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Jewish World Review July 27, 2000/ 18 Tamuz, 5760


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Consumer Reports

"Objectivity" at the Times -- ON THE SAME day The New York Times published a condescending "news" article about the New York Post-"[I]ts headlines and columnists tend to goad, gloat and cheer"--- the paper's own editorial page issued its 25th, give or take a few, endorsement of Al Gore for president. Media reporter Felicity Barringer, a woman scarcely recognized for her mastery of the industry she covers, wrote in a July 24 piece: "Partisanship will always have a place in a news outlet controlled by Rupert Murdoch, chairman of The Post's parent company, the News Corporation."

Brilliant deduction, Felicity. Here's another: feminists tend to vote Democratic.

Had Barringer, or her editors, been more honest, it might've been pointed out that any "news outlet controlled" by The New York Times Co. also is partisan. But the Times, even in the year 2000, laughably holds on to the long-shattered myth that its pages are "objective." The Boston Globe's outrageous four-month suspension, without pay, of conservative op-ed columnist Jeff Jacoby for a minor offense is proof that the Times has scared the management of its already-ultraliberal sibling plain silly.

Barringer had great sport in tweaking the Post for its concentration of stories on Hillary Clinton's alleged anti-Semitic slur a generation ago.

Whether or not the First Lady called her husband's campaign manager a "f---ing Jew bastard" is beside the point: chances are she did, given the salty language that both Clintons are known for. Does that make the flailing U.S. Senate candidate an anti-Semite? Of course not. The real story is why the Clinton campaign has gone to such lengths to dispute the incident. Why did Mrs. Clinton, who hasn't had the gumption to appear on any Sunday talk show, hold a rare press conference to proclaim her innocence? Why did President Clinton take a break from his self-serving Mideast summit at Camp David to call the Daily News' owner, Mort Zuckerman (a Clinton ally), to assure Americans that he was there and the remark wasn't made?

Yes sir, Mr. President. You'd never tell a lie.

The Times editorial of July 24, "The Campaign at Midsummer," is about as "partisan" a piece of writing, although the tone is less shrill than the Post's, as can be found in the United States today. The writer proclaims, in explaining how remarkably close the presidential contest is even right now (a contention most pollsters would deny), that "This election is destined to be remembered as a contest between an aspiring student-body president and an amiable slacker, to paraphrase an incisive description by The Times's Maureen Dowd."

Funny, a "slacker" is usually thought of as a young man or woman who drifts from job to job without any clear direction. If winning two terms as governor of the country's second-largest state, as George W. Bush has, in addition to being the strongest presidential candidate the GOP has fielded since Ronald Reagan, is the typical resume of a "slacker," the United States has a very bright future indeed.

In assessing the "narrow margin" that will determine the winner this November, the Times doesn't see fit even to mention Ralph Nader (whom the paper scolded a month ago for having the audacity even to run for president) and his potential to siphon off votes from Gore's core constituency. No, instead it's the policy wonk who has some political "baggage" vs. the dunce who flunked a foreign policy pop quiz last November given by a prankster journalist.

Translation: the Times would prefer a corrupt vice president to a "dummy" challenger.

Gore has more "baggage" than the Times will ever admit, and that's partly why his campaign has yet to find its moorings. As for Bush's ability, why not let Lanny Davis, a Gore supporter who defended President Clinton tirelessly throughout the Monica Lewinsky scandal, answer that? In a July 24 op-ed column in the Daily News, Davis, who was a year ahead of Bush at Yale, writes: "I am also asked, 'How smart is he?'

It's a stupid question-look at how successful he has been. Yes, he's no high intellectual... But he has an acute mind. While he doesn't seem to apply it often to intellectual subjects, he clearly does to assessing people and situations-and to seeing the big picture faster than most. If you need proof of the cost of underestimating him, ask Ann Richards, ex-governor of Texas."

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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© 2000, Russ Smith