Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2001/ 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762


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Consumer Reports

Black to the rescue -- NOW, more than ever, is the time for Conrad Black to come to the aid of New York City.

Black, who owns London's best daily, The Telegraph, and recently divested himself of a 50 percent share of Canada's excellent National Post, is eager to have a larger U.S. newspaper presence than simply Chicago's Sun-Times. As New York faces its most historic crisis-which will be escalated by the probable election of Mark Green (David Dinkins with a work ethic) as mayor next month-Black could provide an enormous service by starting a daily that competes with the anti-American New York Times.

Last Friday's Times was a typical snapshot of why the alleged "newspaper of record" must be challenged. The top two lines of its three-deck banner headline read, "Bush Offers Taliban '2nd Chance' to Yield; Says He'd Welcome U.N. in Nation-Building," a gross misrepresentation of George W. Bush's prime-time press conference on Oct. 11.

Bush said, in an aside during his 45-minute appearance at the White House: "If you cough [Osama bin Laden] up and his people today, [then] we'll reconsider what we are doing to your country. Just bring him in. And bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him." Obviously, Bush didn't expect the Taliban to cooperate at this point; just using the words "thugs and criminals" is proof of that. Yet that's the Times' lead headline, as if it were a real possibility.

Reporter David Sanger, reflecting the editorial stance of the Times, wrote: "President Bush has been dragged by events and his allies to a place he never wanted to be: at the center of an exercise in nation-building, constructing a new Afghanistan from whatever is left once his bombing campaign and commando raids are over." Until reading Sanger, I hadn't realized that Bush was conducting the war on his own, with "his bombing campaign and commando raids." The Times, in its condescending editorial "Mr. Bush's New Gravitas," rejoices in Bush's apparent shift from last year's campaign pledge that he wouldn't follow Bill Clinton's "nation-building."


Despite the President's calibrated remarks that the United States won't leave Afghanistan immediately after its mission is completed, and will attempt to forge stability there along with other countries (as well as the absurdly Nobel Peace Prize-fortified United Nations), his administration has not advocated "nation-building." Obviously, the world has changed from last fall: The U.S. suffered the worst attack on its own soil in history. So Bush has necessarily adjusted his foreign policy, but there's no indication that he's intent on building satellite states.

The paper's editorialist wrote: "Only in his insistence on discarding the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty and building a missile shield did he stick to the pre-Sept. 11 presidential script. That will not help him win long-term Russian support for the counterattack against terrorism." Perhaps the Times has a direct line to Russia's Vladimir Putin, and knows for certain that he'll continue to oppose the missile shield, but I suspect Putin, like Bush, is busily reassessing global politics.

In fact, Bush was far more stern about scrapping the ABM than the Times lets on. He said, in perhaps his most vehement language of the night: "In terms of missile defense, I can't wait to visit with my friend Vladimir Putin in Shanghai to reiterate, once again, that the Cold War is over, it's done with, and that there are new threats we face. And no better example of that new threat than the attack on America on September 11. And I'm going to ask my friend to envision a world in which a terrorist thug and/or a host nation might have the ability to develop-to deliver a weapon of mass destruction via a rocket. And wouldn't it be in our nations' advantage to shoot it down? At the very least, it should be in our nations' advantage to determine whether we can shoot it down. And we're restricted from doing that because of an ABM Treaty that was signed during a totally different era... I have told Mr. Putin that the ABM Treaty is outdated, antiquated and useless. And I hope that he will join us in a new strategic relationship."

Missile defense is a key component of America's military future. That should've been in the Times' banner headline.

The Times' voodoo is still lethal enough to fool otherwise intelligent readers, which is why it's crucial to keep chipping away at its facade of objectivity. In the Oct. 1 issue of The Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery did just that, with a fine article headlined "The Grudge Report." You'd have thought Emerie was preaching to the converted in the pages of the Standard, but a mythologized institution like the Times isn't as easy to topple as the Taliban.

Three weeks later a letter from London resident Michael Conti appeared in the magazine, protesting the piece. He wrote, in part: "The newspaper, despite the wrongly worded headlines, prints words from what a majority of its readers agree are world-class reporters and op-ed writers, including William Safire and, recently, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman offer insightful, well-researched opinions that have critiqued both Democrats and Republicans. There are enough one-sided 'news' stories and commentators in print and on the airwaves. Allow us to hear and read more fair journalism instead of more biased yelling and knee-jerk screaming."

Obviously, poor Conti needs rapid medical attention.

Ignore the disingenuous remark about William Safire (the Times' lone conservative columnist) and Donald Rumsfeld appearing on the paper's op-ed pages: for every one-shot from a Cabinet member like Rumsfeld, there are 10 more articles from the likes of Alan Dershowitz, Todd Gitlin and former Clinton officials. What's truly disheartening is that Conti actually believes Krugman is nonpartisan when it comes to criticizing both Republicans and Democrats. In truth, Krugman has written the same column over and over and over, every single one them blasting the very notion of tax cuts.

And since when has Dowd written a well-researched op-ed piece? Yes, I suppose her assistant searches the Internet to make sure Cary Grant did actually appear in the movie Miss "Liberties" is highlighting in a column, but "research" isn't Dowd's strong suit.

On Oct. 14, in "Season of the Witch," Dowd admits she doesn't know what side is up. That's progress. She says-although not citing sources: "Antidepressant sales are soaring, and people are drinking and smoking more. Beyond that, we will need to toughen up and learn to be alert but not inert, to go about our business and pleasure while we are in a wigged-out state of apocalyptic readiness... So now we have to live too much in the future, on watch, even though we're not sure what to watch for."

When will the Times acknowledge the continuing clout of weeklies like The National Enquirer and Star-which their reporters famously crib from-instead of ridiculing them as "supermarket tabloids"? Here's a news flash for Times media reporter Felicity Barringer, one of the worst in the business: the Enquirer and Star, like the Times, are available not only at supermarkets, but at every major newsstand and bookstore in the country.

An Oct. 13 editorial blasted Republicans for doing their job. Problem is, it's not the job the Times wants done. Singling out Reps. Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, the writer said: "As a result [of Bush proposing a sensible economic stimulus package], tax-cut ideologues worked all day yesterday, in the shadow of anthrax scares at home and warfare in Afghanistan, to get as much of their agenda as possible approved by the Ways and Means Committee and sent to the House for a vote next week. Republicans may be counting on Mr. Bush's overwhelming popularity to compel wavering lawmakers to go along with what they know is an unsound economic approach. It is up to the Democrats and moderate Republicans to insist that any tax cut finally enacted meet the test of actually helping the economy and providing the most aid to those most vulnerable to hard times."

I suppose editorial page editor Gail Collins would prefer DeLay and Armey were opening Dan Rather's and Howell Raines' mail, or fighting alongside the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, but I prefer them to keep watch over the truly dangerous "ideologues" in Washington. Legislators like Patrick Leahy, Teddy Kennedy, Christopher Dodd and Barbara Boxer. Then there's Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the ninny from Georgia who apologized to Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal after Rudy Giuliani correctly refused his check of $10 million because of the donor's statement that the United States was too pro-Israel in its foreign policy.

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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© 2001, Russ Smith