome on 43rd St.

Anyway, the editorial, which even had a smart title-"Slip, Fall, Collect"-began: "As the city struggles to close a $5 billion budget gap without cutting into essential services, one area of spending makes a particularly tempting target: the half-billion dollars the city paid out last year to people who sued it... Civil lawsuits are an important part of America's justice system, and every year we hear of cases in which innocent people are cruelly harmed by the city's incompetence or neglect and deserve top-dollar compensation. But when plaintiffs and plaintiffs' lawyers win huge damage awards against a city that was only minimally involved in creating the conditions that caused an accident, they make everyone else the losers."

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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